Well Chris has returned - he managed the Arctic trek fine (although apparently a team mate suffered frostbite) but couldn't do the snowmen as apparently ultra cold snow doesn't stick together! Here is his updater and a few pics from the saga:
"Well that was an experience!
What it was: 5days trekking/ cross country skiing over 100k in the Arctic circle (Swedish Lapland). Days were spent spending between 7 and 9hours a days pulling a 40kg pulk (sledge) with a frozen beard, eating lots of calories and the occasional mild white out. Whilst nights were spent setting up camp, more eating and trying to sleep as the temperature dropped to -28c.
Who was there: - The expedition leads had both lead expeditions to the north pole and 1 had been to the south pole multiple times. Both also set up the Montane Spine race in the UK, which is a 425km race along the Pennie Way in winter over 7days. - 2 people were training for a world record attempt to cross Lake Baikal in Siberia. Which is ~650k in 12 to 20 days (weather dependant). - Someone else was training for a south pole attempt later this year - Someone who used to own an Israeli security company that advised militaries. (He now works for a school) - 1 of the very few female finishers of the Montane Spine race - Someone else had done the Spine race and Marathon des Sables (one of the toughest ultramarathons in the world), 250km in 6 days in the desert. I'll stop now, but its safe to say I was definitely out of my comfort zone among these guys! The biggest take away in regard to the other people on the expedition is just how friendly and inspiring everyone was.
Things I learnt: - Slow and steady wins the race. If something is hard I normally want to just get my head down and get it over with as fast as possible. It turns out for lots of technical as well as physical reasons this isn't the best approach… so instead we have a routine of walk for an hour then stop for a few mins to take on water and snacks and then get walking again before you get cold. We repeated this for ~7hours every day until it was time to stop for the day and start again the next day.
- It's too cold to make snowmen!!!! The snow doesn’t stick together and is more like dust. - Its dry, most of the moisture we have to protect against is sweat and condensation from breath. - Everything freezes!… so if you use your pee bottle (yep we each had a bottle to wee in at night) you have to leave it in your sleeping bag with you otherwise it will freeze and you will have to melt it. Even my alcohol gel froze
- I love snacks. Whilst hard core explorers can train their body to process blocks of butter as food. I choose Haribo Tangtastics, nuts, dried fruit and breakfast bars… mostly tangtastics though!
- If you provide your body with the right fuel and stay positive, you will be surprised at how much it can put up with.
The main thing I learnt was just how beautiful the artic is! I would definitely go back (probably not skiing on an endurance trip though… give me a kite or snowmobile!)"