June 2008

It is amazing how the mind simplifies everything.  When I am asked "Did I find the North Pole trek hard?" I respond with a "Having an excellent buddy with me, made the trek pretty straightforward.  Anyone could do it with the right training and the right people."

Perhaps I am being blasé.  After all, in other groups "fit, hard core guys" suffered frost bite on their hands and feet (neglect from their guides and themselves from not being honest).  Over 90% of the groups that went from Barneo took a helicopter ride to a more favourable location so that they could successfully complete their trek to the North Pole.  Personally if there is a need to take a helicopter ride to a "favourable" location, then might as well take it all the way there and get your holiday snaps with a glass of champagne!  Why waste time trekking, fighting the Arctic elements?

In fact there was a British chappy who decided to pay an organisation to take him from his sofa in London to the North Pole and back within 24 hours.  Madness!  Well how many people really want to walk in an ice wasteland for more than a day?

What I Learnt

Be humble and honest with each other: In the first couple of days in the Arctic, I learnt to be humble and honest.  My hands were always so cold at stops that I could not feed myself (so most of the time I did not bother) nor could I zip my parker up when I needed to.  I was forced to turn to Matty and ask for help.  As an expert in dealing with cold situations, she responded by giving me suitable advice which worked!

Keeping Effective....means sorting out my cold issues first before continuing with any tasks.  Cold injuries creep up on you like a stalking bear.  It'll strike you when you're not aware and feeling the pressure to maintain your efforts in "making camp".  However, by sorting out cold hands first means that you'll be effective for a longer length of time.

Keeping Positive....I suffered from eczema so badly during the expedition, but I never complained about it.  I did ensure my buddy understood the condition so that when my skin was falling off and I was scratching like a monkey, she was not too disturbed by it all and could instead react in a positive manner.  The only time I ever felt sorry for myself was when I burnt my cheeks and ears on day zero, running part of a marathon without adequate head gear.  I felt foolish.  Good thing Matty made me snap out of it.

Tell the Truth: It is so sad to hear of "great" people (men and women) who have deceived the public about how they completed their journey.  Perhaps they felt the need to expand on the reality of their expedition so that they would not come across as needy and incompetent or so that the expectations of their sponsors would be met.  It would have been better to have told the truth from the start and allow the public to be engaged with your development.  Claiming to have gone solo to the South Pole when in fact there was a guide; claiming to have gone unsupported when in fact there was an airlift to a better is disappointing to me to hear the truth from suppliers to these people.

People call me "hard core".  I am not.  I was needy and incompetent at the start of our trek.  I could only move forward and take on more responsibilities because I was able to share with my buddy (point one of this section - humble and honest).  My buddy, Matty, is an experienced, amazing woman and I would highly recommend her as a guide to anyone who wanted to go to the North or South Pole (click here to see her website). At some point I will have copies of her book up for grab.  Yes am smelling another adventure in the works.

As for "how many people would want to trek in an ice wasteland...." well it seems there are quite a few (more than a handful) who would like to go.....