The Basics

The Urges that Drive Us

Pushingmy boundaries just that little further. Hi. I was mulling over some new ideas for posts and, to be honest, I'm sure most of you don't want to be constantly reading about kit, the perils, etc. That said, for those of you who are interested, I will periodic posts around those topics.

Today I'm going to look at motivations. This post comes off the back of the presentation I recently gave to a number of students on one of the Diana Awards Skills days.

For a very long time, society, and individuals, assumed that where we went in life, what we achieved, is limited due to circumstances, upbringing, etc. Call it 'fixed mindset'. Of course, there have always been enterprising people who are prepared to push beyond that apparent boundaries and reach that little higher. In fact, when you consider the likes of Ranulph Fiennes and Ben Saunders, far higher than it would seem humanly possible.

So what are the urges that drive not only me, but some of my fellow adventurers?

Now there's a question and a half!

For me, it's simple... well, not simple. Let's dig a little deeper.

All my life I've lived for the thrill of the moment. I've jumped freefall from great heights, skied the wilds of Norway, tramped the Sahara. And more. Then I entered into a phase of life where most of us think we should maybe slow down a little and get a serious job. Now, before I go on, there's nothing wrong with having a day job. But we all still need that little bit of adventure to keep us going.

With that last thought in mind, I decided to dust off the old adventurous spirit that had languished in the back of my mind.

Urge No.1: To Keep a Promise

The promise to never forget that we should squeeze every ounce of fun and excitement out of life. As humans, we were built to be tested. Our bodies are incredible machines and our minds are potent tools and, when the two are working in harmony, can propel us to new heights.

Urge No.2: To do Good

A simple urge, but so important. The question I asked myself was this: "What good can I do?" Am I capable of influencing just one person to go out and discover life beyond the normal day to day? Yes, I am. And, if that one person influences on other, etc, then I've created a wave of good. Enough said!

Urge No.3: It's about the Charity, mate

Unfortunately, we don't have a system whereby a hearty hug can be exchanged for a slap up fried breakfast in Hereford's finest cafes! That means, in the main, we still require money to get stuff done. Even charities need to pay their stuff (goodwill doesn't buy you a lot nowadays). Bur more importantly, those same charities need funds to spread their word. Enter fund raising!

Urge No.4: To Relieve the Boredom

Okay, I'm being a little harsh. I do like my job in IT, but sometimes you just need to break out and find something more exciting to do. Even if it's a two trek across the Scottish highlands. Blow the accumulated rubbish out the system, kick boredom into the long grass and really have some fun. That's really all there is to it.

Urge No. 5: To be a Positive Influence on my Children

Yeah I know, that makes me look like I'm some kind of monster father when I'm not preparing for a major trek. But I'm not. If anything, I think my kids would agree that I'm a pretty good parent. The thing is, I want more. More than just being 'dad', I'd like them to see what I do and understand; influence them in a very positive way.

Urge No. 6: To Experience Life Through the Eyes of a Child

Seriously! Recall your youth and the wonder with which you viewed the world. Now how many of us adults can honestly say we still see life through those sames lenses? The chance to take a step back, see the world from a child's perspective is not only refreshing, but might actually help us to rekindle that creative mindset we left on the race track to adulthood.

I think that's pretty much it. Looking back over this post, I'm reminded of the fortunate position I'm in: relatively wise to the world, still strong and fit, determined to see amazing places and deliver a message to the generations of youth who coming up fast in the rear view mirror. I sincerely hope as many of you as possible can join me the roller coaster and, eventually, overtake me and do some truly awesome stuff in your own lives (if you aren't already).

The State of the North Pole Environment

Time for another update. As part of the planning for the expedition, we need to consider many factors. Recently I've started to review the current and projected ice depth and extent as the figures will have a direct impact on the approach and equipment we take.

There's some interesting information out on the web. I pulled up some surprising sea ice statistics from this website:

Full North pole treks might soon be at an end.

The trends and predictions don't look promising. Here's a very quick summary of the changes the Arctic ice has undergone since:

The ice extent (the overall coverage) is currently 810,000 square kilometres below the anticipated the long term average of 15 million square kilometres. Don't worry if that doesn't make senses, here's a very simple way of looking at the figures: Wales is only 20,000 sq km! In the last forty years or so, the Arctic has shed the equivalent of 40 countries the size of Wales.

Another factor of great concern in the ice depth. Back in 1975, the average ice thickness was around 3.6 metres. Now, in 2015, the median has fallen to about 1.25 metres. Not completely familiar with metric measurements? How's this - down from just under 11.8 feet to 4.1 feet.

Is it all Doom and Gloom?

It looks like it, but lets dig a little deeper.

Going back to the NSIDC website and checking out the satellite observations page, it would appear the rate at which ice extent shrinks is slowing. That is, the polar ice cap is shrinking at a slower than it was in 2010.

Phew! So the future of polar exploration is no longer in doubt?

Actually, it is. Borek Air, the only private charter company providing flights and resupplies to Arctic travelers has shut up shop and now concentrates on other routes. That means no flights in or out of Ward Hunt Island, the traditional starting point for full distance treks, and no resupply during the journey.

Then the problem of thinning ice rears its ugly head again. Think about it: every night you pitch your tent on a comparatively thin layer of ice. Then what do you do? Spend the whole night praying the ice doesn't break up under you. Closer to the pole, this isn't such a problem. Further out, at the furthest reaches of the extent, the cracking process can cause major problems for explorers.

Any Other Problems at the Pole?

Yes. The thinning ice is more susceptible to drift (the rate at which it moves under the influence of the wind). Here's one example of how extreme the drift has become: in 2007, on one particular day, Richard Weber walked for around twelve hours. At the end of the day he checked his position and found he'd been effectively walking on the spot for the entire day. Great way to keep fit, but soul destroying for an explorer.

One more problem caused by the thin ice and drift are the pressure ridges. I discussed these in my post about what to expect at the North pole. Quick recap: thinking of them as house sized obstructions made from ice. All an explorer needs to do is navigate them. Easy? Well, in 2014, Erik Larsen's two man team on managed to cover an average of 2.78 miles per eight hour day for the firs 18 days of their journey!

Even worse, sights like this seem to be an inevitable consequence of the melting ice:

Polar bear standing on sea ice

Now all this might seem a little depressing and maybe it is.

In 2016 I will be leading a shorter trek - 220 kilometres, or so - but I'd also like to complete a full distance expedition at some point in the future. The odds don't look good, but I'll keep my fingers crossed and continue to aim for that target. Who knows, I might end up canoeing to the North Pole - now that would be epic.

An Idea Is Borrowed

Giving the game away. First off, I want to give credit where it's due: the title of this first post is borrowed from the personal blog of someone who spent around a year traveling the globe. Well done girl, you rock!

Okay here's a little about me (more detailed information on the about page).

My name is James Redden. I'm 43 years old (I know some of my friends will be howling at that statement, but, technically, it's true. I'm writing this a couple of days before my birthday - sorry guys :) ). I've led what I think is a pretty interesting life. I've traveled across the globe, been to many interesting places and had some truly great times. From the jungles of South East Asia, the vast expanse of the Sahara, the frigid barrens of Norway to the virgin forests of South America. They're all places I've been fortunate enough to spend time exploring.

All the destinations I've been to were visited in my youth. By the time I reached my thirty third birthday it would be fair to say I'd been around the world multiple times. I'm the first to admit life was pretty exciting. Sadly, sometimes we all need to slow down, take stock of our lives and decide on the next steps.

I always swore I'd never change; my life life would be a constant adventure. And it was, but not in the way I'd imagined. Bringing children into the world is pretty bloody exciting. My kids have both entertained and infuriated me in equal measure, and I love them. The adventures I had envisaged fell by the wayside. I wanted to be a responsible parent, something that baby + papoose + big mountains doesn't equal. So I bit the bullet.

Cue a job in technology which, I have to admit, can be a great way to help shape the future. Moving through the industry at a break neck pace, I soon progressed from general 'IT guy' to the role of architect. Again, still fun work, but there every now and then I could feel that little itch. Technology is cool, but there is still so much in life crying out to be done.

Then it came to: why not dig up that adventurous spirit and use it to do some good? I needed an arduous task that would be grueling enough for me to take it seriously and train properly. It also had to have the 'wow' factor that would draw in significant sponsorship for my chosen charities.

So what to do? The decision was easy: walk to the North Pole and raise funds for two charities (Diana Award and Walking with the Wounded). Future treks are being planned and I will switch the receiving organisations form time to time (so many good causes out there that need help). I'll go into the reasons why I've picked these two in another post.

The task is far from easy. I have an awful lot of training to do, sponsorship to raise and equipment to find, amongst other tasks. The mission I had originally envisaged was pretty simple, but, due to unforeseen circumstances, has undergone a slight modification. More on that point in a later post.

That's all, for now. Big challenge, one year to get ready and plenty to work to do in the build up.

Look forward to a new post soon.