Learning Never Ends

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. 

Believe in yourself

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.

Tent Bound

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! 

Getting to Greenland

Well this has been a journey in itself! I had decided last year that I was going to do the fall crossing in 2020. I would’ve finished my MSc exams and it fits in well with Summer Leave at work. 

With Covid restrictions, the plan had been cancelled… up until a week ago. I was looking into every possibility of getting there. I would have to fly to the West of Greenland, do 5 days of quarantine, get a negative Covid re-test and then fly to the East, prep all the kit, get on a boat to the start and then start the crossing…. of course I was going to do it!! 

I spent that week in England, contacting everyone to borrow as much kit as possible, Mike Fisher, Jenny Wordsworth and Louis Rudd have all been incredibly helpful! 

You require a negative Covid test within 5 days of travelling to Greenland from a Scandinavian country. I contacted the authorities and managed to get an English Centre approved. 

The easiest way for me to get to Nuuk (the West where I had to quarantine) was via Copenhagen. This is where I met Are Johansen (my guide). Our flight was the next day so we spent one night in Copenhagen before flying to Kangerlussuaq. This will be my finishing point too! From there we took a smaller flight to Nuuk. We had 90kg in our checked in baggage, this doesn’t include the 1kg of m&ms I had stuffed in my pockets.. 

And we made it to Nuuk! Only 5 days of quarantine to go, my Covid retest is on Monday and then fly to Tasiilaq.

“I may not be there yet but I’m closer than I was yesterday” and I will get there, I just know it

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’

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