I’m in Longyearbyen, Svalbard – 1,200 km north of the Arctic Circle. We are about to set off on a two-day expedition to the abandoned Russian mining town of Pyramiden.
With all the grace of a beached seal, I throw my leg over the snowmobile for the very first time. Ahead of me lie 200 kms of Svalbard tundra. I can’t help wondering if this time I really have bitten off more than I can chew!
I was only south of the equator once, in the Arctic. That was back in 2009, when I sailed through the Beagle Channel and around Cape Horn on Skip Novak’s Pelagic Australis. That expedition started and finished in the Chilean Naval town of Puerto Williams on Isla Navarino, the southernmost permanent settlement in the world at 54º56’S, just under 3,900 kms from the South Pole.
Ever since then (and probably because of mild OCD) I’ve always felt the need to complete the set and visit its northernmost equivalent – in 2017 I was fortunate enough to do just that.
Lungs burning, legs screaming, sweat pouring – kind of sums up most of my early Mountain Biking days. Trying desperately to keep up with my club mates – it didn’t work. The Saturday spin leader, who’s frustration with my pace was about to bubble over, once said “why don’t you wait here, we’ll be back in 20 mins.” A hour later they returned in time to roll down to the car park.
In fairness they were all a bit hard-core, but even on the much peer-pressured ‘no one gets dropped social spins’, they were gone on the first climb and never looked back – the frustration, the anger!
When out shooting mountain bike events, not only do I need to haul myself around the mountains chasing riders, I also need to carry around 20kg of expensive camera gear.
For a couple of seasons before the eMTB revolution, I dabbled with off-road motorbikes. The first of which was a 125cc pit-bike, which was a great giggle. I looked absolutely ridiculous on it, but who cares.