I went charity dogsledding in the Arctic after my family’s battle with cancer
‘I wanted to raise money for cancer research because of the difference they made when my parents were ill’
One second year took a break from her studies of English Language and Scottish literature at Glasgow to trek through the Arctic circle and raise money for the charity that helped her family during their own battle with cancer.
While some might see the Arctic as her biggest challenge yet, it was the loss of a loved one that drove Nicole to the freezing country.
“I lost my dad to cancer when I was 12 and my mum had breast cancer over summer. She was fine because they found it really early so I wanted to raise money for cancer research because I could really see the difference in care from when my dad was ill and when my mum was ill and how far they’ve progressed in how they treat it, so I wanted to do something big.
“I backpack a lot but I wanted to do something totally different that you wouldn’t just do, so I thought right, Arctic.”
And this was no normal trip of throwing some t-shirts in a bag on a whim. Preparation was key for Nicole. She said: “You started off with a thermal base layer, then a normal t-shirt and trousers, then on top an zip-up fleece or jacket, then a jumper, then a big jacket, followed by a snowsuit, then a windproof waterproof Goretex on top.
“It was sweaty and I looked like the Michelin man but when you went outside you could definitely feel the chill.”
“We started roughly 200 miles inside the Arctic circle and went about 100km in four days.
“You’d arrive at a hut each evening and untether the dogs and make sure they have water (because obviously it keeps freezing). Then you’d make a fire with the wood you’d chopped from a tree earlier in the day, melt snow over the fire to make water for later or go and break through the ice and find a stream. Then you’d melt all your food which again was obviously by this point frozen and make dinner with it.
“During the day was travelling with the huskies and chopping wood. You’d have four huskies per person and they were so cute.”
And despite the tough conditions and physical challenge, every bump along the ice road was worth it: “We went down a mountain at one point and we were going so fast my sled was actually doing air time.
“The huskies were loving it but I got thrown off a lot. There’s a metal bar on the back of the sled you jump on to make the dogs stop, but I couldn’t jump hard enough so they’d keep going and I’d end up being dragged along the ground or thrown off entirely.
“At the time it was horrible but we went across a massive frozen lake. You couldn’t see the start or the end while you were on it, everything was just white and it was windy and snowy and cold but it was just spectacular being engulfed by it all, and the views were incredible.”
Nicole didn’t go it alone, there were many on the same trip raising money for their own causes:
“The people I went with were from all walks of life and raising money for all sorts of charities – there was a man there raising for a school in Africa and another funding a new hut for the Scouts.
“People were doing it for so many amazing reasons.”
But the trip didn’t come without its bizarre challenges, with toilet breaks not an option for the women:
“My gran told me to take extra pants so I wouldn’t have any “accidents”. The boys had no problem peeing because they’d just unzip their snow suits and wap it out, but as a girl you just couldn’t, you’d have to pee in the morning and hold it all day.
“I probably would’ve got stage fright anyway.
“I’m a veggie so I mostly ate veg and potatoes, but one of the nights the others just had a big block of reindeer.
“We had this amazing Swedish bread thing too. I think you can buy it in Ikea.”
And although she’s exhausted now, Nicole would love to do it again:
“If I could get used to the cold I’d make it my way of life, it looks like such a good life living in such an amazing place and getting to spend so much time with the huskies.
“I was absolutely knackered when I got back and I smelt like dog but I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for an adventure.”
So if you thought Glasgow was cold, there you go.
If you fancy donating to Nicole’s incredible cause you can do it here.