Exercise Midnight Sun - Greenland 2008

Tips for Greenland…

WEATHER
In August the average still air temperature will be about 9 degrees centigrade. The weather can change very rapidly due to the Ice Cap, the fjords and the sea. Effectively it has own weather system; eg like the weather experienced in mountaineering areas in Scotland.


Local knowledge from the Inuit is that the worst weather occurs around the full moon, with the higher tides bringing in the cold seas and thus affecting the weather patterns. The temperature will also be affected by wind, which can be fierce and last for 1 -2 days. August is also a month that is known to be affected by fog, primarily in the morning, clearing during the afternoon and perhaps returning again in the evening. This will mean that navigation skills will be tested; pacing skills, micro navigation to accuracy of 10 meters, an awareness of surroundings, hazards and dangers will be essential.


STOVES
Why not use the stove in the tent?


Falling asleep: When you’re tired and sleepy at the end of the day and your utilising the cooker to dry clothing etc could be lethal. If you’re not disciplined falling asleep with the cooker going could be a potential disaster. If the cooker goes out or runs out of fuel it will continue to push out fumes, which can be toxic. The MSR is far less toxic than some other petrol cookers but still dangerous enough. (Gas cookers are not an option as we can’t get suitable gas where we are in Greenland).


Tent fires: A potential danger is tent fire caused by spilling fuel or flaring when lighting the MSR cookers. Obviously you have to be very careful handling cookers around tents; one mistake and the tent will be gone! Solution: Don’t use your stove in your tent, have a designated cooking area.


More about stoves…
Make sure that you don’t spill any fuel at inside the tent, re-fuel outside or in the bell end. Mop up any spills with earth or snow and empty it outside. Make sure that all team members are especially careful when lighting the MSR cookers and have a flame shield to hand just in case. Use a metal cooking pot lid to douse any flames if required. Make sure there is plenty of space between the tent and the cooker. Competence and confidence will come with practice. Every aspect of the arctic is potentially dangerous. It all comes down to good personal admin or "knowing where you put things and not knocking things over".


Sometimes dirty fuels can leave deposits in the fuel line. MSR's fuel line includes a cable that can be used like a pipe cleaner to scour and clean the fuel line, giving you field serviceability anywhere, anytime.


At higher altitude, MSR stoves may burn "rich," which hinders vaporization. Reducing fuel bottle pressure and opening up the windscreen can offset this.


MSRs simmer when a very low fuel bottle pressure is employed. If you have a full fuel bottle, just a few pumps should get you to the right pressure.


MSR recommends 4 oz. (114ml) of liquid fuel per person per day for cooking or 8 oz. (237ml) of liquid fuel per person per day for melting snow and cooking. If the weather gets extremely cold , it may require as much as 15oz. (444 ml) of liquid fuel per day, however this is unlikely.


In general one 8 oz. canister of  fuel will be sufficient to boil water for two people over four days in summer. Wind, low temperatures and longer cooking times will increase fuel consumption.


Fuel degrades when it contacts air. Store your fuel in an airtight container, such as an MSR fuel bottle.


MSR's stoves burn best when the fuel bottle is pressurized to 15-25 psi, that's equivalent to about 20 pump strokes for a full 500ml or 22-ounce MSR fuel bottle. As the fuel burns, the air space in bottle grows larger, and pressure decreases. You'll have to pump more to maintain the same pressure.


EATING AND DRINKING


You will expend around 3000 – 4000 kcal per day depending on the routes you are exploring. The rations will reflect this; however part of your personal admin is ensuring that you eat properly. When you’re knackered eating can become a chore and rations unattractive. They can be made more attractive by using herbs and spices to liven up your rations. What you take is very much personal taste, eg: garlic granules, Tabasco, mixed herbs, bouquet garni, Herbs de Provence, etc’, but it is worth taking some out with you and the weight is negligible. Supplementing your diet by catching, preparing and cooking  fish and any other animals or plants we can find adds interest to down time and will be beneficial to your diet.


Like eating it is essential that you take on enough fluids, this can also be a chore and brewing up / melting snow is time consuming; it is however essential. The amount you require will vary depending on effort expended but will average between two and four litres per day. Varying tea and coffee with soup,  beef / vegetable stock, screech, etc’ can make drinking more attractive, (unfortunately Stella/ red wine/whisky is not an option!). If in doubt adopt the old Army principle: when you stop brew up, or at least get some water down.


WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF HYPOTHERMIA & FROSTBITE?


Low if your admin is good, high if it is poor, this includes eating and drinking properly. It is important that you follow your training and be alert for the sign and symptoms and deal with them promptly. Put on extra clothes especially gloves and hat if the weather deteriorates, be aware of wind chill effects, keep any flesh covered up and check each other for signs of frost nip or hypothermia. Remember if you are experiencing cold fingers or a cold nose DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Stop the team, change your gloves, run around for a minute, have some food and a drink, get moving quickly. If someone does start to go down, get them into shelter, if possible or at least out of the wind, sort them out and get off; the hill will still be there tomorrow! When in the tent, put on dry kit for resting up, put your damp/wet stuff back on for going back out, with modern, wicking kit, (WICKING, not WICKER….Stella!!), if you’re moving you’ll soon warm up.