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Monday, November 29, 2021

How I survived being stranded on a glacier for 72 hours

One of the heavier items but the most necessary was our food bags, with freeze-dried meals delivering around 1,000 calories for breakfast and dinner, and sugar-laden snack bags to nibble on throughout the day. Once each of us had prepared a sledge we were ready for the off.

Getting to Vatnajokull and our starting point on the vast ice field proved to be an adventure in itself. We hired the help of Arctic Trucks, a company that has a fleet of trucks pimped up with monster tyres and impressive hydraulic systems so you can inflate and deflate the wheels depending on the terrain. The company operates in various snowy regions around the world, including in the depths of Antarctica.

It took a good few hours from Reykjavik to get to the edge of the glacier where we spent the night in a little wooden hut that looked like something straight out of a Grimm’s fairytale, and then the next day we ventured off for the journey to our starting point.

“It feels like we’re on another planet,’ Emma Ranger, our youngest team member said, as we wheeled across the frozen landscape, with winds whipping chunks of blue ice into sculptural forms and voluminous grey clouds whirring angrily above.

Eventually, after lots of bouncing around and nearly getting a wheel stuck in a frozen slip of river, we arrived on the flat snow-topped part of the glacier where we would set up camp and begin our skiing expedition.

After putting our two tents up under deceivingly blue skies, the six of us nervously bid the trucks goodbye and scurried inside to make dinner with nightfall quickly descending. 

Cooking in the tents involved lighting an expedition stove and gathering snow to melt for hot water, with the white powder then used to bring our freeze-dried meals to life. As the three of us in my tent sat huddled preparing dinner we realised that the winds were crescendoing quite wildly outside and that’s when the battering on the tents began.

It felt as if we were in the eye of a tornado and we later learned that the wind speeds topped 80mph, while the air temperature was somewhere below minus 20 degrees Celsius.

After setting up our tent kitchen and having a slap-up feast comprising make-in-the-bag chilli con carne, Twixes and hot chocolate we got a tap on the tent and Felicity came in to talk to us. She reassured us to keep calm as the storm would pass but she revealed that the weight of the snow that had gathered outside our porch had snapped one of our tent poles and we would have to get up every two hours throughout the night to shovel snow away in a bid ensure no further damage was done and we weren’t buried alive.

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