We will be researching, living, eating, sleeping, everything-ing together for five weeks on the remote Varanger Peninsula bringing together a team with a wide variety of scientific and outdoor experience. Whilst we can buy the tents, flights, and drones necessary to facilitate this (thanks to the generous support of our funders), there is one thing we cannot buy but is crucial to the expedition’s success - teamwork.
This is why over the Easter holidays four members of the team got together for a venture to the Lake District. The Lake District is perhaps one of the closest landscapes in England to match what we will experience in Finnmark with lushous hills, rocky slopes, rivers, and temperatures ranging from -5 to 20 degrees centigrade.
To scope our outdoor expertise and bond as a team we woke early the first morning to hike the snow-topped Helvellyn, the foot of which we camped at that night. The day tested us not just in fitness but navigating a path covered by the snow, avoiding the whitened cliff-edges as we traversed. Hiking up a wet, rocky, wind-riven slope by ourselves is one thing, but in Finnmark we won’t have the opportunity to simply leave the stuff we don’t need in the car. So to approximate our forthcoming challenges as best as possible the hike was accompanied by the full set of supplies, clothes, tents, and equipment for the whole Lake District venture.
Though challenging, we had a fantastic time getting to know and support one another as a team in the field. At the end of the first day despite ascending and transcending Helvellyn, we travelled to the other side of Grasmere to hike a further 5 miles to a sport by a tarn to wild-camp for the night. Wild-camping will be our accommodation for the whole period carrying out research in Finnmark. Despite temperatures plummeting to below zero and waking up to a frozen tarn, that night we were treated to a full starry-sky as we cooked dinner in the dark over a gas-lit stove. It’s moments like that stay with you.
Though the next day was windy, wet, boggy, and remote, surpassing what we expect to be an average day on the Varanger Peninsula, we took it in turns to navigate across less-trodden paths. We crossed rivers, passed spectacular frozen waterfalls, and culminated in a steep rocky descent at the head of a glacial valley.
These few days were perhaps some one the most important we have spent together as a team so far. Coming together helped us understand the strengths of our equipment and our team looking forward in a way none of our regular team meetings in Oxford could. It made the expedition feel real and exciting. After our venture to the Lake District it is clearer than ever that despite our varied experience from fells to rainforests, we can work as a successful team in Finnmark.