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Not alone

I was dragging my tyre in a park last week, I go to that park regularly. It got dark quickly around 1900 and it appeared that there were no street lights.

It would take me about 40 mins to get back to the car, in the dark. I held my poles out in front of me ready to defend myself if needed. I was frustrated by the usual noise that my tyres were creating against the tarmac.

I was scared. I thought about how I should’ve checked if there were street lights. I thought about how people would tell me that I shouldn’t have been out on my own at that time which made me more frustrated.

I got back to the car park at 1940, there were no lights anywhere so I had to use my phone torch. I put the tyres back in the car, left my harness on and drove away as quickly as possible.

I felt uncomfortable about going back to that park, even though I’ve been regularly in the day. A week later I went back in the day with my partner and noticed there were lamp posts for the entire route and in the car park, they just weren’t on. This leads to me to write a letter to the local council, I’m not sure if they weren’t working or switch off after a certain time.

There have some horrific recent events, it’s so frustrating to see people victim blaming. We shouldn’t have to feel afraid, I don’t have answers but I do want to feel safer and help others feel the same way. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way.

It’s getting real

Seeing PolarPreet and Army on the same logo still feels surreal. I came up with this name just over 2 years ago and it has been hard work to get to this point. It also makes me feel proud that I now have got here. 

It has been a busy week getting all of my kit together. I wanted to send as much as possible by air freight: my pulk, all of my food, kit and equipment. This will now be sent via air freight to Punta Arenas, Chile and I’ll pick it up in just over a month! 

My kitchen is looking a bit empty without my 210cm length pulk taking up most of the room! 

I’m aiming to leave the UK at the start of November and then start my expedition on approx 21 November. I can’t believe I’m almost at the start line. I’m getting pretty excited! 

Chamonix

I had three days in the UK after training in Iceland, cleaned my kit, attended a friend’s wedding, fit as many meetings as I could, took another Covid test and flew to Geneva. Next stop – Chamonix.

The last time I was in Chamonix was Aug 2016 when I did Tour Du Mont Blanc. I remember seeing people finish the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), I thought to myself I want to do this race one day. Five years later, I came back to Chamonix and saw the same race again. I’m still going to have to enter this one day but let’s concentrate on the other big expedition I have first…..

Crevasses can be pretty daunting, they can be huge deep cracks in ice sheets/on glaciers so it is important to be prepared. That means being roped up and carrying the right kit and equipment including a helmet, ice axe, harness etc.

The next few days were spent crevasse training, reviewing the equipment I will be taking with me and looking at my route in detail.

Reunited

The visibility was good and I couldn’t miss Louis’s red Hilleberg tent from over a mile away. Today was the last day on the glacier and it had been a great week of training.

I got a high five from Louis as I met his tent and shortly after we were picked up by Arngrimur in his impressive 4×4. He then drove us off the ice and to get an amazing cheese burger (I had a double).

We then spent one night in a hotel near the airport before navigating the pulks through the airport again.

Overall an invaluable experience on the ice. A huge thank you to Louis, my friend and Expedition Manager and Arngrimur for providing us with maps, extensive knowledge of the glacier, transport, the amazing burger placer. We were also given a signed copy of Arngrimur’s book, I can definitely say I will be back in Iceland in the future!

Solo

It feels as though I have the entire Glacier to myself. I haven’t seen anybody else, I know Louis is also on the Glacier (out of sight) but it is surreal to feel as though I have this huge space all to myself.

I packed up my tent in the morning, waved goodbye to Louis’s tent and I was off. Visibility was good at the start of the day. I had my GPS, map and compass to navigate and used these more later in the day as visibility became poor. It doesn’t feel that different to a whiteout (what I will experience in Antarctica). I can’t see anything ahead apart from white, somebody once described it to me as ‘feeling as though you’re inside a marshmallow’

I stuck to my routine, checked my GPS location on some of the breaks and listened to Michelle Obama’s audio book for the day. I love listening to audio books, still making my list for the Antarctic Expedition.

I have practiced my tent routine in the garden but it takes a little longer on the snow as I have to melt the snow for water. This is always the first job and then I can get on with admin. I was looking forward to dinner (Spaghetti Bol freeze dried meal) by the time I had set up the tent. I then checked in with Louis, gave him my location, wrote my diary and got my head down for the night.

The next day was pretty similar, I stuck to my routine. As visibility was low again, I kept expecting Louis to appear out of nowhere but no sight of him and we had agreed to meet on the last day.

Langjokull Glacier

Langjokull Glacier, the “long” glacier, and the second largest in Iceland. We were dropped off in the South and aimed to make our way to the highest point in the North at 1450m. We had maps for the glacier and were advised on points to avoid (crevasse areas).

After marking our maps and a quick revision of navigation in lat and long, we were off. Visibility was good for these days, I stayed in front with my compass mount to simulate exactly what I would be doing in Antarctica. 

The route wasn’t always straightforward, we wanted to avoid any crevasse ridden areas and therefore taken the long way around to get to our waypoints. 

The sun is out and visibility clear so far. We reached the highest point of the north side (1450m) by day 2 and camped there. This is my last day with Louis before heading out solo. 

Iceland

As many others, I have been constantly checking entry restrictions into Europe. The aim was to head to Norway between Jan-Mar but this wasn’t possible due to travel restrictions. 

The plan was to do a final preparation trip with my expedition manager (Louis Rudd) and a chance to practice everything I’ve been taught before heading onto my Antarctic expedition. 

We decided on Iceland two months ago, hoping we would get a good weather window.  The time came around quickly, I met Louis at Heathrow Airport on 8 August where we rearranged some of our kit into the pulks.

The first task was navigating the pulks through Heathrow and Keflavik Airport (Iceland). From there, we were picked up by an impressive 4×4 and trailer for our pulks. Three hour drive to Langjokull Glacier, we arranged our pulks, picked up fuel and then drove a further 30 mins to get to the snow. 

We skied for 2.5hrs with our pulks before setting up our tents and preparing for the rest of the expedition

Me and my tyre

Can I drag my tyre up Helvellyn? It starts as a question. Lets change around the letters:

‘I can drag my tyre up Helvellyn..’ I’ve made a statement and as soon as I say it to myself, I know I can do it. It will be hard work but I’ve always liked a challenge. 

I started with “I’ll maybe go up half way” knowing that I would want to reach the top when I got there.

After about 10 mins in, I’d already told myself I was getting to the peak. No matter how long it took.

I packed my waterproof, food and a head torch. Ready to be there all night if that’s what it took me! Luckily it did not take me all night..

Terrain was rocky, had to pull the tyre a lot with my hands, I spent more time on my hands and feet than expected!

But I got there. Helvellyn – just me and my tyre

Punjabi Girl

Proudly dragging my tyre while wearing my Indian suit. 

When I was younger, I don’t know how much time I spent denying my culture and roots…why it took me so long to realise I should be proud of my background. Part of me didn’t like standing out at the time but now I love it. 

Im enjoying:

Standing out

Being unique 

Dancing to my own rhythm 

Embracing my skin colour

Embracing my background 

That doesn’t mean I don’t embrace my British side too. It just took me longer to appreciate where I’m from and to wear my brown skin with pride. 

I am proud to be a Punjabi girl.

It was Vaisakhi this week and it brought back memories of Nagar Kirtan with the family. It’s been a long time since I’ve worn any Indian clothing and I really enjoyed this tyre drag.

This month has many celebrations, Vaisakhi, Navratri, Ramadan, Easter, being able to see friends and family. Take a moment to appreciate that, it has been a special month. Wishing everyone love and happiness 💜

Supporters

This all began with an idea, this idea that I could achieve something incredible. Something beyond what I could’ve expected from myself. I didn’t really know where to start and then I started reading blogs and contacting polar explorers. 

I didn’t have any winter or polar training experience and I wanted some experience before I approached companies for sponsorship. I waited until I had been to Norway on a Polar Training Course and then I waited until I had been to Greenland for further training. I wanted to be as prepared as I possibly could and I wanted companies to know that I was serious about this expedition. I wanted them to know that I was determined and that I was going to do anything I possibly could to get there. 

I emailed 100s of companies, I went through the enquiry pages of most of them. A lot wouldn’t respond, and a lot came back to say they couldn’t support my expedition at this time. It is understandable, companies receive a lot of emails, and with Covid it was even more difficult. 

I would tell myself ‘Don’t give up, keep trying and I did’. I kept emailing companies, after work, before I went to bed, before work, whenever I had time!

I have done a lot of different challenges and raised money for charities but this was the first time I was pitching to corporate supporters. I was so happy when I got my first yes, it was a huge step forward.

I’ve never been one to give up, I’m determined and stubborn and I know that I will get there. It started as one person with an idea, this is a solo expedition but I have so many people supporting me behind the scenes.

I want to say a huge thank you to Team Army for all of your support and to all of the companies supporting me.

I look forward to working with you on this journey and meeting you in person.

I also want to thank the many individuals that have contacted me through my website or helped me in some way along the way. Your encouragement and belief in me has helped me get to this point and has played a part in how much I believe in myself. Thank you.