The Northern Lights

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! 

Greenland – Day 1

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.

(sent via inreach text)

Mental Health Awareness

A few people in my life have been struggling with their mental health recently. People have also spoken to me about feeling low as they are unable to see family, friends or have had holidays or events cancelled. However, they feel bad because so many people are in a worse position. 

I don’t think we should feel bad or make each other feel bad for feeling low at a time like this. It is completely understandable to feel this way. Be kind to yourself and take one step at a time. 

I used to think not talking about my emotions made me stronger, I didn’t want to appear ‘weak.’ It doesn’t matter how strong and resilient you are, keeping it all inside can be overwhelming. What I’ve learnt is this, talking more about my emotions has just made me stronger. I am so grateful to all the people in my life that support me. Thank you.

I’m in the middle of my MSc and one of the modules I’m taking is Exercise Medicine. One of the components is physical activity and mental health. National guidelines recommend physical activity for persistent mild-moderate depression in group settings with support from an instructor, typically 3 session per week. This is not as easy with social distancing however there are more and more classes available online. I know more than a few adults that love PT with Joe.

If I’m feeling low, these are some of the things that help me:

Staying in touch – It’s more difficult know that we’re inside but keep in touch with people over the phone or online. Feel free to send me a message if you don’t know who to talk to.

I know I always feel better after speaking to my niece over zoom. We played snakes and ladders today, she won this round. I’ll get payback next week. I usually travel a lot and have great people in my life that keep me company at 0200, during long trips or when I am waiting at the airport (the picture at the airport below was pre-isolation..)

Be more active – if you feel up to it, go for a short walk or join in one of the many classes online. I know that this is easier said than done. I’m usually really active and find it difficult to slow down. Just take one step at a time, even sitting for less periods will be helpful. 

Try to maintain a healthy diet – I always find I eat better when I have planned my meals. My mum is diabetic and has started doing the same. 

Have a routine – Its easy to get into poor sleeping patterns. Try keeping a diary to help you with routine. This can include meals and physical activity. I have a training routine when I have something I am training for. I am currently still training for my next training expedition. 

Make mini goals – something you have control over. ‘Today I will get out of bed and have a shower’. Recently mine have been ‘complete my essay and prepare for exams!’ I like to move around and have recently been enjoying revising outside sat on my roll mat. Or build a fort – I was very proud and excited by our bed sheet fort (see pic below).

I am by no means any kind of expert, these are just some of the things that helped me in the past. Spending two months in Antarctica alone will definitely be challenging and I will do all of the things above to help me prepare. 

If you’re struggling, please reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone.

My quote today:

‘Your illness does not define you’

24 Hours Later

Thank you so much to everyone that joined in the 24 hour step up challenge, your support and messages kept me going throughout! I absolutely loved all of your step up videos, they were creative, funny and inspiring.

It was a really long day but so worth it! I had a nice set up in the garden, I’m so glad it didn’t rain… The dark hours were the most difficult but I had a few phone calls to keep me going and I also had food brought to me throughout. I should do these 24 hour challenges more often!

The video below was put together of everyone that joined in, thank you Jonathan Fawke for creating the video. All of your donations have raised over £1800 for the NHS!

I worked for the NHS for a few years before joining the Army. A lot of my friends and previous colleagues still do, part of me feels sad I can’t be working with them right now. The other part, is incredibly proud of them.

My quote of the day is taken from Mother Teresa.

“None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.”

Stay safe everyone x 

Norway (part 1)

This blog is a little later than planned and it is about my activities in January! I made it to Norway after my ultramarathon and got used to being on skis again!

I spent two weeks Nordic skiing on this trip. It is like cross country skiing, with thinner skis. The first week we went over our ski technique, waxing our skis and even had a day of alpine. I definitely prefer going uphill.. We covered a good amount of ground daily and it was nice to go on a journey. We carried our backpack which contained warm and wet kit, food (a priority) and a shovel. Falling on my backpack was not so fun, however I did have a lot of practice getting off the floor with skis and my not so light bag! 

There was a lot of going up and down hill which was good fitness. The expedition phase included staying in Norwegian huts which were incredible. I got to chop some wood (only the smaller bits that were easy to chop…) and we made a fire. The last day of the expedition phase was a very long hilly 20 miles. I was very happy to come back to some daim cake. I had daim cake for the first time on this trip and it was AMAZING! 

We went through other useful skills too such as digging snow holes and avalanche drills with our transceivers too. It gets hot when you’re digging! 

Overall, it was great to be back on skis and cover some miles. Next step: add a sled.

My inspirational quote is one that my brother sent me on Instagram:

‘There are people less qualified than you doing the things you want to do, simply because they decide to believe in themselves’

So, my message today is believe in yourself. You are generally capable of so much more than you realise. 

The Start

It started as an idea. What can I do that pushes my boundaries and helps me inspire younger people? It would have to be endurance related. Something in a harsh environment. . . Antarctica. I started reading more about Antarctic explorers, the incredible journeys of Amundsen and Scott, recent expeditions and blogs. My idea started to grow and I now have a plan.

I’m very excited to have Louis Rudd on board as my expedition manager. Louis completed a solo and unassisted crossing of Antarctica in 2018. You can see why I am excited to have him on board. We had a look at training plans, required kit, nutrition, how to prepare myself mentally and physically. At the end of our meeting, I’m feeling more and more motivated. He has given me a book on the first crossing of Greenland. Guess where one of my training trips will be…

Earlier this year, I returned from South Sudan, where I spent 6 months as the physiotherapist on a UN tour with the British Army. In my spare time, I decided to organise a 30 hour endurance event over a 2 week period in 3 different locations. I completed a total of 125 miles and members of the UK taskforce would join me from anything from 1-12 hours. My highlight of this was getting others involved and a lot of people completing more distances than they ever had before (26 to 50 miles).

After the 6 month tour, I spent a week in the UK before flying to South America where I spent time hiking in Brazil, Bolivia and Peru. After this trip, I had a week to prepare for Marathon des Sables, 156 mile race in the desert. I entered the event alone but at the end of the 6 days, had made some great friends in my tent (or more accurately a rug thrown over some sticks). It was very hot throughout and we experienced a nice sand storm which blew our tent away on one of the nights! The highlight was being given a coke zero (my achilles heel) on day 5 and finishing of course. I am still thinking of what morale I will take to Antarctica with me..

Over the last few weeks, I have been mountaineering and wild camping in Wales. It was wet and windy but we had some beautiful views when the clag cleared. I’m heading to Norway over the next few months, learning polar navigation and practicing puling a sled. I picked up some land rover tyres and will start training with them over the next few weeks!

My eight year old niece recently told me she was scared to try skiing again at the snowdome. We last went when she was six. I said its ok to be scared and she replied but you’re never scared. I explained that isn’t actually true, I get scared a lot of the time but life is an adventure and when I think about everything that can be achieved, being scared isn’t important anymore. I’m not sure I’ve persuaded her to go skiing again though.

I love an inspirational quote. To end this post here is a quote from Laura Dekker, who is the youngest person (aged 16) to circumnavigate the globe single-handedly.

I follow my own head. And if I’m determined to do something, then I’ll make sure that I make it happen.   – Laura Dekker