Robert and Heidi Clover have never done anything like this before. He is a Financial Analyst and she is a full-time Mum with 3 children, the eldest of whom is autistic. By crossing the icecap they aim to raise money for two charities – Making Waves for Autism and Earthwatch Institute.
“We realised we needed a really big challenge to persuade people to part with their cash. We said let’s make it really big and do an extreme polar challenge… It is crazy. It is usually hardcore adventurers that attempt this kind of thing. We are really not the two people that should be doing this – I’m a housewife and Robert works in a bank. Before we started training the only run I had been on was the school run!” said Heidi.
However, the couple are both keen kitesurfers which will help enormously in this challenge although they have never snowkited before. Heidi is from Finland so the arctic temperatures will not be quite such a shock to her.
This is no small undertaking, this challenge of theirs. Their 3 – 4 week 1,300km (900-mile) expedition in temperatures as low as -30C will involve skiing across the ice cap. Taking advantage of the catabatic winds (hopefully) their kites will pull them and their heavy sleds which will contain everything they need: their tents, sleeping bags, supplies and other equipment, they will kite from the remote settlement of Ilulissat on the west coast of Greenland to Qaanaq on the north coast. They will sleep in tents when they are not travelling on the ice and will be accompanied by a single guide.
Ttraining for this expedition began in June with a mixture of cardio and strength work, running along the South West Coastal Path and lifting weights in the back garden. As summer turned to winter they started relevant strength work such as tyre hauling using a harness and a tractor tyre, and nordic walking with a 20-30kg backpack. Next week they will be spending a week in Finse, Norway, where they will learn vital polar survival skills and camp routines, and will also have a chance to test their equipment before the expedition. They will be doing lots of snowkiting with the specialist control system developed by Pirhuk and the week will involve a good 100km cross country ski trek.
They are anticipating that they will be kiting for about 10 hours a day. However, because they are entirely reliant on wind they will kite for as long as they can when the wind is right . “Greenland is known for its inconsistent weather,” said Heidi. “We could be sitting in a tent for days waiting for the wind to blow. It’s also known for its ferocious storms.”
There is some pressure because “we have to make our final stop to catch a flight out,” she said.
And crossing the ice cap is not their only challenge. “The most important piece of kit (after the kites!) is probably the boots. These babies need to play ball for hours and hours and not give us any grief despite being subjected to long periods of hard labour.” And getting the ones they want, the Scarpa F3 model – the ideal boots for kite expeditions, is proving to be almost as challenging as their forthcoming adventure. The closest shop that stocks them is 335 miles away in Yorkshire! 6 hours each way by train…
Their challenge will take place in April when the midnight sun is back – the constant daylight will give them the visibility they might need to make up for downtime.
Best of luck to them both and their guide and if you would like to support their worthy cause, please click on the link: Greenland Snowkite Expedition 2011