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2007 Baffin Island Expedition Report

The 2007 Baffin Island Expedition Team would like to thank all of their sponsors for kindly supporting this remarkable journey which has raised £180,000 for vulnerable children and has involved travelling through one of the harshest environments on the planet.

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2007 Expedition Report

The world's toughest charity trek article - By Paul Deegan

Everest Base Camp. Kilimanjaro. Machu Picchu & The Inca Trail. Three of the most popular treks which people undertake for charitable causes. In my capacity as a travel writer and mountaineer I have completed this trilogy of journeys, as well as several more ambitious undertakings including expeditions to the summit of Everest, Denali (North America's highest mountain), and Aconcagua (the highest peak in South America). So I can say with some confidence that the Youth Adventure Trust's Baffin Island Expedition is - in my opinion - the world's toughest charity trek.

Actually, it's less like a trek and more like a horizontal Matterhorn. Imagine being strapped to the windshield of a van and being driven down a road at 40mph into the teeth of blizzard. Now replace the van with a sled loaded with supplies that you have to drag behind you, and swap the tarmac for several feet of soft snow, and you begin to get an idea of the conditions that the team absorbed during their time on the ice.

That's not to say that the days were filled with drudgery. When the clouds finally cleared, we were treated to a smogasbord of smooth granite cliffs climbing into the sky. And very occasionally, when the winds dropped to a whisper, the deafening silence was punctured only by the tinnitus ringing in my ears.

At the end of each day, after grappling with frozen poles, stiff flysheets and sleeping bags heavy with accumulated sweat, 12 tired bodies would pile into three stout shelters. Whilst the storm raged about, the team cracked on with treating blisters, nibbling ginger nut biscuits, and turning acres of snow into litres of soup, hot chocolate and tea. Sleep would inevitably be interrupted by the need to empty a bursting bladder at three in the morning.

For all of our labours, the rewards were immense. Interaction with the local community at the start and end of our expedition provided us with an insight into how the Inuit people's traditional lives have been affected (for better and for worse) with the recent arrival of the so-called modern world. The journey provided an opportunity to leave mobile 'phones, pressing deadlines, and all our little worries behind. In their place we revelled in the opportunity to live in the moment, a psychological destination where the most basic requirements (a dry place to sleep, something hot to drink, a tasty snack to nibble on) rose to the top of our priority lists.

Any human contact - a grateful hug for help with a recalcitrant sled perhaps, or a private chat about future ambitions - was always deeply appreciated, more so because more than a week went by without any sighting of other Homo sapiens. Indeed, it would be fair to say that the experience was closer to that of an astronaut on the Moon than an explorer on Earth: our only contact with the outside world was a single satellite telephone call to a boyfriend, wife or mother back home, which left several members of the team in tears.

So that was Baffin. It seems incredible to think that as I sit in a warm, centrally heated house reflecting on this journey, the Inuit people continue to live, adapt and thrive in such a spectacularly beautiful yet totally unforgiving environment. That we have had the opportunity to taste their way of life, if only for a moment - to feel the bitter cold eating through our clothing, to watch windblown snow scudding across frozen rivers - has been a privilege that none of us will forget.

In 1922, an Inuit by the name of Igjugarjuk wrote: "All true wisdom is to be found far from the dwellings of men in great solitudes and it can only be attained through suffering. Suffering and privation are the only things that can open the mind to which is hidden from his fellows". In the great scheme of things, we suffered only mildly, and then just for a short time. But we suffered enough to have our minds opened a little wider.

 

If you are interested in taking part in this expedition, please contact Mark Davey.

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  • 12 hours ago

    Only 5 days until #GivingTuesday . Make it a gift of adventure for vulnerable young people and change their lives!

  • 6 days ago

    RT @Al_Humphreys: If you're planning your first adventure, you should apply for this. If you can spare a tenner, maybe you should donate it…

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