A few of our Challenge Chum adventurers headed out to the Arctic earlier this month and we’re delighted to hear that they absolutely smashed their 100km trek challenge across the frozen lakes and hilly trails of the Arctic Circle!
The 13 strong team from Scotland, England, Wales and Bosnia camped on frozen lakes in temperatures as low as -24 degrees, trekked up to 28km a day pulling all their gear in heavy pulks and enjoyed the fantastic views the Arctic had to offer with an amazing team of brand new pals along the way.
Nela Popovic, 40, was raised in Bosnia and could almost be the poster girl for the ‘She Who Dares’ campaign to encourage women to try something that gets them outside their comfort zone. Nela entered the frozen zone on a trek across the Artic and she absolutely loved it and says it won’t be her last adventure, so much so that she’s recently been selected for ‘The Last Pole’ expedition, a first of it’s kind 800mile adventure to the Northern Pole of inaccessibility (www.lastpole.co.uk)
As the trek approached, I really didn’t know what to expect, I’d never done anything in the kind of extreme conditions I was about to encounter. I went online to read about other people’s experiences of doing the same expedition: one guy had written a blog in which he kept saying it was the hardest, most horrendous experience of his life. So, funnily enough, that made me a little apprehensive!
When we got to the Arctic, the cold was like nothing I’d ever felt before. Our first day was a preparation day and it was about minus 20 degrees. We used that day to make sure all our equipment was functioning properly and that we were ready. Or as ready as we were ever going to be!
The first day of the trek was tough but absolutely amazing. We travelled about 28 kilometres and didn’t arrive at our camp until well after dark. On top of that, we were dragging pulks behind us which carried all our gear and weighed 20 kilograms. Physically it was tiring because we were going through very deep snow or uphill. But we were in a fantastic group which made it so fun and really took your mind off the tiredness.
The low temperatures were, for me, the trickiest thing to deal with along with an unlucky ankle injury I managed to pick up during the trek. In the group ahead of us, a girl suffered hypothermia and had to be taken off the trek. Things like that can happen if you don’t manage yourself properly. When we reached our camp on the first night it was about minus 24 degrees. I can’t even describe how cold that was. It was that night that I realised there were things I hadn’t even thought about: getting used to going for a pee in -24 degrees for a start!
At those temperatures, everything freezes really quickly. You had to keep your water-bottle down your top. Then, on one of the early nights, I woke up and my sleeping bag was frozen solid, the inside of the tent was completely frozen and my face was stuck to the inside of the tent. So dealing with those conditions were tough but the good parts of the trek made the hard bits completely worthwhile.
The trek was only three days’ long, so even when it was physically tiring I knew we didn’t have too long to go. But it was so much fun that it never felt like a slog. The scenery was absolutely stunning and I was really conscious of making sure I fully appreciated my surroundings.
Getting to the finish-line was fantastic and I raised my Bosnian flag high when we reached it.
This Arctic trek has really given me a taste for doing more of these types of adventures, my next challenge is going to be heading with a team to a location that nobody’s ventured to before, to the centre of the arctic ocean…which is something I’d never dared to dream about achieving never mind sign up for!
Well done to everyone involved and roll on the next subzero Challenge Chum adventure!