Say hello to Alex Hibbert.
“Alex is a world-record holding polar expedition leader and photographer. Only twenty-six years old, he has spent over one hundred and sixty-five days unsupported in the Arctic and has crossed the second largest icecap on Earth four times.” I mean what a dude. And now he’s got something particularly nutty up his sleeve – or icy if you will – with The Dark Ice Project. I will let him tell you what it’s all about…
What’s your earliest memory of adventure?
I suppose the first time I had the thirst to do something different to what everyone else was doing was at about 14 or 15. I abandoned mainstream sport for ultra-distance kayaking, which felt like an adventure (!) and for hikes like Ten Tors on Dartmoor.
What was your first proper adventure?
My first independently led trip was as I began university – a mountaineering project in the Alps. We ended up acclimatising for a day in an emergency high mountain hut which added a little drama. Before that my hikes and journeys had been more ‘organised’ and with me as a cog in a large machine.
Do you have a favourite adventure that you have done?
Favourite is a difficult word as it implies either fun or rewarding or a combination of the two. Some of my best experiences have been on expeditions which were anything but fun – a real hard slog. I suppose if I had to pick one, it would have to be The Long Haul – hardly surprising! My favourite bit was the end….!
Do you have a favourite country in the world?
It’s a toss up between Iceland and Canada. Greenland will always have a special place in my affections but it lacks the full breadth of places, from wilderness to vibrant cities.
What’s the strangest dream you have ever had?
Um, of ones I can describe here…… probably a series of ones I had over the first fortnight on the ice in 2008. It involved constantly returning home from the journey, having an amazing family home-cooked meal and then panicking that I’d lost my unsupported status and whether my miraculous sojourn home counted or not! Probably a reflection of the uncertainties in my mind at the time.
What’s your desert island snack? And the munch you will miss the most?
I’m a massive foodie so where do I start! The tastes I’ll miss most are steak, good beer and fresh fruit – not together. My treat may be some tinned fruit – we’ll see……
What’s the song you like you groove to?
We can’t take music or audio books with us this time unfortunately due to the polar bear risk. If I could, a real get up and go track usually comes from the Lost Prophets, but Radiohead can be bizarrely affirming. Guilty secrets are in plentiful supply….P!nk, Harry Potter and trashy modern stuff – it reminds me the real world still exists.
Explain the trip for you?
The trip was conceived a year and a bit ago although it existed at the back of my mind for a lot longer than that. It essentially combines the most difficult aspects of polar exploration in one journey. Sea ice, darkness, lots of supplies to haul, unsupported stye, winter cold, bears and a new route. I’m thoroughly and totally motivated to get stuck in.
How did you come up with the name?
I came up with Dark Ice Project because North 2012/13/14 was getting confusing, project implies a longer term venture than an expedition (plus I don’t really like the overused term expedition) and it does what it says on the tin!
How do you feel about spending that amount of time with Justin Miles (a nutter who I know and love!)
Ask me when I’m back! But more seriously, I’ve lived in tents with people for months before and think I’m ok at the ‘getting along’ side of things. Justin is a stable and hardworking guy with a wicked sense of humour that I’m sure I’ll have fathomed by day ninety….
What will you do to annoy him?
If I want to remain alive – hopefully nothing! We’ll both be armed….
What’s your pet peeve on an adventure?
Someone who doesn’t pull their weight, stoves which don’t work properly and hoarfrost.
What will you miss most about home?
Sitting down to eat, a large bed and my friends endlessly mocking me.
What are you most scared about?
Big furry white things. And the fact what we’re walking on can just break up.
Will you keep trying until you reach the geographic North Pole?
This season the priority is depot laying, but if we meet certain time targets (which I can’t divulge!), then perhaps we’ll give it a crack first time round. Of course, having two parts to the expedition means two books instead of one
What do you think will be the biggest challenge?
Meeting time targets with insanely heavy loads which will need shuttling. And navigating in the dark.
I’ve heard you won’t bring music, what song will you be singing out loud?
How do you pee?
Very fast and occasionally with the assistance of a large latex glove. Don’t ask.
How will you stay in contact?
A satellite phone, iPod Touch and satellite wifi.
Do you have a favourite knot?
Reef knot. It looks nice.
What’s your favourite piece of kit on the list?
My silicone fuel funnels which don’t crack. Genius.
Do you have a cuddly toy or lucky charm you will take?
Not really into that sort of thing really. I don’t believe in fate or destiny. Does Justin count?
Who would be your top three people you take on an adventure (Other than me of course)?
The late Christopher Hitchens to keep my mind going, someone to keep me warm (!!) and Justin (not to keep me warm, but I should really mention him in my top 3 shouldn’t I….)
What other challenges are on your to do list?
Ah, that’s a secret and for another time. They’re all long, cold and not particular cheap or easy.