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! 

London Marathon

Virtual London Marathon completed! 

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.

If you want to do something, you’ll find a way! 

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

Take your own advice

I find it’s always easier to give other people advice, not just in my role as a physio but for most things. 

We are generally our own worse critics. I sustained an injury a few months ago and kept pushing through because I wanted to train. A few training trips were cancelled with Covid, so part of me felt like I wanted to train harder. I felt like I haven’t really achieved much this year, other than winter training, polar training , first year of my MSc. It’s so easy to forget! I would tell my friends to not be so harsh on themselves, take their time and make sure they rehab. Why couldn’t I take my own advice!

I decided I needed to train smart. I wrote my programme down with sets and reps, you’re much more likely to stick to it and remember if it’s all written down, it works for me anyway. My injury (tendinopathy) required gradual loading so I took a step back, stopped over loading (by running) and started with the basics. It was frustrating not being able to run, especially when the weather has been so nice.

I’m finally starting to come out the other side and even managed to get back to some tyre dragging. Things started to improve when I started training smart and I’m ready for my next training trip. I’m still not sure what this will be as it depends on restrictions on parts of the country. I have a few back-ups plans too so I’m sure I will be doing one of them in August.

I’ve been doing my rehab exercises, working and took my little sister up Mam Tor in the Peak District for her 10thBirthday (I give the best gifts..) 

Have you ever just wanted something so much that you will do anything it takes to get there. That’s how I feel. It’s time to be smart about it. Don’t get frustrated over the small things, like when you’re tyre gets stuck around a tree in the woods. I don’t need to waste my energy on that. 

‘Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting’ 

1000 Burpees Later

Today, the Army and Navy Women’s Rugby Teams were going to make history by playing their first Army vs Navy fixture at Twickenham. They still wanted to mark the occasion and decided to do 82,000 burpees together to raise money for the NHS. As the physio for the 7s team, I’ve been able to see a few of these incredible ladies in training and matches. It has been a pleasure working with them and taking part in this challenge. 

I completed 1000 burpees. I started early and did them in 20s and they progressively got slower, by the end I was doing sets of 5. I can honestly say that this challenge has not made me like burpees… what a shock!

So far, over £15,000 has been raised for the NHS and over 86,000 burpees pledged!! It has been such an epic feeling to be part of this challenge. People have been doing more than they pledged so the final number will be higher and no, I did not do more than 1000 burpees.

https://www.justgiving.com/FUNDRAISING/ARMYVSNAVYBURPEECHALLENGE

The next question, what should I do next weekend? I’ll try to stop making the titles sound like horror movies too (24 hours later and 1000 burpees later..)

My quote of the day is from Theodore Roosevelt:

‘Believe you can and you’re half way there’

It isn’t always that easy to believe in yourself. It has taken me a while but when you do, it opens up so many possibilities.

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 

Step up for the NHS

I was supposed to be dragging a tyre around London Marathon this weekend, which has now been postponed until October and so I was wondering if there is anything else I could do inside the house. I did consider burpees for 24 hours, luckily I was persuaded against that idea! What could I do inside the house which could also get other people involved? Step ups! I was quite proud of the title if you see what I did there..

I will be completing 24 hours of step ups to raise money for the NHS. The 24 hours will run from Fri 24 Apr 1400 to Sat 25 Apr 1400. I will be posting live updates every hour and possibly streaming it live. Keep an eye on Facebook and Instagram links (@polarpreet)

The aim is to get as many people involved as possible!

How to join in:

  1. Complete step ups in your own home for as long as you want and record it (time lapse or a short video)
  2. Post online and tag me (insta and Facebook: @polarpreet)
  3. Make a £5 donation to the JustGiving page:

https://justgiving.com/fundraising/stepupfornhs

Would love for as many people to get involved as possible!

The photos on the blog are from other endurance events (Mt Kenya, Morocco, the Alps and a Military competition) .

Quote of the day:

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

Norway (part 2)

After Norway (part 1), I spent a busy 2 weeks in the UK which included Army work, MSc work, getting kit for my next Norway trip, a hen do and I went swimming.

I’m not a swimmer but a good friend of mine is training for an ironman (which I also said I would do..). Anyway, after no swimming for at least 2 years, I went to an hour class. It was great but tiring. Will I go back, of course I will J

After two weeks in England, I flew back to Norway. This time I went to Finse for a Polar Training Course that I booked a few months ago to make sure I had a good baseline for future training trips. 

On arrival in Finse, I couldn’t see much apart from blowing snow, at least I had the right weather conditions! Hannah McKeand runs the course and has an immense knowledge of polar travel, however she wasn’t able to stay for long as she was going on a North Pole expedition herself. Therefore we were left in the capable hands of our guides, Devon and Denise, who both have a wealth of polar knowledge and experience. Safe to say, I was surrounded by the perfect people to learn from. 

The first week we spent some time in lessons on nutrition, polar travel, navigation, camping, comms, weather and everything else we would need for the expedition phase. We practiced pulling our weighted sleds and going up and down hills, which definitely took some getting used to! We tied string on all the zips of the tent so that they were easier to open when it got very cold. Small but important things that I wouldn’t have thought of without guidance. 

Over the weekend, we packed our sleds with all of the necessities. This included enough food for 6 six days. We had freeze dried food for morning and evening meals and snacks for lunch. It is important to get the calories in but also try to keep the weight as light as possible. My favourite snack was ‘smash.’ This was created by the Norwegians and is basically salted corn covered in milk chocolate. They are so tasty! I had a mixed bag of nuts, raisins, chocolate and smash. Also, you can take cheese on the expedition so I really couldn’t complain!We packed our fuel, cooking equipment, a spare pair of clothes, our sleeping system and off we went.

I started off navigating with the compass which is attached to a holder on your chest so you don’t have to carry it. It was pretty windy on day 1 and became more difficult to navigate during a white out. For safety there was always another team member checking navigation on their gps as a backup. 

We would stop every hour for a 10 min break to recharge with water and snacks. You get into a routine quite quickly. Find a good place to stop, flatten the snow as required, put the tent up, cover the guide lines, dig out the kitchen, sort admin, start cooking. Eat, sleep and repeat.

I had a pretty epic fall on this trip, on day 2 when navigating in a white out I stepped forward and the ground just wasn’t there anymore. I don’t really remember the fall, just feeling a pain in my arm and hearing Edward still at the top of the hill shouting ‘she’s disappeared!’ I got to my feet and touched my clavicle (collar bone) and shoulder to feel for injuries and just shouted ‘don’t come down’ I unclipped my sled and ran half way up the hill and as a team we got everyone down. It wasn’t until the evening that I noticed the nice purple bruise on my arm (see photo below). Turns out my sled wacked me in the arm.. Luckily no serious injuries! It’s gone now and I kind of miss it..

By day 3, the weather had cleared and we could actually see where we were going! It was my favourite day. There was a fair amount of up and down and breaking trail which was hard work but it was so beautiful. The next few days were the same with the weather until the last day.

I’m going to finish there and my inspiration for the day came from a teenage girl, I can’t remember her exact age but she was under 15. She gave a speech about her experiences so far. She had done a lot, including the Amundsen race after persuading them to let her enter even though the entry age is usually 18. Anyway, she said something along the lines; 

It is about the journey, enjoying every day we’re out there.

How many people look at the end goal, rather than enjoying the experience on the way? This isn’t about winning anything. It is about trying to achieve something great, following the inspirational people before me and hopefully enabling me to be a role model.