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! 

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)

One step closer

We got negative Covid re-tests!! I’m SO relieved!! We’ve spent 6 nights in the west of Greenland, Nuuk. This was mandatory before flying to the East. Me and Are took Covid tests in our respective countries before arriving in Greenland and again, five days later in Greenland. So we’re Covid free and good to go! 

The first 5 days were spent in quarantine, luckily we had WiFi in our apartment and cooking facilities. We spent time route planing and sorting logistics. 150 waypoints are in my GPS. You can see some of them in the GPX screenshot below.

I downloaded some films on Netflix, audio books and songs all ready for the expedition. The films are there for when the storm hits and we’re stuck in the tent.

We had time to explore for a day and see some of the breathtaking views that Nuuk has. 

At the airport now, ready to fly to Tasiilaq where we will be buying all our food and fuel! We’ll be on the ice soon! 

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