Screeching out of the darkness the alarm on my mobile phone woke me from my warm, comfortable slumber. This was to be one of many rude awakenings over the next 10 days. Getting up, fumbling for the light switch, showering, getting changed, checking my sled, checking my passport, out the door, go…Sled in hand, with polar boots and big down jacket on we make our way to the airport – looking a bit silly, but feeling like a polar hero.
Waiting in anticipation at terminal two London Heathrow by the SAS check-in point (the airline not the special forces) I’m met by my first teammate, Andy, from London, a mid-twenties analyst for BT. This was followed a few minutes later by the remainder of our team, Mike from Nottingham, a retired Police inspector and 10 time pole veteran (5 to north and south pole a piece) in his early fifties; and Phil, also from Nottingham a plumber in his late forties (he’s run the Montane Spine race, which makes him harder than a coffin nail). Pleasantries exchanged and goodbyes to loved ones complete (my girlfriend), and thus began the getting to know each other phase.
You don’t necessarily need to like each other (it helps) if you’re going on an expedition to a hostile environment, but you do need an element of mutual respect and trust – somewhere along the way you could rely wholly upon your teammates for assistance. It’s very rare in our modern ‘hustle and bustle’ lives that we really look our for our fellow man’s wellbeing. Too busy rushing to work or looking at our smartphone. That’s why adventurous activities are such special environments for forming bonds, and critically for reminding us of of what we can achieve if we work in unison towards a common goal. Alas, enough pontificating on team building for now.
Our destination was Alta, our courier the excellent and efficient Scandinavian Air Service. Flying out at just after 7am, and following a stop in Oslo, we came cruising across a Fjord and onto the short Alta runway, landing slick and smooth (short and sharp seems to be the SAS motto for takeoff and landing, no doubt due to the many dangerous runways they negotiate). It’s a pretty breathtaking landing in Alta, you hurtle over a Fjord at a few hundred feet with no runway in view, until at the last moment you hit land – guaranteed to sh** you up a little if you don’t know what’s coming beforehand.
(Credit must go to Andy for this set of photos)
Out we trot to be met by beautiful snowy Norway. Snowy but not cold unfortunately. You will see from the photo above that ambient air temperature was around -4c, a little disappointing, but fingers crossed there would be more to come. Baggage collected without hassle we piled into a big ol’ taxi and headed for our campsite – Alta Strand. Our first few days would be spent getting to know our equipment, looking over the route and checking our general camp work competencies and knowledge of arctic procedures. The campsite as you will see below was pretty scenic, nestled between nearby hills, and our chalet (including sauna) a veritable wooden palace!
For now here is where I will wrap it up, on day one of this arctic episode. I leave you with a video for some inspiration. Turn up your speakers, maximise to full screen and soak up the vista’s. You don’t need to be a climber to appreciate it, it’s just nice to be reminded that adventure is out there to be had, and there are beautiful places aplenty.