Norway (part 2)

After Norway (part 1), I spent a busy 2 weeks in the UK which included Army work, MSc work, getting kit for my next Norway trip, a hen do and I went swimming.

I’m not a swimmer but a good friend of mine is training for an ironman (which I also said I would do..). Anyway, after no swimming for at least 2 years, I went to an hour class. It was great but tiring. Will I go back, of course I will J

After two weeks in England, I flew back to Norway. This time I went to Finse for a Polar Training Course that I booked a few months ago to make sure I had a good baseline for future training trips. 

On arrival in Finse, I couldn’t see much apart from blowing snow, at least I had the right weather conditions! Hannah McKeand runs the course and has an immense knowledge of polar travel, however she wasn’t able to stay for long as she was going on a North Pole expedition herself. Therefore we were left in the capable hands of our guides, Devon and Denise, who both have a wealth of polar knowledge and experience. Safe to say, I was surrounded by the perfect people to learn from. 

The first week we spent some time in lessons on nutrition, polar travel, navigation, camping, comms, weather and everything else we would need for the expedition phase. We practiced pulling our weighted sleds and going up and down hills, which definitely took some getting used to! We tied string on all the zips of the tent so that they were easier to open when it got very cold. Small but important things that I wouldn’t have thought of without guidance. 

Over the weekend, we packed our sleds with all of the necessities. This included enough food for 6 six days. We had freeze dried food for morning and evening meals and snacks for lunch. It is important to get the calories in but also try to keep the weight as light as possible. My favourite snack was ‘smash.’ This was created by the Norwegians and is basically salted corn covered in milk chocolate. They are so tasty! I had a mixed bag of nuts, raisins, chocolate and smash. Also, you can take cheese on the expedition so I really couldn’t complain!We packed our fuel, cooking equipment, a spare pair of clothes, our sleeping system and off we went.

I started off navigating with the compass which is attached to a holder on your chest so you don’t have to carry it. It was pretty windy on day 1 and became more difficult to navigate during a white out. For safety there was always another team member checking navigation on their gps as a backup. 

We would stop every hour for a 10 min break to recharge with water and snacks. You get into a routine quite quickly. Find a good place to stop, flatten the snow as required, put the tent up, cover the guide lines, dig out the kitchen, sort admin, start cooking. Eat, sleep and repeat.

I had a pretty epic fall on this trip, on day 2 when navigating in a white out I stepped forward and the ground just wasn’t there anymore. I don’t really remember the fall, just feeling a pain in my arm and hearing Edward still at the top of the hill shouting ‘she’s disappeared!’ I got to my feet and touched my clavicle (collar bone) and shoulder to feel for injuries and just shouted ‘don’t come down’ I unclipped my sled and ran half way up the hill and as a team we got everyone down. It wasn’t until the evening that I noticed the nice purple bruise on my arm (see photo below). Turns out my sled wacked me in the arm.. Luckily no serious injuries! It’s gone now and I kind of miss it..

By day 3, the weather had cleared and we could actually see where we were going! It was my favourite day. There was a fair amount of up and down and breaking trail which was hard work but it was so beautiful. The next few days were the same with the weather until the last day.

I’m going to finish there and my inspiration for the day came from a teenage girl, I can’t remember her exact age but she was under 15. She gave a speech about her experiences so far. She had done a lot, including the Amundsen race after persuading them to let her enter even though the entry age is usually 18. Anyway, she said something along the lines; 

It is about the journey, enjoying every day we’re out there.

How many people look at the end goal, rather than enjoying the experience on the way? This isn’t about winning anything. It is about trying to achieve something great, following the inspirational people before me and hopefully enabling me to be a role model. 

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