What is a carabiner?

Upon making the decision to do my basic polar training, I had to go and get my training kit. I visited Polar Jim and spent a few hours trying on down jackets, trousers, gloves, hats, windproofs and boots which made me shudder just by looking at them (see pic).  Polar Jim asked me if I had any carabiners. My confused face was a tell-tale sign that I did not have a carabiner.  Jim showed me this ‘carabiner’ and I shuddered once more. I believe the words “what the heck do you do with that?” came out of my mouth.

Learning what to do with a carabiner was not the only challenge to overcome in order to survive the basic training – I had never skied, I had forgotten my knots from my days as a brownie, I didn’t want to buy OR use a shewee, I had no neckgateor suitable for -25 and apparently my waterproofs were not going to cut the mustard. This was starting to seem like challenge upon challenge upon challenge.

“I do love a challenge”, is what I told myself. I also told myself “try the basic training and if you don’t like it, at least you will know and you have tried.”

This was my mind-set for Svalbard.

Flying out from Gatwick with a ridiculously large bag (see pic), I flew to Oslo, stopped the night as my friend Ange would say, and left on the 9.55 flight the next morning to Longyearbyen.

At the airport I met Polar Jim, and 5 other ‘trainees’; Rob, Nathan, Sonia, Cat and Adrian. These people knew each other and had done elements of training together (including knots!) so there was only one thing for it…. introduce myself and get involved.

The moment when I saw Svalbard from the plane, a tear surfaced. “I’ve made it to the arctic”, I thought to myself. Ticking off a bucket list item was the coolest thing of the year…. so far!

Upon landing and getting my huge bag, we made our way to guesthouse 102 – a quaint guesthouse 1km from the airport. That afternoon, my brain was being tested some more.

I’ve never skied, but 3 hours after landing, I had a fresh pair of skis, a drill, some bindings and my polar boots – the combination of these items would allow ski walking. I was about to enter another unknown.

The next morning, my freshly made skis left the guesthouse for a training session. 9 falls later; I swore, I laughed, I imitated Bambi on Ice but decided that I could and would get better.

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