I stopped and the cold almost instantly took over, especially my thighs and knees. My hunger dissolved in that cold. I wanted to stop a while but I wasn’t able to stay still. I got out my water bottle and felt the chunk of ice banging around inside with a hollow sound..
I needed to think! It was desperately cold! I couldn’t stop shaking. My back shook! I’d never felt anything like that! I looked at my watch: -15C (5F) at 3 in the afternoon? And this was the warmest part of the day????
With the cold, to think clearly was my biggest challenge.
I needed to eat and hydrate! I got out a can of soup and started to warm it in a water bath. I took advantage of that to melt some snow to drink. I looked at the open can and the smell of cheese soup immediately got my attention!
“Where’s my anti-bear spray?”
I looked around as if a bear was just waiting for me to notice he was there to materialize beside me.
It was completely cloudy, everything white. I couldn’t distinguish between the ground and the air. It seemed I was inside a piece of white paper. If a white Polar Bear came walking towards me, (3 days before, in Deadhorse, there had been a Polar Bear alert in the area) I would probably only have seen him when he got right up close to me. I became paranoid. I turned around twice, checking all 360 degrees very carefully.
White, white plus white. In the coudy days it's hard to see the horizon.
It looks there is nothing there, ins't? Are you sure?
I looked at the pan with the can of soup. I put the water in the water bottle, closed the pan with the soup inside, put it in the pannier and started off again.
That’s when I felt small. Very small. I looked at everything around me, I stopped. I heard the silence and realized.
What was I doing? Where was I? I was shaking again. I drank a little warm water. How delicious…..
I took off my mask and let myself breathe the frozen air. It was almost like breathing something solid. If the cold continued scaring me and keeping me from thinking, I’d certainly have problems, perhaps serious, and soon.
It was then that it dawned on me, I had chosen to be here! This was exactly what I wanted to experience. In all the world, it was here, the place where I wanted to be!
"In all the world, it was here, the place where I wanted to be!"
I’d already read incredible stories of people who had survived conditions much more critical than this. I needed to keep my mind in order so I could think clearly. I was the master of that decision.
I then resolved that the day was over. I needed to rest, eat and drink water. I set up the kitchen, reheated the soup and ate it, looking at the white. Listening to the absolute silence. I didn’t think that this existed. I had never felt time stop this way.
Because of the bears, the recommendation is to not eat near where we we are going to sleep. I washed everything with ice, brushed my teeth, put everything in the panniers and rode 5 more kilometers.
I set up the tent on the top of a hill, surrounded by soft snow, up close to petroleum pump station number 2.
I sleept very little on the artic. The cold, wind and sometimes little noises outside the tens were enought to keep me awake for hours.
I separated the waterproof and airtight sealed bag with all the food and left it near the road, about 800 meters from the tent.
I got hand warmers and put them in my socks and gloves. It was 8pm and the temperature was -15C (5F). I got in my sleeping bag and let the silence wrap itself around me. I kept hearing the strong winds all night long and from time to time I looked at my watch that indicated the falling temperatures.
At 3am or so, -18 inside the tent, (just below zero F), I started to feel something very light falling on my face…I opened my eyes, was it snow??? Snow inside the tent? Had I forgotten to put put up the tent cover?
No, everything was as it should be, the tent was intact, but for a few seconds it snowed inside the tent. The humidity from my breathing probably had condensed on the roof of the tent, and because of the temperature, it precipitated. I saw that my sleeping bag was covered in a film of ice.
I couldn’t sleep at all that night. Even though the equipment could prevent heat loss, I couldn’t get warm.
In the morning "the butterfly" completely coverd by ice.
The ice on rear disc brake.
In the morning I couldn’t avoid it any longer, I had to get up to pee, I checked on the bike, poor thing, all frozen. When I puled down my pants, I couldn’t feel my thighs. With my finger I pressed my mottled skin. I couldn’t feel anything. The sun was already high but I got out the flashlight and inside the tent took a look at my leg. It was slightly blue with red patches.
“I think it’s time to put on another pair of pants”, I said to myself.