Adventurers stuck in the doldrums

Lack of wind means three explorers must try to make progress on foot. 'It gets us out of the tent and gets us some exercise,' leader says.

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DUBAI // By now, the adventurers should have been speeding along the ice, their faces whipped by the wind as they kite-skiied north towards the Arctic Ocean. But after making good time at the start of the week, Adrian Hayes and his teammates, Devon McDiarmid and Derek Crowe, have "hit stalemate" and spent the past few days clawing their way forwards on foot as the cold, downward katabatic winds needed to propel them along the last half of their journey continue to elude them.

Forecasts from their meteorological adviser, Marc de Keyser, suggest good winds will begin on Sunday about 250km north of their current location - now all they need to do is get there. No easy task, Hayes said yesterday, when you are pulling 90kg sleds behind you. "There is no way we can do that in four days but we will try and do a little bit," he said. "We will get up as far as we can. It gets us out of the tent and gets us some exercise."

When the wind will not co-operate, he added, movement becomes incremental. "We did 185km one day and the next day we packed our tents up and managed about 185 metres," he said. "We literally could see our campsite. The wind died. We spent the rest of the day sitting. The next day was bad so we were sitting again. We then had a day where we managed a little bit and then we had this forecast of four days of stillness."

But they will try to press forward on foot until the westerly 10- to 15-knot winds arrive on Sunday. Hayes and McDiarmid are used to trekking along icy regions - they were part of a team that 18 months ago trekked to the South Pole unassisted - but to trek the remaining 500km to the Arctic Ocean, at the pace at which they completed the South Pole expedition, would take about 30 days. It is time the trio simply do not have.