It’s been amazing to be back in the mountains. Low winter sun turning white mountains pink, glittering lakes of ice, huge expanses of virgin snow (there’s not many Norwegians out in January and it’s a big land…it’s apparently as far from southern Norway to the far north as it is to Rome), and of course, the adventure with Andy, Simon and Mike.
Feeling a bit tired though after a week camping and journeying through snow and ice, and sharing a tent space the size of a double bed with 3 snoring blokes. Also feeling very weird in the chunk of my body I can’t feel (like three quarters of me!)...not sure that being squashed up in a sit-ski, tied in with straps, covered with layer after layer to stop the cold biting and working my arms so hard they feel leaden is the ideal way to feel good! Or maybe I’ve got soft after a few years racing bikes instead of bashing around the wilderness…
Discomfort aside (I forgot to mention the pulk base board converted to a snow toilet!), It was our chance to test ourselves and our kit as we develop our plans for the ‘Pole of Possibility’ journey to the South Pole. The special snowbike was the key bit of kit being put to the test. It’s a great bike made by Lasher, Alaska and it rides really well on the ice and snow covered winter roads and tracks. However, plonk it in the middle of the wilderness with my 63kg on it, and it’s not so happy. We took it on tour for the whole week, nearly left it behind three times along the way, but somehow we kept on persisting, eager to find conditions it would work in - hard surfaces seem to be key - anything softer than ice or very compacted snow, the big front tyre just breaks through and gets stuck. It reminds us that we’re exploring at the fore-front of what is possible. There is a reason why nobody has yet biked to the South Pole, and there’s a reason why nobody paralysed has travelled across Antarctica to get there! The saying of a ‘poor workman blames his tools’ is far from true when it comes to adventure with a disability. When you’re paralysed, technology and equipment is everything - the right piece of kit can make impossible things possible, or vice versa!
Mostly I feel inspired by our week in the wilds - it was so good to be out breathing crisp clean air, we travelled over a 100km through winter wilderness, we survived, we had fun and an adventure. Partly though I feel disheartened. I realise I was pinning my hopes on the snowbike, so now I’m asking ‘can I physically make it across Antarctica in a sit-ski, so demanding on the body, so dependent on ski glide which in cold, uphill conditions doesn’t happen well?’ The answer as it is for so many things in life - rest, reflect, learn, re-plan, then go and try again, and we’ve certainly learned plenty this week to help us do that.