Jo came to us in need of some clothing capable of standing up to temperatures of -30 degrees, and we were more than happy to help. After all, we’re Lands’ End, we’re famous for our amazingly warm coats and we have adventure in our blood.
Jo and her team undertook the Finnmark Plateau in order to raise awareness and funds for survivors of domestic abuse through the charity they have set-up, My Great Escape. Although in its infancy, the charity aims to support survivors of domestic abuse, to help them rebuild their confidence and self-esteem, achieved through life-changing outdoor adventures.
“In January I set off as part of an all-female team attempting to cross the Finnmark Plateau in the High Artic, Norway by a new route,” Jo begins. “We were a group of ordinary women looking to achieve something extraordinary. The team I was attempting this with met online through a group called Love Her Wild, a group for adventurous women, and prior to the trip we only met once at a team building weekend in Norfolk, but it was enough to show us that we would make a good, strong and fun team.
“Our expedition was the first group to attempt to cross the Finnmark Plateau following this new, longer route. It has previously only been completed by two experienced men with a couple of dogs. As a group of rookies, this was an extremely hard challenge, but we felt prepared – we had trained and had determination. The Plateau is in the extreme north of Norway in what’s called the High Arctic, it is an inhospitable place most of the year but in the deep winter, when we were there, it is not a place that welcomes humans. We would be completely self-supported, pulling all our own gear and camping out the entire trip.”
As ready as I could be
Jo continued: “After months of planning and training, which saw me pulling a tyre all around the UK, and with a bag stuffed full of kit and lots of lovely, warm Lands’ End gear, I was as ready as I could be. Stepping off the plane, the cold immediately bit, I was so happy to be wearing my Lands’ End Expedition Coat and wool socks, it was -29 and while my nose was freezing, the rest of me wasn’t. The first night passed in a whirl of checking gear, learning to put the tents up and getting to know one another. All my Lands’ End gear was fantastic. My layers would start with two pairs of merino wool long johns, a long sleeved base layer and a Lands’ End fleece, these essential base layers meant that with appropriate changing of down layers, I never felt the cold in my core, despite the sub-zero temperatures and biting winds.
“When we started out on the plateau it was the first time we had used our pulks (the sleds we pulled behind with all our gear in) or skied with them! Skiing with 35kg pushing or pulling behind you is a tough skill to master. It was -30 and the winds were strong, the entire terrain was frozen, deep in snow and ice. Over the following days we got into the rhythm of skiing and what layers to have on and when. I was wearing my Lands’ End thermaskin base layers, a half-zip fleece and base layer gloves and they were excellent; kept me warm when I needed it but meant I could work hard and not overheat too.”
Beautiful but bleak
“I loved the moving, once we were out of our sleeping bags and breaking down camp, then skiing while we had daylight and then pitching camp at night. The hard times for me were the nights, the downtime when all we could do was hunker down in our sleeping bags and wait for the wake-up call in the morning.
“The High Arctic is a beautiful but bleak place, at times the vista was like being on the moon, at others there were trees and rocks breaking up the eye-line. It wasn’t until day 3 that we saw the sun for the first time. After breaking the trail for the group (walking in front and breaking the top layer of snow thus creating a smoother trail for the others’ skis) we rounded a corner in the ridge line and there was the sun, huge, low and glorious. The motivation the sunshine gave us was incredible.”
An unfortunate turn of events
“The expedition was the hardest thing I have ever undertaken,” Jo admitted. “Particularly as I had taken a fall early on, landing on my back and winding myself. Over the course of the trip the pain in my shoulders and back increased and I had problems. When the wind got up and forced us to camp earlier than planned one day, I was unable to help set up camp, this was night 6 and as I learned the next morning, my last day on the expedition.
“That night was the windiest we had experienced, the tents were buried under snow when we woke the next morning. Before I knew it, a call had been made and the Norwegian police had decided I was to be evacuated from the plateau by the Red Cross. I was strapped to a stretcher, loaded into a funny looking snowmobile ambulance and that was the end of my Finnmark attempt.”
Proud of our achievements, and warm to the end!
“I’d made it to day 7. A week of the hardest work ever; skiing in serious weather; camping in -32; enjoying moments of pure joy in the sun; sunsets and night skies to die for, but I wasn’t going to complete it. Sadly, two days later, the rest of the team also came down. We hadn’t managed to become the first group to cross the Finnmark Plateau. It is a harsh, hard and difficult task. We didn’t do it… this time…
“Massive thanks go to Lands’ End for supporting me in my attempt, the clothing they so kindly sent me off with was fantastic. In arctic temperatures the clothing excelled itself and I was so happy (and warm!) to be wearing such quality gear.