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Amanda Halliday's Arctic Diaries - Day 1

Published: 3rd May 2012 23:05

Amanda Halliday of Castle Donington chronicles her charity fundraising expedition to the Arctic Circle for AboutMyArea/DE74 in a series of diary entries.

On Monday 9th April 2012 Amanda set off on the challenge of a lifetime: to dog sled 250km in freezing conditions over a period of 6 days, caring for a team of 6 Alaskan Huskies along the way.

Led by a desire to raise funds for the Karen Clifford skin charity, Skcin, after Amanda's mum Shirley was disgnosed with skin cancer, she trained hard for 12 months in preparation for the harsh conditions ahead.

Amanda's story - Day 1

Amanda Halliday with two husky dogsAmanda Halliday with two of her team of Alaskan Huskies



Day 1 and I and my fellow mushers arrive in Tromso and the Villmarkssenter, home to some 300 Alaskan Huskies. Highly athletic dogs, they are deceivingly small and very lean. Sharing a kennel between two for shelter against the worst of the elements, and often choosing to sleep in the snow, they are built for a life of living and working in the cold. Very friendly creatures, we spent a happy half an hour walking amongst them, meeting and greeting before heading off for lunch in a tent with a roaring fire.

Alaskan Huskies kennelsAlaskan Huskies kennels


After hot sweet black coffee and chocolate cake, we were given instruction on our survival over the course of the next 6 days. Firstly we were shown how to erect our tents, our only shelter from the extreme conditions. Lightweight and extraordinarily flimsy looking, they were small and compact with just enough room for 2 people to sleep side by side, with a tiny porch area to squat in to cook (just room for one). Tent pegs were long wooden stakes which would not easily become lost in deep snow and the whole thing fitted into a tiny stuff bag no bigger than a standard sleeping bag. With instruction on how to dismantle the tent we were told that we would need to use the warmth of our gloveless hands to melt the ice in order to break down our tent poles - something I hadn't even considered.

That out of the way, we then were issued with two stoves. One a Trangia, which was used primarily for taking the chill off the air in the tent and was fuelled by meths, and the second a primus stove which ran on kerosene. Both terrifying things to use in a tent to my mind but I was fast learning that health and safety was entirely a different thing in the Arctic. After lessons in the "safe" use of both we were issued with our kit for the expedition. Salopettes, a parka, neck gaiter, huge mittens, windproof hat, snow goggles and the hugest snow boots along with our sleeping bag and mats both designed to withstand -25C.

Amanda Halliday (front row right side) with Arctic Challenge teamAmanda Halliday (front row right side) with Arctic Challenge team in full kit


Kit had to be at a minumum to keep the sled weight down - anything to help out the dogs - so we discarded anything surplus to our essential needs. A couple of changes of underwear, socks and thermals and the clothes we stood up in, and basic hygiene items were all deemed necessary. The rest of our belongings went into storage for the week we were out on the trail. The spare kit was packed on to the back of the trailer for transfer into the mountains the next day.

We tested the sleeping equipment on our first night, which was spent in a traditional Sami tent called a lavvo, something akin to a wigwam with an open fire in the centre. With reindeer skins preventing the cold from striking underneath, all twelve of us prepared for our first Arctic sleep. No pyjamas for us, we wriggled into our sleeping bags in our thermal underwear and giggled our way to sleep. With Arctic spring fast approaching, daylight came streaming through the chimney (a hole in the roof) at 4 in the morning. The raucous cry of crows followed by the baying of huskies was our early morning call to breakfast and challenge.

Lavvo campLavvo camp


Donations to Skcin can still be made at http://www.justgiving.com/dogsledlapland-hilda . Please note this expedition was entirely self funded and any donations made go directly to the charity.

Day 2 of Amanda Halliday's Arctic Challenge follows next week.

Related articles:

Amanda Halliday's Arctic Diaries - Day 7 - 20th June 2012

Amanda Halliday's Arctic Diaries - Day 6 - 7th June 2012

Amanda Halliday's Arctic Diaries - Day 5 - 30 May 2012

Amanda Halliday's Arctic Diaries - Day 4 - 26 May 2012

Amanda Halliday's Arctic Diaries - Day 3 - 15 May 2012

Amanda Halliday's Arctic Diaries - Day 2 - 11 May 2012

Amanda's Arctic Challenge Gets Underway - 10 April 2012

Amanda Halliday's Arctic Challenge Round One Update - 23 June 2011

On An Arctic Rollercoaster - 18 May 2011

Castle Donington Mum Faces Arctic Circle Expedition - 27 April 2011

 

 

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