Snow blindness, storms, shifting ice, open water, temperatures
of -90C and hungry polar bears are just some of the hazards facing
Perthshire man Dave Mill as he attempts to be the first person to
walk solo and unsupported to the North Pole.
Dave set off from his base camp on Ward Hunt Island for the second
time on 10 April after his initial start to the trip had to be cut
short after five days due to both stoves breaking, solar panels
on his satellite phone failing to charge and a broken snowshoe forced
him to turn back.
He spent a week in the huts salvaging food from 1974 emergency
food rations to keep him going until an aircrew could bring him
new stoves and more supplies which included a slap up meal of steak
The abortive start to his epic trek was not the first hurdle Dave
had to cross however as the entire expedition was in doubt due to
lack of sponsorship just a few weeks before he was due to leave
but a last minute deal with O2, a provider of mobile communications
services in Europe, meant his attempt could go ahead.
His sponsors have also provided him with communication equipment
so he can stay in touch with his UK team during the trek with daily
diary and position updates and he also has regular live links with
employees of O2 to keep them up to date with his progress.
It is Dave's third attempt to reach the North Pole without any
back up and he currently holds the record for the furthest unsupported
trip across the Arctic ice cap after he covered 460km of the 800km
journey in 45 days last year.
Dave is being backed in his bid by legendary British explorer Sir
Ranulph Fiennes who chose Mill as his reserve walker for his solo
attempt to walk to the North Pole in 2000. After Sir Ranulph's accident,
Mill re-started the walk and completed 34 days.
Dave's determination to complete his trip to the North Pole will
be tested to the utmost limits during his latest expedition, which
has already seen several setbacks but his willpower and tough mental
attitude mean he is pushing ahead towards his goal.
On setting out from Ward Hunt Island for the second time Dave knew
speed was of the essence if his trip was to succeed and he completely
re-organised the supplies he was carrying on his pulk (sledge) to
trim the weight down to the absolute minimum.
The first five days out on the trek Dave had to cope with huge
rubble ice fields, stretches of open water and fierce winds and
storms that threatened to rip his tent from the surface of the ice.
Despite of all this he managed to make progress most days and by
the end of the first week the weather and ice had settled down again.
But the good progress was brought to a rapid halt when Dave was
confronted by the biggest stretch of open water he had encountered
so far and there was nothing for it but to sit it out for a day
and wait for the water to freeze over.
Two days of good trekking followed but the huge physical toll the
trek is taking on Dave was demonstrated by the fact he was trying
to put his boots on the wrong feet and he wisely decided to have
a rest day before again tackling the rubble strewn ice fields and
moving ice pans.
By 28 April Dave had covered a total of 92km but suffered another
setback when the mounts around the ski bindings on his boots broke
and he had to use his initiative to come up with a makeshift repair
- "I made a metal plate from an old fuel bottle and with a heated
needle created holes through the rubber soles, then bound together
with wire. A couple of the wire links later gave way so will replace
This solved the boot problem and fortunately Dave has enough fuel
bottles with him to replace the repair every few days but this has
not been the end of his inventiveness with a new pair of sunglasses
also being crafted from various bits of his kit after he lost his
The biggest hazard Dave has had to face by far though is a polar
bear that was stalking him across the ice and in a call back to
the UK by satellite phone he admitted that was by far the most frightening
experience of the expedition, "The tracks that I saw were very erratic
in direction which may have been due to the wind change affecting
the polar bear's sensing direction. There is no doubt that a very
large beast was on the prowl, the prints looked like a large male
and were slipping implying that he was struggling to track accurately
- lucky for me maybe!"
Dave has now covered almost 300km of the distance to the North
Pole and as he gets nearer his target changes in conditions to flat
smooth ice should allow him to increase his speed and he is expected
to reach the pole and his place in the record books on 29 May.
You can follow Dave's progress on his website www.northpolewalk.com
Arctic fast facts
* Mill will cover 800km of drifting pack ice which, in reality,
will be 1,100km as he will be constantly pushed back by the weather
conditions and the terrain.
* Below the pack ice is 4,500m of water · Mill will climb
pressure ridges up to 100m high which are formed by collisions of
pack ice which can take 4-5 hours to climb
* To reach the pole will take approximately one million
* He will use up half a million calories which equates to
approximately 65kilos of food and the loss of three stone in bodyweight
* Temperatures in the area can be as low as -60C but with
the wind chill factor it feels more like -90C
* Mill will have to be on the look out for attack from polar
bears - a female bear weighs 250kg and a male bear 350kg
* His diet on the expedition will amount to 8,000 calories
per day made up of 70% fat, 21% carbohydrate and 9% protein. It
includes suet with every meal, glucose bars, chocolate and protein
* Mill has been preparing for the trip by using dry land
skis, climbing hills wearing a weighted backpack for six to eight
* He has also been pulling heavy tyres weighing the equivalent
of 250kilos with a sledge harness along roads and tracks in preparation
for pulling his pulk sledge to the Pole.
* Mill will carry an iridium satellite telephone and an
Argos live time tracking system
* The telephone will allow daily contact with his Ground
Support Manager at Ward Hunt Island and the tracking system can
send 16 pre-set messages
* Each pre-set message indicates the status of the expedition
- the last message will warn that Dave has serious problems and
will initiate a rescue