Llanbedr, Brecon Beacons National Park near Crickhowell.
Friday 1 October – 3 October
The golf may have been postponed but the driving Welsh rains were not enough to deter our bunch of Polar explorers. For many the GPS training weekend was their first experience of GPS navigation, but for all it was a chance to size up the competition. Although, we do stress that people should enjoy the event as much as possible!
Luckily for most the weather held off as they arrived. The clear skies provided them the perfect opportunity to setup their tents, avoiding any of the discomfort caused by a wet sleeping bag. There was a great mix of personalities, backgrounds, stories and experiences being shared around the camp and a genuine sense of excitement about the weekend. Extreme World Races’ portfolio of events, particularly the Polar Challenge and South Pole Race, attract a diverse array of people from all walks of life. Jack Wilkinson, 18, the youngest member of the field competing in the 2010 Polar Challenge, is hoping to find a team member from the other individual’s attending the weekend. Quietly confident in his ability he said:
‘that the goal is to win and I’ll be training quite hard for this’.
Later that evening Gary Bullen, EWR’s head of training, delivered an in-depth lecture on GPS use. The competitors were each issued a Garmin E-Trex, a set of waypoints and a map. These waypoints corresponded to a 25km circuit around the Black Mountains which they would complete the next day.
Our expert instructors were on hand to answer any questions and provide one-to-one tuition as required. Felicity Aston who recently lead the Kaspersky Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition said:
‘being able to use a GPS confidently makes a real difference to your confidence on the ice’.
The rest of the evening was a relaxed social affair, with people swapping stories in front of a welcoming fire. For many of the competitors this was the beginning of the greatest adventure of their lives.
The next morning started at 7am with breakfast and a brief of the day’s events. The previous year’s training in the same area of Wales were some of the worst experienced by Gary. People take for granted sometimes the British climate last year we experienced 70mph katabatic winds along with torrential rain. So before he allowed any individual or team to leave he ensured that they all carried a sleeping bag, roll mat, shelter, waterproof clothing, food, head torch and a first aid kit.
Keen to impress Team Arktix comprising of Andy Bruce, Jeremy Neale and Oliver Sinclair decided to run the entire course. Their target was under 3 hours. Luckily for them the conditions were far more forgiving than last year as they headed out in their shorts and t-shirts! The rest of the field decided to pace themselves and completed the course in approximately 5-6 hours.
Team Wolfpack of the South Pole Race took the opportunity to walk the course with Gary Bullen and ask him for advice. Gary has completed both the Polar Challenge and South Pole Race so he is acutely aware of the conditions and considerations they will face.
The instructor team were very impressed with everyone who took part in the training weekend. Every single competitor completed the course. Gary Bullen said:
‘I was impressed with the level of fitness demonstrated by all the teams. Some people may have specific areas to work on but it’s early days yet and the real training starts in Norway’.