The Glass Half Full

Written by Filip Kamycki 
By the time of the training weekend I was already well into my research into the things I might need and what to expect. Armed with the biggest fattest and reddest down jacket I could find I felt ready for the adventure. Or so I thought.

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Following the training I have gotten back into the old routine of working, sleeping and eating with some training mixed in. It is absolutely amazing how quick the time between the training and sitting on an aeroplane comes around. Staying focused on the training is a little tricky but by far the best thing you can do to help yourself later on as you walk uphill very slowly – all too aware of the presence of the pulk behind you.

 

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As we got off the train and offloaded our pulks, much to the amusement of the Norwegian population, I got a sudden realisation that I’m about to embark on a week-long crossing on the arctic. This wasn’t a surprise but it only just sank in. It felt pretty cool. Having done the administrative tasks of repacking our trusty sleds off we went towards the white horizon.

The experience of pulling a pulk ‘into the white’ is a funky one – if, like me, you have not done this before, you simply put one foot in front of the other (and there is an art to it if wearing snowshoes) pondering what to expect. As you plod along you get to (try at least) enjoy the scenic views of the Hardangervidda. Having been to Spain, Poland, Italy and India in the last year I was surprised at the beauty of the place. The views, unlike all the others mentioned above, would look exactly the same on a black and white photograph as they would in colour but remain incredibly vivid. As a self-confessed views-connoisseur I will happily give Hardangervidda 9/10. It’s beautiful.

 

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It would be a lie if I said I found the first two days easy. New to it all I struggled grasping the concept that each day has a beginning, duration and the end.  What I mean by that is as the day went on I was unable to see the end of ‘suffer fest’ that pulling a pulk was and it has definitely been noticed that the plateau was a lot more ‘bumpy’ than expected. Looking back at it, I put these feelings down quite simply to inexperience. When melting snow I came to a sudden realisation that it isn’t the plateau that is wearing me down but I’m allowing myself to wear myself down. As I was sat there filling my diary I decided to change a few things. These were:

1. Wear my wrist warmers.
2. Keep snacks on tap.
3. Use the flask for holding hot water during the day, not just to save time in the morning for breakfast.
4. Drink more.
5. Eat more.
6. Be a little more efficient with ‘own time’ – if melting snow, rather than watching water boil make the most of the time and read, write and hum to sublime.
7. Do not sit down when feeling tired later in the day until the day is over.

These seven seemingly little things made the glass half full again. The mother of all hot-aches decided to leave me alone once the wrist warmers were on.  The front pocket of my salopettes was loaded with the snacks from the ration packs every day to make sure I can snack whenever I want and chocolate is not teeth-breakingly tough thanks to  the ‘fire within’. Every longer break was accompanied by a hot drink and the free time was spent either resting or on doing things which I genuinely enjoy doing amongst the other necessities. Man it made a difference! The following days were still tough and challenging, but it was embraceable and seriously good fun. My mind started wandering and soon enough I was attempting to interpret the ground as well as reminiscing over the ups and downs of the last 22 years. Trips like these allow me to reinforce my view that all I want is a happy, simple life and more expeditions.

 

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It is extremely satisfying to experience the constant improvement in basic things such as putting the tent up, working the stove or mastering the technique of staying comfortable in a place which does not lend itself to it. As silly as it sounds, these things really do provide a great deal of joy – as I hope you have/will get to find out J. The rest of the week pretty much continued to bring a great deal of challenge and joy. I shall leave the last day as a surprise – but other than getting your head into gear at the beginning it is definitely the biggest challenge.

When you (almost) finish you will reach a ski-skating track which will lead you to your pick up spot and then to the hostel where you will have a chance to take a shower for the first time in a little while. Throughout the time I was in the similar ‘deer in the headlights’ state I was in right at the beginning of the trip. One thing I realised pretty soon was that I learnt loads and it was absolutely worth it.

Two weeks after:

Being taken from the expedition bubble and thrown back into working life is a brutal experience, ideally, if you can, get some rest, if you can’t – try anyway. Often as I sat in the office and looked outside the window my mind seemed to wander to the ‘good old times’ where life was simple and routines predictable. Luckily enough I already have a big adventure to look forward to (Elbrus this June) and many smaller ones to be had in the Lake District before that. One thing about these trips is that they definitely build appetite.

 

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