The Winter Traverse

 

In March 2013, my expedition partner, Evan Howard, and I completed a two-week training trip in the Brooks Range. It was a successful trip and Evan and I were feeling great about the full traverse. This expedition has never been done before. . .

We flew to Alaska in late December 2013. On the 7th January, we started the expedition in Kotzebue, on the west coast of Alaska, hoping to finish in Kaktovik, on the northern coast of Alaska near the Canadian border. The journey would be approximately 1,700km and we expected the trip to take around two months. We traveled on skis and drag sleds.

 

 

Our resupplies were planned in Anaktuvuk Pass, the Dalton Highway, and at other locations via snow machines. The northern lights would be visible regularly and the temperatures would range from minus ten degrees Celsius to minus sixty – approaching minus one hundred when you factor in wind chill. In January at the start of our expedition there was no sunlight but that changed as the expedition progressed. The range is teeming with hundreds of thousands of caribou, as well as Arctic foxes, musk oxen, moose and lynx. We knew our success would come down to some luck with the weather. If we encountered too many storms, it would greatly reduce our chances of making it all the way across.

Unfortunately the expedition was not a success… Evan and I realised that for us to stay out there, I would lose my finger and then put both our lives, and those of whom who would come to rescue us, in danger.

 

 

Unfortunately the expedition was not a success. My right middle finger became frost nipped in terrible weather (wind so strong I was actually knocked off my feet at one point) on the second day, and despite taking extra care to allow it to heal, it worsened bit by bit each day for the next week. I spoke on the phone to a ranger, and Evan and I realised that for us to stay out there, I would lose my finger and then put both our lives, and those of whom who would come to rescue us, in danger. So we decided to retreat to where snow machines could get to us and prevented any permanent damage to my fingers, (3 were frost bitten by the time we exited).