I heard about Hannah and her bucket list in 2015 while fence judging at Brand Hall horse trials. Since then I followed her incredible story and have been inspired by her amazing character and bravery.
I have done a few challenges in the past but had been looking at the Lapland Husky Trek for a few years. I had put it off with the excuse of not having a charity I really wanted to support until Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony was set up. It is a cracking charity and has done so many great things for terminally ill people and without a doubt has enabled the research into Osteosarcoma to advance.
So with a charity that has very much imbedded itself into my heart I didn’t really have any excuse not to fly out and undertake the most difficult challenge I have faced so far. So once university was over, I booked myself onto the trip and started training and fundraising for this remarkable charity.
Eventberry joined my little eventing crew in 2017 at Badminton Horse Trials. Since joining our little team there he has been helping me to raise awareness for the charity and has travelled around the UK and abroad.
As said before I had been looking at doing this crazy challenge for a few years but could not decide on which charity to do it for. Having followed Hannah’s story and being in awe of her ability to turn something that is so horrific into something amazing with a long lasting legacy, I felt like it was time to sign up and support her charity.
So after putting on my big girl pants I signed up for the challenge in July 2017. With only 9 months before we left to freeze for a week, to was time to crack on with fundraising and training. Our first fundraising campaign was at Cholmondeley Horse Trials where the very kind organisers let me have a charity bucket in the secretaries. Eventberry flew around the cross country course with me and Hector (my lovely horse) and while all that was happening there was a brilliant £46.49 donated.
Following the great start to our fundraising campaign we decided to put on a charity quiz. With about 2 months to organise the quiz, it was all hands on deck to choose the questions, get tables and chairs, cook food and get the word out that the quiz was happening. While we were organising this, life had to continue and we headed off to Weston Park horse trials where again we had a bucket at the secretaries and this time there was £41.63 donated by the very generous public and competitors. As the quiz drew nearer the donations for tickets to the quiz were rolling in and bumping up our fundraising total as it crawled towards the £4,000 target.
The quiz evening arrived a lot faster than ever imagined, but the evening went without a hitch. There was a raffle with donated prizes on offer ranging from a foot long pot of Pringles to a bottle a Champagne and chocolate truffles. The evening as a whole, including the money donated for tickets, raised a whopping £800!! This gave us the much needed boost to get the remaining money raised.
Over the next few months we got some very generous donations from friends and family. Also the local butcher popped a donation bucket out and the very generous customers helped us raise another £100. Time to leave for Lapland was heading towards us very fast and we were getting a bit nervous that the full amount was not going to be reached before heading off. However the day before departure another donation came in and we surpassed our £4,000 target. YAY!
There was one slight scare as to whether the trip would be made at all, when Hector accidently squished me in the stable and fractured my wrist. Oops. Thankfully the hospital gave it the all clear a couple of days before departure with the wise words of “be careful and do not do anything too strenuous”. In my eyes that gave me the all clear to go camp in the wilderness and dog sled 270km.
So the time had finally come to head to the airport. Eventberry and I got a very kind lift down to Heathrow airport with Mum the night before we departed for the snow deserts of Lapland. On the 31st March we headed to the airport where we finally got to meet all the other crazy people who were going to be on the trip.
We flew out to Oslo and then got a second plane to Tromso in Norway. Once bags had been collected, we had the short drive to the sledding centre where we finally got to meet our best friends and team mates for the next 5 days. I am not sure I have ever heard so many dogs barking at once, but it was the best reception we could ever have asked for.
The 1st evening was spent in relative luxury as we got to sleep in a Lavvo with a wood fire in the middle. Not only did we get this the Northern Lights decided to make a show and give us an amazing display. Stunning is not a strong enough word to seeing this natural phenomena for the first time.
So, the next morning we parked up all the dogs, sleds, food and kit to drive to our starting point. With all the excitement in the minibus as we drove up, disaster struck when one of the dog trailers burst a tyre and one stranded until another trailer could be sourced to transport them the rest of the way. This set us back a couple of hours, but hey this trek was meant to be a challenge, it just started a little earlier than expected.
We got the start point and with everything prepared it was time to meet our dog teams for the first time. With the fact I had no strength in one hand, I was lucky enough to be given 6 dogs to pull my sled. The two power packs nearest the sled were Wolf and Link, two beautiful boys who loved their jobs immensely. Then came the girl power, Blackie and Martha in the middle then Baileys and Arizona as the navigators and motivators at the front.
This day was a tough one to say the least. The first 30km were climbing up the mountain to reach the plateau at the top. Once at the top it was pretty smooth riding but as we all started to get a bit tired the motivation went down and people needed a break. So after a very short break, we all pushed on until it was time to go off track and through 5 foot snow drifts. This section was definitely the toughest of the whole trip especially with a group of complete beginners.
As night started to fall we finally got to the Tri-Nations border where we set up camp for our first night in freezing conditions. These tents were to be our homes for the next few of nights with just one small camping stove for cooking and a heat source. The first evening saw temperatures go down to -20 degrees Celsius, this was very much a time I was grateful to be sharing a tent with 2 people I had only just met.
Day 2 was a much better experience with no deep snow drifts and with stunning views. Eventberry had the best seat in the house (well the only seat) as we cruised along the tracks made by skidoos, with the occasional wobble but managing to get back in balance without toppling over.
Day 3 was our shortest day thank goodness. Everyone was experiencing low moods from being very tired, cold and being in the middle of nowhere (as you can see in the photo). We finished at the highest point of our challenge at a fishing camp and we were able to heat up and get a proper night’s sleep. I had never thought of how thankful we would all be to wake up without frozen hair. At the camp Eventberry was able to explore in relative safety of not being taken as a chew toy or left behind to freeze, and he got to see some of the most stunning views.
On day 4 we decended the mountain which was one of the more terrifying things as the dogs were able to pick up quite a bit of speed. All those cross country rounds did not prepare us for how quickly a team of huskies could move…… woosh. Once down the mountain we were treated to frozen sausages cooked by a camp fire and some beers. Never has a frankfurter tasted as good as it did in that moment.
Day 5 was the longest in terms of distance as we travelled 75km across a number of frozen lakes. As it was one of the easier days in terms of sledding it was a chance to take in the utterly amazing views, while defrosting Eventberry inside my huge jacket.
We finally made it to the Ice Hotel in Sweden where we sorted all out kit out, said goodbye (some teary) to our amazing dog teams and headed off for a much needed wash. This is when the realisation at what we had just accomplished hit some of us. Eventberry then had to take on the role of councillor to get us to calm down and relax. Once calm had resumed, we headed off to look around the incredible ice hotel and have some cocktails.
The challenge lived up to its name but with such an amazing charity to support the experience was well worth it. There has been over £4,100 raised so far and hopefully I will be heading out to do another challenge in the next few years, so watch this space
Bye for now,
Maddie and Eventberry