About 4 years ago I set myself a goal – to do a significant journey to each of the world’s four icecaps. I had given myself a taste of doing one – a 56 day journey to the South Pole. It was a huge journey and a wonderful one.
Many people think that doing a sustained, sled hauling trip for 2 months in -20C temperatures in the Antarctic would change me. I didn’t feel then that it had, though it had certainly added a new script to my life – First Australian Woman…., Icy pole Lady….., that mad woman who……..
What has changed me more is the goal that was subsequently set – to do three more amazing trips. I’ve called this the Icecap Journeys and it involves doing a major expedition on each of the four major icecaps of the world – Antarctic, Greenland, South Patagonia and Arctic.
Each journey is hard – to organise these trips takes years, to raise enough money seems impossible. The process impacts on relationships with friends and family. It requires creating and maintaining a public profile. It leaves little space for other goals. Each journey has me questioning ‘why?’ – though I know that each time I get back out on the ice again I know why.
The Greenland trip took 2 years to organise and went as planned, complete with challenges we could manage and a great sense of awe at the icecap and feeling of accomplishment.
An attempt to get across the South Patagonian Icecap failed as weather and perhaps a lack of preparedness for an icecap that lay within humid mountains created a really different set of conditions to deal with and meant we turned around in order to get out while we still had food. Not that I mind having tried, nor the feeling that I have more to learn about this particular goal. I knew I would try again but in the meantime focused on the most challenging icecap journey of them all – the arctic trip to the North Pole.
I reached the North Pole in 2010 with Sarah McNair Landry and Rob Rigato. It had taken us 56 days to traverse 780 kms of cracking and drifting sea ice from the northern most tip of Canada to the pole. This expedition finished in a rush as we ran out of time and drove ourselves ruthlessly to cover the distance using pure determination – sleeping one hour a night and travelling for 17 hours each day in the final days of the trip.
The second attempt to cross the Patagonian icecap succeeded with the very capable addition of Kerryn Wratt to our team. Days of ferrying gear to the icecap access point was followed by sun kissed easy travel across the top. The final 20 kms took 10 days as we negotiated heavily crevassed terraing to reach the end point.
It’s fantastic that Rob, my husband, has now joined me in Greenland, the Patagonia attempt and then the arctic and by default, the icecap journeys are also becoming his experience as well as mine. There have other wonderful companions along the way including guides Devon McDermaid and Denise Martin (south pole), Sarah McNair Landry (north pole) and fellow travellers Stuart Smith, Hannah McKeand, Craig Mathieson, Owen Jones and Roger Chao.
The Icecap Journeys goal is an arbitrary one, a choice I’ve made to generate momentum and challenge in my life, to maintain my link to adventure and to extreme wilderness landscapes. It’s made me think about the politics of adventuring, of fundraising and of working with sponsors. It’s prompted a huge amount of my energy going into working in schools and with community groups – giving talks, answering questions and seeking change that will preserve the places I’ve been privileged to visit as well as those close to home.
The Icecap Journeys goal has prompted me to do more than I ever though possible and its not yet over.
On December 28th, 2004, Linda became the first Australian woman to ski from the edge of the Antarctic to the South Pole. During the epic 56 day, 1100km quest, Linda endured treacherous conditions, including blinding snow storms and minus 50 degree temperatures.
Linda’s love of wilderness was confirmed during the journey and the spark lit for further ice cap journeys.
Find out more about the Antarctic Journey
A journey across the Greenland Icecap enters TUNU – the land at the back – as the route rises from the coast up over the 2 mile thick icecap.
When: April/May 2007
Distance: 580 kms
Duration: 35 days
Read the dispatches sent by the team
Shifting sea ice, average temps of -30C, the sun moved from being completely below the horizon to 24 hour sunlight during the early spring season when travel across the frozen ocean is possible.
When: March/April 2010
Distance: 780 kms
Duration: 56 days
View the video prepared for students who will follow the expedition
Watch the video of the North Pole Journey 2010 and look at a trip summary to read about higlights.
South Patagonia Ice Cap – first attempt
The immense ice cap of southern Patagonia remains one of the least explored mountain areas in the world. This will be the most technically challenging journey, throwing greater terrain hazards into the mix with storms and low temperatures.
When: First attempt occured in July 2009.
Distance: 220 kms (we only managed to do 7 kms, though it was 75 kms of gear hauling to accomplish that)
Duration: 19 days
SOUTH PATAGONIA ICE CAP – second ATTEMPT
When: November and December 2012
Distance: 135 kms
Duration: 21 days
Expedition dispatches tell the story.