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The Ice Jump Cometh: Polar Challenge 2011 Norway Training Day 6

The Ice Jump Cometh: Polar Challenge 2011 Norway Training Day 6

EWR’s man in Hjerkinn, Norway – Scott Gilmour – has been following the Polar Challenge 2011 competitors as they undergo their training. The final day is here and what better way to finish than with an immersion in the freezing waters of a frozen lake?

It’s 6am and -20C on a frozen lake. It was a sign of things to come that the day began with the competitors on a lake. It would end with them in one. For many, today will prove to be both the highlight and lowlight of the training week.

EWR Norway Training Cutting An Ice Hole

One ice hole coming up

The stoves roared into action and sounds of life could be heard once again. The residents of our tented community on the lake knew all too well what was about to come. Pull pole was at 7.30am and you could sense the nervous tension in the air. However, some of the more narcissistic types were looking forward to testing themselves in the frozen waters of Hjerkinn. They headed out on the final ski leg of their training.

Destination? A dunking.

EWR Norway Training Hjerkinn Ice Hole

Your ice hole awaits

Dressing For A Dunking

The instructors quickly assured themselves that the facilities existed for the competitors to dry themselves quickly. With the tents up and clothing stripped down to a thermal base layer only, they headed off for their brief. The ice hole was in sight and even the most enthusiastic individual struggled to mask their nervous anticipation.

Conrad Dickinson – one of the world’s leading explorers – demonstrated the fine art of escaping the icy-waters with a calm and assured escape. But only after saying, “It’s horrible going in the water but you feel great once it’s over. You feel like you’ve really achieved something.”

EWR Norway Training Ice Hole Escape

This is how it's done

In the true gentlemanly spirit that is always in evidence at EWR, it was ladies first. Georgie Jones of Team CSC was first in. She followed Conrad’s instructions calmly and to the letter, escaping the ice hole with relative ease. Jill followed with similar gusto and climbed out triumphantly.

EWR Norway Training Women Lead The Way

The women show the way

Men Can Escape Ice Holes Too

It was the men’s turn next. Not wanting to be put to shame by their female counterparts, they approached the precipice with as much bravado as they could muster. Jamie Chisholm was in first. Although slightly apprehensive – quite understandably – after suffering a bout of frostbite on a mountaineering trip in Patagonia, he cast aside his fears and jumped in.

EWR Norway Training Ice Hole Challenge

I did it!

One by one they jumped in and, one by one, they managed to haul themselves out. They dried themselves off with a nice dusting in the snow and then ran back to their tents to get quickly changed and to put some heat back in their bones.

The pride and sense of achievement in the camp was the perfect note on which to end a week of hard polar training. Now on to the Polar Challenge 2011 itself.

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

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The Tent On The Lake: Polar Challenge 2011 Norway Training Day 5

The Tent On The Lake: Polar Challenge 2011 Norway Training Day 5

EWR’s Scott Gilmour is at our training camp in Hjerkinn, Norway with the competitors for the Polar Challenge 2011. The second day of the mini expedition leads to a camp site on a frozen lake.

Our second day on the mini expedition starts at a leisurely pace. Ensuring that everyone was hydrated and fed, the order to pull pole was given at 1pm (or 1300 for those of you on a military clock). Could this be to save the competitors for what’s to come at the end of the week?

The day’s plan is for a 10km to 15km ski to the site of our next camp position. The route involve ascents and descents along a mountain trail – a real test for many of the competitors, as this is their first lengthy experience on cross country skis. But the beautiful weather helped by keeping spirits buoyed and everyone made excellent time across some very challenging and fast snow.

Camping On Ice

The second camp site sits on a frozen lake. This provides a perfect facsimile of the conditions the competitors will meet on the Polar Challenge.

It certainly feels slightly unnatural hammering nails into frozen ice but Polar exploration and survival can seem a little strange at times!

EWR Norway Training ice lake camping

Pitching a tent on the lake's surface

With the tents up and the cold night closing in at a cool -15C, the competitors settled down to the sound of their laughter ringing across the lake and through the valley.

EWR Norway Training lake camp tents

Almost ready for a night on the lake

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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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