Tag Archive for Snow

Dog Sledding in Sweden

After being lucky enough to join the dog sledding trip at the last minute I had no pre-conceived ideas as to what to expect, all I can say after doing it is…it was amazing!

The peace and tranquillity that you experience is second to none and the camaraderie amongst the group really made this trip a once in a lifetime experience.

After meeting the group at the airport there was the initial drama, after as one member of the group lost her passport and tickets before we even checked in! Frantically phoning the hotel to see if she had left them there the night before, she realised that she had put them in a very safe place; in the hidden compartment of her bag, of course! With two hours to spare we made the most of the last minute shopping and snack buying!

After a 2 hour flight to Stockholm, the group piled off the plane and queued up to go through the passport control, where upon Kirsty, who had previously lost her passport announced she couldn’t find it again! Drama ensued again, apart from this time it wasn’t hidden in the secret pocket! Thankfully the passport control staff and local police saved the day and were very helpful and escorted her back on to the plane where it was finally found in the pocket of the seat! Phew! It was then time for a well-deserved lunch.

Our next flight up to Kiruna, 200kms above the Arctic Circle was stress free. We were greeted by Kent and Jordana, our amazing leaders for the week, who whisked us away to our hotel in Kiruna, and after a speedy check in we headed down to the bar for our briefing and a well deserve drink. We also had to make the most of our last shower, as we would be reliant on wet wipes for the rest of the trip.

The following day we stopped off at the world famous ice hotel in Jukkasjärvi, and had a great guided tour. This hotel was the first of its kind in the world, and is re built from scratch every year using large blocks of ice cut from the Torne River, which is located next to the Ice Hotel and each block is completely unique. Artists from all over the world bid to have their designs picked for the luxury rooms which are built in their own individual style. The hotel is kept at a constant -5°C, I’m not too sure I’d want to stay there!

We then continued on to the kennels to meet our furry friends for the rest of the weeks challenge, and after a hearty lunch it was time to be kitted out in our warm weather gear and have a full safety breifing briefing on how to harness the dogs, and how to drive the sled. With Kent hurling himself on to the ground whilst being pulled along by Jordana, they finally showed us what to do if you tipped your sled over. we were hanging on his every word whilst trying not to cry with laughter, most of us failed in this task.

It was then time for us to actually put what we’d just learnt to practice, and we very slowly harnessed up all of our very excited dogs, and by the time we were finished the sound of them barking was like nothing I have ever heard before. After a final check we were off, most of us started slowly, worried about tipping over, but after about 10 minutes of getting used to the speed of the sled and figuring out how to brake, all of the worries disappeared! As far as the eye could see we were surrounded by a thick blanket of snow, which glistened in the sunshine that we were lucky enough to have all week. The pine trees popped out, to add an extra dimension to the perfect Christmassy landscape, and to top it off we occasionally had a reindeer running by…what more could you ask for.

The thing that got me the most was the complete silence, the only noises that you heard were the dogs paws pounding through the soft powder snow, the whooshing of the sled and the occasional shout if someone got distracted and fell off their sled – which happened quite a lot at the start of the trip! We got used to stopping and waiting for the person to right their sled  and then once they were up and ready and had managed to remove their snow anchor, we would trundle off again. We were only out for 25kms today which was our shortest run as we had to get back to the cabin before dark. I say cabin but what I really mean is an uninsulated traditional wooden tepee, with only a central log fire for heating. But before we could get settled in our ‘luxurious abode’ for the evening it was time to take care of the dogs. We had to unharness them, put them back in their kennels, prepare their food, clear up the poo in their kennels and then finally chop the wood for our fire that would keep us warm tonight.

We all piled into the tepee, as by this point the temperature had dropped to -25°, so it was a welcome relief to have a hot dinner waiting for us and a lit fire to warm our extremities. We all made a last minute dash for the loo which was a hut on the other side of the yard before being physically tucked into our 2 sleeping bags that we would have to use tonight. I am so glad that they provided an extra one, as I do remember waking up, I think it was with Rob’s snoring and feeling ice on my buff that was over my face for warmth. Brrrrr…

The next day after a good night sleep it was time to set off in to the wilderness and this time we weren’t coming back, well not for four days anyway! The next four days were a totally amazing experience as  we mushed over 200kms. We chopped fire wood, in fact Jamie was a demon when it came to chopping anything, however Kate did give him a run for his money when it came to chopping the dog meat. I have to say I was a pansy when it came to slopping the dog food into the bowls, so we helped each other out when there were tasks that other members of the group struggled with.

We were all gaining in confidence and even starting to run alongside our sleds to help the dogs out up the hills. I even thought it would be a good idea to hang off the back of the sled whilst trying to get a good shot of Nick’s dogs and promptly ended up face down being dragged through the snow whilst desperately trying to put the brake down. I did get the shot so it was well worth it!

Our evenings in the cabins were spent talking about what we had seen during the day and trying to outdo each other with the highlights of the day. This was until Barry came up with a corker of a story which included a flying reindeer that he had encountered. At this point we all started looking around for the illegal substances he must have taken to concoct a story like this…”a flying reindeer”, we all said in unison! The story began as Barry came around a corner, there was a reindeer standing in his path and the only place for it to go was towards him… the next thing he knew it was sitting on his sled. Sitting may have been a bit of an exaggeration but I couldn’t figure out when I came round the very same bend there was a very dazed and confused reindeer trying to figure out what had just happened! Barry was standing there, mouth ajar, also wondering what had just hit him…I think the answer in this case was a flying reindeer! Then next thing we know we are being called outside to have a look at one of the most breathtaking things I have ever seen, the natural phenomenon of the Northern lights. We had seen it the previous night, just faintly, but this was amazing and so much brighter than I had ever imagined. A real once in a life time experience. It didn’t matter that it was -25° outside – we didn’t feel the cold. I really didn’t want to go back inside but it was either that or freeze to death!

I could go on forever with other highlights – if you are sitting on the fence, what are you waiting for, sign up today! It is not the most physically demanding of our challenge portfolio but it tested me to my limits in other ways. The group of people on this trip were fabulous and it would be an absolute pleasure to travel with each and everyone of them again.

You can also find out more about the Dog Sledding Challenge by clicking here. If you have any questions on this challenge, please contact Kathryn, our Ops Manager on kathryn@charitychallenge.com. To see more information about the array of amazing challenges we have, please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all our challenge news, please subscribe to this blog. You can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

100 Year Anniversary of Captain Scott’s last diary entry

“Last entry. For God’s sake look after our people” –

100 years ago today Captain Robert Falcon Scott, with frost bitten fingers, wrote these final words as he, Edward Wilson and Henry Bowers were stranded in an Antarctic blizzard, just 11 miles away from One Ton Depot, which contained supplies that would have seen the whole team home safely.

Despite the fact that Scott’s ‘Terra Nova’ Expedition to the geographic south pole didn’t get there first  – to his dismay, Norwegian Roald Amundsen had already staked his nation’s flag there a couple of weeks earlier, Scott’s anguish is indicated in his diary: “The worst has happened”; “All the day dreams must go”; “Great God! This is an awful place” – The story of Captain Scott and his ill-fated journey home captured the world’s imagination and inspired generations of explorers and pioneers.

The infamous homeward journey began when, disappointed and dejected, Scott and his remaining companions turned away from the South Pole on January 19th 1912.  Trouble began almost immediately as Edgar Evans, one member of the 5 man final team, began to suffer severely as a result of a fall. He boldly struggled on for several more weeks, but on February 17th he fell once again, this time he did not get up. A month later, in one of the most self-less and noble acts recorded in history, Captain Lawrence Oates, spoke the now immortal line “I am just going outside and may be some time”, stepped out into the cold and was never seen again.

Despite Oate’s sacrifice, supplies were dwindling at a horrifying rate and on March 20th, Scott and his two remaining companions, Edward Wilson and Henry Bowers were caught up in a polar blizzard, leaving them stranded. The storm proved one obstacle too many, and the men were forced to come to terms with the fact that they were never going to make it home.

During these last few days, Scott recorded a series of notes for the people back home, among the most famous include his “Message To The Public”, where Scott made it clear that he did not regret the mission that he and his team chose to undertake;

“We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last … Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for.”

Scott is presumed to have died on 29 March 1912, on this very day 100 years ago. The positions of the bodies in the tent when it was discovered eight months later suggested that Scott was the last of the three to die.

His ambition and adventurous spirit, as well as the bravery in the face of crisis that Scott displayed in penning what he must have known to be the last thing he’ll ever write, has inspired generations of explorers, and cemented his place as a hero and inspirational spirit in popular culture!

Our Polar guide, Alan Chambers MBE heads off today to the top of the World as he leads a Charity Challenge group to the North Pole. Later this year, he will be retracing the journey that Captain Scott took just over 100 years ago making the first ever attempt to retrace and complete The Terra Nova route. Antarctica remains the same perilous wilderness that it was in Scott’s days. But thankfully the innovation and durability of equipment, storage facilities and protective clothing has improved sevenfold! So we can ensure that the ordeal and tragedy that met with the Terra Nova team will never again be repeated!

If you’d like to learn more about our South Pole Expedition, please click here. You can also click here to watch a short video of Alan Chambers and our expedition Medic Ed Coats talking about their upcoming challenge and the legacy of Captain Scott.

Snow in britain and snow abroad!

First the Northern lights made an elusive appearance over the skies of Britain, now it’s the turn of snow to coat the ground in an icy white carpet. It seems Britain’s weather is becoming more and more Norwegian!

This weekend saw the first cold blast of 2012, with much of Britain waking up on Sunday morning to the sight of snow. The big freeze brought up to six inches of snow, causing roads to close (leaving some motorists stranded overnight) , and causing havoc at many airports, with a third of all flights at Heathrow cancelled (and before you ask, we always monitor these situations closely in case any of our outgoing/incoming challenger flights are affected). In the wake of this, much of England is under a cold weather alert of level 3, which warns of “100% probability” of severe cold weather, icy conditions and heavy snow. According to the ‘MeteoGroup’, the weather division of the Press Association, the freeze is likely to continue into next week – meaning the snow isn’t planning on fading away anytime soon!

Britain has a love-hate relationship with snow. Black ice vs Snowmen! When the tiniest flakes of it appears, all work comes to a standstill as Britain collectively gathers round the window shouting “snow snow!”, but as soon as a couple of inches build up, it becomes a case of (to paraphrase the press) ‘Misery and turmoil as snow brings Britain to a standstill!’. It seems we like the idea of snow a lot more than the reality, but perhaps it is more apt to say that we love the vivid beauty and extremity of snow, but only when we’re prepared for it!

We can certainly vouch for that here at Charity Challenge, as our new ‘Snow and Ice’ challenge range has proved a great hit! This range includes the Dog Sledding Challenge and the Pyrenees Snow Shoe Challenge, along with the extreme North Pole and South Pole Challenges. There’s something particularly special about these challenges, with the their calm yet vivid landscapes and harsh unfamiliar environments, they really take you out of your comfort zone, and are both mentally and physically challenging! But for the same reason, these challenges are that much more exhilarating and rewarding, and making it through one of these challenges is an unrivalled and unforgettable experience!

To learn more about all these challenges and to keep up to date on all our challenge news, subscribe to this blog by clicking on the orange RSS button, you can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

Snowshoeing in the Pyrenees with Charity Challenge

An exciting prospect for 2013! Charity Challenge will be working with partner and team leader Kevin Albin in creating the ‘Pyrenees Snow Shoe Challenge’. A brand new and daring snowshoeing expedition!

Kevin has put a lot of work into this challenge, and is really looking forward to seeing how people take to snow-shoeing and the panoramic Pyrenees!

‘We chose this location because the Pyrenees tends to be less commercial, with stunningly beautiful scenery and amazing wildlife, which can often be seen as there are less people here than places such as the Alps. Where we operate, the area around Bagnees de Luchon, is ideal as it has good snowshoeing terrority and easy access into Spain

The expedition will be a three-day route in the high mountains of the Aiguestortes National Park, with accomodation in mountain huts. There will be a day of preparation before we leave where we shall learn about snowshoeing, the winter environment and avalanche assessments (which include training in the use of avalanche transceivers).

The area is remote and we shall be supporting each other while walking over frozen lakes and crossing high mountain cols. The area is also exceptional. There are few words that will describe the experience of being in these mountains with your companions, your snowshoes and your life in the rucksack on your back. That is until we make the mountain hut where we can count on some fine, filling meals and a warm bunk to sleep in. Then it’s out again the next day to experience the very best that Nature has to offer.

This trip is not for the faint hearted but equally if you are a reasonable summer walker with the keenness to push yourself a little with the duration of the day and some basic living conditions, then the rewards will be exceptional! And it’s not all hard work, you’ll be staying in a luxury Chambres d’hote for the first and last night, Le Chalet Chapeau Bleu, with fine cuisine and comfy beds. This is also the location for the amazing celebration meal at the end of the challenge!

The motivation for putting yourself through such a challenge? Raising money for causes you feel passionate about!”

To learn more about the ‘Pyrenees Snow Shoe Challenge’ and maybe even book your place, click here! To keep up to date on all our challenge news, subscribe to this blog by clicking on the orange RSS button, you can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.