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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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Our EWR Arctic Trucks 6×6 Gets Its Toughest Test

Our EWR Arctic Trucks 6×6 Gets Its Toughest Test

Our new EWR Arctic Trucks 6×6 vehicles arrived back in Novo last week after their round trip supporting the Germany v Austria Race to the South Pole. It looks like they fully met the team’s expectations.

Check out the original press release that announced the delivery of the vehicles, which triggered wide coverage in the UK media.

EWR 6x6 by Arctic Trucks

EWR 6x6 ready for Antarctica

From Concept To Delivery

For some background into the production process for the EWR 6×6, I contacted Arctic Trucks chairman Emil Grimsson. He was kind enough to answer my questions while trying to stay abreast of the latest news coming back from Antarctica about how the trucks had performed.

A 6×6 vehicle is not as radical an idea as it might at first appear. Arctic Trucks has been watching its use in other commercial environments for some time and were just waiting for the right practical application. That time has finally arrived.

Taking the decision to proceed with construction, however, was simply the start of a challenging process that is still ongoing.

The first test vehicle was built 18 months ago as a prototype for a military tender for Norway and Sweden. This vehicle was tested extensively and the results were excellent. The vehicles used for the recent trip to Antarctica benefited from both this rigorous testing and the company’s knowledge gained from previous expeditions to the southern continent. However, it was the first time they’d made a 6×6 with 44 inch tires and, due to the fixed deadline for the race, there was only extremely limited time for testing this aspect of the vehicle.

For Emil, it was important to keep the end in mind. “We still need to look at the results from our recent trip [supporting the Germany v Austria Race to the South Pole] but I believe the 6×6 will take us another step up in servicing operations and ensuring the safety of people in Antarctica.”

The Arctic Trucks EWR 6×6 In Action

First reports of the performance of the vehicles in Antarctica is encouraging. Not only did they take in some extremely heavy loads but they made it to the South Pole and back to Novo with no mechanical problems and crossed areas of sastrugi snow with ease.

Obviously, with a vehicle like this, it’s not possible to pick up all the parts ready-made in the workshop. Arctic Trucks sourced the additional axle from Austrian company Oberaigner. Although still a prototype, the axle goes into production later this year. For the two vehicles taking part in the Germany v Austria Race to the South Pole, Arctic Trucks needed to build a large number of new parts, including frames, suspension, decks, and fuel tanks. All in all, each vehicle required about 500 man hours spent on it.

A large part of the drive to construct these vehicles is to increase the safety of travelling in Antarctica and extreme environments. The new Arctic Trucks 6×6 manages to improve safety while simultaneously increasing comfort and fuel efficiency. Emil and his team at Arctic Trucks can be proud of the vehicles they have created.

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Antarctic News Round Up January 3rd

Here’s another quick round up of recent news about Antarctica you may have missed.

As you can guess, we try to stay abreast of any news that might affect our races or the environments in which we run races. Our focus at the moment is on Antarctica because that’s where our Germany v Austria Race to the South Pole is reaching its conclusion. That doesn’t mean we’ve taken our eye of the Arctic region, however. There will be an Arctic news round up along soon, I promise.

A Welshman Faces A Daunting Challenge

With our special interest in Chris Foot’s trek to the South Pole, it’s only natural that we follow the efforts of others pushing themselves hard and setting themselves real challenges. Welsh ex-rugby player Richard Parks is on a quest to become the first person to reach both poles and scales the peaks of the highest mountains in seven continents within one calendar year. He spent New Year at the South Pole as the first stop on his punishing schedule. You can read a report on his challenge – and his comments about being at the South Pole – in a good article on WalesOnline. Look out for his words about the “Austrian and German teams” – I think we can guess why they were at the base.

Not All Icebergs Look The Same

iceberg - photo by flickr user ae2005You may think that when it comes to icebergs, there’s not really a lot to say after ice, climate change, and, well, Titanic. Think again. A great post – and photo – on NASA’s Earth Observatory site is nothing less than a short introductory essay in types of iceberg. After reading this, you’ll be able to stun friends at parties with reference to iceberg wave damage and even compare their surfaces to types of quartz. The photo to the left was taken by Flickr contributor ae2005 from an Antarctic expedition in 2005.

Whaling Season Begins With Confrontations

If you visit ae2005′s photo stream, you’ll see she has a number of shots of whales, too. And whales are in the news in Australia at the moment, where the Australian Green party is leading a campaign to ask the government there to seek an injunction at the International Court of Justice in the Hague against this year’s hunt of whales in Antarctic waters. You can read the story on the HeraldSun site. Over the week-end, Sea Shepherd ships confronted Japanese whaling vessels before they began hunting. High power hoses rather than harpoons were the weapon of choice for the whalers on this occasion.

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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’

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January 2011
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Race to the South Pole
Polar Challenge
Lake Baikal Race