The Telegraph Group Supports the ISCE
It is worth recalling the extraordinary bravery of those who embarked on such feats of endurance with their rudimentary equipment and no realistic hope of rescue if something went wrong.
Antony taught us how to pack our pulks for optimal weight distribution and he talked us through a panoply of ski bindings. Our equipment is greatly enabling. Scottâ€™s team would stuff their ski boots with saenegras, a kind of Norwegian sedge grass: it would ice up every day and needed to be refreshed. Their wooden skis weighed 17lb a pair. In the Discovery expedition, they still skied with one pole, Sami-style, but had progressed to the modern, two-pole method by the Terra Nova expedition.
We were literally kept on our toes with a crash course in cross-country skiing. The bindings only attach the toe of the boots to the skis, so the ski action is a combination of slack-shouldered gyrations and ginger salsa-hipped steps. Only I had never worn skis before, so I made a big effort not to hold everyone back. The others diplomatically overlooked the odd tumble! Absurdly fun.
Today we took to skis for the first time! The day was overcast, but with extra snow during the night we were able to don our skis, hitch up to our pulks and head off for the day as proper polar explorers. It turns out there is quite an art to cross-country ski-ing whilst pulling a laden pulk. It was not something I had ever done before and going both up-hill and down-hill proved to be quite challenging. Everyone managed a spectacular fall at some point or other during the day. Antony gave us lesson on how to turn on the spot, go up-hill and control our speed down-hill. It was hard work but we began to progress and were rewarded with a prolonged lunch break under the shelter of our lifesystems bothy â€“ a giant dome of orange material everyone can huddle under in bad weather. Altogether a great day.
A red letter day today. At last we have our skis, meaning we can now tow our pulks in true explorer style. Unlike downhill skiing, there is just a simple toe binding, meaning you move by lifting your heel and sliding the foot forward. Great on the flat, not so good uphill - if sweat kills in the Arctic then I am a dead man walking. Downhill is sketchier â€“ one knee bent, telemark style, and trust to luck you stay upright. If the skinned state of my backside is anything to go by, Lady Luck deserted me long ago. Still, if skiing proficiency was lacking, the camp routine is getting slicker. Now, by the time two of us have got the tent up, the third has the stove going and a hot drink waiting. The only debate is what makes the better warmer, tea or noodles? Discuss, using only one side of the paper.
My thoughts turned to Captain Scott and his men on a number of occasions today, as the team cross country skied for the first time across the Norwegian wilderness. As I skied along, laughing at the three spectacular falls I had just managed, I considered the feat he achieved by surviving in freezing Antarctic temperatures for 4 Â½ months and the scientific knowledge that was gained by it all. Our training expedition continued with a brief lecture on pulk packing and the different bindings for cross country skies. After all this, the team rapidly decamped with the routine becoming smoother by the day. While skiing, I found myself in my own little world, thinking about important aspects of my life such as family and university. Before I knew it, it was time for our 10 minute stop and I realised I was beginning to perfect the art that is cross country skiing.