Vet Ben Bardsley is back home in Keswick after safely completing a 1,500-mile Arctic solo ski challenge to raise funds to help his injured friend.
Ben 49, had to endure deep snow and extreme weather conditions as well as illness as he travelled alone during his epic 106-day trek across the Arctic winter wilderness of Norway.
The Keswick athlete had set off on Christmas eve to tackle the daunting 2,500-plus kilometres Norge Pa Langs route from Lindesnes lighthouse to Nordkapp and his effort has so far raised almost £3,300 for fellow Cambridge graduate Dave Hollinger, who suffered a serious brain injury in a skiing accident 18 months ago.
Ben said: “I had many highs, lows and unexpected situations to deal with. The storms in January were severe and frequent and I ended up in several pretty unpleasant situations that I’m not in a hurry to repeat. No one could remember storms so violent. In February the snowfall was immense. This made progress really hard work. One particular kilometre took me 50 minutes.”
On several occasions, Ben had bouts of illness which meant he had to rest in one of the huts along the route for a couple of days before forcing himself out as he was so low on food. One of his lowest points was arriving at a cabin after a 12-hour day on skis, much of it in the dark, only to find the hut buried almost to the roof.
He added; “It took me over two hours to find the door and dig it out but then later that evening I saw the most wonderful display of the Northern Lights. The landscapes were certainly some of the high spots – and the wildlife. I saw elk, reindeer and wolverines, but it was a very quiet experience and quite lonely. As I approached the end of the journey at Nordkapp suddenly there was lots of noise with sea birds and there were more people about.
Ben finished his trek on April 8 by which time the global coronavirus crisis was creating further problems. However, he managed to make it back to the airport just in time to get the last flight out of Norway before a five-day closedown.
He said: “I’m delighted to have pulled it off but also brimming with emotions when I reflect on the hardships. I’m indebted to everyone who has helped in anyway at all. I have been exhausted since I got back home. I realise the last few weeks I was running on pure adrenaline. I have a few more days off before I need to get back to work.”
The inspiration for Ben’s trek comes from his friend Dave, who had been paralysed from the neck down after a brain stem stroke after hitting his head in a ski fall. Friends set up a fundraising page to help pay for Dave’s care and rehabilitation. The two met in the early 1990s when they were both in Cambridge University Climbing Club. People can still donate to Ben’s epic fund-raiser at https://uk.gofundme.com/f/quotnorge-pa-langsquot-inspired-by-dave