EWR’s Scott Gilmour is at our training camp in Hjerkinn, Norway with the competitors for the Polar Challenge 2011. Today is the start of the mini expedition, where the competitors finally leave the camp and start putting their new found skills to work in an extreme environment.
It was the morning of the mini expedition – this is what most of the competitors had been waiting for. After being taught the fine art of navigation, how to prevent and cope with cold weather injuries, cooking skills, cross-country skiing, and some rather more personal (cough) issues, there was a genuine feeling of anticipation in the air. This was the moment when the teams could truly test their ability to function well under pressure. This is where the Polar Challenge would really begin.
There was a frantic last minute check of equipment to ensure that everything was packed and ready when Gary called ‘Pull pole’ (the precise departure time). Pulks packed and with stomachs full after a hearty lunch, everyone headed outside to be welcomed by the beautiful blue hue that bathes this region of Norway.
Then it was skis on and tracers attached. After a brief from Gary and Conrad, the two words everyone wanted to hear – ‘pull pole’ – were bellowed out and the expedition was off and running.
The first part of the mini expedition is quite challenging, as it follows an undulating trail down to a frozen lake. It’s quite easy to lose one’s footing here and the deep snow and the additional momentum provided by the pulk behind you can make cross country skiing quite tricky at times!
Once on the lake, Gary demonstrated one of his favourite pieces of survival equipment – the bothy bag. This can raise your body temperature by up to ten degrees Celsius and makes breaks a lot more comfortable.
Pitching Camp – And More Skiing
First camp is always welcome. It wasn’t the most punishing first day physically after only 8km on the skis but you have to remember that minds are full and trying to put skills recently learned into practise is a different kind of test altogether.
After a hot drink, a meal, and a chance to have a proper chat, the brave ones headed out to take part in the first of their optional night skis. Gary and Conrad are firm advocates of practise makes perfect.