Breaking the Cycle Yukon will be a 4-week extreme cold training expedition through the Canadian Arctic. Working with local expert Bob Daffe, who has been exploring and guiding in Yukon for more than 40 years, I will follow a cross-country route of approximately 1000km from Eagle Plains on the Dempster Highway to Herschel Island on the Beaufort Sea and east to Aklavik and Fort McPherson near the MacKenzie River Delta. This route is very adaptable because it is difficult to predict how much distance I can cycle each day due to variable weather and snow conditions.
Why undertake this extreme challenge?
I have set myself this extreme challenge to test the equipment and clothing systems I plan to use in Antarctica and hone my own skills for riding in extreme cold conditions in the soft snow. However, Breaking the Cycle Yukon is going to be a unique, major expedition in it’s own right. No one has ever cycled through this remote part of the world. I am very keen to explore the region, meet some of the local Vuntut Gwitchin people in Old Crow and learn about some of the culture and traditions, see some wildlife (caribou, arctic foxes, maybe even polar bears) and witness some spectacular evening displays of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).
Testing equipment and clothing
Steve Christini has just finished making a third, slightly improved version of his all-wheel drive fatbike. I will be trialling the use of a special short ski that will be positioned either side of the front wheel. The ski will add extra flotation over the soft snow. It will have an adjustable height as it will only be needed when the wheel sinks too deep into the snow. It will also be totally removable for when it is not needed – and in case it doesn’t work.
Cycling through snow is incredibly hard work – about as tough as it gets. An added difficulty cycling in the extreme cold is to manage moisture because if I perspire and then stop to rest, any sweat freezes. When this happens next to the skin, it is a real problem because it could lead to cold damage (frost nip, even frost bite and hypothermia) and it draws energy away from the body. The art of polar travel is to manage the body temperature by wearing the right combination of wind-resistant but breathable layers that also wick moisture away so that it does not freeze against the skin. I need to refine these clothing systems during the expedition. Thanks to Mont Australia, Velocio, The Heat Company, Julbo, 45NRTH, Revelate Designs and Wilderness Wear, I have plenty of options to try.
How the expedition will work
This is likely to be a 26-day journey. After preparing all equipment, food and clothing in Whitehorse, Bob and I, will drive 700km to Dawson City. From there I will begin a four day acclimatisation ride of approximately 400km along the Dempster Highway, an ‘all-weather’ (gravel) road to Eagle Plains (or possibly Fort McPherson). There we will be joined by expedition filmmaker, Claudio von Planta, and Bob’s wife Theresa and the team will begin the cross-country journey; I’m obviously cycling and the rest of the team will be travelling on snowmobiles.
Internet connectivity will be limited to only when in remote settlements like Old Crow, Aklavik and Fort McPherson. To communicate during the rest of the journey we will carry satellite communications and tracking equipment to relay messages and send images for everyone to follow.
The Breaking the Cycle education programme aims to help prepare our future leaders to make informed decisions to create a better world. Students and Scouts globally will be able to follow Kate’s preparatory activities and Antarctic expedition and partake in virtual learning presentations with the end goals of creating their own activities and potentially raising funds for not-for-profit organisation, YGAP.
In collaboration with the Victorian Department of Education and Training, I am developing a blog on the department’s Global2 site. This will be a fully monitored safe hub for learning and communications, not just for Victorian schools, it is open for pupils from regions outside of Victoria and Australia to follow and interact. Curriculum and activities will relate to leadership, outdoor education, geography, critical thinking, being prepared for adventure and more. This all begins in early March with Breaking the Cycle Yukon. http://kateleeming.global2.vic.edu.au/
So far I’ve consulted and have the support of the Victorian Department of Education and Training, Scouts Victoria, Australia and the World Scout Organisation (WOSM headquarters), World Challenge Expeditions (Education through adventure), and an excellent Canadian initiative called Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants.
The programme kicks off on 1st March with a live virtual presentation to school students.
Sponsors (for the Breaking the Cycle Project)
So far include: Dimension Data, Noel O’Brien, Sara and Christopher Reston, Simone Yeo, Australian Geographic, World Expeditions, Aldersley Capital, Velocio, Mont Australia, Christini Technologies, Ibis Cycles, VEE Tire Company, 45NRTH, HED Cycling, The Heat Company, Hilleberg Tents, Revelate Designs,Wilderness Wear, Cycle Works Boxhill, Ortleib, Ride Mechanic and several private sponsors.