Wednesday, 21 October 2009

More inspirational speaking

While I agree the name "inspirational speaker" can make one sound a bit conceited, I sincerely hope it's not the way I'm coming across. I've recently spoken to 60 odd Cambridge University Enterprisers delegates, which is a combination of graduates from different universities who haven't made what they hoped to out of their post-university lives. My job was to inspire them and inspire them I seemed to do. I'll post some testimonials soon to back this up but what made it for me was the queue of people who hung about after my talk to tell me how they had been affected by my experiences.

This is the best possible feedback I can ever receive. It's humbling as much as it is fulfilling to know that what I did can affect people in ways I never really imagined possible.

On October 31st I'll be speaking at the Macmillan Halloween Ball then on November 5th I'm speaking at the Entrepreneurs' Forum annual SME conference at the Hilton Hotel in Gateshead. Let me know if you'd like to be there. All money raised will go straight to Macmillan.

I'll also be posting some samples of my speaking work to the site shortly once I work out how to compress and edit the footage. So stay posted!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Inspirational Speaking

I was over the moon to be asked by Service Network to be an inspirational speaker at their recent Summer Social event in August. With over 130 attendees in the audience, I had to make sure I delivered.

I used the story of my North Pole expedition as a testimonial to deliver the message that anything in life is achieveable, providing you believe it to be so.

The audience feedback I received was fantastic - 75 per cent of the audience rated my talk "excellent", which was high praise indeed from such an influential and successful group. Service Network themselves said the following:

"An inspirational speaker, Michael Mitten engages his audience with experiences which capture the imagination and encourages positivity.

Michael is a natural spokesperson, encouraging the audience to think about their trials and tribulations from a different perspective. Showing that anything is possible when you have the determination to succeed, our event was greatly enhanced with his motivational stories and winning commentary."

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

I made it!!

I'm very proud to announce that I reached True North - the geographic North Pole - at 1530 BST on April 8th 2009.

Here's the moment I made it captured on film by Doug.

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This was without question the toughest challenge of my life. It was also the most rewarding, enriching and profoundly surreal experience I guess I'll ever have the privilege to enjoy. I'm now focussing on writing a book about about the expedition and how it changed me as a person to help inspire other ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

You can check out some audio dispatches by clicking through to iceaxe.tv. There's also loads of other photos and expedition info on the site.

Thanks so much to everyone who has sponsored and supported me throughout what has been an amazing journey which took up every spare minute I had for the last 5 months. I'm truly grateful to Doug for leading me to the Pole and making sure I got there and back in one piece. It was a pleasure to get to know and I wish you every success in the future.

There are plans in the pipeline to take the project further and keep pushing to raise £50,000 for Macmillan.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Last night on dry land

So, here I am. My last night on dry land. My god, this has come out of nowhere. It seems like only 5 minutes ago that I seconded Ollie Reeve to train me back in December. Since then, in only 4 months, I've got engaged, trained so hard I collapsed, raised almost £13k for Macmillan and arrived here, at Longyerabyen, Norway, poised to fly onto the ice and embark on the expedition of a lifetime.

Everything I've ever done in my life so far has brought me to this day, to this point, about to embarque on the adventure of a lifetime in memory of my Dad. All that's ever gone into my body, my mind and soul is about to be laid bare over the next ten days or so. I'll learn more about myself than ever before and find out if I do have what it takes to join a unique group of less than 500 people who have ever achieved what I'm attempting.

I feel like I'm staring over the edge of a precipice that I know I've got to descend. The nerves are playing hell with me tonight. Butterflies wouldn't cut it - it's more like there's a swarm of pterodactyls ripping up my stomach. That said, I'm countering my irrational fears with sensible risk management strategy: I keep reminding myself I'm going with the best guide in the world. We have all we can possibly take with us in sleds behind us. We have contact with the outside world. And we have a rifle that I don't know how to fire yet to tackle any over zealous Polar Bears. I'm sure we'll be fine

So, this is my last post before I go. We'll be updating Doug's website from the ice this is http://expeditions.iceaxe.tv/expeditions/true-north/

We'll be sending a voice note and pictures each day so please stay tuned to iceaxetv.com to keep in check with how we get on.

Video Diary 29/3 - 16 hours to go

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Monday, 23 March 2009

BBC Look North to cover the expedition daily

Thanks so much to BBC Look North who have teamed up with True North to cover the expedition before, during and after. You'll be able to see regular images and voice updates on Look North (weekdays on BBC1 1830) and online, either here on this blog or on another linked website. We may be able to send through some video footage as well but it depends on connection strength. It is pretty remote up there...

Here's the first installment of coverage from Friday night (20th March), edited courtesy of Shenton Creative.


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One week to go...yes, I'm a bit nervous!

Its been a while since I last updated and it was a month to go before the off then. How fast 3 weeks disappear. As I type I have litterally 1 week until I take off from Newcastle airport, destination: Longyearbyen, Svalbard, which is an island archipelago right in the Arctic Circle.

There's so much to do in this last week. Final training, although I've had a really bad cold for the last 10 days that's not helping me do much. I did have a few beers on Satuday night so I don't think that helped much. I will be fit and ready to go next Monday.

I have my skis now and almost all my gear. I'll get my hands on my sledge tomorrow. It's such an exciting time but I'm nervous as hell about stepping out of the Russian crago plane and into the frozen unknown of the Arctic ocean on April 2nd.

Fundraising is picking up pace again so I'm chuffed to have raised over £11 grand now. If you haven't yet donated, please do so. Every penny will help spur me on, and I will need all the help I can get. I'm going to print out the whole list of messages from people who have sponsored me and take along it to keep me motivated. I know there's going to times when I find it tough so I'll read all the messages of support to spur me on.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Only 4 weeks to go....

It all of a sudden seems very real. Last week I took time out from training to meet Doug Stoup (my guide and main chance of survival at the Pole) in Leeds. Doug gave me all my equipment and briefed me ont he dos and don'ts of Polar exploration. It was as though having something tangible to hold and feel set the realisation clearly in my mind about what I'm undertaking. I'm so excited about seeing first hand the beauty of the Arctic wilderness, but I'm crapping myself about frostbite, falling through the ice and the shear remoteness of where I'm going.

So, with 4 weeks left before the off I'm going to be working hard to galvanise people into supporting the expedition. If you are reading this and haven't yet got round to sponsoring me - please click here to donate. Justgiving is totally secure but if you are worried about internet theft then you can donate by sending me a cheque or make a cash donation. I can even manage to take a credit/debit card, so there really is no excuse. Unless you are absolutely destitute.

One inspiring gesture tonight came from a woman I met on the beach while I was plodding along, fully laden, pulling my sledge. This lady came over to ask what I was training for and actually repeated the justgiving address 6 times so she could make a donation when she got home. And that from a complete stranger. Then there's the likes of my customers Steve and Mike who are doing a 10K run and donating all the proceeds to True North. Both are true gentlemen to the core. It's gestures like this that remind me why I'm putting myself through all this grief.

So, please keep telling eveyone about what I'm doing. Donate, help out and think about how you can do something extraordinary for charity. That's what it's all about.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

True Inspiration from an old mate

I had a mate from school emailed me today saying he'd very sadly lost his Dad to cancer on Monday and it brought back to me why I'm doing this.

Losing a loved one or a family member to cancer is horrific. The pain and emptiness is intense and never leaves you completely. It took me a long time to get over the initial shock of losing my Dad, although the deep pain will never leave me. I found strength in being grateful for the fact he'd been my Dad, that I'd had the pleasure to know him as my best mate as well as my Dad. That said, grief affects everyone differently and to varying degrees. I was in the depths of despair for a long time and it took something special in my life to pull me out of it. Being grateful for the time I was lucky enough to have shared with him has been critical to making sure he didn't die in vain.

My mate's wounds are still fresh and I feel for him immensely. I just hope he can find the strength to stay positive and focus on the good things that life offers. Death is a part of life. We only get one crack at it and it's short relative to the history of time.

This is the reason I'm going on this expedition: I want to make sure my Dad didn't die in vain and that I remember him in making this attempt on the North Pole to raise much needed funds for Macmillan. If, on one special day, a son or daughter I may never have met, don't lose their father too early to cancer because of what I've done, my journey will be a victory. You can be part of that dream by donating to my cause because we need financial support to continue Macmillan's amazing work.

So please give all you can by clicking here or on the tracker at the side of the page.

Together we can make that one very special day day happen.

ITV News footage of True North expedition

I've now got my hands on the ITV News footage that I couldn't work out how to link from youtube, so da da da...here it is! Thanks once again to Mr Davy Shenton from Shenton Creative for his kind services editing the footage, and to ITV News for supporting the expedition. It's all sincerely appreciated.

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We're about to hit the £3500 mark for Macmillan sponsorship and have a few surprises up me sleve for attracting much more. If you are reading this, please send the story on to your friends, family, contacts, customers and suppliers (if you have them!!) - anyone who you think will be inspired enough to donate. All we need to do is get one pound from 50,000 people and we're there! Please help! I'll be eternally grateful. And, enjoy the footage!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

TV, radio and press pick up story


Due to a brilliant contribution by PR firm Gardiner Richardson the True North expedition has been featured heavily in the North East media this week. You can check out recent ITV News footage on youtube by clicking here.

A massive and sincere thanks goes to Kathernie Shenton specifically for doing the hard yards and to the Gardiner Richardson team for supporting True North by running the campaign for me. We've raised the profile massively so its been a resounding success.

Training update


Christ! This is getting tough. My 7am gym sessions with my trainer Ollie Reeve have stepped up in intensity and are really challenging now. They only last an hour but after two harsh beastings on consecutive mornings, I'm flagging. I had to sit down for half an hour this morning just to stop sweating before I could go to work accompanied by at least a shred of dignity.

Ollie's the man who has devised my training programme, contrary to some unfortunate misinformation in the recent press and TV coverage (which was probably my fault - sorry mate.) This guy has gone to extreme lengths researching the best, most effective, training methods to ensure I'm in prime condition when I leave. He's an unrelenting taskmaster. Which is complimentary compared to what I called him this morning after he lied to make me work harder. He said I was within a whisker of nailing my best time ever for a circuit. Somehow, I managed to convince my brain I could do it, to which my body responded and I beat my time. By about 10 seconds, which was brilliant. Then it dawned on me that Ollie had lied to me. The bastard! But what a sense of achievement I got from it along with the realisation that I had more in the tank.

It's things like this I need help with. I need to be pushed to the extremes of physical exhaustion so I know when I'm on the ice, feeling like I want to quit, that deep down within the pits of my soul I've still got fuel reserves to call upon. When your body starts burning fat you know about it because you reach exhaustion pretty quickly. I'm due to lose up to 21lbs throughout the trip so I need to get used to working through the fatigue and the pain. I just keep telling myself I knew this wasn't going to be easy. My concern is I have no idea just how tough it's going to be.

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Tyne North Training sponsor expedition


Tyne North Training (TNT) have agreed a sponsorship deal with me for the trip. This is a fantastic joint opportunity to help get me to the North Pole. As a former TNT apprentice engineer I'll be acting as an ambassador for the organisation to motivate and inspire other ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things.

My Dad, Ron Mitten, sat on the TNT Executive Board, so I'm over the moon that they have decided to support the cause by becoming my main sponsor. I'm sure Ronnie will be toasting them with a glass of single malt from above!

I still need to raise a significant sum to fund the trip, aside from the £50,000 target that needs to go to Macmillan - not to subside the trip - so if anyone reading this blog is interesting in becoming a corporate sponsor, please contact me.

It looks like we have significant media interest in the expedition. We've already generated coverage in The Evening Chronicle and on bdaily. Click here to read the arrticle.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Well done Brian for South Pole success


Brian Douds has been one of my main inspirations in attmpting this challenge. Brian approached me to sponsor his succesful North Pole attempt in 2007, making me believe that something like this was possible.

He recently returned from his successful South Pole expedition making him one of the youngest Britons ever to reach both Poles. This is no small achievement and is further inspiration to me that this kind of thing is actually possible.

Read about Brian's extraordinary achievement by clicking here.

Knowing how hard I'm working to be both mentally and physically capable of hauling a sled across the frozen ocean, I have a serious amount of respect for what Brian has achieved and take my hat off to him.

Well done to Brian. I hope, come the end of April, I can say I've achieved half as much as he has.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Alpine training and the odd glass of wine


The week in Alpe D'Huez has been great. Lots of hard skiing followed by the odd glass of wine. That said, yesterday I taught myself to (inefficiently) cross country ski. My first outing was a success and I covered about 7- or 8-km in total and climbed about 1000ft in one hour-long blast after lunch, I'm glad to say without barfing!

It's safe to say I have developed a new found respect for cross country skiers. This is hard graft, especially climbing. Surprisingly, going downhill is much tougher because you only have the front of your foot strapped to the ski and no stiff boots preventing you from falling backwards. So I had some pretty spectacular comedy falls, unfortunately these occurred where loads of people were watching and subsequently pissed themselves laughing at me.


Friday, 9 January 2009

£1000 milestone reached on 9.1.09!!

This may be considered a minor step forward in the grander (fifty grand) scheme of things. I feel milestones are to be celebrated and this is a brilliant one we've reached. Only £49 grand more to go!

Thanks to everyone that has sponsored me thus far.
I feel a special mention should go to everyone that's helping me to raise money and awareness. I have been blown away by the support I've received from so many people - some of whom I've never met before. There's the team at Gardiner Richardson in Newecastle who are putting together a national PR campaign for free. Bruno Brunning in London raffling off his vintage (and authentic) Cure T-Shirts. Dave Shenton from Shenton Creative for doing all sorts of brilliant things above and beyond the call of duty. All my family and friends for their efforts. And there's Dorcas, for being there for me and for being absolutely mint. Thanks sincerely to you all. It will be you lot who have sponsored and supported me that will give me the will and motivation to get to the Pole.

I'm off mountain and altitude training (er, skiing) for a week where I'm hoping to learn cross country and Telemart skiing so I know what I'm doing when I start out on the ice in early April. I'll be pushing myself really hard while I'm away because the toughest training will start when I get back, building my stamina up so I'm capable of pulling a sled for up to 12 hours a day. That said, I'm still going to have a few beers.

What It's All About

A few people have been asking me about the nitty gritty of the expedition - what will actually happen on the ice? How will I get back? How will I answer Nature's calls?

So, below is a guide to extreme Polar exploration and a sample of what a typical day is going to look like, courtesy of Doug Stoup, expedition leader, who's achievements ou can check out here:

When & How

Departure from Longyearbyen (in Svalbard - off the northern tip of Norway) will be in the morning. The plane will be a Russian Antonov 74. This is a short-runway jet with a carrying capacity of around thirty people. We will land at "Borneo" (a drifting Russian ice-station set up in advance each year) situated at about 89 degrees North. Borneo is re-established each year by Russian staff from Khatanga in Siberia. Because thick, frozen leads are used for the runway, the position of Borneo varies from year to year. Three hours after leaving Longyearbyen we will land at Borneo. Time of arrival into Borneo and weather conditions permitting we plan to set out from the base that same day. This allows us to get out into the pack-ice and into our routines without further delay.

The final degree of latitude spans roughly 110 kilometres from the 89th parallel to the Geographic North Pole. The first couple of days will be heavy going. Gradually our bodies will acclimatize and we will adapt to the conditions and terrain and our speed and distance covered each day will increase.
Once we reach the pole, we will be picked up in a MI-8 helicopter. We will have a little over a week to reach the pole. Past expeditions show that this is adequate to cover the last degree on skies. However, as ice conditions vary from year to year, it is important to have a safety margin. We will probably have one day in hand before pick up, depending on when we reach the North Pole.

A Typical Day on the Ice

On departure from Borneo we will encounter light twenty-four hours a day with temperatures between -25° and -35°C. The landscape will be fascinating and ever-changing. As we navigate our way through leads and pack-ice, our surroundings will vary constantly and never become monotonous. The midnight sun, the pack-ice and the special quality of light I'm told will infect most people with the Polar Bug, a lifelong and incurable affliction.

Alarm will be set for 06.00. Lighting the stove is simple, but melting snow for water takes time at minus 30°C. We will take turns in preparing food and water. If it's not my turn to prepare food that day, I'll be able to have an extra hour's sleep in my sleeping bag before I need to worry about breakfast and filling the thermos flasks with water.

Packing up equipment and tents; gradually this will become routine, we will agree a time for departure and each tent will manage its time accordingly. It actually takes two and a half to three hours from “wake up" to the moment when we're standing in front of our sleds and ready to go.

Skis on, ready to leave. The day consists of 8-10 hours on skis with regular breaks. every 1 hr 15 mins. We will be eating a calorie-rich diet throughout the day. One of the most important things is to keep on the move, not get cold, so consequently breaks are short. Even so, I'll have plenty of photo opportunities during the march, at each ice ridge and lead we have to force.

We will be moving across a frozen sea, with 4,000 meters of water beneath us. This is what makes the polar environment so unique. Throughout the day we will cross a mixture of ice fields, pack-ice, thin ice and leads. Pack-ice is the most common, it will slow us down and can be tough to negotiate, and for that reason the daily stages are shorter than would be normal in winter mountain travel further south.

Evening. The first task is to use one's experience to find a secure camping place, where the ice won't begin to pack or open up just where we have set up our camp. We shall be living in two- or three-man tents. Again, the snow-melting takes a long time, we need to melt about four litres per person per day, but it's always a joy to get into the tent in the evening and feel the warmth of the stove. Dinner is the high point of the day, consisting of good, rich expedition food that will warm us up. I'm told nothing is nicer than to go to sleep happy and replete after a good day's work in the pack-ice. With the sleeping bags we'll be using no one will feel cold. Most people will sleep soundly and awake next morning refreshed and ready for new challenges.

Our safe arrival at the Geographic North Pole is our goal. On arrival at the North Pole there will be time to celebrate, take photographs and contemplate where we are in the world and a thought for my Dad and all those amazing people who have helped me to get there. I'm sure there'll be a tear in my eye when I do get there. Hopefully my eyes won't freeze shut.

We will be picked up by helicopter from the North Pole and flown back to Borneo. Again weather and runway conditions permitting. There is a possibility, though slim that we will overnight at the North Pole. Departure to Longyearbyen from Borneo is generally in the evening. We will not be able to confirm this until after our arrival the North Pole.

Once airborne, two and a half hours later we'll be back in "civilization" at Longyearbyen.

So, it should be a doddle!!

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Training Seaham Beach 03.01.09










One month into training and I've got my mock-up sled (thanks to Brian Douds Snr for manufacturing it for me) out for its first test run on Seaham beach with my big brother David (for reference, he's the small one!) The sled itself might look a bit flimsy and light weight but, believe me, this thing weighs a ton when you're sprinting on sand dragging it behind you.

I've been working tirelessly since late November getting myself into good shape so I can really test myself physically and mentally in preparation for the challenge. I'm glad to say I'm lucky to be supported by some fantastic professionals, specifically my physical trainer Ollie Reeve who has tailor-made my 4 month fitness regime for tackling polar exploration.

Also Dr Emma Stevenson and the team at the Brain, Performance and Nutrition Research Centre, School of Psychology and Sports Sciences at University of Northumbria who are running a research study assessing how my body changes throughout the whole challenge until I get back.

Next week I'm off doing some Alpine training in the French Alps (well, I'm going skiing for a week) so hopefully that's going to get me out in the cold and challenge me still further.