6633 Arctic Ultra: CP1 to CP2 (Arctic Circle to James Creek)
We leave CP1 and now we get to the real nitty gritty of the 'race'. The first 23 miles were simply a warm up, now with the darkness arriving and some colder temperatures setting in, this is the start of the real test.
From this point on we decide to work on a 2 hour on/15min off schedule, so we'd hike at a steady pace for 2 hours, then stop for 15mins to eat, drink and do any admin that was required. This schedule worked well, we were making good ground and were staying topped up with nutrition and fluids, all-in-all everything was going well.....so far.
From researching the route and chatting to previous competitors I knew we had a big task ahead of us on this leg, it's called Wrights Pass and it's 10 miles of climbing, anywhere between 6% and 16% gradient. 10 miles of climbing means quite a few hours of digging in and just keeping the momemtum going by placing one foot in front of the other. We weren't there yet, but most people said we should try to get it done in the dark, as you really don't want to see what's ahead of you (in the daylight) as it's such a long climb.
As we approach Rock River we start to get tired and decide to bivvy out and get an hours sleep before we get to the base of Wrights Pass. This would be our first bivvy and I was keen to get one done, so we know what to improve on (getting our systems right) as we move through the event. We find a convenient place to stop off the main trail, get out our sleep systems and get set up in less than 5 minutes. This is a good start, as it's starting to get cold and we need to get into our sleeping bags as quickly as possible. I set my alarm for 1 hour and I'm asleep as my head hits the pillow.
An hour later I'm awaken by my alarm. It's nice and warm in my sleeping bag, but the second I get out and start putting my sleeping bag and bivvy into my pulk I start to shake. It's freezing. It's reported to be -25'c. My hands are shaking and my teeth are chattering. I move quickly, get my big down jacket on, finish adjusting my pulk and we're ready to move. Hayley and I didn't really need to speak, we knew we had to get moving, and get moving quickly, to warm up.
Thirty minutes later we're warm again and moving well. This was a pattern that happened alot.....get out of sleeping bag, get really cold, get moving and get warm.....again and again.
We're now approaching Wrights Pass and we know this is going to be one of the toughest parts of the whole race. Time to pull on my big boy pants and dig in.
Before I know it we're climbing. It's tough. We hold a decent pace, working hard, but not too hard; we can't sweat otherwise we'll get really cold and that would spell problems later on. We continue with the 2 hours on/15mins off schedule. As soon as we stop for our 15mins break, we put our big down jackets on and then go ahead sorting out our food and/or drinks. I had coffee and hot chocolate sachets with me, and these proved to be a great success, both as a pick me up and a little treat. I was eating a mixture of dehydrated meals, Huel drinks, energy bar bites, Pringles and shortbread; it was early days but these were proving to be working well so far.
The reputation Wrights Pass has is well founded......it was a bitch. It went on forever. We were digging in, only stopping for our 15min breaks and if a support vehicle stopped to check on our progress. We were tired but it then started to become light, this gave us a huge mental boost and we knew (well, guessed) that we only had another hour or so until we reached the summit.
It was tough going, but the summit eventually arrived. A couple of support crew were at the top and said it was about 10 miles to the next checkpoint (which is still 3-4 hours away) and that it was all downhill. They lied. It was undualting the whole damn way! OK, maybe slightly downhill over the 10 miles, but it certainly wasn't 'downhill' with some very cheeky climbs along the way. Eventually we see one of the support crew and he tells us the check point is just around the corner, on the left hand side, just look out for the Likeys 6633 flags.
The flags were a welcome sight and as we pulled into the checkpoint we saw a few unexpected faces waiting for us. The nature of this race means that it has a very high DNF (Did Not Finish) rate and unfortunately Wing, David, Matt and Kirk were out of the race. It was sad to see our friends stood there waiting for our arrival, but this was to become common place as more and more athletes dropped from the race.
At this checkpoint we had the trailer, just like at CP1, and we also had access to a big snowplough shed to sleep in. We decided to grab a few hours sleep here before heading out to tackle the next leg. This however was not what happened. The snowplough shed was very hot, smelly and had a tannoy system in it which kept going off every 10 minutes or so. I couldn't sleep. I was restless. I think I managed to grab 30 minutes, then I was wide awake. Hayley was sleeping well, I couldn't wake her up, so I spent the next hour or so retaping my feet, getting some food down my neck and refilling my flasks. During this time a few of the other competitors arrived at the checkpoint, it was great to see Bronwyn arrive (she was struggling with a very sore back) and then Neil shortly after; it was such a lift to see familiar faces and have a quick catch up on how we were all feeling and what was about to come.
Fortunately Hayley then woke up, she had about 90 minutes sleep and was keen to get going, so we wrapped everything up and got ready to move out.
CP1 to CP2 (Arctic Circle to James Creek) 48 miles (total: 71 miles)