Despite the temperature reaching a very chilly minus 34 degrees, we’ve both returned safely from our Arctic Challenge week with all fingers and toes thankfully still intact. And what a week it for myself and Ruth in Northern Sweden!
Admittedly when we arrived at the cabin to temperatures of minus 30 and experienced the weird sensation of our nostril hairs freezing, we wondered what we had let ourselves in for! But with Penny being a reassuring presence, a team of three excellent training members, and our fellow eleven friendly Arctic Challengers, we soon settled down to the week ahead.
The first three days were designed to allow us to acclimatise to the amazing environment. This involved cross country skiing around the frozen lake and even trying our hands at the equivalent of water skiing but on snow, whereby we were pulled along by holding a rope tied to the back of a snowmobile. It provided a very good spectacle for the onlookers as both Ruth and myself fell down at very regular intervals! We also got the chance to be taken around the lake by a team of husky dogs and one of my favourite moments, spending a day up in the mountains on a snowmobile. It was brilliant fun to share almost 30 miles on one with Ruth, singing at the tops of our voices as the snow came down all around us!
However, it was not all relaxation because we still had the main part of the trip to complete-the survival phase! It was truly back to basics, for each day we had to light the fire, create the toilet facilities, eat only rations, get blinded by the fire smoke, and of course, construct a shelter for each night. They were a canvas tent, a fir tree shelter and finally the snow hole. It was in the snow hole that we had the hardest night. Not only was it tiring having to do a candle watch for an hour during the night, but also the dampness within the hole made it feel very cold. However, at 6am we were told to go back to the cabin to warm up for we had successfully completed the survival phase!
Looking back on the week, we have so many memories, of both the fun and hard times. We both said before the trip that if things got tough, we would just try to laugh and keep upbeat. Luckily everyone in the group got on so well that there was plenty of laughter and more importantly, plenty of support for each other. We feel lucky to have been given the opportunity by Penny and Age Concern Exeter to have had such an amazing experience. It definitely made all the various fundraising over the last year worth it and we are looking forward to handing over the total money we raised in the near future.