I’m always learning something. This relates to all areas of life, military, physio, all the sports I’m involved in and the list goes on!
In preparation for my polar expedition, I’ve read countless blogs and spoke to different people about their experiences in cold weather.
Not everyone will do things the same way. I have cooked inside the tent and outside in the vestibule area. Both have their benefits, with both it’s important to make sure the tent is ventilated! The last thing you want is carbon monoxide poisoning!
I had to change how I would usually pack my pulk. I would normally have my sleeping system in a piteraq bag on top of my pulk. We had a lot of wet weather so I had to waterproof a lot of my kit. The last thing you want is a wet sleeping bag!
We had to adapt on several occasions, adapt to the weather and conditions. I’m always learning and will continue to do so throughout this journey.
I’ve been called a “coconut” on many occasions and told I’m “not really Indian.” The term “coconut” refers to someone that is brown on the outside but white on the inside.
I wrestled with my racial identity a lot when I was younger. I’m a British born Indian. I moved away from home aged 14 to play tennis full time, first in Surrey, then Czech Republic. I came back to the UK when I was 19 which is when I joined the Army and have lived all over since.
Being viewed as an outsider isn’t nice and I started to think maybe I was a “coconut” Why might I be viewed as a “coconut”
Not speaking enough of my native language. My punjabi is broken at best
Pursuing a career that is not expected. I’m in the Army, I didn’t tell anyone when I first joined because I didn’t want anyone to stop me.
Not following the faith you were born into. I recognise as being Sikh but have never strictly followed the religion
The only Indian clothes I own are the ones my mum has bought me but she has great taste!
Doing activities that are not classed as “normal.” I spend my free time doing endurance events, the photo is me digging a snow hole in the Cairngorms and I’m training to go to Antarctica
I’ve grown more confident about my identity as I’ve gotten older. I don’t have to try to be Asian, I am Asian even if people think I “act white.” There isn’t a box that I have to try and fit into. Instead, let’s encourage people to be unique and not have to follow what is expected of them.
Keeping warm became a luxury in the last few days in Greenland. We were only sleeping a few hours at a time. The nalgene hot water bottles were a luxury. One bottle would go straight into my sleeping bag to my feet and I would hug the other one!
I also started drinking just hot water from my thermos, not something I would usually do but it was just what I wanted.
I was also eating less the late few days trying to avoid going out in the storm to go to the toilet. I would struggle to finish my dinner on the days I was tired and would have to force most of it down. The creamy pasta with pork was one of my favourite meals and I never had an issue with that. The porridge was the hardest thing to digest. I’ll start eating it again in the new year, I needed a break for a while!
I had lost approx 5kg by the end of the expedition. Nutrition is key, making sure you’re eating enough calories and the right things. I’ll be trying my expedition food again in the New Year and trialling different food.
Recently I was asked what advice I would give to others that wanted to go on their own adventures.
Believe in yourself and don’t wait! I know it’s so easy to say but just taking that first step is huge.
I’m very impulsive and if I want to do something, I will generally find a way! Sometimes there will be obstacles but then I will work around then. I’ll squeeze it in if I have to. I’m also very stubborn..
I decided I wanted to join the Army when I was 19, I didn’t actually tell anyone because I didn’t want anyone to stop me. It’s still one of the best decisions I made.
I decided I want to do an expedition in Antarctica. Why? I want to inspire people to believe they can do anything. It’s not that common as an Indian female and I do believe that representation matters. I want my 8 yr old niece to believe she can achieve anything. Imagine, if you grow up thinking like that. The possibilities are endless.
Being tent bound for 6 days due to storms was tough.
The relief of getting back into the tent out of the wind after shovelling snow for hours. I would take a few seconds before attempting to delayer.
My goggles would freeze up in a few minutes so there was no point in wearing them. My buff has ridden up from covering my nose. My zip was generally frozen so I couldn’t take the jacket off as soon as we got in.
When we got back into the tent, it was always my toes that took the longest to warm up. We had to get the stove running straight away. My fingers would lose their dexterity quickly so lighting a match wasn’t always that easy.
When water was boiled, it would go straight into our Nalgene bottles and into my sleeping bag to warm up my toes. Everything was damp, I made a few attempts to try and dry my down jacket with the hot nalgene water bottle but it didn’t actually dry until we were off the ice.
We stayed in the tent for a few hours, warming up before heading back out again. Back to shovelling the snow so the tent wouldn’t get buried in the storm. Definitely one was to build resilience!
My journey back was not smooth at all. I was frustrated that nothing seemed to be going my way. I remember looking up and just thinking wow. At first it looked like a faint grey light and then would turn into this beautiful aurora. It’s at times like this, I remembered that I’m in such an incredible place.
I saw them a few times, once on the icecap when we were building a wall for the storm at 0200, on the East and West Coast. This photo was taken by the hostel manager on the east coast on his iPhone.
The journey back was still challenging, especially when I was feeling physically and mentally tired. When we finally got off the Greenland Icecap, I wanted to get home as soon as possible.
I spent a few days on the phone to Air Greenland trying to get 2 of us on a flight that had 1 space, I managed to get us on the flight. We took a pretty rough 1hr boat ride (open boat, no life jackets). I held my breath every-time I saw a big wave coming toward us! 2hrs before the flight, we were told it was delayed and had to wait in Kulusuk for 3 days, a small town on the East Coast with approx 240 inhabitants.
I was frustrated at this point, I just wanted to get back. None of the return journey went smoothly. Our hotel booking was messed up on the West coast so we were waiting outside at 2200 for the hostel owner to find us different accommodation.
Our luggage (which we sent at the start of the expedition to the west) with our clean clothes in had been sent back to the east a few days before we arrived. So I was still in my expedition clothes.
Sometimes you just have to laugh (or cry!). It was so nice to get home and get into clean clothes. I still don’t have my luggage (with the clean clothes) but hoping I’ll get it back in the next few weeks).
Every part of this trip was an adventure, even the times that I was not on the ice cap. I just have to remember that wherever I am, just to take a minute, appreciate how I got there and take it all in!
A week ago, I wasn’t sure I would be doing the London marathon this year. I had just come off Greenland ice cap and was physically and mentally tired.
A few days before I flew back to the UK, the travel isolation rules were introduced. I had my race number and decided to see how I felt this morning. I also didn’t have my trainers because they are in my luggage in the east of Greenland, so I would have to do it in my boots..
This morning, I thought I’ll do a few miles and then see how I feel. I can walk/jog in the house/garden. When I was about 2 miles in, I thought, if I can do 2 miles, I can definitely do 26.2… I’ll just take my time!
And that is exactly what I did. I took my time. My legs were tired before I started. I walked/jogged in my boots and completed the 26.2 miles. I had a few breaks in between and it took over 7 hrs. It took double the time it usually takes me but it didn’t matter today. I’m glad I completed it, in my boots during my isolation.
I spent 27 days on the Greenland ice cap/ice fall, covering approximately 400km of the east coast.
I was told that the conditions in the Fall were much more challenging than the Spring. We had even worse conditions than usual. According to Lars, this is the longest anyone has been tent bound due to weather on a Greenland Exped
My journey didn’t go to plan but what journey does. I was initially disappointed that we didn’t reach the west coast but realised I have learnt everything I wanted and more.
We had difficult weather throughout due to the hurricanes in the Caribbean. Whiteouts, snow, rain, high winds and we’re unfortunate to have 11 days of storms throughout where we were unable to travel.
The last 6 days were spent in our tent, getting up every few hours to dig the tent out, getting wet and cold every few hours digging our way out of the ongoing storm and rationing fuel at the end. We did feel like we were on a survival trip by the end!
It was difficult but if anything, I now feel more prepared for my next training trip. The skills I’ve learnt on this expedition have been invaluable and will no doubt help me when I reach Antarctica
A huge thank you to Are Johansen for your support and guiding me
Thank you to my expedition manager Lou Rudd for managing my social media and Dave for updating my blog and both for keeping morale high.
Thank you Jenny Wordsworth, your in reach was invaluable!
And thank you for all of your kind and supportive messages! No longer disappointed but proud of what I have achieved so far. I’m also happy now that I’ve had a Coke!
Day 3 – We’re finally off the ice fall and onto the ice cap. It was hard work getting through the never ending ice fall on the east side. There were crevasses every few metres, it was icy and hilly and it rained continuously on the 3rd day! It took hours just to walk a few kilometres, trying to navigate our way through the crevasses. We were on foot throughout pulling both pulks it would be impossible to have skis on here. We have passed hundreds of crevasses, cracks, rivers, open water and hills. We had to stop our pulks falling down crevasses on numerous occasions. Wet, hungry and knackered after the 10hr day of going uphill through an icy crevass field and happy to be on the icecap! Ready for another day.
Day 9 – Nothing comes easy. Since getting onto the ice fall, we’ve had 3 storms with winds up to 97kph and gusts up to 107kph, snow and whiteouts. Snow means soft ground and breaking trail which is physically demanding. A whiteout is like staring at a blank white wall in front of you so I’m constantly staring at my compass. We’ve been tent bound for the storms, we’ve dug in our tent and built a 2m high wall so the wind would go over the tent. Half the tent was still buried in snow in the morning so we then dig ourselves out. It’s been tough going trying to make our way to the summit but we’re not far off now. Every day we make progress and brings us one step closer.
Day 16 – We’re sat in our tent on our 7th day of storms on this trip, unable to travel. A few days go we had to make the tough decision to turn around and head back to the east coast as we would not have made it to the west coast in time. Weather conditions have been tough, snowfall and whiteouts make it hard work and it feels like we’re just dragging the pulks. We got up at 0100 this morning to unbury the tent which was half covered in snow and are continuing this routine every few hours as the wind changes direction in this snow storm. Otherwise, the frost nip on my nose is slowly healing (we hit approx -33 deg about a week ago), my nose is now constantly covered when outside! Hoping we will be able to move soon.
Photos courtesy of Louis Rudd (as Preet cant transmit photos back from the ice cap).
The boat ride took us to our start point in Isortoq. It was a rough 4 hours with 5-6m waves hitting us in every direction. I might have been sick a few times! Luckily I felt better when we arrived in Isortoq and we spent the next 6 hrs taking all of our kit up and down mountainous terrain and there was some scrambling too!
We took 4 trips up and down at various points until we got to our sheltered cabin for the night. It started raining as we got in the cabin.
We now need the sky to clear before we navigate the crevasse field on the east side.