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Top North Pole Tips: Eric Philips, veteran polar explorer

Posted: Jun 10, 2014 03:26 pm EDT


(Correne Coetzer) Yesterday 2014 North Pole skiers Ryan Waters and Eric Larsen shared their Top North Pole Tips with ExplorersWeb. Today Australian Eric Philips shares his Top 5 Tips. 


During April and May, Eric guided Bernice Notenboom and Martin Hartley in an attempt to ski from the Geographic North Pole to Canada. They set off from the Pole on April 4. During the attempt the incessant westerly wind created havoc with their route. They drifted around 100km to the east before their resupply, were airlift to the southwest and drifted another 75 thereafter. With little more than a degree and a half to go, they were evacuated from the ice due to deteriorating ice conditions.


But, said Eric, in an interview with ExWeb, he loves doing these expeditions because he has a direct insight into what works and what doesn't and added his penchant for design couldn't be more nourished than when he is on the ice. His time between expeditions is now more focused on polar equipment design.


Here goes Eric Philips’ 5 Top North Pole Tips to ExWeb readers


1. Study the formula that maximises your chances of success. If any element - distance; duration; sled weight; equipment; team calibre and diet - is out of whack, you will get stung. Overlay surface and weather conditions and you can't marvel at the failure rate of full-length North Pole expeditions.


2. Don't trust untested gear on a long expedition. Year after year I see people introduce the latest whizz-bang thing - batteries, skis, eyewear, fabrics, sleds, you name it - and invariably they end up on the redundancy pile. I've been guilty of it. Some items are so critical that their failure could force you to abandon an expedition. Ask, research, test...everything.


3. The ability to maintain, improvise and repair stuff is crucial. Despite our best intentions, gear does wear out or fail. You need to be able to sew, stitch, craft, fashion, adapt, invent and bastardise. If something fails spend the rest of the day mulling over the best solution and the evening enacting it. Same applies to the collective team spirit. It needs to be maintained, enlivened and even repaired. Point 4 helps to keep a team focussed.


4. Operate your trip with military precision. There is enough unpredictability on the Arctic Ocean, don't exacerbate things with spontaneity, inconsistency and temperamentality. I operate on an 8:8:8 system. Eight hours in the harness (divided by 4 x 2 hour sessions to the clock), eight hours of downtime (breaks, camp work, snow melting, cooking, comms, reading etc) and eight hours of sleep. That way everybody knows what they're getting and what they're not. As the trip progresses you can compress the downtime to add more harness time, by anything up to two hours, but don't underestimate the physical and psychological benefit of the sleep component. Well rested bodies can go longer and faster and are more tolerant, physically, mentally and emotionally.


5. Use a qualified guide if you don't have the knowledge and skill to undertake a North Pole expedition. An IPGA guide lets you tap into a resource with a deep history of successful travel on the Arctic ice www.polarguides.org




ExWeb interview with Eric Philips, innovation and North Pole expeditions


Top North Pole Tips: Ryan Waters and Eric Larsen, Class of 2014


ExWeb interview with Ryan Waters, "the North Pole is like going into battle”


ExWeb interview with Eric Larsen: "The North Pole is easily ten times harder than Everest or the South Pole”


Veteran Russian polar explorer, Dmitry Shparo's Top 5 North Pole Tips


Opinion: Richard Weber's Top 5 Reasons for North Pole expedition failure


North Pole success: Ryan Waters and Eric Larsen arrived at the 90ºN!


North Pole season closed down with last flight


The Hunger Game: Yasu Ogita recaps his North Pole expedition


North Pole: Bengt Rotmo talks to ExWeb from the Arctic Ocean


Finland’s Jaakko Heikka talks to ExWeb about Greenland’s horizontal ski route


Jose Mijares and dog Lonchas summited highest mountain on Svalbard


Building the High Performance Adventure Team: Sean Chapple’s insights


Eric Philip’s website




AdventureStats: successful expeditions past 7 years:


Land to Geographic North Pole 

2014: 1x unassisted ski team from Canada

2013: 1x car team from Russia (did a crossing)

2010: 1x unassisted ski team from Canada

         3x assisted ski teams from CA

2009: 1x unassisted ski team from CA

         1x assisted ski team from CA

2008: 1x assisted ski team from Russia (winter exped)

2007: 1x assisted ski team from CA


Geographic North Pole to Land

2013: 1x assisted dog team to CA

2012: 1x unassisted ski and kayak team to Svalbard

2011: 2x assisted ski teams to CA

2009: 1x unassisted ski team to Greenland

2007: 1x unassisted ski and kayak team to Franz 

         Josef Land

         1x assisted ski team to Greenland


assisted = resupplied



#polar #northpole2014 #ericphilips





Eric Philips: "Operate your trip with military precision. There is enough unpredictability on the Arctic Ocean, don't exacerbate things with spontaneity, inconsistency and temperamentality." Image: Martin Hartley hauls his sled through a weakness in the ice
courtesy Eric Philips / Icetrek, SOURCE
Eric Philips: "If any element - distance; duration; sled weight; equipment; team calibre and diet - is out of whack, you will get stung." Image: Bernice Notenboom is dwarfed by a large pressure ridge
courtesy Eric Philips / Icetrek, SOURCE
Guide Eric Philips tracking.
Started April 4, evacuated May 13, 2014. Eric Philips, Bernice Notenboom and Martin Hartley's position May 11. MAp showing the eastward drift.