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.