Taking on the High Arctic with Lands’ End

Before the weather turns too spring-like (we can but hope!), we wanted to share a story about ex Lands' End employee, Jo Symanowski, and her charity arctic adventure earlier this year.

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.

Expedition Coat in the Artic Weather In search of adventure

“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.”


Expedition Coat

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.

To find out more about Jo’s charity, The Great Escape, click here (http://mygreatescape.org.uk/).

Shop the Look

Women's Expedition Down Coat

The ultimate winter coat Modern styling combines with ultimate weather protection in our women's Expedition Down Coat. From the hidden bungee waist and faux fur trim; to the quality fabrics and features everything has been thought of so you can just get on and enjoy your winter adventures. The sealed seams mean you can rely on it to keep you completely dry, whether you're out in rain or snow. And we fill it with the latest technology HyperDry down, which is given a natural wax finish, making it water repellent. This means that should it get wet for any reason, the down won't clump together, but instead continue to keep you toasty warm.

Women's Half Zip Fleece Pullover

Your favourite now with new feminine detail A layering must-have, our half-zip fleece pullovers are so versatile and comfortable. This season they've also been updated with a slimmer fit and feminine gathers at the neck. The anti-static, anti-pill fleece we use means no more irritating cling or fluff-gathering, just soft warmth you can rely on which will wash beautifully time and time again.

Women's Petite Thermaskin Heat Natural Roll Neck

Special heat technology provides superior warmth Staying warm starts with a good base layer like this innovative new roll neck top with its generous helping of merino wool. A high-performance fabric*, it not only retains your body's heat, but actually generates heat by absorbing body moisture. And it's the perfect blend - nylon adds strength and stability, merino wool is naturally breathable and elastane provides maximium flexbility.

Women's Fleece Ruched EZ Touch Gloves

Stay connected with these EZ Touch gloves Lightweight fleece is warm and allows your fingers to flex freely. And with a clever EZ Touch conductive patch on the thumb and index finger, there's no need to expose your fingers to the cold when answering your phone. With the EZ Touch fingertips you can keep your gloves on.

Women's Thermaskin Heat Marled Boot Socks

Comfortable warmth in pretty marled colours Take another run down your favourite ski hill, give snowshoeing a try or simply wear inside your boots on freezing cold days. Whatever you have planned for this winter, these socks will get you there with high performance Thermaskin technology that keeps your toes extra toasty. The innovative fabric generates heat as it absorbs and wicks body moisture away from your skin. Incredible warmth you have to feel to believe.