By Don Jurries
“Adventure is an activity with an unknown outcome”. This is how Australian explorers James Castrission and Justin Jones described their world first unsupported return journey from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back. It describes 89 days, trekking 2275 km without support or assistance, in one of the most inhospitable locations on the planet, while overcoming frostbite, injury, hallucinations, fatigue, whiteouts, deep crevasses, gear failure, and slow starvation. Along with Norwegian Aleksander Gamme, who crossed the finish line with them after his own similar, solo expedition, they made it literally just in time for the last flight out for the season before the weather made landing virtually impossible.
Castrission and Jones are the same two explorers who set another world first 4 years ago by paddling a modified two-man kayak across the Tasman Sea from Australia to New Zealand. They’re fast becoming experts in human endurance and survival in harsh conditions. At a recent public talk about their expedition to Antarctica, held at the central Melbourne store of one of their major sponsors, the outdoor equipment specialists Paddy Pallin, I asked what piece of gear they could not have lived without.
The answer was their tent – The North Face VE 25. Without it, they wouldn’t have gotten anywhere. In theory, they could have used their gear sleds as emergency shelters, but they wouldn’t have provided protection for long against the strong winds and cold. The North Face VE 25, modified by “Cas” and “Jonesy” with extra large pull tabs, extra snow flaps on all the vestibules, and with pole attachments allowing the tent to be put up in less than 60 seconds, held out against Antarctic conditions for 3 months.
The VE 25 is The North Face’s most popular expedition tent, used primarily for high alpine mountaineering, as well as polar expeditions, and has been produced by The North Face for around 20 years, albeit with much improved materials today. A 3 person geodesic dome-shaped tent, the VE 25 is extremely strong and durable with a wide range of special features.
The tent has two doors for easy access and cross ventilation, with two vestibules for storing gear. The 75D nylon ripstop fly sheet has a waterproof beathable PU coating, is seam-taped, and UV resistant. The 40D nylon ripstop canopy is lightweight and breathable. The floor is constructed from a fully taped PU coated nylon taffeta.
The Polyurethane windows have been cold-crack tested down to -60ºF. The DAC Featherlite NSL aluminium poles are some of the best on the market for strength-to-weight ratio, and the VE 25 tent also comes with 16 guy points, including four reflective Kevlar guy lines for additional sturdiness and stability in extreme conditions.
Cas and Jonesy are working on a book and documentary film detailing their Antarctica expedition, released in a few months. Additional information and images from the expedition can be found on their website.
The North Face VE 25 expedition tent retails for $619.