It’s ironic to be sitting here in Lansdowne road on a cold October evening, cheering Munster and freezing, whilst all my cold weather gear is on its way to Chile. Likewise to have a membership card in my wallet for the British Mountaineering Council, but no head for heights. How did I get here?
Seven months ago a good friend, aware of my interest in Antarctica, mentioned the Beyond Endurance expedition in passing, then forwarded on a web link to the RTE program now featured on this website. Of course there were many reasons not to sign up. Besides the overall cost of the expedition sat various fears of failure, not least of all the failure to be selected. Yet it’s hard to see what lies beyond the comfort of our lives if one never takes a step outside. And I’ve often believed life is defined, not by the goals we set ourselves, but by the experiences we encounter whilst striving to achieve them. So I decided to take a step, then I decided to take another, and then another, and another…..and so began my journey.
Training for this expedition was long and arduous. An icy dip into a lake beneath the shadow of Carrauntoohil, weekends backpacking across the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks in Co. Kerry, fully laden hikes up Lugnaquilla in Co. Wicklow and even an episode of ice axe breaking in the sand dunes of Inch all led to a week long final selection course in Norway. Here we learnt glacier rescue and snow skills under the expert eyes of Norway’s best (well let’s be honest, Roald Amundsen didn’t conquer the South Pole by chance). It was one hell of a week, culminating in a three day 45km trek across some of the most beautiful glacial landscapes I have ever seen. During this time we summited seven peeks above 2000m and camped in the heart of one of Norway’s largest glaciers – it really was an incredible experience, and that’s just the training.
Soon now, very soon in fact, we will be embarking on the final leg of this journey. For me, it will be the realisation of a life long dream to taste Antarctica, to perhaps finally satisfy the pull of that great white place.