The Dougie Mac Arctic Trek Challenge was conceived to both raise the profile of the hospice and to raise money to support their inspiring work. The idea of a challenge trek was born in March 2017 with a small group of 6 people wanting to do ‘something slightly different’, which turned out to be a unique endeavour that would test their mental and physical capability, and involve completing a 75km trek in 5 days and experiencing some very harsh conditions, dramatic scenery and a collection of blisters!
Having told a number of people about the experience and the harshness of the environment, an ambitious commitment was made to fundraise £100,000 for the Dougie Mac Hospice in conjunction with 16 local like-minded fundraisers.
First would come the training – not easy for the motion of Nordic cross country skiing that uses muscles most people don’t know exist. To improve their personal fitness, the team met up to walk over 100 miles with back packs weighing 15kgs, the equivalent of what they would be carrying on the Trek. Some also used the opportunity to practice the cross skiing technique on a long weekend in France. What would be difficult to train for was the mental challenge, being physically tired and having to get up every day aching. On top of which would be the lack of communication with the each other and the outside world.
In order to ensure the trek was properly recorded and the various legs of the journey logged, Harrison Carloss built and hosted a stylishly mood-setting website mapping out the 116km journey and displaying live temperatures, wind speed, and elapsed time as the trek progressed. The website also featured a series of atmospheric live daily visual log entries with accompanying blog articles by the team members.
Last but most important was a ‘donate now’ button, and an ongoing record of the amount raised for the Dougie Mac cause by the trek team.
On March 12th 2020 the group of 16 set off on what would prove to be a gruelling 5 day trek across the ‘Kungsleden’ (Kings Trail) some 250km into the Arctic Circle in the far north of Sweden, one of Scandinavia’s most visually stunning and isolated areas. The plan was to ski the most northerly section with the aim of covering 116 kms from Abisko to Nikkaluotka, including a 30 km section from Abiskojaure to Vistas, Nalla and back to the original route at Salka before finishing at the foot of the glaciated Kebnekaise, the highest peak in Sweden, standing at 2104 metres.
The team completed the 116km journey in four-and-a-half days, braving temperatures of between minus five and minus 20 degrees. With no access to any form of verbal or electronic communication, they had to carry their own 15kg kits for the trek, covering up to 30km a day on cross country skis, sleeping in huts in the wilderness, burning wood to keep warm and melting snow for water to drink and cook with.
On the 5th day of the trek, March 17, 2020, following an unexpected break in Salka due to threatening weather conditions, the team re-fitted their skis and set off to travel the furthest distance of the trek so far, facing 26kms in 6 hours as they headed towards Kebnekaise Fjallstation. This was mainly downhill or virtually flat and so was a nice way for them to end their gruelling trip together. On 18/03/2020, the weary but triumphant team complete the KMF Arctic Trek.
Best of all, though, was that their efforts had raised an amazing £100K for the Douglas Macmillan Hospice.