The Polar challenge is one of the toughest races in one of the planet’s
most hostile terrains. It is not only physically draining but also mentally as a result of its desolation,
unpredictability and harsh conditions.
The teams fly into Ottawa,
Canada and are then taken further North to Resolute Bay in the North East of Canada. Resolute Bay itself is a cold, windy
place warmed up only by the hospitality of the locals and race organisers. The racing distance is 600km (320 Nautical
miles), providing you don't get lost! In addition, the competitors pull sledges weighing at least 100 lbs that carry
food, fuel, tent and safety kit. The race can take up to 4 weeks to complete. Together, the competitors ski 65 miles from
Resolute Bay to the start line at Polaris mine. From here the route runs through 3 checkpoints, passing through the magnetic
north pole, and finishing at Isachsen, a disused weather station. Climatic conditions are cold, as low as -65C!
Last year the lowest recorded temperature in the region was -89C. However, there is an added menace resulting from windy
conditions. This not only adds a considerable wind-chill factor but also the snowdrift and blizzard can reduce visibility
to < 2m. In these conditions keeping the team members together becomes a challenge and even more of a necessity. The cold is not the only danger inherent in this race.
Without wanting to go into too much detail (it worries parents!), other dangers the teams will face include frostbite, hypothermia,
paradoxically sweating, blisters, arctic thigh, naked flame in a very flammable tent and last, but not least, inquisitive
are in teams of three and essentially race against the course as much as against each other. Indeed, the start line is
likely to be the last time the teams will see their competitors until back in London!