Archive Extreme Races

Putting Our Skills To The Test: Polar Challenge 2011 Norway Training Day 4

Putting Our Skills To The Test: Polar Challenge 2011 Norway Training Day 4

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.

Pull Pole

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.

EWR training expedition starts from Hjerkinn

A sedate start to the expedition

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!

EWR training expedition first steps

Not as easy as it looks

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.

EWR training expedition first night camp

A welcome end to the first day

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.

Learn more about testing yourself on the Polar Challenge 2011 and join in by calling EWR NOW on +44(0)20 7225 6420 or fill in our online form.

Posted in 2011. Polar Challenge, About EWR, Extreme Headlines, training0 Comments

How To Erect A Tent In A Gale: Polar Challenge 2011 Norway Training Day 3

How To Erect A Tent In A Gale: Polar Challenge 2011 Norway Training Day 3

Our man in Norway – Scott Gilmour – reports on the latest training from the EWR camp in Hjerkinn, Norway, where competitors for all EWR races learn the survival techniques needed to compete in the most extreme environments on the planet. Today, how to pitch a tent in winds of up to 55km per hour.

The wind is howling. The spindrift is being blown everywhere. Faces are glued to the windows. Bets are being placed as to how fast the wind is blowing. ‘Come on guys. How fast do you think that’s blowing?’ said trainer Gary Bullen, who had ventured outside with his anemometer. I went low at 28kmph. Gary laughed. ‘Way out,’ he said. Tom Clipston was closest with 44kmph. The actual speed was 45kmph – with gusts of 55kmh: perfect weather for putting up a tent.

EWR training: putting up a tent in the snow

Snow, wind, and tent: a perfect combination

Being a week of firsts, this was the first time most of the competitors had pitched a tent. Never that easy in still conditions, strong winds add an unwelcome complication. In gale force winds a tent can act like a sail. There was much stoical struggling against the wind while trying to listen to the guidance from the instructors. ‘Remember the tent has to be anchored at one end!’ shouted Conrad. The wind was picking up again.

Now You Need A Pulk To Carry Your Tent

After lunch it was back on the skis. Day 2 was bad enough but this time there were sledges (pulks) to be pulled. It takes skill, balance, and confidence to ski effectively with one of these harnessed to you. Even confident skiers can struggle at the best of times with a pulk behind them. Gary and Conrad took us on a much longer ski circuit, which allowed them to demonstrate the key skills the teams would need to compete successfully in the Arctic.

EWR Training with pulks

Mastering skis and pulks together

EWR Training Pulks

Not yet a master of the pulk pull

The first three days of training have gone extremely well but the next stage takes things to a completely different level. Everyone is off on a mini expedition to spend three days away from the camp in conditions as low as -20C. Will the competitors be able to put their newly-learned skills into practice?

Posted in About EWR, Extreme Headlines, training0 Comments

Issued With Kit: Polar Challenge 2011 Norway Training Day 2

Issued With Kit: Polar Challenge 2011 Norway Training Day 2

Our man on the inside – Scott Gilmour – continues his reports from the Hjerkinn training camp in Norway as competitors in the Polar Challenge 2011 come to terms with the skills and equipment they need to survive the race ahead.

Our second day started with a lecture on cold weather injuries. The purpose of the lecture is to make sure that everyone is aware of the dangers of the cold before we receive any training in the field. The fact that this takes place before anything else simply underlines the importance the EWR team place on the safety of the competitors.

Then it was equipment issue time. This had Jack Wilkinson jumping for joy and shouting, ‘It’s Christmas!’ as he tore into his bundle’s plastic wrapping. Today is when the majority of our equipment is distributed, signed for, and then stowed.

Extreme World Races kit bags

If it's got your name on it ...

From this point on, we’re responsible for our equipment. This is the stuff that will protect us from the bitter cold of the Arctic, so we know we have to treat it well.

Outside At Last

Many of the group had their first taste of cross country skiing in the afternoon. A ski workshop was led by instructors Gary Bullen and Conrad Dickinson. These guys have a combined experience of extreme conditions of over 50 years. The conditions today were perfect for skiing; there was a chill was in the air and the mercury revealed an almost tropical -7c!

Extreme World Races Training Camp Hjerkinn Norway

So we don't forget where we are

Our workshop covered all the essential points – boots, bindings, technique, and the fundamental differences between cross country and alpine skiing. Everyone handled the skis brilliantly and there were only a few wobbles in evidence. However, we weren’t trying to pull our pulks at the same time. That treat happens tomorrow.

Getting Used To Cross Country Skis

Which way to the hut?

The lectures continued into the night and what with the long days, the volume of material to be learned, and the excitement of training, most of us went to bed very weary.

Posted in About EWR, Extreme Headlines, training0 Comments

Polar Challenge 2011 Training Is Under Way

Polar Challenge 2011 Training Is Under Way

Scott Gilmour is our man on the scene to cover this month’s training camp in Norway for the 2011 Polar Challenge. All competitors for EWR races – whether our Polar Challenge to the North Pole or the Centenary Race to the South Pole at the end of 2011 – participate in training at our centre in Hjerkinn, Norway. The training is an essential part of the EWR experience and not only does it prepare competitors for the extreme conditions they’ll face in the Arctic or in Antarctica, but also provides them a memorable experience and a set of skills that will stay with them long after they’re reached the finish line of their chosen competition. Scott will be sending back his impressions of his experiences in Norway over the next week. Here’s part one of his training diary.

Catching a 7.20am flight can affect the human body – and mine in particular – in ways both numerous and severe. Add to that a 3am start and there can be only one reliable treatment: a 12 hour journey across a frozen Norway undertaken with plenty of eagerness, anticipation, and no rest. This was my welcome to Polar Challenge 2011 training.

It was the first time that all of this year’s teams for the 2011 Polar Challenge had met. Although our individual travel plans may have differed, our goal was the same: to survive a week of intense Polar training.

The majority of teams and individuals met in London Heathrow’s Terminal 3 and a sense of excitement clearly masked any signs of tiredness. The conversation started to flow immediately. “How have you been?” asked many. However, there was also an undercurrent of competition, evidenced in questions like, “How has your training been going?”

On the plane, the teams became more insular. This presented a good opportunity to weigh up the competition. As the flight progressed, there was much laughter and the sort of banter that can bond or break a team under the right conditions. Then we touched down on time in Oslo in perfect conditions – heavy snow!

EWR Bags At Oslo

Waiting for our bags

Welcome To Norway

We were greeted in Oslo by Jack Daniell, who had flown in from Copenhagen. Not long after, it was the turn of Tom Clipston and Ian Mullane of Team CSC. One had flown halfway across the world from Singapore and the other had been in Norway bagging a few days of additional ski training.

EWR Competitors and Trainers

Ready for the Polar Challenge training

A brisk walk to the station was followed by a brief wait and then we were aboard the train to Hjerkinn. The last part of the journey at last. I was beginning to flag. It’s dark in Norway not long after 4pm in the evening at this time of year and, as we headed further north, the darker it became. Many of the travellers had become tired by this point and were catching up on some welcome sleep.

The EWR team greeted our arrival at Hkerkinn before we were transported to the training centre – just 2 minutes away by car. At the training centre we were given a quick brief and assigned our quarters.

The EWR Hjerkinn training camp

All the comforts of a training camp

Then bed at last.

It’s been a long day. More from me tomorrow.

Posted in About EWR, Extreme Headlines, training0 Comments

The Secret Of Team Structures – John Campbell

balancing team structureHere’s another post from our guest blogger John Campbell. John knows what he’s talking about when it comes to teams, as he has a formidable success rate working with sports teams.

Hi there. As we head into a New Year, it’s a great time to consider the importance of the team structures in all sporting and working environments. How can we extract the maximum potential from our team?

Everything in our Universe is formed in ‘systems’. Like all humans, I have a nervous system, a circulatory system, a cellular system, a respiratory system – and all these come together to form what, in my case, is known as John Campbell. Then I belong to a family system, a cultural system, a country system, a religious system, and then finally a universe or cosmic system. So, whatever we are dealing with – from the microcosmic to the macrocosmic – we will always find ‘systems’.

Bring The Family

The interesting is, that when we consider group or team structures, we notice that our family system is often unconsciously replayed or recreated in our work or group systems and we often find similar challenges in our team work that we experienced in our family of origin. We might start to notice that certain members of our team unconsciously ‘trigger’ some of our childhood memories and we can find ourselves developing coping strategies to avoid any conflict we may have experienced in our past.

Just as in any family system, the most important relationship is the relationship between the two parents. The essential ingredient in that relationship is the ‘chemistry’ between the parents and in any group or team work there needs to be ‘chemistry’ within the group. Chemistry is somewhat difficult to define, as it is not something which can be learned or introduced: it is an intangible connection between the various members which creates a powerful and enduring bond – essential when tough times are experienced.

Smells Like Team Spirit

If you examine the most successful sporting teams in any field of sport you will always find that the ones who have this type of chemistry – and thus ‘spirit’ – within the group are the teams who seem to be able to perform at their highest level over a prolonged time. Consider this in the world of professional football: despite the massive amounts of money spent by teams like Chelsea and, latterly, Manchester City, they seem unable to create the kind of ‘spirit’ created in teams who have developed a ‘family’ type of atmosphere where the Coach and Chief Executive have a great working relationship resulting from a ‘chemistry’ between them.

In a small team environment, therefore, it is even more essential to be looking for that ‘chemistry’ between the members. Its presence is essential as this is what will provide the mutual support during the challenging times ahead. So it is a great idea for teams to engage in activities that can deepen the bond between the members. There are numerous activities which can create this, even in a short period of time, and I can recommend these to anyone who is interested.

The most important ingredient required in any team is mutual trust. Again, this can be developed and deepened by doing certain exercises within the group – and this can also be a lot of fun!

Play To Your Strengths

I believe that it’s also essential to discover the particular strengths and weaknesses of each team member. You also need to know what each member likes to do and what they don’t like to do. This way, you can ensure that these likes and dislikes are balanced across the team. I find that it is completely counter-productive to attempt to get people to do anything which they do not have an interest in doing: it saps the energy of the individual and, ultimately, the group in which they are working. The negative energy created physically and mentally weakens the individual and, therefore, the whole group.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year. 2011 promises to be another year of huge growth in the awakening of human consciousness. It may prove difficult for those who are not ready to embrace change – for massive change is what we will experience. We can either embrace this change and go with it – surrender – or resist and feel the consequences! Enjoy the ride.

John Campbell
‘Inspiration rather than Motivation’

Posted in Extreme Headlines, training0 Comments

It’s Germany v Austria In The Race To The South Pole 2010

It’s Germany v Austria In The Race To The South Pole 2010

Next year’s EWR Centenary Race to the South Pole will see teams from Britain and Norway going head to head for national pride in a re-run of the famous Scott and Amundsen race of 1911.

This year’s race, however, has its own international challenge. The 2010 Race to the South Pole sees teams from Germany and Austria competing directly against each other across the Antarctic plateau.
Markus Lanz and Hermann Maier
The German team is led by TV presenter Markus Lanz and ultra marathon runner and extreme sportsman Joey Kelly. They’re joined by Claudia Beitsch – a Bio-Scientist – and Dennis Lehnert of the Air Force. Their Austrian opposition is led by legendary skier Hermann Maier and radio presenter Tom Walek. Making up the Austrian team are Sabrina Grillitsch – Austria’s only female mountain infantry soldier – and Alexander Serdjukov, who is a Husky racer.

Choosing the teams

Finding the final two contestants for both teams involved a series of three arduous training camps. Specialists from Extreme World Races (EWR) joined the team leaders to decide which contestants had what it took to make the trip.

In the first round, two camps were held in Germany and Austria. There were originally 9,000 applicants. Of these, only 60 contestants were invited to each of the camps. Through the course of 36 hours, contestants performed tasks to prove not only their team skills but also their endurance: did they have the will coupled with the raw ability to really go for the Pole when they reached Antarctica?

Only 10 people were selected from the initial training camps to compete in the final, which took place on the glacier at Kitzsteinhorn near Kaprun in Austria. Here, the contestants were confronted with conditions that were closer to what they would face in Antarctica. Cold winds and heavy snowfall at an altitude of 3,000m challenged them while they learned how to perform a rescue from a crevasse or to build a tent when snow covers everything within minutes.
Crevasse Rescue
Everything was done under the close watch of the EWR team and the team leaders. Finally, after another 36 strenuous hours, the two members who had made it onto each team were called forward. They knew now that they were heading for the adventure of their lives but also weeks of tough preparation before their departure to Antarctica.

The final training

In the first week of November, the teams travelled to Hjerkinn in Norway for the training that would teach them everything they needed to know to survive in the hostile environment of Antarctica – both in theory and in practice. Three days of classroom training about cold weather injuries, food in Antarctica, equipment preparation, and other pertinent issues were as vital as the 3 day mini-excursion that followed, where the emphasis was on team skills and the ever-important tent routines.

Training is over and race day is approaching fast. Today – December 5th – the teams left for Cape Town. After a few more days of preparation – getting kit and supplies sorted out – they will carry on to Antarctica itself on December 9th. After another week of acclimatisation and travel onto the Antarctic plateau, the race will start on December 20th.The winning team is expected to arrive at the Pole just after New Year’s Day.

Watch it on TV

German and Austrian TV crews are following the race, with the event to be broadcast in Germany by major station ZDF and in Austria by the main broadcaster ORF over six episodes in March 2011.

Posted in 2010 Race to the Pole. Austria v Germany, Extreme Headlines, Extreme Races0 Comments


January 2011
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Race to the South Pole
Polar Challenge
Lake Baikal Race