Breaking the Cycle Yukon (Arctic Canada)

Kate is in preparation at the moment for a scheduled training ride through the Arctic Yukon, Canada.  

Expedition Overview

The 4-week extreme cold training expedition through the Canadian Arctic is due to begin on 8th March 2017 with final preparations taking place in Whitehorse (the capital of the state of Yukon). Working with local expert Bob Daffe, who has been exploring and guiding in Yukon for more than 40 years, Kate will then 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 Kate can cycle each day due to variable weather and snow conditions.

Why undertake this extreme challenge?

Kate has set herself this extreme challenge to test the equipment and clothing systems she will use in Antarctica and hone her 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 in this remote part of the world. Kate is 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 made a third, slightly improved version of his all-wheel drive fatbike. Kate 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 Kate perspires and then stops 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. Kate needs to refine these clothing systems during the expedition.

How the expedition will work

This is likely to be a 26-day journey. After preparing all equipment, food and clothing in Whitehorse, Kate and Bob, her guide, will drive 700km to Dawson. From there Kate will do 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 they will be joined by Claudio von Planta, the filmmaker, and Bob’s wife Theresa and the team will begin the cross-country journey; Kate cycling and the rest of the team 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 Kate and her team will carry satellite communications and tracking equipment to relay messages and send images for students to follow.