It has just dawned on me that two weeks today I will be on my way back to Svalbard for another dose of Polar Training with the Ice Warrior Project. I wasn’t sure that I could survive the basic training, but I did, and now I will attempt to survive the advanced training.
One problem for me at the moment is my dislike for ski-walking. I am a runner, a cyclist, a lover of the warm. Getting to grips with skiing was very frustrating for me on the basic training. I swore; at the beginning I threw myself on the ground to stop, my skis got tangled and I felt like an idiot. One evening my route back to base camp went a bit Pete Tong – I ended up having a bit of a paddy, so someone else took over at the front. We headed up an icy path with our pulks. I kept falling over and getting annoyed with myself as I couldn’t stop sliding backwards – I took my skis off and decided to walk back to the base.
I can laugh about it now, but when those skis are attached to my feet in two weeks time, I need to be having a word with myself. To be fair, I had never skid before the 17 February so I can only improve. My old trainer from school said ‘practice makes perfect’ quickly followed by ‘perfect practice makes perfect’. I just need some more practice – and to be fair to myself, I did have good days on the ice; the memory of which has temporarily been superseded by the bad days.
Basic training was tough, tiring and demanded huge concentration. As well as learning how to ski, I found myself learning about polar bears and how to deter them, knots and their different functions, belaying, pulk packing, the science behind the expedition, storm proofing a tent, nutrition, the daily regime when on the ice and ski signals blended together with scenario training such as ‘the tent has blown away, how are you going to shelter’.
Two weeks today, I will be on my merry way, back to the ice, with a view to keep learning and progress to the next stage. Topics include GPS and navigation, critical crisis management, building on the basic course and more scenario training which will include sitting outside in my thermals to the point where I get mild hypothermia … just to know what it feels like.