As with lots of exciting journeys, it started off with a map, a wild idea and with a lot more questions than answers.
With less than 2½ months before we take the first stroke in the Pacific Ocean at the start of a 2000 mile journey to reach the most Northerly point of the USA, we’re busy dreaming of the best and planning for the worst.
The other side of the world
In a point to point, multi-discipline, 80 day expedition through an area of land on the other side of the world that’s over seven times larger than the UK (but with a population only slightly larger than Glasgow), logistics were always going to be a bit of a nuisance.
We knew from the very start that to have a chance of making this possible, we would have to rely on a lot of goodwill from people we’ve never met and some we never will. But as with any previous dabbling in remote lands, these strangers – in name only – have contrived to ensure that the vision and aims of this expedition will be made possible and now it’s down to us to repay this goodwill and faith. Again we’ve learned never to underestimate the kindness of friends and family, but also of our new found pen-pals.
Not so long ago, expeditions could take years to plan and many still do (see Sir Ran Fiennes epic Transglobe expedition – a whole seven years in the making). But now we’re in the age of the internet. And for all its lack of romanticism, the web is by far the most useful and accessible resource available. Things happen more quickly and (selective) information is typically free and very useful. Through Skype, emailing and other methods, we’ve been able to move a portion of our lives– specifically May, June and July 2017 – all the way to Alaska. Before we’ve even arrived.
Putting in the hours
Edinburgh is an ideal base for pretty much all forms of training. From the off-road running of the Pentland Hills, Blackford Hill and Arthur’s Seat, to the fast cycling roads beyond the bypass, to the sea-kayaking options of East Lothian, the opportunities are endless and completely accessible to many.
For the psychological training, we’ve both had good experience from previous expeditions and ultra marathons, where it’s always amazing to see just how much the mind controls the body. Through deep exhaustion and fatigue, the mind urges the body on. It’s always surprising to see how strong we can be and how far we can go, especially when there isn’t really any other option.
As well as longer, back-to-back days of training, we’re looking forward to the 156-mile Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert in just over a month. This will certainly help with these psychological aspects – even if the conditions underfoot and in the air will be completely different from Alaska. This is another event where body management is key and avoiding injury is just as important as in training and during the expedition itself. It will also be such a treat to just turn up and only have to think about avoiding spiders and scorpions, instead of the midges of Alaska…
The lead up to the trip has been a fine balancing act between training and logistics. It’s slightly ironic that we’re certainly not training outdoors all the time, but largely sitting in front of laptops, sending emails and appreciating the beauty of spreadsheets and lists.
But our planning motto has been “no surprises” and “don’t put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today.” These both keep us moving forward, prioritising what is most important and trying to make sure we cover every eventuality, knowing that things are likely to change when we get out there.
We’ll never be able to predict the exact weather, for example. But we can ensure we’ve thought of all possible things that could go wrong, from which preventative measures and back up plans can be put in place. There will always be unknowns. But that’s what makes it exciting too.
The extended team
We try to make sure that we divide and conquer the endless to do lists to play to our strengths in what will be a team effort in every aspect from start to finish. The lows that come with a “thanks, but no thanks” email are hugely outweighed by the highs following a positive meeting or phone call. We feel truly humbled by our partners who have aligned with the vision of the expedition and without whom this expedition would not exist.
We’re focused on trying to get people excited about the environment and the outdoors and strive to take on their own adventures and challenges. We’re working with Education Scotland so that everything about Due North: Alaska can be used to engage children through exciting learning.
We’d love to hear from you! If you have any questions or just want to say hi then please ping us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out www.duenorthalaska.com.
We hope you’ll enjoy following us on this world-first expedition.
Hazel and Luke
Due North is proud to be supported by: