Carl's North Pole Diary

23 April 2013: A massive thanks from me to everyone...

  1. Carl Roland, The North Pole

    I would like to thank all my team mates for helping me achieve my dream of reaching the North Pole. We are now mates for life. I will never forget these last few weeks which have been the most amazing experience of my life. Your support, guidance and encouragement kept me going - without you guys I couldn't have done it. I hope we stay in touch and follow each other's journeys and adventures and actually get to go on more adventurs together in future.I would like to thank my family, my Dad, my mother, Louise, and my daughter Alisha for giving me the endless inspiration to fulfil this goal. I would like to thank my family, my Dad, my mother, Louise, and my daughter Alisha for giving me the endless inspiration to fulfil this goal. I would like to thank Annie, Keith, Rick and all the staff at Polar Explorers. When it comes to safety, first class guest services and organisation they really are professionals. Thanks guys.

    Also, I would like to thank Marc McLean in Liverpool for being my main point of contact while I was at the North Pole, and making it possible for everyone to follow my journey, and all the staff at Adapt Outdoors for kitting me out with the best gear for my was certainly the right gear for the right conditions. You guys know your stuff.

    To stand on top of the world has been a dream come true. I can go on and on about how this has been a great personal challenge for me... but, most of all, we need to think about those who face unimaginable challenges every these wonderful, brave children. Let's make a difference...

    For everyone who has sponsored me and made a donation - thanks a million! Your kindness will go a long way.

    Thanks everyone! 
    Best wishes, 

  2. Some kind words from Carl's team mates

    Guy Holmes/ ReplyAugust 12, 2012

    Carl, your character certainly came out on this journey of a lifetime. What you lacked in organisational skills you made up for in tenacity and determination. You're a true credit to Liverpool, giving back to the community and involving them in your journey. Keep wearing your heart on your sleeve.

  3. Andrew Leary/ ReplyAugust 12, 2012

    Well Carl, you made it to the North Pole. It was quite a journey, starting with the shaedown trip in Slavbard. Remember when you were ready to go home on the first day? You really came around by the end of the journey to the pole. Your systems and understanding of your personal survivial needs in polar conditions are 100% stronger than when you began. I hope that while the journey to the pole is over your personal journey continues back at home in your daily living.

  4. Angelo Felgueiras/ ReplyAugust 12, 2012

    Carl my friend, you are an inspiration comaing out of Liverpool and deciding to come to the North Pole. This was something which required a lot of nerve. Against all initial forecasts you actually did it very well by yourself! You and your family should be proud. you've been a fantastic team member. Just organise yourself better on the next one, regarding your equipment, and the regime for putting on gloves, etc.

21 April 2013: 4.30pm Diary Entry

  1. Carl Roland, The North Pole

    We are all feeling hungover from last night's celebrations. Just waiting for the helicopter to come and pick us up to take us to back to Base Camp Barneo where we started our expedition at 89 degrees North. The helicopter is delayed so we are trying to keep warm by eating chocolates.

    It is so cold that if you go outside of the tent within one minute your toes would be stiff. So it's just a matter of waiting. We are all feeling great about what we've done over the past week. We have loads of photos of our adventure.

20 April 2013: 10.00pm - North Pole satellite phone call from Carl to Marc McLean

  1. Marc McLean, Liverpool

    Unfortunately, tonight's call from Carl from the North Pole could not be transcribed due to communication issues resulting from alcohol consumption. What Carl said via the satellite phone consisted largely of speech which was either unintelligible or delivered in an abstruse language which was impossible to understand, however some sense could be gleaned:

    1. That a supply of whiskey and vodka had been consumed sometime earlier and that a helicopter arrived at the North Pole camp sometime later, dropped off two crates of champagne, then immediately flew away.

    2. That Carl was in a state of numbness which was making him feel impervious to the freezing temperature. He was advised not to attempt to strip to his underpants and wander off into the arctic night looking for lonely polar bears.

20 April 2013: 2:30pm. Carl and his team have reached the North Pole!

  1. Carl Roland, The North Pole

    We finally did it! We are at the North Pole. Although there is nothing special here and it looks exactly the same as everywhere else for hundreds of miles around, it still feels amazing to be here finally! When you are standing at the exact spot of the North Pole, before you know it you will have drifted away by several feet, because it is constantly shifting. That's why there is no landmark or flags or anything to actually mark the location of the North Pole. We are here now with the Chinese Last degree team. They have done a similar 100 mile trek to us - but from a different location (they got dropped off at different point, 89 degrees North). So now we are all together, 12 of us in total.

    As we were getting close, we spotted tents where the Chinese Team had set up a quick emergency camp...because one of their team had fallen through the ice. So they set up camp to help get that person warm. Not to worry though because, like Sebastian yesterday, it turned out OK and we are all together now, happy and celebrating the end of our journey. We are cracking open the vodka and whiskey and enjoying a nice hot meal. As we were getting close, we spotted tents where the Chinese Team had set up a quick emergency camp...because one of their team had fallen through the ice. So they set up camp to help get that person warm. Not to worry though because, like Sebastian yesterday, it turned out OK and we are all together now, happy and celebrating the end of our journey. We are cracking open the vodka and whiskey and enjoying a nice hot meal.

    We have another fine reason to celebrate - the 35th birthday of Gotovdorj Usukhbayar, our incredible team mate. HAPPY BIRTHDAY GOTOVDORJ! The timing couldn't have been more perfect - imagine what it must be like to arrive at the North Pole just in time to celebrate your birthday!

    Gotovdorj is a hero to his country. He is now the first Mongolian ever the go to the North Pole. The first Mongolian mountaineer who climbed Mount Everest (which he has done twice). And he has done a lot more. He has just got off the phone (satellite phone) to the Mongolian President!

    Soon we will all be picked up by helicopter and taken back to Base Camp Barneo. I am looking forward to champagne on the helicopter. It is unbelievable cold, minus 37 degrees and my hands feel like they are going to fall off. But our beards are long, the vodka and whiskey is flowing, the sundogs are out in full force and everyone is happy - a great end to a great journey. 

    This is Carl Roland, the North Pole, over and out!

19 April 2013: 7:30pm. 6 nautical miles from the North Pole!

  1. Carl Roland

    We have trekked 8 miles, probably the toughest day we have had on the whole expedition. We only have 6 nautical miles to go now and so will be reaching our goal tomorrow. 

    I did a BBC radio interview a couple of hours ago which will be posted on my website. I was so cold I had no feeling in my hands and my right eye was frozen shut!

    Luckily the incident today with Sebastian falling through the ice turned out OK, thanks to him being so tough!!! We had to cross a number of ice bergs today. One of the bergs collapsed under Sebastian and he went through the ice. He was submerged about three quarters before he managed to get out. We had to roll him around in the snow to help him get dry...which sounds pretty bizarre, but actually it is the best thing to do because the snow is "dry" here in the North Pole and this helps to soak up all the wet. We replaced Sebastian's boot liners with a spare pair of fresh dry liners to prevent his feet getting frost bite, and it was important to get him moving again as quickly as possible so that his body would generate heat and disperse all the moisture away from his body and dry out his clothing. Sebastian was up and trekking again in no time and it was business as usual for him - the guy is as hard as nails!

    As well as venturing to the North Pole (although I am not quite there yet), I am wondering: can I add time travel to my list of achievements? We have crossed the International Date Line which is a line on the Earth's surface, that coincides with the 180th meridian and separates the calendar date - traveling east across the line, takes you back one day; traveling west, takes you forward one day. So does this mean if I run around the North Pole 365 times...I can gain a year, or lose a year, depending on which way I run?? Great! A time machine! I think I could easily get carried away thinking about this stuff because it sounds so mind blowing. In reality though, the International Date Line is just a useful referencing system for handling travel across the time zones of the world. 

19th April 2013: NEWSFLASH

  1. Marc McLean, Liverpool

    Carl has called me via satellite phone. There has been an incident involving Sebastian falling into the water between two ice bergs. Don't worry, the situation is under control.

    Carl seems to have terrible frost bite, cannot feel his fingers or toes. He is scheduled to be live on air on BBC Radio Merseyside anytime from about 4:30pm onwards. Stay tuned for further updates.

18th April 2013: 7:30pm

  1. Carl Roland

    We all now look like seasoned explorers because we've all grown beards! I have not had any kind of wash since I left the hotel 5 days ago. I have only changed my underclothes once - I got changed inside my sleeping bag which is the only way you can do it. But to be honest though, it is simply not worth changing your underwear at all. It is too cold. No-one else in my team has changed theirs. Generally, changing in such freezing conditions is very risky. Crisis! I have ran out of my charcoal burning warmers which I use to keep my hands and feet warm. What am I going to do?! I wish I had brought more of them with me...I guess I was depending on them too much, using them constantly. If I had saved them, used them more sparingly, I wouldn't be in this predicament. I am now trying to bribe my team mates with lithium batteries and vodka in exchange for handwarmers! Money has no value in the North Pole, we have to use other things as currency. Lithium batteries are pretty valuable, people need them to keep their gadgets going. Ordinary batteries are no use at all in freezing temperatures. I will keep working on the guys with my bribes because I cannot live without my handwarmers!

    Anyway the good news is that we only have about 15 miles (all being well) we should be arriving at the North Pole on Saturday!

  1. Update from team mate Andrew Leary who said a few words for Carl's Diary via the team's satellite phone...

    Today has been quite straightforward. We are 22 feet above sea level. Sure it's cold but the sun has been shining. The rule here is to stay "warm enough, but keep a bit cool". It is crucial to not get too warm to minimize moisture next to your skin and in your clothing ...that is what actually causes freezing. When we are trekking and pulling our sleds we are exerting a lot of energy and we don't wear our big puffy outer coats - otherwise we get too hot and risk sweating. We wear just the essential layers during the trek, nothing too thick and warm. Also the clothing must have good breathability because, as our bodies are working, we need to be constantly dispersing any sweat and moisture away from our bodies and out through the clothing. So, we probably actually only wear our big outer coats for 20-30 minutes in total each day, whenever we need stop for a snack break. When you are stationery you are significantly more prone to freezing because your body is not generating heat through physical movement and you certainly don't want to be all clammy and sweaty when you stop, because you will freeze. So break time is the time when we put our big coats on.

    I have enjoyed having Carl in the team. He has shown he is made of the right stuff for this. Mental determination is huge. We are doing this expedition as a team...and so much of what we do involves teamwork - being organised, preparing, setting up and dismantling camp etc. However, when you are actually skiiing and pulling your sled across the ice for hours and hours, you are pretty much completely on your own - you only have yourself to rely on. So a big challenge is dealing with the solitude that comes such a vast, cold and desolate environment. We all have our own ways of getting through it mentally. Some people use the long hours to think and reflect on things. Personally I like to rap my favourite hip-hop lyrics from the Beastie Boys to get me through it!

    This is Andrew, over and out!

17th April 2013: 8:00pm

  1. Carl Roland

    Today something pretty scary happened. We manoeuvred countless pressure ridges today (business as usual in the Arctic). On one particular pressure ridge, the last man had just got over the top of the ridge when suddenly the ridge broke, the ice collapsing and crumbling in to the water of the Polar Sea. Just seconds earlier and the unimaginable could have occurred - a fatal accident. That was a sobering experience during an otherwise smooth, trouble-free day.

    Apart from the cracking pressure ridge, the trek generally went really well today. My spirits were up, compared to yesterday. Although it was still very cold, we didn't seem to have the awful wind chill and side winds that we had yesterday. Setting up camp this evening was great, all smooth and no hiccups.

    Items like phones and cameras need to be kept close to your body heat, otherwise the parts would seize up and the battery would be flat in less than a minute due to the freezing temperature. Any items which have got wet or damp would be frozen solid very quickly, so we must keep such items inside our sleeping bags and next to our body heat. Last night I actually got too hot in my sleeping bag with my hot water bottle, I had too many tops on and had to remove one.

    In my last diary entry I mentioned Sundogs - well today I saw a spectacular Sundog. Rather than a halo around the sun, it was actually a bright vertical shaft of light from the sun to the ground. The snow is is nothing like the snow we are used to in the rest of the world. Nothing sticks together. To me the snow is like diamonds. When you pick up snow in your hand it is literally like scooping up a load of glittering diamonds which fall through your fingers.

    My hot evening meal has gone down a treat as usual. Now I'm looking forward to my dessert!

16th April 2013: 8:00pm

  1. Carl Roland

    Today we trekked 11 miles in 8 hours - so good progress made. Had to be very careful checking the ice, quite a few instances of potential breaks and weaknesses in the ice which pose a danger of actually falling through. Still can't believe the strange otherworldly beauty of my surroundings. When the sun gets low you can see "Sundogs" - an atmospheric phenomenon that creates a luminous halos on either side of the sun. Sundogs are made of ice crystals called "diamond dust" drifting in the air at low levels. These crystals act as prisms and you get an amazing halo either side of the sun.

    So, I have survived this far. Although the physical exhaustion and endurance is obviously very hard, I find I can cope with it. But if there's one thing I do find almost impossible to take, it's the penetrating reach a point where it is absolutely unbearable. When we stopped today I could feel my hands and feet freezing up and I told Andrew I seriously cannot continue and I just want to go home. I was deadly serious. He reassured me that it's normal to have these feelings and you must muster the strength to hang on in there. Sure enough - once you have set up camp and you are finally in the tent and you get warm in your bag, with your charcoal burning handwarmers in your gloves and socks, and some hot food on the go - then you start to get your "mojo" back (or whatever you call the will to do this crazy thing in the first place) and you reassure yourself. My hot dinner tonight is the same as previous always goes down great. I had a good helping of banana cake too, very heavy and dense and you can instantly feel the benefit of all the calories going back into your system. I ate 6 or 7 energy bars during the trek. This morning when we woke up, we found that we had drifted 3 miles! This time it was 50/50 in terms of being against us/in our favour. It's just something you have to live with here.

15th April 2013: 8:00pm

  1. Carl Roland

    Today we travelled 10 nautical miles in 6 hours, which is pretty decent progress. Last night while we slept in our tents we had shifted an entire mile due to the "polar drift" I mentioned in an earlier diary entry. Not to worry though....the drift was more in our favour than against us! That was lucky because it's awful to have any setbacks on an expedition like this.

    Talking of setbacks - we must have manoeuvred about 50 to 60 pressure ridges today. They really are everywhere. The 6 hour trek I did today was on an empty stomach because I actually threw up this morning. I think it was something I ate back at Base Camp Barneo - some Russian food I had which didn't agree with me. So you can imagine how starving I was by the time we stopped to set up camp. In my ravenous hunger, I have been fantasising about simple luxuries like a nice cup of coffee or a chicken sandwich. In your mind such things become so desirable that you go crazy thinking about you could kill for them.

    My sled is so heavy I had a "failed gate" on one of my carabiners to which I am attached when pulling the sled. Due to the freezing cold and the constant stress on the metal these things can happen. My sled is seriously heavy....I think I'll have to consider eating more of my energy bars to reduce the weight I am pulling. Everything adds up, and the energy bars I have are actually quite dense and heavy.

    So again tonight we are cooking a nice hot meal (chicken, noodles, rice pudding, strawberries) before we sleep to rise at around 7am to have breakfast, dismantle the camp and set off at about 9am. Today we had no further sightings of any polar bears and we have reported back to Base Camp Barneo to let them know we are OK (we need to contact them daily to let them know our status and co-ordinates). So, not a bad day's graft. Let's see what tomorrow has in store.

15th April 2013: 12:00am midnight

  1. Carl Roland

    It is now midnight on Sunday night/Monday morning, we have set up base camp and we are cooking a hot meal before we sleep to rise at around 7am to prepare and set off for around 8am/9am.

    After our plane journey we were dropped off by 2 Russian helicopters. We set off from Barneo Ice Camp, one of the most unique base camps in the entire world - it is only open for about three weeks each spring and serves as the gateway to the Arctic, allowing researchers, explorers and adventurers access to the North Pole. Anyone who ventures to the North Pole has to work very fast because since it is only open for such a brief period! So after skiing two nautical miles for one hour (and having to manoeuvre over about fifteen pressure ridges in the ice) we set up camp in order to eat a hot meal and get a full night's rest (well...obviously nothing like being at home in bed or at a hotel!). I am looking forward to some chicken, noodles and rice pudding.

    The realisation that you are totally remote from any human civilisation hits you like a may as well be on the moon or another planet.

    There are now only 20 people and a few dogs in this part of the world. There are six people in my team - the other people are separate from us: the dog sled team, a team of Chinese explorers and a flight team.

    The views all around are incredible, absolutely indescribable - nothing but ice all around which goes on forever and ever. The brightness is stunning and dazzling - clear blue skies with a white sun. So far, on this first part of the trek, the temperature has been -25 degrees.

    The pressure ridges in the ice are everywhere - there are so many of them, the fifteen or so that we have dealt with so far is nothing compared to what lies ahead. On top of that, there has been a definite sighting of a polar bear and we have seen fresh polar bear tracks!!!

    Oh well, at least I have my charcoal handwarmers smouldering away in my gloves and socks. I am so proud of my passport stamp from Camp Barneo at 89 degrees North. Not many people on this planet ever get such a stamp in their passport! In fact, me being cheeky, I got them to stamp it more than once!

    Is that chicken and noodle stew ready yet? I'm starving!

14th April 2013: 10:00am

  1. Carl Roland

    Waiting in the hotel. Should have left an hour ago but still bad weather at base camp. Last year the team was removed from the plane just as it was about to take off.

    I seriously need to go now, but it is in the hands of the gods.

    I have eaten 4 pancakes, a full English breakfast plus 300g of chocolate - I have to go!

13th April 2013: 13:00pm

  1. Carl Roland

    We got to the airport today to find out the flight has been cancelled due to bad weather (White Out). Visibility down to 9 feet - far too dangerous to fly and for us to walk as we could easily fall through ice or not see a polar bear! Now I have checked back into the hotel and the team is eating in the bar. I am receiving good advice from Angelo on climbing Mount Everest. He has suggested a training course he did before he completed his summit. He believes I can do this after spending a week with me which gives me confidence.

12th April 2013: 7:00am

  1. Carl Roland

    Nearly finished packing sled, final bits, it's not like going on holiday and packing a suitcase. Everything counts as weight which I have to pull - so I can pack only the essentials.

    I have not slept much but I want a final good sleep tonight. I was thinking about the drift on the polar sea. I could walk 10 miles in a day and if we get the drift wrong it can be depressing. We could go to sleep at night and when we wake could be further back than when we started. So you have to trek all day to get back to where you slept the previous night. I have not seen the moon for a week now....very strange!!

    I spent some time with Gary last night, the amazing guy from Ireland who has just won the North Pole Marathon. He offered me great advice for the mental challenge ahead.

11th April 2013: 9:00pm

  1. Carl Roland

    Just been for an amazing final meal with the team plus the dog sled team who will set off the same time as us. This year 250 people will reach the North Pole. Most of them will go by helicopter and ship. Only 30 will go our way - the crazy way! I get picked up at 8.45am in the morning, my sled must be packed ready for the North Pole. I am lying on my bed listening to my IPod nervous about it and delaying it because my life depends on this moment. If I get it wrong it could be disastrous.

    I wish Alisha was here - she would do it all for me like she packs my suitcase for me. I miss her so much. My sled will be sent to the airport and flown to Borneo at 3pm. I will then see it next on Saturday when I set off for good.

    I would like to say thanks to all the staff at Adapt Outdoors shop in Liverpool for kitting me out. The gear is great, especially my Blue "Himalayan" Jacket. All my team mates are asking about it!

    I'm being pushed more and more by my team and the dog sled team to do Mount Everest Next year!!!! Well I'm off to pack sled....

10th April 2013: 5:00am

  1. Carl Roland

    Slept in Radisson Hotel (Longyearbyen, Svalbard in the Arctic Ocean). Pretty good. But only slept for 4 hours. I lay awake visualising my forthcoming trip to the North Pole, the pace which I will take, the clothing I will wear plus an idea I have developed pulling the sledge hoping to overcome the pressure ridges. I hope to get my sledge out today to try the idea out. Also thinking of putting my camera in my inner pocket with handwarmers to stop it freezing like it has been.

    I'm being pushed more and more by my team and the dog sled team to do Mount Everest Next year!!!! Well I'm off to pack sled....

10th April 2013

  1. Carl Roland, 5:00am

    Slept in Radisson Hotel (Longyearbyen, Svalbard in the Arctic Ocean). Pretty good. But only slept for 4 hours. I lay awake visualising my forthcoming trip to the North Pole, the pace which I will take, the clothing I will wear plus an idea I have developed pulling the sledge hoping to overcome the pressure ridges. I hope to get my sledge out today to try the idea out. Also thinking of putting my camera in my inner pocket with handwarmers to stop it freezing like it has been.

    I'm being pushed more and more by my team and the dog sled team to do Mount Everest Next year!!!! Well I'm off to pack sled....

  1. Carl Roland, 7:00am

    Haven't done much but chill last couple of days, letting muscles recover. Surprisingly, they haven't been too bad. I am so glad I trained in the UK prior to this trip, pulling sledge around the park and hours in the gym. If I hadn't done this I would have real problems.

    Today I am walking up a mountain to the ice caves....should be good!

9th April 2013

  1. Carl Roland

    Had a bad night sleep, so cold and sleeping bag zip kept opening. After a hard afternoon yesterday I decided to start today near back of group and start at a slow pace hoping to keep me going near the end of day. This plan definitely helped until I started to blister on my right foot. It was a struggle.

    3:00 pm

    Back in hotel for hot shower and 4 meals one after another!

    8:00 pm

    Went over my gear with Annie, she said I had too many tops on which cause me to sweat and become exhausted yesterday. Need to sort it out.

    9:00 pm

    Meal with the team. Really good.

8th April 2013

  1. Carl Roland

    Woke up 7 am, breakfast and take down camp, this all take 2 hours. We are skiing 6 hours today. I'm going to skip to 3 hours in when all of a sudden I'm zapped, no energy. I was at front or near front all morning then I slipped right back, don’t forget I'm pulling a heavy sledge and to do this with no energy is a nightmare!

6th April 2013

  1. Carl Roland

    I stayed awake until 1:30 am checking my kit – It has to be perfect.

    7:30 am

    Up for breakfast then back to room to get dressed for shakedown. So many layers of clothing to put on: 3 tops/ 2 coats etc.

    9:00 am

    Ready to be collected and head off on a 2 night trip on land pulling the sledge we will use for pole. This trip will ache our muscles but prepare them for pole.

    12:00 pm

    Ready to set off on a 6 hour ski sledge pulling. At first seemed ok. Temperature -25 C. Very cold, very cold. After 2 hours I start to feel it. I had prepare for this feeling months before by either walking and driving and at same time imagining I was somewhere else. I called it OUT-OF-BODY! So I am pulling sledge in pain and freezing but thinking I am somewhere. Actually I feel I was back home with Alisha, shopping and laughing. Every now and then I go back to my body when I am spoken to.

    Just so you understand how we dress – when we are pulling sledge we take off our padded outer coat and padded trousers otherwise we sweat. When we stop for drinks or food we put clothes back on to stop getting cold.

    6:00 pm

    We stop to set up camp, this was the point Louise said I would crack and kick my tent and walk off, but no I felt like doing that hours ago and its only 1st day! We set up camp in 30 minutes 4 tents and a communal tent to eat. We chat I write diary its only point of day I can hold a pen when the cookers are on and it's still hard. I have to keep my gloves on as it freezing haha.

    Then bed this is mad we sleep in all our clothes put all wet gloves and any wet items in our sleeping bags to stop them freezing. It's horrible, really horrible.

5th April 2013

  1. Carl Roland

    After a number of flights from Manchester, I am on the final flight to Longyearbyen, Svalbard and it is only now it has hit me what I am doing! Have I trained enough runs through my mind constantly and especially as I haven't trained the final 2 weeks due to a back injury.

    8:00 am

    I have landed and it is very cold maybe minus 20 but I am ok. I am now in hotel with my team and now I feel the most unprepared mentally or physically. Every team member has climbed Mount Everest at least once, some twice. Angelo has a book due out after the North Pole trip covering the 7 summits he has done.

    My guides assure me they will prepare me over the next 3 days on the Polar Shakedown. I am doing before we set off to North Pole.

    The guides realised because of how I live in U.K, I eat every hour or so and here I eat breakfast and some biscuits/ energy bars until we finish and set up camp. The guides had noticed every time I ate. I had no problems until hours later when I lost all power.

    The 5th hour was living hell, I wanted to go home right then, I wanted to just fall on floor and not get up. I had Alisha’s letter in coat to read at a time like this but I was told not to then and save it. I was thinking what Alisha was doing and my friends and family, I began thinking what am I doing? I'm NUTS!

    6:00 pm

    Reached camp and set up. Ate and began to write some diary. This was only shakedown so what to come, can I do it, I’m scared now!

    11:00 pm

    My kit check with guides and then off to bed – STILL NERVOUS.