Katie's Tales of the Arctic
Katie and Martin, the Dreams Come True Events Team, took on the challenge of a lifetime. Read Katie's story here.
Everything about this challenge excited me, the thought of putting my body through its extreme in surroundings I have never witnessed was a sell in but just to say I have been and walked around the Arctic Circle was also a once in a lifetime opportunity.
We booked up to go around 18 months before the challenge, the event excited me and I knew I could walk distance, I also knew I needed time to get mind body and soul invested into this! The fundraising target was a pretty high but achievable one and the way I wanted to do it was by hosting a charity ball so that was the first step I needed to take. We did that back in the Apriland raised £11k which was phenomenal, I was so thankful to friends and family who came and supported the event.
With the money raised the next challenge was organising the kit and getting fit! As I expected I left allot of the training until about 4 months before I left, that is because I am not someone who doesn’t prioritise fitness although I should. I have a hectic work life schedule so planning to do it abit closer to my leaving date suited me and with a month to go I was doing back to back walks on a Sat & Sun to fit in as many miles as possible doing 15 miles on the Sat and then 10 on the Sunday. Of course you cannot train for the temperature or how you will handle that but I thought if I can get distance and hills under my belt, I will be at least slightly fitter before I go, slightly!
With every piece of kit I needed either bought new or borrowed I found myself wrestling it into my suitcase and with a blink of the eye I was at London Heathrow checking in., low and behold the suitcase was dead on the 23kg we were allowed (This never happens)
We had a flight to Helsinki and then the last flight to Rovenimi where we would be sleeping for 2 nights before the trek, and we were met by the Breaking Strain team who are such a wonderful bunch.
Roveniemi was not what I expected, I thought it would be like a scene from Santa Claus the Movie but it was much more commercial then that but cool still. The temperature was around -8 so it wasn’t as cold at this point as others had had it but still chilling! The snow was so deep and really unusual as in it wasn’t wet, more like a powder, it was stunning to see it in vast quantities.
We headed out for dinner that night, unpacked abit and had an earlish night as the next day we were going through the kit and doing abit of a practice in the dreaded snow shoes!
Going through the kit I knew I had packed way too much, I had enough snacks packed for the whole team but still, you can never be prepared enough! I was so pleased that I had everything I needed especially as the kit list had been on my mind for months before, worrying if it was right or if I had what I needed. I did and more so tick tick!! I prepared and packed everything I needed into the two pulk bags that I would be carrying behind me on the pulk itself, they weighed in around 20kg so the reality of what we were about to do started to sink in as these bags were heavy, I had 4 litres of water I had to pull along also. The weight of the pulk is something you learn to get used to.
DAY ONE TREK-
I was so nervous as there had been such a build-up to this day but I was ready. We headed out to a beautiful scene of a frozen lake, the flat ground that I was expecting wasn’t flat, more rippling and the snow was up to my ankle! Pulling the pulk behind on small bumps from a bungee cord was tough, after 20 mins I was thinking how am I going to do this for 3 days but this is the day I later found out that you learn about your body and how it reacts to everything so after the first hour of walking I knew that my layers were not right and my gaiters were too tight and making changes as soon as your body stars to tell you to helps you to be ready to carry on .
I didn’t think about how heavy the pulk would be or even how noisy it was, it was like hearing constant crashing waves behind you. We walked 8k across the lake which was a great warm up and we went off the lake to the hills where residents live, the houses were amazing and the trees and snow scenes were exactly what I had wanted to witness. We stopped for lunch and were greeted by the breaking strain team Jo and Neil who were the guys who went ahead of us and made up the camp for us, they greeted us with a much needed hot soup and roll and a hill which would be our next move!!
It is a known fact that I am not a fan of hills so pulling the pulk up was a challenge, getting it down the other end was like leading a dog on a lead, the pulk took out my achillies more than once!! As much as I hate hills, the views from the top were so rewarding and worth every harsh breath and ache!
Once I had made it up the first hill the others were not really daunting just expected so I just got on with it, as we were at the tops of the hills the snow was up to our knees, it was mad, one wrong move off the trail and I was up to my waist in snow! It is safe to say I was the clumsiest on the trail, I fell over so many times.
Very thick snow meant “SNOW SHOES” Oh dear, the shoes from hell! They helped me walk in the snow yes but because you have to walk with a wider step and width, our groins and hips hurt. Physically this pushed all of us to the limit as we had these on for a long time.
After walking over the hill tops we came down and had to cut across the woods to get back to the Lake and head to camp. This part of the trail was fragile and untouched with a very narrow pathway, it was pretty dangerous but hilarious because most of us kept falling down holes!! What an experience, I didn’t realise I could do the splits!! Ouch! My hair and nostrils were frozen at this point! MAD!
The last part of the trail on day one we were in the dark and we had to trail 5k to camp along the lake again, we at this point had walked 8.5 hours up and down hills and were in pain but had to get head torch on, focused and think of the warm fire as our end goal. It felt like 500k but we made it and got to our tents, base layers off, sleeping bag in the tent, spork and cup ready and then sat by the camp fire for as long as we could trying to dry socks and clothes! The smoke was intense but it was so relaxing and rewarding to know we had done day 1!
DAY TWO- Practically no sleep last night in the frozen tent I believe it reached -15 last night and I was SO cold and I realised that that was because I had too many layers on which sounds mad, also we were camping on a frozen lake so you could feel the cold coming through the 2 matts I was sleeping on. I had to get up for a wee in the night which I had been dreading as anything you wish not to freeze, you have to sleep with so once you were in the bag you were in with your boots, phone, clothes!! Needing the loo was a nightmare and very surreal weeing on a lake but the sky was stunning and the air so clear!! Isla who was camping next to me made weird animal sounds in the her sleep which I kept thinking was a wolf or something which kept me away. It is funny what no sleep does to the mind ha-ha.
When I did get up that morning I was stressed to the max as was trying to wrestle with my sleeping bag and pack everything away, the bags were frozen everything was and I found getting organised at camp one of the hardest challenges.
The first part of the trail today was to make was it up a hill!! A big hill! Panic set in but the pace was really slow that I did it and it wasn’t as bad as I thought, weirdly I felt more prepared on day two and physically more warmed up. Stunning scenes surrounded us aswell as thicker snow so out came our friend the snow shoes from hell! I really enjoyed the company and the walk on this day, everyone was more relaxed, people were sledging down the slopes on their pulks and most were in good spirits, I was able to take in the scenes and just appreciate my surroundings, I guess I got used to it.
The last part of day 2 was to walk 5k up hill to camp which would be in the woods tonight, that was always on your mind in the last 5k, fire, camp a seat and food!! I somehow had signal and facetimed my Dad whilst walking up the hill, that got me through the last mile! Cheers Pops.
DAY THREE- What a great night we had last night around the camp fire drinking Shackleton and listening to life stories, everyone was on form It is safe to say I love camp life just not camping!! I somehow managed to burn my socks and melt my walking boots but if that was going to happen, it would always of been to me!!
The snow fall was heavy and throughout the night I could hear the snow falling from the tent, it sounded like someone was putting their finger along it so I was mentally messed up again thinking “ whose outside” so dramatic.
When we arose on Day 3 it was the happiest I had felt, I was packed and ready and felt that my trekking life was actually coming together, weirdly my body was programmed ready to take another beasting and mentally I wasn’t actually worried about the trail just that we were walking to the ICE Hotel where I could shower and use a normal toilet!!
And Day 3 definitely did not disappoint us with scenery, we could see across the hills and it was just stunning. This day was abit less sociable as the trail was single file but it gave me chance to reflect that I had nearly completed the Arctic Trek! I couldn’t believe it as had had a few people that doubted I would last a day!! The end was near, we all grouped together to walk into the ice hotel together through the finishing line, what a feeling!!! We all hugged celebrated and took our pulks off! It felt really weird stopping and coming into civilisation.
We were led to the igloos where we were staying and able to shower, best shower I have ever had!!
We completed the trek by having dinner in the ice hotel that evening, it was magical and although cold, a great way to end a wonderful experience with some great friends we had made.
Overall this was one of the best trips of my life, it was surreal, hard, challenging, picture perfect, fun, mad, , magical and most of all memorable.
I will never forget my time there and would recommend it to anyone that just wants to take themselves out of their comfort zone, out of reality and just live in a bubble for 6 days, it was all I imagined and more.