For the past few weeks, IGO’s very own George Bullard has been in the land of ‘Ice Pilots’, maple syrup and the ‘Ice Road Truckers’ – namely Yellowknife, NWT (North West Territories), Canada. It was the location for a training expedition which covered more than 400km along the longest ice road in the world… 

“The worst moment of the day was reaching out from inside my warm cocoon into the freezing outside world to try and find the zip to my sleeping bag. We would wake early (at 4.30am) to make the most of whatever sunlight there was, although we soon realised that the sun offered very little apricity even at midday.  

One morning we woke to the sound of ice creaking underneath us and an air temperature of -42°C. Without the warming effect of a maritime climate (like we have in the UK), central northern Canada constantly faces these extremely cold temperatures. Things happen super quickly when it is this cold, so any mistakes and mother nature would turn it black before you could recover. This turned the simplest of tasks into a something which could potentially maim us for life.

Fortunately, the team (Alex Hibbert, James Wheeldon and I) are experienced at living in the outdoors in cold temperatures. In 2008, Alex and I broke the world record for the longest unsupported polar journey (113 days and 1,374 miles), while Alex and James spent 6 months living with the Inuit in N. Greenland a few years later – but we have never worked together as a trio. As such,  one of the purposes of this trip was to get to know each other and work together, as well as prove the concept to potential partners.

As we plodded along the ice road, hauling all our gear behind us in sledges (mine was called ‘Belinda’!) we waved at every single trucker. They were all wonderfully kind and caring people. They were so shocked to see us outside in such cold environments every driver stopped to ask whether we were ok! Some people even brought us hot thermos’ of tea, others gave us some of their packed lunch which was incredible (until the sandwiches froze rock solid after an hour inside the sledge!).

Our surroundings were nothing short of incredible, mind bogglingly beautiful. Millions of hectares of untouched boreal forest. A pristine Narnia like winter-wonderland of pine trees that extend further than I could imagine. I was almost expecting Mr. Tumnus to appear from behind a tree! But this place is not to be messed with. “The Bush”, as the locals affectionately refer to it, is a deadly place which takes no prisoners. Every year people die out there, usually tourists who don’t truly understand the severity of the place, or their own abilities.

Fortunately, we returned safely with all digits in tact and I cannot wait to tell you about the real purpose behind this project – it is AWESOME! Stay tuned for more details…”