“No expedition is going to be easy”

Without further ado, I should tell you, my dear reader that the expedition has been postponed again. Money makes the world go round, money also pays for expeditions and unfortunately we still don’t have enough in the bank to get this expedition moving.

On the plus side we do have a full team this year, however, I suspect that given another year of fundraising, the numbers will fall and the ideal of 28 people decrease once more… or maybe I will be wrong.

Whilst I decide what to do going forward, I will keep working on my fitness, find a new job and figure out where my time is best spent. Should I invest more time in this expedition, or another? It would seem a shame to do all of the training and not utilise it!

Three years of postponement would make me scream. Maybe it’s because my expectation was too high for this trip? Some expeditions have taken 10+years to get all the funding; I just wish that I knew this before I signed up and worked so hard to get my money in. Anyway, I’ve been through this before and survived so I shall continue onwards, hopefully upwards!



Making headlines

Since I decided to get my ar*e in gear again, I’ve been dragging the tyres, having some great training sessions with Steph of BootcampSE16 and I’ve been back in the media. This week I went with four team members from the South West to do some filming for BBC Points West. We hit the sandy shore of Weston Super Mare for tyre drags and interviews. It was so sunny and seemed a million miles from the Arctic climate we’ll experience next year.

Although we were soaking up the sun and being interviewed for 2 hours, the clip is 2 minutes long. Check it out on the BBC website.

Other press for team members have been ramping up too:

Kip in the Bridport News

Garri in the Yate and Sodbury news

Simon in the North East news

Garri and Catherine in the North Wales news

Tim in Get West London

Kayley in the Windsor Observer

Michael in the Daily Record




Getting going again (with this blog and my fitness!)

It was never going to be easy

Upset, disappointed, frustrated. These are words which sum up my feelings when the expedition got postponed last year. We didn’t quite hit the mark in terms of sponsorship and therefore couldn’t get all the kit and equipment we needed to cross the Arctic Ocean.

I was ready, I had been training, dragging tyres to work, kettle bells at the weekend was routine. I felt strong. I knew my knots, knew my teammates and my medical training was at the fore of my mind.

Being postponed in December was like a kick in the stomach; I had a broken heart and a frustrated mind. I wanted to get onto the ice. It took me about 3 weeks to come to terms with it … perhaps silly, perhaps not. I had spent the whole year eating, breathing, living Ice warrior. To wait for another year was going to be hard.

8 months later I find myself about to start training again … The tyres, the kettle bells, the 1/2 marathons after 8 hours at work. It’s time! I have to say it’s taken me a bit of soul searching this year to see if THIS is what I want  and I’ve decided that YES it is and I need to start training again. The expedition is going in the right direction, we have a full team after a further recruitment campaign this year, Discovery have filmed a pilot TV programme on the expedition and sponsors are coming forward.

It’s not like I have been dormant since December, I cycle most days and just returned from a 400 mile cycle in Spain and France, I’ve ran (a bit) and I’ve been Nordic walking. It’s just that training six times a week seems so huge to me right now, plus, I know that my social life will disappear. No more vino tinto … well, maybe a little 🙂

I’m meeting with my trainer tomorrow – I am sure Steph will be mad at my lack of power, my poor glutes, my puffing when running up a hill but I had these issues before and I got through them. I had muscles in December; I was running half marathons after work in 1 hour 30 mins…..

I hope that when I get moving properly, muscle memory will kick in and my 6 times a week training won’t be soooooooo tiring as last time, but who knows.

Now … where did I put those tyres ….

Final Recruitment Drive

Last week while I was attempting to keep warm in Iceland, the Ice Warrior team were busy in Westfield, London launching the final recruitment drive for the Last Pole.

Jim and the team were adorned in polar kit, in the sunshine, launching a new digital advertisement with Ocean Outdoor.

The new advert will run on screens in Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow from Tuesday 21 April to Monday 4 May 2015. Further campaigns will run later in the year with an advertising donation of £250,000 from the specialist in outdoor large-format media.

You can see the advert here and the press release here.

If you know anyone who might like to get involved, let me know!

The Jan 2015 team (pic by Jim McNeill)

The Jan 2015 team (pic by Jim McNeill)

First project of the season completed…

For the past week I’ve been out in Iceland helping with some trail work. Not quite the Arctic but it was pretty damn chilly…. Good times all round and I even found time for a bit of sledging 🙂

Thórsmörk Trail Volunteers

Our search for trails free from snow lead this season’s first volunteer team to Hjálpafoss in Þjorsadalur, where we have been working on Forest Service (Skógrækt ríkisins) trail projects in recent days. Our work included landscaping around the newly built trails at Hjálpafoss and general maintenance tasks there. This project was the first time that our teams have worked away from our home area around Þórsmörk, Goðaland and the Laugavegur, since our programme began three years ago.

We would like to thank the team for joining us, for braving the cold conditions, for their hard work… and for digging the car out of the snow so many times!

Now we are warmed up and ready for the summer!

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Where’s Peter?

Jim called us for a team meeting one morning: “Where’s Peter” he said. “This is a search and rescue exercise, you’ve 3 minutes to get yourselves organised”. And off we went. Hurrying to get torches, kit, clothing, medical kit we left the safety of the guesthouse. Andy took charge as Team Leader to get us organised and start the search. We were quickly split into 4’s and started searching around the guesthouse, sweeping the area and shouting for Peter.

It soon became apparent that we had our own ideas on the best way to find Peter. Jim called us all back in after 6 or so minutes as we were so spread out you’d easily lose one of us if you didn’t keep track. It was decided that a search line would form on one side of the valley. Running into position we formed a line, spreading out as far as our head torches would beam and moved forwards, like an un-oiled army.

We walked at different paces which made it difficult once more. “We need to keep at the same pace” I shouted. At this moment Paul to my right spotted a reflective Peter lying in the snow about 100 meters ahead. “How on earth can you see him?” I thought to myself. Paul sprinted off, me following in his footsteps, draped in my down gear and polar boots which made running in the snow pretty tough. I shouted for the rest of the team.

Peter was there lying on the ground. Paul leapt into action as Medic; Peter told us his name, he knew when he had eaten and what had happened. Peter has fallen over! Someone put the bothy over us as we went through the DRABCDE of medical training. We decided that poor Peter had hypothermia, and he was fading in the cold. After what seemed like 40 or so minutes Jim shouted, “the helicopter will arrive in 5 minutes”.

At that point we had to move Peter to safety and to the helicopter landing site maybe 300 meters away. Using the only kit that we had, we picked up Peter and moved him onto a pulk, strapped him in and off we went. Someone was at his feet, two were pulling the pulk, and 2 either side of Peter to keep in him position. That 300 or so meters felt like miles as we struggled over a ridge and through the snow to safety. “End of exercise” shouted Jim and we all went back into the guesthouse for a debrief.

Scenario training is probably the best way to learn in the Arctic – learn by doing and by making mistakes. I know that if the team had the same situation again, in real life, we would be more effective from start to finish.

Svalbard this time was different – it was 24 hour darkness, the team was a mix of new and older team members. Team dynamics were different – it was interesting having new members to share knowledge and new enthusiasm in the group. We camped out more, we put our years’ worth of training to the test with improved storm proofing of the tent, knots, navigation, skiing and getting organised prior to heading out into the icy wilderness. One night I slept in a snow trench …. The scenario was ‘the tent has blown away’. That night I can’t really say I slept, but I did survive!

One thing that I need to work on is my route planning – realistically on the expedition we will put the GPS coordinates (85°15‘N 176°09’E) into the GPS and head for it (navigating around the ice floes and ridges). In Svalbard we did a route card, looking at points along the Longyearbyen valley and planned 3 days of travel and camping. This slow and laborious process frustrated me – the GPS was new and our team let couldn’t get to grips with it. After ½ day we just about managed it, but it tested my patience … some might say, I didn’t have any patience, for at one point I had to step away from the planning table! Testing the mind is great, but it’s also good to push yourself to that point when you have to ‘take 5’ and step back in.

I felt strong on the ice and in training; my physical training has made me fitter, but as we have a year to go, it’s important to step back, reflect on what I have learnt, what I struggled with and to look at where I am going. The next year with Ice Warrior is going to be challenging but I am very much looking forward to it, and to more scenario training.