If you've seen everything here, there are plenty of other web-tracked expeditions online at
17 Feb 2006:Two years after the start of the final expedition, a narrative of my experiences has been posted online at The Summit Journal.
15 December 2005: Plans for getting back to the Arctic are underway!
22 July 2005: 'The Deadly Glacier', Creative Touch Films' documentary of my SoloIce expeditions, which is currently shown on National Geographic Television (International), is now available as a DVD; unfortunately it's currently hard to get to as the production company's website has been 'under construction' for about two years, now (as of March 2007)! Come on, guys!
31 March 2005: I'm now working on the second draft of my book, and talking with producers in the US about airing the film of the expeditions here in North America. The show, 'The Deadly Glacier', is now showing on National Geographic Adventure 1 channel, in Asia, South America, Continental Europe, and Australia: in April it moves to the core National Geographic channel and will be aired in the UK as part of the 26-part series "Into the Unknown".
18 January 2005: Progress on a complete first draft of my book: . This is an adventure narrative covering my obsession with the ice cap, 200+ pages, 33 still images including maps and drawings, appendices, index, bibliography, and historical notes. I'm writing the book to tell the full story; no video can do that.
25 October 2004: I've just signed a contract with National Geographic, who are producing the video through Creative Touch Films; more news as things develop. For the moment, have a look at some of the other shows on NGTV:
- 19 April 2004: Although I still have some numb toes, I simply can't live without an expedition plan underway. Chiu and I are currently planning a 2005 expedition on the frozen surface of the Beaufort Sea. I already anticipate the satisfying l-u-r-c-h as you lean into the sled harness, first thing in the morning...
Photo copyright 2004 Cameron McPherson Smith.
December 2000: Blown down a valley by hurricane-force winds...
January 2001: 12 days struggling through crevasses...
December 2002: Buried alive in a blizzard...
17 Feb-16 March 2004: SUCCESS!!
On 16 March, after 29 days of effort, I completed (well, almost) the first ever West to East crossing of Iceland's Vatnajokull ice cap, alone on foot in winter. I stopped at 93 miles, as the last seven were a crevasse nightmare that would have been foolish to tackle, considering problems with my sled, and other difficulties. No matter, this was a great feeling as it was my fourth attempt, since 2000, to cross the ice cap alone, on foot, in winter. Some numbers help to illustrate what I will be detailing in my book: sustained winds up to 35m/second (>78 miles per hour, or hurricane-force), wind-chills to -30C (-22F), visibility less than 10m (c.30 feet) about 80% of the time and c.150km (c.93 miles) travelled. On this year's expedition, only 11 days were spent actually pulling the sled-hut: most of my time was spent waiting out storms and making repairs...and that is part of what makes it an expedition rather than a tea-party. I had poor weather throughout, and I essentially forced myself through storm conditions for a month. There was no time for the return journey, but I'm not worried about that: at the end I felt good, had a system of life and travel worked out, but was simply out of time. A big thanks to everyone who helped and was interested to track the expedition, you were travelling with me in spirit! My immediate concerns now are to develop my photos, prepare video footage, and start writing my book. Since I'm back home in Portland, I have the last revisions on my PhD dissertation to complete, as well, and finally, I have to start planning my next expedition -- whatever it will be. Updates here as new material gets digitized. Cheers & I'll be in touch, Cameron.
- 14 February 2004 . I'm still 24 hours from my flight to Iceland, but the adventure has already begun! Warm weather has caused enormous melting and flooding West of the ice cap, mandating a 15-20km 'slog' in to the Jokulheimar starting point, through freezing meltwater rivers and shifting glacial outwash sands; a slushy, sloshy 'mudville'. It's either that, or reverse the plan and start on the E side, at Lambatungujokull. I'm working out decisions at this time. Very excited to get going. Thanks for everyone's help. I can't wait to lean into the harness and start pulling. I am going to hammer out my best effort.
02 February 2004 . I'm tapering off my workouts now, just keeping in good trim...no more 'gutbusters' till the 'real deal', on the ice cap; I can't afford an injury now, and want to arrive fresh. Thirteen days till I board a jet for Iceland.
09 December 2003. Decision: I'm doubling the length of the voyage. I'll cross from West to East (c.160km or 100 miles) and then return to my starting point for a round-trip trek of 320km, or roughly 200 miles. This decision to make the trek a 'full challenge' inspires me to train harder, think more clearly and has put my mind into a different state, in which I will really be trying to live on the ice rather than just cross it. Very exciting!
04 December 2003. When you're preparing your gear, don't forget your earplugs! They block out the storm. Seventy-five days, more or less, till 'blast-off' & can't wait.
26 November 2003. Going to the ice cap on foot in winter several times has provided me with a rare set of 35mm slides. These are shots of not only my expedition activity, but the general ice conditions and surrounding geography, which are not often examined first-hand in winter at ground level. I'm excited to report I've been invited to deposit my collection for permanent archiving at the Scott Polar Research Institute. That means a trip to Cambridge, UK in mid-2004: no complaints here! That will coincide with my trip to London to file my expedition report at the Royal Geographical Society's Expedition Advisory Centre. HOWEVER! Before all that I have to complete the expedition goal of crossing the ice cap alone on foot from West to East in the winter season, which has never been done. I am thrilled and feel literally energized when I think of getting back on the ice for my fourth attempt...the only thing keeping me from completely 'blowing my top' in anticipation is heavy workouts. Two and a half months to go, roughly. Can't wait.
16 November 2003. Only a few months to go, now, and lots of preparations in the works. The latest modification is a steam-diverting hood I am working on with my friend Chuck; this will enormously reduce the condensation inside the sled-hut, which is a real problem, worse than in regular tents for a number of reasons. Testing center is Chuck's kitchen.
In other news, I'm back in my training routine, starting each day on the stair machine, or with a run, and ending each night with a weight session; I joined a 24-Hour Fitness gym just across the street, and they never close, so there is never an excuse to flake out on training.
28 August 2003. This morning I ran 15 miles with a 20-lb pack: two days ago, 13.3 miles (a half-marathon) also with the pack on, and two days before that, nine miles with the pack on. I'm getting back into the workout routine; I've pulled the log a few times, but will hold off on that till a bit later. Right now it feels good just to sweat out months of office-accumulated dust and get back into condition.
11 August 2003. Added an Expedition Checklist so that students and others just getting into this sort of expedition can see the sorts of details which must be attended to well in advance of setting out in the field.
02 August 2003. A major boost for the project: The Earth and Space Foundation has awarded SOLOICE a substantial grant (more news on that later; for the moment, see this page for a preview), ensuring the finances of the 2004 attempt. In other news, I am back in 'workout mode', doing my thrice-weekly 10-mile runs with the 20-lb pack, and gearing up (physically) to resume log-dragging (training log will be posted soon). I am also working on video and audio documentation procedures with Annie Haslett, a professional film-maker in Los Angeles, finishing my doctoral dissertation and teaching two classes at Portland State University, and I'll teach another two at Linfield College in the Fall. So, not much sleep. One recent nightmare had me landing in Iceland to find my equipment hopelessly disorganized when I started unpacking it; an exhausting and empty feeling, and then I woke up. I won't let that dream become reality...it's a reminder to not skip any steps in the 'last minute crush' of the last few days of packing before heading out. Six months till 'blast off'. I can smell the snow and ice, and I can't wait to get back. From previous experience I know that once I hit the three-month mark, things start to go really crazy, and the last 30 days before stepping on the jet to Iceland are truly 'thrilling'.
28 January 2003. Decision: in early 2004, I'll return to Iceland to to make my fourth attempt to cross the ice cap alone, on foot, in winter. For many years, winter climbing formed roughly one half of my identity (the other half was and remains that of a professional archaeologist and university instructor). Now, with no time for winter alpinism as I complete my PhD, I feel the other half of my identity has shifted to that of the SOLOICE expeditions. Quitting would be a hammer-blow to my identity, a rejection of myself. Whether someone else has crossed alone in winter or not, by the time I get there, is of no importance. The expedition to me is a work of art, a statement in which the meaning is in the doing. I like to fight, to struggle, for my existence; I find it very rewarding to operate in an environment where every decision is important. My adventures on the ice cap so far have been very important to me, and I'm not willing to quit. To quote the great Slovenian alpinist, Tomo Cesen, 'A man casts a stone into the mist, listens, and then follows.' That, to me, is the poetic essence of this endeavor.
I should note to anyone reading this that I am not trying to be a great polar explorer. The very mention of names such as Borge Ousland, Ran Feinnes, Wally Herbert, Rune Gjeldnes, Mikhail Malakov or Richard Weber are enough to warn me against such a goal. No, what I am trying to do is personal and non-competitive; what I want to do is complete a task I have set for myself. The extensive documentation of my expeditions, on this website, are just an attempt to communicate my experience with other people. I'm a bit of a 'loner', and I often find it hard to talk about my outdoor experiences in person (except in 'slide-lecture-mode', where I'm very comfortable); here, anyone can wander through my photos, written descriptions and video clips; I think they well communicate the experience. Another reason is to help others with similar goals. What's it like on expedition? What preparations are to be made? This website can help others to realistically address these sorts of questions.
Now, back to the gym; back to the running trail (I will complete a 'personal marathon' this year, come Hell or High Water!); back to my friend 'Mr. Log'; back to riding the tide of life until the wave breaks, and I find myself back in the harness, pulling across the ice cap.
04 January 2003. Working on a computer here in Reykjavik, I´ve put pictures from this year's expedition here and my interview with the Icelandic Alpine Club is online, here. There is a lot of information with each of the photos, and on the interview, but a longer report will be put together for the Royal Geographical Society in the next few months. Thanks to everyone who has helped, it has been a great experience..but it's not over just yet!
15 December 2002. I fly to Iceland on Monday the 16th, arriving Iceland at 7AM, local time on the 17th. I should be at the ice cap edge within a day, and making a first satellite phone report sometime around the 18th or 19th. All preparations are good and I'm anxious to get started. I had dinner with my older brother, Mark, and his family, and it occurs to me that if I had such a family and a home, I could never do these expeditions: it would be too hard to leave. It would be hard for me to leave, and it would be, to my mind, asking too much for the family to put up with my wanderlust. I'm just doing the last packing this evening, and will try to relax a little before the morning, but right now I'm electrified and can hardly imagine sleep. In about 72 hours I'll be in another world, where all of the comforts of this world are traded for mere survival...The door is opening, the mists parting, just enough to let me in...Alone, I will seek my way out.
11 December 2002. I fly to Iceland in six days. A robotic weather station on the west edge of the ice cap has registered sustained winds from 50-100mph (hurricane forces) at roughly my starting point, but the winds have died down a bit in the last few days. I just need to get a cooking pot (discovered my main pot is missing), an external mike for the video camera, and finish preparing my map set, and away I go.
05 December 2002. A robotic weather station at Jokulheimar, my starting point on the West edge of the ice cap, reports a 50mph (23m/second) gale blowing at the moment. I wish I were there, blasted by the wind and working all the works of survival in that strange world...Nine days till 'blast off', and counting each one.
02 December 2002. Just about all preparations complete. Sharpened all ice tools, and I'm packaging food. The 'wound up' feeling is intense. I was this close last year, and then had to postpone for a year...the two years since the first expedition have been very busy, but also very acutely lacking in the self-actualization and raw challenge that I find on expeditions...No amount of intellectual challenge (working on my dissertation and teaching world prehistory) or sterile gym workouts can approach the intensity of life felt when I am on expedition. I am 'wound up', nearly foaming at the mouth to get back into the harness and start pulling, and utterly fed up with looking at my charts and navigation data and satellite images of the ice cap: I want to be there, not think about being there. Twelve days and counting.
29 November 2002. In the early hours of this morning I reviewed my navigation data and locked in waypoints on my GPS unit, indicating the trek route as well as the 'Cobra Zone', a region, near the end of the trek, of many dangers: lots of crevasses, steep ice slopes and so on. I also prepared laminated cards indicating the trek, to be sprial-bound as weatherproof guides which may be used in the event of GPS failure. The last thing to do is prepare a final laminated card, about the size of a playing card, with bearings and distances marked for the traverse, in the event of GPS failure and loss of the map kit. In that event, this card, sewn to the left cuff of my shell suit, is one of my last navigational resorts. Further, most of my course is generally ENE from the starting point, and I believe I could find my way to the descent glacier (Lambtungujokull) even without any written aids. I feel my navigation data are precise and clear. They are backed up with celestial data (e.g. when/where certain constellations will rise and set) as a further backup. I feel good about all of these preparations. Overkill? Not at all. A dense familiarity with the terrain, celestial aids to navigation, the electronics and the compass bearings to get 'there' (and reciprocals to get back if need be) is, in my mind, mandatory for any expedition. Note the recent 23 Nov 2002 Press Release.
23 November 2002. PRESS RELEASE. New sponsor: Pathfinder Wands, manufacturing crevasse-marking flags for my trek. I hope to report never having to use them, because if I'm using them, it will mean I'm ferrying loads through crevasse fields as I was last time...but you never know, and I want to be prepared.
15 November 2002. Current gear list. The most interesting item of gear, though, is the sled-hut!.
09 November 2002. BEHOLD THE SLED-HUT! This is the revolutionary sled I will be pulling across the icecap, the first functional prototype of a design by myself and Icelandic adventurer Halldor Kvaran. Training continues as does preparing gear at my apartment.
04 November 2002. A decision: There Will Be No Walkman. I haven't taken a walkman on many expeditions, and I hate bothering with batteries and such. I'll take a few books instead, as well as an index card with the titles of many pieces of music; these I can recall and sing/hum to myself.
20 October 2002.Added photos of preparing gear at my apartment. Training continues and next week I'm going to start swimming to add to the running, log-pulling and weights. Added a new sponsor, PowerBar Iceland.
11 October 2002.Added a photo from the last expedition of frustration at too-warm temperatures and bare ice where there should have been meters of new snow...hopefully I'll be in a better mood this year, but where the weather is concerned, all bets are off. I'm really excited about getting back on the ice as soon as possible. Training continues and is the only thing making the 'wait' till I get back on the ice bearable.
04 October 2002. Training continues, and my replacement passport has arrived. Within the month I will finalize my schedule for this year's expedition.
26 May 2002. Added a Training Log and some pictures of recent training.
02 May 2002. I've revamped the website substantially, making it easier to navigate. A number of the links below won't work, as the documents are out of date (though they may be duplicated in the new site, with the new photo and video galleries, and so on), but the basic 'trajectory' of the expedition since 2000-2001 is documented here. All links after 02 May 2002 should work.
06 December 2001. ** EXPEDITION POSTPONED UNTIL NEXT WINTER ** . My passport has been lost in the postal system. A passport is required for entry into Iceland. It is too late to get an expedited passport replacement. Thus, I must postpone until the next winter season (2002-2003). Disappointing, but not a 'disaster'. A good thing about a solo expedition is that it's just me (and a few supporters); a large, integrated team is not effected by this turn of events. I pack away my gear, freeze my food supplies, and ride the whirlwind of daily life until next winter. The only real disappointment is that I have done a lot of mental preparation, and now I feel 'wound up', but without an outlet. Going for a run, to the gym, or climbing a local mountain is simply no solution to being 'keyed up' for a difficult solo expedition. So, it's back to the life of feeling distinctly on edge, all the time, because I am unable to release the energy built up in my mind.
29 November 2001. In a recent email, Halldor reports from Reykjavik that there has been a lot of unsettled weather and 'series after series' of low-pressure systems. In short, not good weather at all. Well, weather is the 'Great Goblin' that no-one can control or really predict on the ice cap...so I'll just have to get there and assess the conditions. I expect the clouds to part and the snow to consolidate the moment I arrive on the scene! In other news, my friend McRee and his girlfriend Chandra just visited...we went climbing, to a hot spring in the mountains, and then to the symphony: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons. My favorite, of course, 'Winter', nicely described by Vivaldi himself, below:
To tremble from cold in the icy snow,
In the harsh breath of a horrid wind;
To run, stamping our feet every moment,
Our teeth chattering in the extreme cold.
Before the fire to pass peacful,
Contented days while the rain outside pours down.
To walk on the ice and, at a slow pace
(For fear of falling), move carefully.
To make a bold turn, slip, fall down.
To go on the ice once more and run hard
Until the ice cracks and breaks up.
To hear Sirocco, Boreas, and all
The winds at war leave their iron gates:
This is winter...what joy it brings!
07 November 2001. Website update with a new 'tracker map' (see above) and a new press release.
20 September 2001. Uploaded some video clips onto the video clips page.
11 October 2001. I'm happy to report that has signed on as a major sponsor for the upcoming 2001-2002 season attempt.
22 June 2001. I am beginning preparations for
a third attempt in Winter 2001-2002. I've just completed a 45-minute
video of the 2000-2001 attempt, which will be edited down and cut into
the eventual video of the first, sceond and third attempts. The 45-minute
video is available to anyone interested, at cost of tape duplication (about
$10.00 US). Contact me by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
17 February 2001: The first draft of the EXPEDITION
REPORT is online, as is the PHOTO
Below are updates from the 2000-2001 attempt.
27 December 2000: Slight change of plan -- I am flying
to Iceland on 28 December and will be transported to the ice cap margin
on the Eastern side of Iceland on 29 December, to start the trek Westward
on that day or on 30 December. As often as I can, I will make updates to
my position by using a satellite phone to leave messages for my support
in England and the US.
20 December 2000: Eight days till the ice! Here's
a nearly-final equipment list.
27 November 2000: Just posted basic pages of the Mars
Millennium element of the expedition; I am now contacting high schools
to invite their student to monitor the expediton and consider the parallels
between this sort of expedition and the eventual exploration of the surface
05 November 2000: Just posted some assorted
notes on how I will be carrying out the expedition.
31 October 2000: Just added Trip-Zone.com
as a sponsor: Trip-Zone will provide exclusive internet coverage of the
expedition on their website, where the online map will be updated with
my daily position (transmitted by my ARGOS beacon).
16 August 2000: I have put my basic navigation plans
online: these include a Waypoint Log
and a map of waypoints.
5 August 2000: The expedition plans are well underway.
I have secured eight major sponsors, with several more in the works. Thanks
to all my Sponsors,
including the latest, Portland's The Next Aventure outdoor equipment
The initial press release has gone out: it is available here.
I have obtained a Garuda Kusala
single-wall 4-season mountaineering tent
from The Next Adventure store here in Portland. This completes the basic
gear list: other items I will be seeking in the near future are a GPS unit
a video camera, with tripod.
I am curently working out navigation, setting up waypoints
and compass bearings for position triangulation. A GPS is important, but
I must always be ready to navigate if it fails: and, I will compare my
GPS position with triangulation off landmarks to detect GPS errors. One
of my tasks has been to produce an elevation profile, showing my expected
elevation per kilometer of the trverse: in the following image
you see this elevation profile per kilometer. I will be proceeding from
the right side of the image to the left, and this does not include the
initial or ending miles, but does generally indicate my elevation on the
Publicity is escalating: I have been interveiewed for the
first of two articles in Boys' Life magazine, where I will reach more than
a million Boy Scouts (though not all readers are scouts) and hopefully
show them just how useful my eight years of scouting skill development
has been critical to my 'life of adventure'.
My expedition has been mentioned in the August issue of the
News newsletter, and on their website. This will draw international
attention to the endeavor.
I have begun develpment of the Mars Millennium educational
module, which will use my crossing of the ice cap as an analog of the inevitable
human exploration of the Martian polar ice caps. High school students will
be able to track my progress, and learn to think in the terms of the explorer;
they'll also learn about the Martian polar regions, and Mars as a home
for humanity in general. Part of the module will be a 'virtual crossing'
of the Martian South Polar Ice Cap, which I have rendered with a variety
of software, based on raw images from the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft.
A sample image is available here.
Added to the expedition team is my friend Scott Elmendorf,
who will accompany me as far as Reykjavik. Scott will coordinate communications
and my 'pick-up', by helicopter or other means, when the traverse is completed.