19 Apr Gareth Andrews – Polar Adventure Blog
I’ve known Joe for about 5 years now and we first met when I was training for a mountain ultra-marathon in the Nepalese Himalaya. I was raising funds for the Australian Himalayan Foundation, a charity that Joe has long been a supporter of. He became my strength and conditioning coach for the run and I was quickly drawn to his passion for the outdoors and everything adventure.
On my return from Nepal my sights turned to a life-long goal of trekking to the North Pole. It was to be a huge physical effort, 600km hauling a heavy sled across pack ice and Arctic Tundra. I considered myself very lucky to have worked with Joe the year before and there was no better person to get our team ready for the challenge. To find someone that has knowledge and experience of the world’s most extreme environments and with the knowledge of how to get physically prepared to face them is invaluable. So, for my team-mate (and brother-in-law) Rich Stephenson and I Joe designed a program that would make us strong enough to haul these heavy sleds and fit enough for the hours of trekking and skiing over the ice to the Pole.
In the newly opened Joe’s Garage he had us lifting, sprinting, jumping and pushing through a combination of strength and metabolic conditioning sessions. Most of our time however was spent out of the gym, dragging heavy tires for hours up and down the beach.
The polar regions have always held a special place in my imagination. I grew up with the stories of Scott, Shackleton, Amundsen and Nansen, incredible men and the fathers of polar exploration. When I was 12 a team came to my school and spoke about their recent expedition to the North Pole. It gave me the spark of imagination that I may one day join a team travelling to the Polar regions. Over the years my mind often returned to thoughts of the North Pole and finally after years of rugby and the completion of my medical degree I finally found my opportunity to go.
A journey to the North Pole is the essence of adventure. It is wild and beautiful and dangerous. There are no maps to tell you what to expect, the journey is essentially a blank canvas. The sea ice is constantly moving and shifting with winds and tides, creaking and groaning like it’s alive, and the weather can turn from pleasant to devastating in minutes. For two teams a mile apart on the ice at any time the journey can be very different, one team could have pressure ridges and a blizzard, the other flat ice and clear skies. Although it has been reached before, the Pole itself is different for every team that makes the journey.
On my return I immediately began thinking of how and when I might be able to return to the North – the magic of the Arctic had gripped me so strongly that I knew that I would spend my life returning to the frozen reaches of our planet. The Danes have a word for this polar attraction – ‘Polarhuller’ – describing the way the polar regions draw you back time after time.
So, not long after my return I started planning for an expedition to cross the Greenland Ice Cap. It is one of the famous polar journeys first completed in 1888 by Fridtjof Nansen in an epic journey of hardship and discovery.
On the 20th April 2016 myself and a team of 4 will attempt to cross the icy interior of Greenland from Ammassalik on the East Coast to Kangerlussuaq on the West Coast, a distance of 550kms.
Of course I’m working with Joe and the team at Joe’s Basecamp to prepare me for the rigours of the expedition. I’m back dragging tires, lifting weights and pushing heavy things. Over the coming weeks I plan to keep a regular blog on training, food, kit and more details of the expedition.