I am crossing Greenland on skis in May, pulling my sled to raise money for "Right To Play" and "Children in Crisis". These charities help children in the most traumatised regions of the world. I strongly believe that the world is a community and that children are our future. So for me, it is absolutely necessary that children all over the world acquire social skills, team spirit and an education so that they can respect themselves. I will face extreme cold, howling winds, fatigue and icy snow. I will have to carry everything I need on my sled and back. I will sleep in a tent in the middle of nowhere. I might even encounter a polar bear!! I am really super excited but terrified!! It is a minimum of 3 weeks so I think that my limits will be thoroughly tested.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

2 weeks on...

2 weeks on and the memories of the crossing that stay with me are the good and happy ones. The evenings in the tent, the rest day on Friday May 13th, waving the French flag on what we called the summit of the ice cap although we still seemed to be going up for another 10 days after it (...), interviewing Petter on the "sofa" (i.e. our sleeping bags on the sled...), Norwegian national day, the biltong and mashed potatoes, our outings in Tassilak, and many many more... 

I try to apply the lessons that I learnt on the ice to my everyday life, especially the ones about "thinking positive" and that "I have a choice". This trek has definitely made me closer to my friends and given me a lot of self-confidence. Where I endlessly hesitated before, now I am much more straightforward and trust my instinct more. I also learnt that what is perfect for me, can be far from perfect for someone else, therefore I should not let myself be affected so much by other people's opinions, as, at the end of the day, I am the one living my life. 

I feel really bad as every friend I meet is so full of praise and admiration, and thinks that what I have done is an unbelievable achievement. I don't see it that way. Of course it was very difficult, but the proof that it was feasible is that I did it. It is true that I am no professional athlete, might be older than most people who do this trek every year and had quasi no experience of nordic skiing. But I am also (hopefully) wiser, and much more honest and tougher with myself than when I was younger. I also have the time and the means to go to the gym and train. And, from a mother's perspective, to be able to do this trek while raising money to help other children to get education and team spirit was a great motivation and fulfilment. 

Hopefully I will find the time to write a book, and Petter will be able to do a movie about this expedition. My daughters want me to do the same for all my previous treks and challenges and have a sweet idea about doing it. I have my journals and love rereading them. What started as an yearly 10-day escape from my life as a housewife in London has turned into wonderful memories of walking in the desert, going up the great wall of China, dogsledding, crossing Greenland, mountaineering, rock-climbing, trekking in Corsica and I am sure that I am forgetting some. I am very fortunate to have been able to do this while at the same time helping disadvantaged children. 

But for me, the real stars are my wonderful friends and family. Because at the end of the day, they are the ones who give me support and sponsor me year after year, trusting me to find the right charities and allowing me to enjoy the challenges without guilt, making me and a lot of children very happy at the same time. 
So a big thanks and three cheers to all of you!!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Back in my London life

First let me really apologise to all of you who follow me on this blog for not giving any news for the last week, but going back to London was quite hectic and more difficult than I thought!!

I came back to London from Reykjavik as planned last Thursday evening, May 26th. We landed at 8pm and on my way back from the airport, I had the impression that I had landed in a tropical country!! London was SO green and the trees had so many leaves. After not having seen a tree (or at least not one with many leaves) for a month, it was a very strange feeling. The traffic looked diabolical and I was glad not to be driving (which for anyone who knows me is unthinkable...). I could not wait to see Nicholas and Christophe, but then again, their enthusiasm and exuberance was difficult to cope with in the evening as I had lived in such a calm and recluse world! I had so many things to tell them, but so did they!!

Back home, my renovation works on the house had started and the next day, the builders were there, and I had a meeting with the designers about fabrics, wall colours, etc... My mind was 1000s of kilometres away, but I forced myself to concentrate. After all, if I want to come back to a finished house in September, I can't afford to waste time. So I hope that all the decisions I took on the Friday morning are good ones... but then again, I had already pre-decided many things before leaving for Greenland, and I had loads of time while skiing to think about the project. The friend who is helping me is also really fantastic. She has lots of ideas and energy and is always within the budget!

As it was a long bank holiday weekend, I insisted to go to the country with the boys who were very reluctant at first. There have always a party to go to, some friends they have to see, etc.. But we left on Friday night with the dogs who I was so happy to have back again (they look in great shape and very happy. I am so lucky that Barry looks after them. If anyone needs a dog walker, he is the best and please ask me). Valerie came on Saturday and stayed until Sunday afternoon, and it was very nice. We talked a lot with Valerie about what I had gone through, my feelings and emotions, the lessons learnt, and the fact that I found it difficult that everybody wanted to talk to me and see me, and I needed some calm to regroup!! So as the weekend went along, I slowly re-entered my life and became a Mum and busy London housewife once again!! Since then I have seen many friends again, and I really enjoy it.

So what did I learn from this trip? Well I could write a whole book about it, but very briefly here are some points:

.  I should try to think positively as much as I can as it really does give energy. On the ice, if I let anything make me angry or think negatively, it did act like a brake. The sleds started to weigh a ton, and everything took more time. On the contrary, focusing about the positive and my goal, helped me to keep my spirit up and made things easier. (for example: one day, snow was building under one of my boots, making my ankle wobble, the snow was very warm and I had to constantly stop to scrape my half-skins, and to top it all, one of my sleds was tipping as it was badly loaded. I was fed up and almost exploded, but then, I thought: "what good will it do?". So I cleaned my boot, removed the skins, reloaded the sled, and life was good again. 

. Going back to happy and fond memories is a great way to give you a boost, make you happy, and make time go faster. Thinking about your loved ones and friends too. 

. I had always be quite cynical about life and people, but I realised that most people were very keen to help and support me. I just had to ask for help. So I have decided to be less shy and proud and ask for help next time I need it. I am not talking about asking for sponsorship money, but more like everyday life. I actually discovered the true value of friendship during this trip and I was and (am still) overwhelmed by how many people read this blog, send me messages while I was on the ice (although unfortunately I could not read them), and have since got in touch to congratulate. Thank you so much to all of you, you will never know how much you helped me.

. But the first lesson, must be the incredible power of the mind. I physically really reached rock-bottom on day 4, and thought that it was the end as I could not even contemplate to eat or drink without feeling sick. I was shivering non-stop, cold, and without energy. But then, seeing my guides concerned and trying to make me eat, made me realise that it was our expedition, and that what we started together, we had to finish together. And somehow, from somewhere deep deep down, I focused on this goal and found the physical strength to bounce back. So now I know that it is true that "when there is a will, there is a way!".

Arriving in Isortok in style behind a dog sled

Petter and Per-Thore
Most people urge me to write a book about this experience, and I might do this, but it will take me a while to do so. It is still very raw and I have to think about it more. I have so many memories, so many emotions to sort out. I am incredibly glad that I did this trip as it was very beneficiary for myself as well as the charities I chose. Should I have done this before? Maybe, but as one cannot rewrite history, it was probably the best time in my life to do it. But one thing is sure. I truly believe that this would be a hugely beneficiary gap year trip. As it dead flat, white and there is absolutely nothing to look at for 20 days, and that we always think about something, it is like a mental retreat. Very interesting! Although, I must admit that many days were spent fantasising about... food!! The dried-freeze rations tasted all the same in the end, and the last days, our ultimate treat was biltong with mashed potatoes!! So we talked endlessly about food, exchanged recipes, favourite restaurant names, etc... 

Thursday, 26 May 2011

In Iceland!

Hi Everybody,

Thank you so so much to all of you for your amazing support throughout my expedition and also for so many lovely messages congratulating me on successfully completing the crossing. It was an truly unforgettable adventure and although it was incredibly tough at times and I seriously questioned my sanity over embarking on such a project.... I am so glad I did it.

It taught me that if you put your mind to it, you can do anything you want. Somehow your body will find the physical resources to do it.

Many times I believed that I was at the end of my strength and could not go further. But then, one look at my 2 guides was enough to pull myself out of any negative thought. We were a team and I had to keep going because I also knew how much this meant for them. For example, when after the second evening that I did not touch my meal as I was so tired and I really reached rock-bottom, they turned around and told me that if we wanted to cross Greenland, I HAD to eat, I understood that this expedition was not only about myself and my goals, but that I was jeopardising their expedition too, and I could not do this to them. And right there and then, I had the full justification for supporting "Right to Play"!! Team spirit was my motivation, it made me find the strength and gave me the confidence I needed, and now we are three great friends!

It is also amazing how much thinking about happy lovely memories made the going easy and the hours go fast, and how negative thoughts or anger always slowed me down and brought self-doubt. And we had a lot of time to think, so I trained my mind to think positively. I thought about my lovely friends, their messages, music, letters, presents and sponsoring, and all the people reading this blog. I thought also about the great charities that I am helping and the wonderful work that they do with children. I thought about my family, my children, Klaus, my parents, my siblings, realising how their full support for this project had made it so much fun to plan and organise. Any of them could have easily spoilt my enthusiasm by giving me some bad conscience and make me feel irresponsible to be quasi unreachable for a month, but instead they encouraged me. And I cannot put into words how grateful I am to them and how much this means to me, because it gave me the possibility to do what I am passionate about, which is to help give some children in the world, a chance for a better and brighter future.

Re-reading this blog entry makes me realise that my re-entry into my "normal" life will be probably a bit difficult as I have so many thoughts and emotions to digest!! So please be patient with me! I will try to do my best to keep the blog alive by adding pictures and more thoughts!

Here are some pictures and hopefully more will follow:

pulling my sleds on the ice cap

Monday, 23 May 2011

Congratulations Sabine from your Norwegian Friend

So impressed was one of Sabine's friends when they heard that she had just completed her incredible challenge ski-ing 550km across the Arctic Circle, that Children in Crisis and Right to Play have just received an incredible £5000 offline donation in sponsorship of our Extreme Mother.

If you would like to sponsor Sabine, please go to her Virgin Money Giving fundraising page now: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/sabinediederichs  

Extreme Mother - Finishes her challenge of a lifetime

I have just received a text message from Sabine.  Her first to me in 22 days!

Sabine and her guides completed their challenge last night at 7pm Greenland time!! She is OVER THE MOON!!!

The challenge was very hard right up until the very end.  But they managed to hitch a ride back to Isortok from a local - Greenland style this involved them being pulled acrossed the frozen fjord behind 10 dogs. Absolutely terrifying as Sabine could here the ice cracking beneath their weight, and see the water moving beneath them...

The team's next challenge is to get back home as the only way from the east coast of Greenland is via Iceland and the rather large volcanic ash cloud (or of course to turn back the way they have just come - though I do not think Sabine will be up for that idea!!).

I would like to wish Sabine and her guides a HUGE congratulations from everyone at Children in Crisis and Right To Play - she truly is one incredible and extreme mother!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Day 20 - Nearly at Isortok...

Again very cold wind from the North and the sky is cloudy this morning. So we start well covered up but at least the snow is cold and holding so the going is easier. For the first 3 hours, the conditions are stable, but by the 4th hour, the wind has died and it is hot. The weather is really unpredictable in Greenland. However as soon as we takwe our jackets off, the wind starts blowing again from the ... South!! But soon it abates too and again it is really warm. The snow melts and sticks to our half skins. This drives me crazy as at the same time, I have some problems with one of my shoe which collects snow under its sole, making it very unstable and one of my sled keeps tipping due to bad loading.. I must say that I nearly lost the plot and was ready to cry. But in the end, I gathered myself, took off the half skins, reloaded the sled, and life was good again! After 10 hours, we set up
camp, and here we are, eating our freeze-dried food (veggie shepless pie, and mashed poptatoes.. Yum! Yum!).

In 2 days we should be in Isortok and I must admit that I can't wait. The last days have been very boring! 10 hours every day for 7 days, in the same landscape, just waiting for the mountains to appear and the downward slope to start. But we are going down, but so slowly that we don't feel it!! Never mind, tomorrow night we should
have our last camp just above the ice falls and it will be a change to see something else than this wide white barren expanse!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Day 19 - Leading the way across the white ice

Sunny but very windy and cold when we wake up this morning. The same north wind. We start due east and PT leads the first hour, followed by Patter. I lead for the third hour and it is so hard with these snow conditions. We have to go on a compass as all we can see is the white ice all around. I don't like compasses so I asked PT to put me on course and correct me if I deviate. But I manage to find marks on the snow, and a cloud here and there and manage quite well to keep a straight line. I am very happy when the 59 minutes are over.
As the weather is really quite unpredictable in Greenland, by the 4th hour, the wind has stopped and we are baking. We go on in our thermals, but even so we are feeling the heat. The weather stays nice for the rest of the day, and after 10 hours and another lead for me, we set up camp for the night.
We are 60 kms away from the ice falls and then it's a half day until Isortok (or so they say...). So fingers crossed we should finish on Sunday!!! What an incredible experience...