Telling My Story to Carlson Wagonlit

I wasn't quite sure where to put this post, so it's ended in the dank recesses of my blog and nestled in the thoughts category. So what was the deal? A good friend of mine, an 'IT guy' at Microsoft, asked if I would come and speak with one of their customers. The reason? To give Carlson Wagonlit an insight into my journey to the north pole; the reason why I'm doing this; the chosen charities and how Microsoft are helping me get the message out to followers.

The Heart of the Presentation

This presentation was all about the charities, in particular Diana Award. I wanted to convey my passion for these amazing organisations and show Carlson Wagonlit how I intend to add a little extra to the daily reports.

As I've said in an earlier post, Microsoft have provided me with a Windows phone and Band 2 fitness tracking sports watch. Used together, these two devices will collect and store key information about my health and the distance covered each day. Every evening I'll set up my satellite phone and transmit the daily statistics back to a central server from where it will be displayed on a website. Yes, that means you too can follow along (I'll be posting the URL soon).

Did Carlson Wagonlit seem interested? Yes, and in more than just the technology (one of the main reasons for them attending). I truly believe the message - my message - carried over to them. And that message was? Help me to help these amazing charities by donating even just a little money to them.

How Did I Feel?

I was terrified. My right hand was shaking and I had to constantly remind myself of how to give an effective, rabble rousing speech. There were a couple of stammers, a repeat of a few sentences and the crackle of my dry throat as the talk moved on, but it felt good. No, better. I felt fantastic. Not only was I standing in front of a team of very senior company staff members, talking confidently, but I was getting the message across. And, I hope, doing all of this with just a little style.

But this is my view. What did the Microsoft attendees have to say? They thought the presentation was great. I put across my story, built a compelling picture, grabbed the group's attention and held it. A rapt audience. Well, all apart from the one guy who kept yawning. Oh well, can't win them all.

Why This All Means To Me

At last I've proven I can stand in front of a collection strangers, engage and entertain them (yes, I did get some laughs). This is a huge boost for my self-confidence and at least a partial validation of my speaking skills. But there is another, more important aspect. You see, over the next couple of years I aim to build up a repertoire, one that will allow me to become the voice of one of the charities I'm raising funds for.

A tall order? Probably. Can I do it? Yes! Now all I have to do is find a charity willing to give me a shot at the title :).

There was also mention of possible donations for my three charities. I'll wait to see what come back, although I'm confident and excited.

P.S a big thank you to Michael and Paul for helping to make this happen.

The Microsoft Band 2 Has Arrived

Band 2 fitness tracker Yes, I am a little bit excited because my shiny Band 2 has arrived. Billed as a fitness tracker, the device appears to have taken some design inspiration from, ahem, *other hardware manufacturers*. It's a pretty funky looking piece of hardware.

Now, in the old days, that last statement alone should have been enough to send an army of hardcore athletes speeding towards Amazon or PC World. Fortunately for online and offline retailers, the trickle of customers generated my previous comment is unlikely to swamp their servers or stores.

Okay, let's go on with it.

Microsoft Band 2: Look and Feel

Go back a couple of years and you would have found me dismissing the idea of any kind of smartwatch. The early Samsung models were too clunky for my likely. And ugly.

But times have move on. The Band 2 looks pretty cool and it's a definite step up from the first version which looked pretty like a manacle. The latest version of Microsoft's fitness tracker seems to have taken appears to have have a shot of cool injected into its sleek chassis. A combination of metal, rubber and a pretty large touchscreen combine to give it the professional look you'd expect from a company trying to capture large market share.

I have to admit that it's not the most comfortable device to wear and Microsoft could really do with offering a variety of straps. But it's okay - no worse than my Garmin GPS 410 when I first bought it.

At this point, let me clarify something: I've only had the Band for a few days and I'm guessing it'll 'give' over time.

How Accurate is the Band 2?

It's pretty good - comparable to my tried and tested Garmin GPS 410 (which, although now a few years old, is still a great training aid). The big advantage the Band 2 has over its big rival, the Apple Watch, is a built-in GPS - straps or pouches for you handset are not required thanks to some thought on Microsoft's part.

One thing that did irritate me was the time to acquire a satellite lock. Comparing my GPS 410's results to the Band's on one particular session I found a 500m difference in overall distance. Not a huge amount, but enough to put a dip in my, so far, improving times. The easy remedy would be to leave the GPS function always on, but this drains power and I'm prone to taking off at the drop of a hat for a run or pulk pulling session - flat batteries aren't helpful.

The Microsoft Health App

Now this I do like! Built-in mapping on the splits, calorie counter, session duration, HRM and all the usual features you'd expect are there. But there's more. There are downloadable training plans (running, cycling, weights, etc) and these can all be accessed via the app. In addition, the app will give you an indication as to how your fitness is improving.

The Health App is available for the Lumia range of phones, iPhone and Android. That said, there's significantly less functionality available on iOS or Android. For example, you can use the Band to control various setting, including the Lumia music player and this feature isn't available on non-Microsoft devices. Not an issue as you can download your iTunes/Google Play library to your Windows phone.

That's All for Now

I'll leave it at that, for now. There is still much testing to be done on the Band 2 and I'm looking forward to giving it a trial run in Norway (scheduled for late January). There'll be refreshed post soon after I return.

Alternatives to Chasing Heroes

Deception Island - Shackleton's Intended Destination Maybe I'm being a little harsh. Bear with me. Everyone of us has a great adventure at the root of our existence. To some it may be little more than a one off, to others it the ultimate destination in a life of outrageous achievement. The problem is this: most people will never realise their full potential. Are you shocked? I hope so, because you should be. What I've just stated is that the vast majority of the world's population will never make their dreams real; your heroes will be as untouchable as ever.

Why? Why do we find it so hard to follow in the footsteps of those who inspire us? Or, looking at it another way, how do we so easily let our dreams slip between our fingers?

For many people it's simply a case of time - there's not enough of it. The constant demands of work, family and social lives can, if we're not careful, be draining. Our hopes and aspirations are consigned to a twilight world; a fantasy world that exists only in our minds. There's nothing wrong with spending time with people you love and care for, but it can be all too easy to let your dreams be discarded.

Some of us are lucky enough to be in that enviable position of being 'carefree'. No, this doesn't mean they're happy to close their eyes and walk into moving traffic - it's about not having anyone who needs your direct support e.g. children or elderly parents in need of constant care. I have several friends who are fortunate to be in this position. One mate in particular made a grand announcement - he was going to climb Mount Everest. Was I jealous? Do dogs do a funny dance when you itch the base of their spines?

Sadly he failed in his attempt. I don't mean failed as in, 'got halfway up the mountain and then collapsed.' No, he never even made it onto the plane. Why? At the last moment he let fear overwhelm him. I felt genuine pity for him, not least because this one trip had been his dream; the flicker of adventure he'd nurtured into a blazing inferno and one so easily extinguished by doubt. After all the training, he came to question his own abilities.

Another problem many would be adventurers face is the sheer cost of mounting an expedition to some far flung corner of the planet. My friend had self-funded the trip to the Himalayan mountain - a cost of about $60,000. Most people can't afford those sums of money. Of course there are ways to raise the cash: sell your house, find corporate sponsorship or, as I've done, set up a business. I'm using the skills I've learned to deliver a series of mentoring and motivational presentations and workshops. But not everyone has the time or inclination.

So how can you achieve your aims without breaking the bank, ruining your love life and driving away all your friends?

Easy!

Jump into Mini Adventures

Ever thought about cutting your dream down into smaller chunks? Make it easy on yourself, your finances and your loved and go micro. Instead of climbing K2, head out to Ben Nevis. Forget the full Artic trek and hop over to Sweden and ski  part of the Kings Trail (a 440 mile path through some of the most beautiful Scandinavian scenery imaginable - as long as you like snow and mountains). Think the Marthon de Sables might be a little much for you body? Try the Ocean Floor Race - still a long slog, but not as tough as MdS.

If some of those options look a bit too much, then you can go more niche and closer to home. Try a weekend of canoeing some of the rivers and canals that cut through Britain. Compete in a Spartan Race (great fun, especially 'The Beast'). Cycle across the county you live in.

Those are just a few ideas. I'm sure you can think of more.

Tired of not getting more out life? Then maybe it's time to stop chasing your heroes.

I'm Giving Up Aspiring

It's not the destination that matters, but the path we take. Quite a few years ago, there was a young boy who saw the world as a wonderous place. He read books, watched films and listened to tales of heroics and adventure. To him, there was only one direction in which to take his life - mimicking the men who had influenced him so...

This young boy embarked on a journey. He carried iconic images - tough guys who were unflinching in their duties - and started to reshape himself into a carbon copy of those men. He learned, trained and changed his views to fit the values and beliefs of the his heroes. In time he grew and, as he slipped from child to man, he continued on his determined path, his aspirations fixed in place, immovable.

If he didn't succeed, there was nothing more for him.

Time passed and that man started to look back over his life. There was no doubt he had been successful in most of his ventures, but he couldn't help but something was amiss. He spent time analysing his voyage and came to the conclusion he'd taken a wrong turn.

Now, that's not to say he regretted any aspect of his life so far, more that his aspirations had been based on the wrong information. You see, the things he did, his achievements, were all for the benefit of someone else. They had been a demonstration that, as our American cousins are fond of saying, he had 'the right stuff'.

Problem was nobody was there to listen. His trajectory in life had been chosen to impress others and, as it turned out, those 'others' weren't interested in the detail, only the end result. They cared about him, but cared little for the steps he followed and more about his ultimate success.

It was time to stand back and take stock of life. He'd learned many lessons that could be put to good use; validation of his willingness to endure extreme physical and mental hardship in order to reach a chosen goal.

And you might ask, 'What is the difference between then and now?'

Simple.

No more aspiring to set routines and fixed destinations. Instead, a path was chosen. The endpoint was picked, but the specifics of how he arrived at the destination no longer mattered.

I know some of you might think the path and aspiring to a given goal are one and the same. I disagree.

You see, this man knows that some of his ideas and plans might now work out. Circumstance has a habit of intervening and bulldozing even the most carefully laid plan. And this is where the path becomes the most important aspect of the journey.

Why?

Because the path is littered with failure. Through failure we learn to adapt and overcome. We become more resilient, our minds more flexible and able to cope with life's lows. In essence, we reinvent ourselves as we find new ways to rewrite our aspirations into something more valuable and enduring - a path.

As for me, I've decided to put aside my aspirations of singular goals and instead to focus on finding a route that will reward me with the life I forgot to have; a world that, for a time at least, was hidden behind my aspirations.

The Adventure Seekers Packing List

A little too much for a trip to Tesco! I've just realised it's now a little over six months and we'll be heading off to Barneo ice station to prepare for the journey north. Pretty excited. I'm still working on sponsors and we already have a couple of pledges. This is the one area that concerned me most about the whole endeavour - money. Trust me, if there was a way to get to the North Pole for free I would find it. But putting together an expedition like this needs more than cold, hard cash. And that's what I want to talk about today.

Back in the old days, my kit was always ready to go - the job demanded short notice moves; some taskings would see us deployed from base to a hotspot in as little as a few hours. Those days are gone and now my approach can be a little more sedate. That said, I've carried forward a few ideas that you might find useful when planning your own adventures. 

Visas and Passports

Visas can be the bane of your life. There are many countries where simply getting across the border requires huge amounts of preparation, a lot of patience and, occasionally, a little 'sweetener'. The FCO has a dedicated page offering travel advice - https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice - scroll down the page and you'll visa requirements for the respective country (but no details of any 'facilitation payments').

Filling out the paperwork can be a a long, slow job, but do you really want you trip of a lifetime tripped at the last hurdle just because you left your visa application until the last minute?

Insurance

I know, there's no need to tell me - insurance feels like a tax, but it's necessary. Do you have a family? Kids, maybe? Partner? Mortgage? Outstanding finance? Answer yes to any of those and you're going to need to insure yourself. Cost of insurance varies depending on where you're planning to go e.g. mountain biking across the Hindu Kush then it's fair to say you're going to be hit with a pretty big premium. Prices will be lower for more sedate adventures such as riding from Land's End to John O'Groats in a rickshaw.

Whatever you do, make the insurance covers you for every eventuality. Also be aware a trip that takes you through multiple countries on different modes of transport may require several policies.

Maps

No need for a map at the North Pole as the place is one vast expanse of shifting sea ice. Now think about somewhere like South Africa and we're looking at the complete opposite. On a few occasions in my past, a map has quite literally been a life saver for me. Paper maps are the best. Failing that, you can use an app for your smartphone.

Depending on your destination, you may find it difficult to obtain up to date mapping. Don't panic - even old maps are sufficient, especially in places like the Sahara desert (trust me on this one - we were using maps made in the 1950's during this trip and they were more than adequate for the job).

Planning Your Route

'Yeah, I'm just off to climb Mount Everest!' Cool, well done. Question is this: who knows where you are at any given time? Let me make this clear - create a route card and make sure you leave it with someone you can trust and agree a method of passing updates. This person is then responsible for notifying authorities in the event you don't check in. On top of a route card, you need a communications plan (mobile phone, satcomms, email... whatever it is stick to the schedule). If you're off to the wilds of somewhere like Kamchatka consider using a GPS tracking system.

Scorching Heat or Frozen Tundra?

It goes without saying that you need to pack the right kit for the climate or the regions you'll be trekking through. Very cold, like Siberia, and you'll need lots of cold weather gear. Alternatively, if you've decided to run the length of the Gobi desert you're going to need to travel light and with cool clothing that protects you from the sun. But there's also a middle ground you need to consider - hot places where the temperatures can drop below zero degrees Celsius.

The Sahara desert is hot by day and bitterly cold at night. Know the environment you're going to be travelling through and pack accordingly. Do your research before you go.

Vaccinations

Fortunately mankind has done a pretty good job of eradicating most of the nasty bugs that cause us to grow a second head or outright die. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security - there are plenty of nasties out there just waiting to find an orifice via which they can invade your body. See you doctor, get the necessary vaccinations and be safe.

You may also need to visit your doc after a trip abroad. Sounds a little counterintuitive, but you never know what you're bringing back with you. Trust me when I say ringworm are cunning little buggers who can hide under even the sparsest of beards so beware you newbie globe trotting hipsters.

Specialist Equipment

Some destinations require the use of specialist kit. A prime example is one of walking to the North Pole. Not only will you need extreme cold weather gear, dehydrated food and a portable hygiene system (baby wipes), you may also need to take some form of self-defence. In the colder, more northerly regions of the world you're going to need a rifle to keep polar bears and Norwegian ski tourists at bay. At the far end of the spectrum you might need to consider employing guides to see you through areas of tension or war zones.

Bottom line - don't try to dabble with Death as he tends to have the upper hand.

Summary

That's it for now. Just threw some ideas out there. If you have any further thoughts/tips, please put your views down in the comments below.

Training with Conrad Dickinson

Conrad Dickinson No, I'm not lazy. I have a day job, write fiction in my spare time as well as training like a Spartan and running as much of the social media aspect as I can handle. Updating my blog every two weeks seems reasonable right now as there isn't a huge amount to tell. Or is there?

Well yes, there most certainly is, but that's all the motivational work that sustains me and my team members. We'll dig into more of the psychology in upcoming posts.

Now, the part you really want to know: Who is Conrad Dickinson?

Conrad Dickinson, Polar Explorer and Bit of a Legend

The subheading says it all! Conrad is a polar explorer. He has over thirty years experience trekking some of the most arduous cold weather destinations in the world. He's the only British explorer to complete the 'Polar Grand Slam' of walking to Greenland and the north and south poles (but watch this space... :) ). On top of this, he and his amazing wife, Hilary, were the first married couple to ski the full distance route to the south pole.

Yes, I did say his wife. A fantastic woman who probably has more resolve and determination than many men I've met. Oh and she's also a great conversationalist, cracking host and the food she cooks is fantastic.

Pretty impressive credentials, no matter how you look at it.

On top of clocking up more ice hours than most of have hot breakfasts, Conrad also runs polar training courses. For anyone interested, you'll need to go here: http://www.polar-training.com/training/.

On Conrad's advice, and given my previous experience, I attended his 'Polar Fast Track' course. I'm not going to reveal the exact details of the course, for obvious reasons. Needless to say, the weekend was effectively a brain dump of everything Conrad has learned during his time guiding and trekking. The tips on how to get a tent erected fast, no matter the weather, were priceless as shelter really is a life saver at the poles.

Conrad kindly agreed to put up my tent for me!

Other Polar Travel Skills

I've traveled to many places, usually by the dead of night, under cover of rain or flitting between the ambient noise. For ever destination and theatre my map and compass have been a lifeline; those two items really were, and still are, the difference between life and death. Conrad taught me something more valuable: faith in navigating without a map.

The north pole is a pretty flat, featureless place. The polar ice is constantly on the move and there's little point in trying to create a map of a place that is ever shifting.

So how do you get to the pole without a map? Easy - a GPS and a good, old fashioned compass that reads in degrees, NOT mils (anyone that undertands how to navigate accurately can be forgiven for having heart palpitations). For those of you who don't know, mils are far more accurate (6400 mils on a compass, as opposed to 380 degrees on other models).

Using a GPS, you work out the next leg of your journey, take the bearing and then transfer it to your compass. GPS goes away to save battery life and, having picked a reference point, you walk on a bearing. Easy, yes? I thought so too. Give it a try sometime (and you have to use a compass with degrees around the dial).

Any Other Lessons?

Yes, lots. The weekend was one big, never ending stream of information. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, it was the most enjoyable training package I've ever taken. Even the dreaded PowerPoint slides held my attention without me ever looking away or experiencing the usual  feeling of loathing or bleeding from the eyes!

If any of you are thinking of doing any kind of cold weather trek, then you really must go on one of Conrad's training courses. If nothing else you'll get to see the Roman ruins on Hadrian's wall, not far from his home (part of the navigation exercise).

The Subtle Art of Communication

The art of communication Every so often you run into someone who has a marked effect on your life. It might not be tangible, instead an acknowledgement of the fact comes from a deeper level, on the edge of your conscious mind. Sometimes the impact of a particular meeting might not come until days after the event has passed. This happened to me very recently and, I'm sure you've experienced the same at some point in your life. Some days back I had a conversation with a lady whilst out training and her words reminded me a significant part of why I'm going to the North Pole is to provide a service of sorts. One part of the service I hope to amplify over the next ten years or so is that of story telling.

I can already see the exclamation marks materialising over you heads. This little snippet is a lead into a topic that will be critical to the success of the mission, so bear with me...

Humans have evolved to tell stories; the skills required to pass on knowledge or entertain, have been developed over many thousands of years. Just recently I regaled two of my blackened toenails with my own rendition of Dame Vera Lynn's "We'll Meet Again" - another form or communicating. Another example is my blog. It's here I attempt to lay out the steps for getting to, and the reason for going to, the North Pole. This website is simply a way of communicating the entire process (along with some of my own personal observations).

Communicating is a significant aspect of the trek. You see, without a capable and comprehensive comms package the team would be unable to pass messages, both to each other and the wider world.

With that thought in mind, I'm going to give you an outline of the equipment we'll be taking on the polar trek. The technical information may not be of interest to some of my readers, but bear with me as you'll get a better understanding of what it takes to establish and maintain communications from the North Pole.

Team Communications

There are many hazards to be aware of when crossing arduous environments. Open leads (stretches of open water formed when the ice separates), pressure ridges and polar bears are three of the most obvious. Going beyond external factors we also have to consider the status of each team member. Frost bite and exhaustion are very real threats that could result in a team member being pulled off the ice.

So how do intend to pass messages between the group? Two way radios. Simple and effective, the equipment will be based on short range walkie talkies that allow each member to pass information and, probably, a bit of banter as well.

There are many options available: Motorola, Cobra, Uniden and more. The requirements are simple: provide coverage for the team to talk over short distances; several hundred metres, at most.

The three options above have ranges from 22 miles to 50 miles, which might seem like a bit of overkill, but better safe than sorry.

Formal Polar Communications

Barneo ice station staff will be providing support for the trek. As such we will be required to send updates detailing our location, set off time for each day and a final schedule at the end of each day. This allows Barneo to track our position and progress. Furthermore, the formal communications will be used when we reach the Geographic North Pole at which point a helicopter will be sent to collect us.

The options for the formal comms package are limited; only Iridium supply handsets that will work at the North Pole. I have my beady little eye on two handsets: the Iridium 9555 and 9575 Extreme, but will probably go for the 9555 as it's cheaper and we won't be using it for anything more than passing messages back to Barneo and receiving critical updates.

Live Skype Sessions

This is the type of comms most of you will be interested in. During the trip we are planning on running short, daily Skype sessions for school students. Don't worry if that doesn't include you - the sessions will be open for all to join. As we move towards the Pole, we'll be using the live meetings to highlight not out progress, but to also show the impact mankind has had on the Arctic. Hopefully we'll get some real time images of polar bears (but not close up shots).

Putting together the package required to run Skype has proved a little tricky; currently, there are no hand-held satellite phones with the necessary bandwidth so we've had to go a little extreme.

The option we've selected is the Iridium OpenPort system. Designed to be mounted on ships, the full compliment of equipment weighs in at a rather hefty 19kg (as opposed to the 9555 and 9575 which are only a few hundred grammes each). To be able to run the meetings we're going to need solar chargers, a car battery (yes, you read that right), a laptop and expedition grade solar charging panels. The weight soon adds up.

As I'm now taking a three man team to the Pole, the equipment can be broken down and the load spread across all three pulks, the weight per person drops to just over 6kg. Not a significant extra load.

An odd intro, I know, but I hope you understand: communication is key in every part of our lives. We all need to tell our story and most humans crave the opportunity to hear tales of people and places they might otherwise never experience - another facet of the trip I will address using the Skype session.

Trust me: it pays to slow down, smile, do a little talking and listen.

 

Generosity Comes at the Strangest Times

Sunday afternoon training - beautiful The JustGiving pages are live:

Royal Signals Benevolent Fund - https://www.justgiving.com/NorthPoleLastTwoDegreesRSBF

Diana Award - https://www.justgiving.com/NorthPoleLastTwoDegreesDianaAward

Walking with the Wounded - https://www.justgiving.com/NorthPoleLastTwoDegreesWwtW

As you can see, there are already a couple of donations courtesy of a work colleague and a friend. Still a long way to go before we hit the targets, but it's still early days.

I am happy? Yes, and no. So far I've notified several hundred people of the trek and the reasons why. The responses have been a little lacklustre - maybe I'm expecting too much too soon - and I'm hoping the donations will increase dramatically closer to the event. But, what did surprise me was the generosity of people who have never met me before and are prepared to take me at my word. I'll explain.

Yesterday, Sunday 23rd August 2015, I decided to get a couple of hours training in on the Chiltern Hills. Dressed in my walking gear, I drove up to Beacon Hill, unloaded my makeshift pulk and set off for a planned 10km training session. Whilst climbing one of the gentler hills I ran into an older couple who were enjoying the views. You can imagine the looks of surprise as I traveled huffing and sweating past them.

Their interest piqued, they inquired as to why I was voluntarily torturing myself on such a beautiful day. Long story short, I gave them a brief outline of the plan of next years trek. Imagine my surprise when the lady reached into her pocket and pulled out the last of her money (she'd been saving it to buy an ice cream for her and hubby) and asked me to donate it Diana Award

The sum wasn't huge, but the gesture was significant. They don't know me, but they trust me. The lady and her husband declined to leave their names and set off down the hill. I don't know who they are or where they went. I sincerely hope they read this post and get in touch with me.

In the meantime, I'll be donating the money to Diana Award.

Strange how you find kindness in the most unusual places.

First North Pole Training Video

It's been a few weeks since my last post as I've been busy with a pretty heavy training programme, work, meeting the charities I want to support, etc. All good stuff, I have to admit, but one of the key requirements for getting to the North Pole is having a very specific type of fitness: long distance walking pulling heavy loads in a pulk. The past few weeks training have involved more distance work. I'm still running between five and 13 miles per day, although two of the originally planning days have been dropped in favour of trek training.

Yesterday, armed with my new sports camera, I hit the Chiltern Hills with my tyres and harness and did a couple of hours training. Here are the videos from that session:

North Pole Training Video 1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTQPqSfAVhc

North Pole Training Video 2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpKG0UX4lZI

North Pole Training Video 3

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUxhZMYKjQ4

I'm first to admit that, when I initially looked at those two tyres, the training was going to be a little too easy. I was wrong! As you can probably tell from my stumbling and grumbling the workout was harder than anticipated.

Hope you enjoy the videos. I'll get some more up soon.

Why Bother? The Arctic Has Already Been Explored

Why bother when the north pole has already been explored? That was the question one of my friends recently threw my way.

At first, I had to admit he did have a point. Man has already reached the highest and lowest places on Earth. The human race has explored the very darkest depths of the jungles, trekked across vast, inhospitable swathes of desert. Walked, skied and cycled to the heart of the coldest places on the planet.

Many of these achievements were made in the late 1800's and early 1900's; extraordinary expeditions without the benefit of modern technology. Think about it: trade in your GPS for a sextant; shrug off you Jack Wolfskin cold weather gear and don some beaver pelts; sail a wooden hulled ship to the Arctic and risk death before you even get to the ice. That's pretty much how it worked back in the 'bad old days'.

I'm merely following in the footsteps of truly great, and incredibly hardy, men who have gone before me.

I don't compare myself to them. Well, okay, I do, but only in a self-deprecating manner. Given my first trip with cover 220km, it's nowhere near the full 600km covered by those early explorers. In 2017/2018 I will go back and complete the full tour.

For a few moments I felt an unusual sensation; uncertainty about the reasons why. I mulled over the question, smiled and said, 'What else are you going to do  with your life? Spend forty years working in an office, retire and wait for the last day?'

Yes, the answer was pretty harsh. Those were my thoughts. I'm not chasing those iron men of yesterday. I'm not seeking to become a demi-god like Ranulph Fiennes. I'm not even interested in the fame that comes with celebrity status in any chosen field of work.

No, for me the answer is simple (and I've covered some aspects when I wrote about the urges that drive us: this is about a new way of life.

This is about what I want out of life and the difference I can make to the lives of others.

Will I scale the lofty heights of those who have gone before me? Yes, but I don't see myself as being the equal of those hardened explorers who have blazed trails so long ago. Instead the intention is to prove that, even though the trip to North Pole is a pretty arduous journey it can be done by ordinary people like you and me.

That's why I bother: to show the world that, even though this journey has already been completed by many, there's still room to fit a little adventure into our lives. Maybe I'll even inspire a few of you to get out there and see the true beauty of the world and embark on a direction in life.