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Tue 31 Mar - Wed 15 Apr 2020

OVERVIEW

What to expect

ITINERARY

What you will do

COSTS

Ways to pay

ESSENTIAL INFO

All you need to know

Everything you need to know

This page provides you with a variety of information about the challenge that you might find useful.

Level of Difficulty

Money

Visa

Vaccinations

Flights

Insurance

Group Size

Leadership

Toilets

Climate

Conditions & the Impact on Logistics

Luggage Allowance & Valuables

Inclusions & Exclusions

Typical Day

Accommodation

Food & Drink

Clothing & Equipment

Phone & WiFi

Safety

Emergencies

Waiver

Training

Training Weekend

Level of Difficulty

The North Pole challenge is rated Extreme due to the harsh climate.

Money

On the ice you will not need or be able to spend money! At Barneo Ice Camp (which you could just be transitting through or could be staying overnight depending on weather and flight times), only Euros or US Dollars are accepted. For all other expenditure in Longyearbyen on Svalbard (Norway) we recommend that you take a credit card and a sufficient amount of cash in Norwegian Krone. Travellers’ cheques or credit cards should be accepted in the airports. You will have access to ATMs in Longyearbyen only.  You will need to bring money for meals, drinks and any unexpected delays in departing from Longyearbyen or returning eary to Longyearbyen, for accommodation and meals. We recommend you bring a credit card for this purpose.

Visa

There are no visa requirements for Norway, just a valid passport with six months to run from the end of the expedition.

Vaccinations

For up to date vaccination information please check the NHS ‘Fit for Travel’ website: http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/home.aspx. Although the Charity Challenge team are travel professionals, they are not medical experts and we would encourage you to visit your GP or travel nurse to discuss vaccination requirements.

Flights

We will advise of the routing and timings but typically, it will be from London Heathrow to Longyearbyen (the main settlement of Spitsbergen, Norway) via Oslo. Some flights overnight in Oslo, others connect through. You will then be flown on to the sea ice to Camp Barneo. From here you will be flown to the start of the challenge by helicopter. For more general flights questions, please refer to our main FAQS page.

Insurance

It is a condition of booking that you have a suitable travel insurance policy whilst participating on the challenge. We have a special policy which covers among other things, medical (emergency, evacuation and repatriation) arrangements, cancellation and curtailment of the challenge, and more specifically for the adventurous activities undertaken on this challenge. If you have your own travel insurance policy, you must ensure that it provides at least the same level of cover as our recommended policy, including protecting the charity in the event of your cancellation 56 days or less prior to departure. If you choose not to purchase our recommended policy when you book we will send you a disclaimer which you should complete and return. We can provide a policy which is just for medical cover, or one that includes up to £20,000 of cancellation cover too.

For more general travel insurance questions, please refer to our main FAQs page.

Group Size

The challenge requires a minimum of 5 participants in order to run and a maximum of approximately 10 participants, due to the remote nature of the challenge.

Leadership

Depending on the size of the group you will be accompanied by either one or two highly experienced polar guides. They will be ultimately responsible for the running of the itinerary and the safety of your group. The itinerary is there as a guide and may change due to unusual weather patterns, the strength of the group, and so on. We will do our very best to keep to the set itinerary. However, we cannot be held responsible for any last minute changes that may occur. In all such circumstances, your challenge leader will have the final say.

Toilets

In Longyearbyen there are good washing and toilet facilities and at the Barneo Ice Camp there are porta-cabin toilets. On the main challenge there are no facilities and you should pack a ‘pee bottle’ for the tent at night and take plenty of toilet paper and anti-bacterial hand gel (NB: wet wipes freeze).

Climate

The North Pole is substantially warmer than the South Pole because it lies at sea level in the middle of an ocean (which acts as a reservoir of heat), rather than at altitude on a continental land mass. Winter temperatures at the North Pole can range from about −40 to 10 °C (−40 to 50 °F), averaging around −31 °C (−24 °F). The sea ice at the North Pole is typically around 2 to 3 m (6ft 7in to 9ft 10in) thick, although ice thickness, its spatial extent, and the fraction of open water within the ice pack can vary rapidly and profoundly in response to weather and climate.

Conditions & the Impact on Logistics

The Arctic Ocean is one of the most inhospitable regions on our planet. Logistics problems are enormous; the weather ferocious and unpredictable, ice condition is unstable. Distances are immense, facilities scarce. Safety and self-sufficiency are the paramount rules. We acknowledge and respect this. It is our obligation to warn you that everyone attempting to function in this extreme environment, are at the mercy of forces more powerful than any of us. Despite the expected period of calm dry weather, windstorms and blizzards as well as changes of the ice condition are a major threat to flights and groups en-route. Delays of days must be anticipated. Changes and amendments may apply to the programme, depending on the weather, ice or other conditions. It is important to consider possible delays or alterations, and accept them with patience. We will do our very best to keep to the general itinerary; however we cannot be held responsible for any last minute changes that might occur and we fully expect such changes to take place. In all such circumstances, your challenge leader will have the final say.
All of the above means that even before the ski challenge itself begins, there can be major delays and changes to the programme. Once on the ice, our progress will depend on the weather conditions, the physical state of the group, whether the ice is flat or broken up, whether we encounter any leads (breaks in the ice) or encounter polar bears. There are so many variables that you absolutely must be prepared for any changes and delays that might occur. Weather can also delay our flight home, or our return from the ice cap may be delayed.

Luggage Allowance & Valuables

As no formal clothes are needed, luggage should be kept to the absolute minimum – details of what to pack are provided in your kit list and this is very detailed and specific to the harsh climate you will be going into. The allowance with SAS Airlines is 1 carry-on bag of 8kgs and 1 hold bag of 23kgs. You may be asked to take out extra bags for taking out group equipment and food but we will cover the costs of any extra luggage allowance. While we will do everything to provide adequate safety for the group and security for your possessions, the general rule is that if you don’t need it, don’t bring it. This includes jewellery, necklaces, rings and even watches. Your main luggage should not contain valuables and items not required on the challenge. These may be left in storage in Longyearbyen to be returned to you once you have returned from the Pole.

Inclusions & Exclusions

This price includes: the training weekend on Dartmoor, First Aid qualified polar guide and all the expedition costs

In addition to the Expedition Costs you should consider the following costs:

  • Drinks and any extra food and accommodation necessitated by flight delays, and any activities not mentioned in the itinerary.
  • Personal spending money
  • Travel to and from UK airports.
  • Travel insurance, which is currently £1952 including cancellation cover of up to £20,000 or just medical cover for £223.
  • In addition, if you need to call out a helicopter on the ice cap to take you back to Barneo for reasons unrelated to injury or illness (i.e. you are not prepared for the challenge or just want to stop), you will have to cover the costs of the helicopter which is calculated depending on flying time, the position of Barneo relative to where you are. The cost may vary from 6,000 to 25,000 Euros.

Typical Day

Its very difficult to give a typical day as it will be heavily dependent on the weather and conditions, but a rough guide, you will wake up early, collect snow, melt snow, boil water and make breakfast and warm up. You will then organise yourself and get your kit sorted for the day. The less you need to do once you have started skiing the better so preparation is key. You will fill your water bottles and flasks and get your snack food ready. Then the task of breaking down camp begins. Once the tents are down and packed on to your sledges, you will need to start walking/skiing/sledge hauling, to keep warm and progress further north! You will stop every hour or so to have some water and a snack. You’ll check on each other and then continue for another hour. This will continue for around 8-9 hours but could be more if required. Your leader will dictate the speed and distance to be covered. On some days this could be smooth going on others you could spend hours just trying to negotiate an open lead. When your leader advises you will stop and pitch tents, and start the evening routine. Collecting snow, melting snow, boiling water and making your freeze dried dinner. Keeping warm and dry is key. After a good night’s rest, the whole process begins again.

Accommodation

The first few nights in Longyearbyen will be spent in a simple guesthouse on the edge of town, conveniently near to your ice-training area. At the Barneo Ice Camp, should you spend a night there, there are heated ‘dormitory tents’ and a heated mess tent. On the main challenge you will be camping on the ice in three person tunnel tents. On your return to Longyearbyen you will stay in one of the town’s top hotels. Please note that flights to and from Longyearbyen/Barneo can be changed at a moment’s notice, requiring you to stay an extra night or in some cases, multiple additional nights in the town. If this were to occur we would try and book hotel accommodation, although during the month of April when most hotels are fully booked it may not be possible to find alternatives at short notice. In such cases, we may pitch the tents or as a last resort, you may have to sleep in a communal area of one of the hotels. If you are travelling with a friend or partner who you wish to share with please ensure that you note this where appropriate when booking or email challenges@charitychallenge.com.

Food & Drink

Food in the Longyearbyen restaurants is good, although vegetarian options are limited. Remember that all provisions have to be flown to Spitsbergen from mainland Norway. On the ice freeze-dried food will be cooked by the challenge members and guides. Please let Charity Challenge know prior to departure if you have any specific dietary requirements or allergies.

Clothing & Equipment

Good quality, durable kit could mean the difference between a fantastic challenge experience and an uncomfortable one. For this challenge, we will provide all expedition kit except underclothing. With significant cold weather, keeping warm and dry is paramount. We will advise you and support you to ensure you are properly kitted out. A full kit list for this challenge can be found here.

Phone & WiFi

Most of the accommodation you are in will have limited WiFi which you will be able to use, but please do not rely upon this. You will not have any phone signal once you leave Longyearbyen. We will have a satellite phone with us for emergencies but you may wish to purchase or hire a personal satellite phone. 

Safety

Charity Challenge considers the safety of all of our participants and staff to be a top priority, and as such we have set up Challenge Safe, one of the most advanced and thorough safety management systems in the industry. Challenge Safe formalises our ethos when it comes to safety, and brings together the procedures and risk management strategies that we use to audit all aspects of our challenges, from vehicles to accommodation to the challenge activity itself. Your welfare is absolutely paramount!

In terms of your North Pole challenge, there are a couple of important points that you should be aware of:

  • The Arctic Ocean is one of the most inhospitable regions on our planet.
  • Distances are immense, and facilities scarce.
  • Logistics problems are enormous; the weather ferocious and unpredictable, and the ice condition is unstable. Even before the ski challenge itself begins, there can be major delays and changes to the programme.
  • Once on the ice, our progress will depend on the weather conditions, the physical state of the group, whether the ice is flat or broken up, whether we encounter any leads (breaks in the ice) or encounter polar bears.
  • Despite the expected period of calm dry weather, windstorms and blizzards as well as changes to the ice condition are a major threat to flights and groups en-route.
  • It is important to consider possible delays or alterations, and accept them with patience.
  • The challenge area is very remote and rescue can only really be implemented if helicopters can fly which is heavily dependent on the weather.
  • Temperatures can go as low as –40 degrees centigrade and if you do not look after yourself, frostbite is a possible side effect.

Emergencies

The event is not run as a race and there will be a discrepancy in people’s speed on the ice and capabilities in camp. This is allowed for. In the unlikely event that rescue from the ice is required, this will be carried out by satellite phone call to the Barneo Ice Camp for helicopter rescue. A doctor is available in Barneo and quality medical services including hospital are available when back at Longyearbyen.

Waiver

Please note that you will be asked by the team from Camp Barneo to sign a liability waiver before boarding their flight onto the ice to start your challenge. If the waiver is not signed, you will not be allowed to fly to Camp Barneo and as such not participate in the trek.

Training

Training and a high level of fitness are definitely required. A full fitness training programme is included within the challenge cost and more will be explained during the training weekend. You will be skiing and sledge hauling for around 8 hours a day and still have lots of physical work to do in setting up and breaking down the camp. We will provide a training guide but essentially you should improve your cardio vascular ability and practice pulling a tyre with a harness to simulate the actions and work the muscles that you will be using on the challenge. You do not need to be an expert skier but some confidence on skis will of course help! In your account area you will find more comprehensive Fitness Training Notes.

Training Weekend

Our challenge includes an induction and training weekend where you’ll be sized for all thermal and polar clothing, Arctic boots, skis and sledge harnesses. You’ll leave the training weekend with your personal harness and the knowledge to empower you to prepare for the challenge ahead. To simulate the motion of pulling a sledge, we’ll drag a 4x4 car tyre on uneven ground using the harness.

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ATOL protected

We hold an Air Travel Organiser's Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. Our ATOL number is 6546. Many of the flight-inclusive challenges on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. This ATOL protection only covers challenges that include flights booked by Charity Challenge and that originate in the UK. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOLcertificate

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