Arctic/Antarctic

Exercise Arctic Mountaineer: Army Adventurers Battle Dangerous Terrain

Twelve personnel took part in the training, crossing Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic.

Twelve Army personnel have returned from an adventure training expedition, crossing the fifth largest island in the world – Baffin Island in Canada. 

They were up against temperatures as low as -35 degrees Celsius, as well as the threat from polar bears. 

Skiing down breath-taking slopes, trudging through snow, and climbing over rocks and gravel, the team faced all kinds of terrain.

Expedition leader, Warrant Officer Class 2 Will Brant, said: "The two biggest challenges on Baffin Island are the temperatures which we encountered and also the high risk of encountering polar bears.

"We didn't see a polar bear thank goodness but we did see tracks on two occasions.  

"We know from the locations of the tracks that a bear had passed pretty close to our camp - it's quite a bizzare feeling when you see massive paw prints in the snow."

The team were isolated on their expedition, 70 kilometres from any sign of civilisation and battling some of the world's harshest weather conditions.

Baffin Island's rugged terrain (Picture: Arctic Mountaineering Team).

Major Pam Buttifant said: "Going to the Arctic is always a challenge.

"It's harsh, it's brutal, it's unforgiving. 

"Just being in that space, let alone skiing and what have you, surviving just becomes enough.

"It did get really cold, it went down to -35 - it's like being a freezer and it's so cold, your eyelashes start to freeze together and you're trying desperately not to expose any of your skin because of the fear of cold injuries."

At one point, the team was forced to stay in their tents as the temperature plummeted further. 

But things got even harder when one soldier slipped and dislocated his soldier. 

"Luckily the doctor was on hand and Captain Sarah Bass stepped in and put it straight back in within 20 minutes," said WO2 Brant.

"That was probably the most worrying thing which happened."

The team travelled 70 kilometres away from civiliasation (Picture: Arctic Mountaineering Team).
The team travelled 70 kilometres away from civiliasation (Picture: Arctic Mountaineering Team).

Despite the setbacks, there were also highlights, as well as breath-taking scenery.

Major Pam Buttifant's highlight was seeing Mount Asgard, a location once used in a James Bomb film.

She said: "When you see [Mount Asgard], the height is just astonishing."

Seventy-five people applied to be a part of the expedition team.

But only 12 people were selected, made up of six cap badges including medics, signallers and engineers. 

Since returning back to warmer climes, the team have launched a program of talks and presentations at schools.

They are hoping not only to inspire the next generation for their own future adventures, but also to emphasise the importance of protecting areas like Baffin.

Find out more here.