Even though we’ve been preparing for the Antarctic the last few years, unfortunately we’ve had many plans scuppered by Covid, which included moving back the expedition to the next year. However, with that said it’s been very much ‘GO GO GO’ since November and we are now on track for November 2023.
We recruited two brilliant new members, Emily Alice Butler and Becky Hinchley to join us on our Antarctic journey, and you can read more about them by visiting our website.
Other than the whole team on edge dodging Covid at the beginning of the year, and a couple of members getting over a bout of Christmas Corona, the year started with an absolute blast!
Due to the fact we were avoiding catching the virus to ensure we all made it to Norway, we had to cancel a couple of the team training sessions. One was going to be in Wales at George’s place, and another at Emily’s parents’ farm in Surrey. This just meant that Norway was going to be full throttle, and actually the first time we fully practiced everything as a team.
Excitement was at an all-time high as we all rocked up to Heathrow in the early hours of the morning. We had a long day of travel ahead of us, but nothing was going to take away the joy that we were finally on our way to Norway!
Once in Oslo we had lots to do: we trekked around the city with luggage in tow, popping to the XXL store for a few supplies, before the serious shopping started at the Piteraq shop, where we had our Ski and Boot fitting. Three hours later and well after shop closing, we left heavily laden with bags, luggage and skis, and started the next stage of our journey to meet our guide.
Here came our first challenge… transporting all our belongings and making it in one piece, along the deadly uphill ice rink to the beautiful and very welcoming cabin we were staying in. We spent one night here before travelling to Kvitavatn, where we spent the first week learning to cross-country ski on various terrain, practicing campcraft, packing our pulks and setting up our sleep systems.
The second week we went out onto the Hardangervidda plateau with our wonderful guide Aina from Expa Travel. The journey started with a long, winding uphill slog, and we all agreed there was no way on earth we would be skiing back down, at least not with our current stopping abilities! The Hardangervidda was a huge learning curve for all of us, but it was so good to see everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and put our combined skills together.
We experienced a real range of conditions, which gave us a good insight into the adverse weather we could face in Antarctica, including a storm on the last evening where the weather turned on us in just minutes. We decided to get a tent up in the middle of the storm and cram all of us in whilst we checked the incoming weather via satellite, it certainly made for an exciting and surreal last night, but that’s a whole different story entirely!
Amazingly, through more luck than judgement, we all managed to ski back down the winding hill, I use the term ski very lightly as most of the time we were climbing out of the ditches, or recovering our pulks from the banks, but we made it. Yes, granted we left the plateau with a few bruises, and a whole bunch of stinky wet gear, but ultimately everyone was still in one piece.
Once home and on firmer, less-icy terrain, we had more excitement to come, with some brilliant school talks and zooms booked in, a live Q&A with a company for International Women’s Day, a visit to the Outdoor Expo for Becky, and finally George and Bex’s big day out to join the fabulous Lorraine Kelly on her breakfast show, and what a fabulous lady she is! They could have talked for hours, though anyone that knows George and Bex, will know that’s not a hard task!
Training stepped up a gear after Norway in anticipation for Sweden, with lots of tyre dragging, functional training sessions, roller skiing (which is proving lethal), and several of the team subjecting themselves to cold showers and baths.
Excitement was at an all-time high again as we flew out to Sweden to meet with Toby from Hello Nature. The first day we were treated to a couple of refreshing dips in a frozen lake where the water was a whopping 1°C. It was great training and gave us an opportunity to test how we react in cold temperatures. We spent the first few days consolidating skills, with 10-hour days of up to 30km pulling weighted pulks, putting our new equipment and tents into practice, and then finished with our first night out camping. The next day we packed up and headed into the mountains, where we had our toughest mini expedition yet. It was designed to test our mental resilience, and that it did: it was so incredibly hilly, with a lot of skis on skis off and just overall, exhausting!
It pulled the team together and made us much stronger, to the point we actually began to enjoy and make the most of the hilly beasting. I mean the views certainly helped, especially scrambling an hour or three up a hill, to turn around and see the world at your feet made it 100% worthwhile.
The second to last day started with another climb up to a plateau, but this time we spent around two hours making our way through a snowstorm that was whipping through, and on occasions wiped several of the team out, sending pulks flying around doing death rolls, once on the other side of the mountain and a little sheltered, conditions improved slightly, but it made for another great adventure and perfect conditions for training.
We’ve now all got to focus and step up our summer training, ready for our next trip late in November. The next couple of months we will be focusing on sponsorships, research, fitness and general logistics of the expedition.
Thank you for reading our journey so far. If you would like to support us and follow our journey, please check out our website or search Antarctic Fire Angels on socials, including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. We are always in the lookout for sponsors to support our journey so if you feel like this message is something you can support, then please do get in touch. Together we are limitless.
For more information, go to www.antarcticfireangels.co.uk