Emily took on our Husky Sledding Challenge in 2018 and she's still revelling in her unforgettable memories from sledding through a landscape a world apart from anything she'd ever seen before. We took the fantastic opportunity to interview her about her experience. Here, she divulges everything, from her training beforehand, to her favourite dog, to the challenge of setting up camp.
1. First off, what encouraged you to sign up for the Husky Sledding Challenge?
When I saw the trip advertised, my first thought was, I love dogs and snow - how cool would that be?! This seemed the perfect challenge for me, I knew straight away I’d love to be able to take part in what would be an amazing experience and completely push me out of my comfort zone.
Having the opportunity to complete such an unusual challenge was not something I wanted to miss out on. I also hadn’t visited Norway, Finland or Sweden previously, so this seemed the perfect combination of new experiences. I am so proud to have completed the challenge. I have completed overseas cycling challenges with Dream Challenges before, so I knew the trip would be well organised.
2. Did you train for the challenge?
I am a regular gym goer anyway, so training for the trip consisted of my usual gym workouts, including spin, yoga and 24 classes as well as running. As we don’t have enough snow in the UK or a team of six dogs of my own, practicing sledding was impossible. I just made sure my general fitness was at a good standard, so I felt strong for a long day of being active. Each day consisted of sledding, followed by securing the dogs, setting up camp, feeding the dogs and finally, feeding myself. The days are long, so being as fit as possible makes the trip more enjoyable.
3. How did you like your team of huskies?
I absolutely adored my team of huskies! They are beautiful dogs that just want to run and they worked so hard. The dogs were put together in teams of six by the guides. I was given six wonderful dogs that loved to run very fast and enjoyed the praise and cuddles each time we stopped. They are an absolute credit to Tore and Sandra, who have trained them so well.
4. Did you have a favourite Husky?
My six dogs were led by sisters, Porsche and Audi, followed by my team dogs: another pair of sisters, Anni and Sini and my wheel dogs were brothers, Trouble and Chaos. They were all incredible, so strong and gave me the best experience; but the one that stole my heart was Trouble. He has a beautiful face and was so keen to get all the cuddles and attention that he would lean on me with all his weight to stop me from being able to harness up his brother Chaos. When we were getting ready to set off, he would give me a look to check I was ready and once I gave the signal, he would set off so fast. I soon realised I had to harness Trouble last, so he could have the cuddles he wanted, without feeling I was giving Chaos too much attention and so I didn’t delay the start of the sledding by not having my dogs harnessed in time.
5. What did you do in the evenings?
When sledding finished for the day, the first task was to set up the dog line, so they could be secured for the evening. The line needed to be tied either between two trees or with the ends buried into the snow. The lines needed to keep the dogs separate from each other, so they could eat without fighting each other for the food.
Setting up the line seems a simple task, but the condition of the snow meant that this could involve wading through waist deep snow and even crawling on all fours in order to find a suitable location to secure the lines. Once the line was set up, each dog was then unclipped from the sled, had its harness removed and was connected onto the line, again wading through the snow.
Once all the dogs were secure and resting, it was time to set up camp. We camped in twos, so in our pairs, we would compact an area of snow that was big enough for the tent and flat enough to sleep on. We could then erect the tent and start the camping stove to melt snow for a well-earned brew, but also for drinking bottles, rehydrating the meals and for hot water bottles.
After our brew, the feeding of the dogs would commence. Feeding over seventy dogs would take quite a while, as we needed to negotiate each of the dog lines and the snow. The dogs were each given a scoop of dried dog food and a large chunk of frozen meat, which they would demolish quickly. We were then able to feed ourselves and rest for the evening. We would usually get together near one of the tents and have a chat, a catch up on the day's sledding and get a briefing for the following day. Then it was bed time, to get some well needed sleep before for the next day’s sledding.
6. How did you deal with/prepare for the cold?
Luckily, I had packed some good merino wool thermals, which were so important to keep warm. I even ended up sleeping in them, as temperatures dropped to between -15 and -20 degrees (Celsius) at night. I expected it to be cold and was generally OK during the day, as we were active and we were blessed with beautifully sunny days. It did get particularly cold on one of the days when the wind picked up, but according to our guide, this was nothing compared to what he had experienced!
7. What was the food like? Did you take any snacks?
There was plenty of food provided for the trip. In our food box, we had porridge, bread, cold meat, cheese, biscuits, noodles, tinned fish, tube spreads, jam and dried fruit.
We would have breakfast before we set off and were able to make a packed lunch for when we stopped for a break during the day. We also had a separate box of tea, coffee, milk powder and hot chocolate sachets. Finally, there was a bag of meals to be rehydrated in a variety of flavours, including chilli, curry, kebab stew and reindeer stew.
The meals were filling and kept us going each day. I took some snacks of my own, including biscuits, sweets and chocolates. My tent mate had cleverly remembered to pack a small hip flask, so it was nice to have a sneaky tipple to fend off the cold at night!
8. What was your favourite part of the challenge?
I didn’t have one particular favourite part; the whole experience was incredible! The setting is beautiful, the dogs are amazing, our guides were great and I was fortunate to have the best camp mates to share the experience with. Overall, it was an incredible trip, which words and pictures cannot truly capture. I would love to repeat the experience!
9. What was the hardest part of the challenge?
To some, the cold and the camping was the hardest part, but I knew that was part of the challenge. Both were something you couldn’t really prepare for, as they were at more extreme levels than any of us had experienced before. For me, the hardest part was saying goodbye to the dogs at the end of the trip. They are so happy to be running and loved the praise and cuddles each time we stopped. We each grew close to our team of dogs and it felt like leaving family by the end of the trip.
10. What would be the 5 top tips you would give to challengers taking on the Husky Sledding challenge in the future?
Want to experience the Husky Sledding Challenge yourself? There are only a few spaces left for our 2019 adventure, so sign up now to secure your place.Find out more and register for the Husky Sledding Challenge 2020