We chat to the Atte Huskyteers, an inspirational group of women who'll be sledding 285km across the Arctic this month for charity. And they've already beat their £100,000 fundraising target! Find out how below.
How did the Huskyteers concept come about?
Julie: Amanda Nissen and I were at a Maggie’s lunch. After listening to the girls that had gone through such pain and suffering, Amanda thought it would be great to do something challenging and worthwhile as both our mums had passed away. Amanda’s mum really wanted to go to the Arctic. At the time I’d had a couple of drinks and thought it would be a great idea! Then it grew, we put out feelers to other girls who were up for it and the team built and built. With the girls, we then chose the four charities we wanted to help. It’s been an amazing few years of planning and organising.
Explain what your six day adventure will involve?
Sabrina: On arrival day, we get introduced to our team of dogs and begin training. I keep sending the girls photos of people wiping out on sledges…! So that’s our first day, a 15-20km day of trying everything out. We’re camping en route, so having to set up tents and dig in the dogs. The first few days are climbing days, the last two are descent days (which will be the coldest two days I think).
How did you all meet?
Carroll: Amanda approached me and said, ‘this is what I want to do’. And I had had a few drinks and said, ‘Great idea! I know loads of people who would want to do that!’ I glossed over a lot of the facts… But it all worked out. We then pulled in Fiona. Four came my direction and four came from Amanda’s.
Amanda N: We then had a chat about how big a team we wanted to be and how to put it together. We decided that 8 would be a really good number. At that point, a few people had said ‘we don’t want to do it, it’s too hard’. So we had to find those who were fit enough. It all came together very nicely.
Amanda W: Also we thought someone who loved dogs might be quite useful… because you do have to pick up dog poo.
You’ve had months to prepare for this adventure. What has your training schedule been like?
Amanda N: When we finally got together and chose the challenge, we chatted to a lot of sports specialists. A lot of us had never done a year’s worth of rigorous training, really changing your body… So we had a fitness test last March, which was really scary! From there, people started to do some muscle work and high intensity training. After our summer test, people have got a tighter schedule, got their own personal trainer… The fitness tests have picked up our weaknesses. We’ve been doing about 4-5 sessions a week of pretty hard stuff: weights, sit ups, box jumps, hill sprints, and some 10km runs. We’ve all changed a lot. We were quite comfortable before and we feel quite small and muscly now!
Amanda W: None of us have been out and done this type of adventure before, so we don’t know what to expect. So we’re trying to get as fit as we can…
Amanda N: So we can take the knocks!
What will be the biggest challenge for you during this trip?
Carroll: The biggest challenge is the cold, without a doubt. And the fact that we’re sleeping outside in a tent. Most of us our in our forties, so I can’t honestly say the last time I camped in the winter. It’s minus degrees…
Sarah: During the day will be fine, but at the end of the day when we’re tired, we’ll have to pitch tents, feed the huskies…
Carroll: And when you’re cold and haven’t slept, you wake up the next day and have to do it all over again!
Amanda W: The tiredness, coupled with 8 very strong women who might get a bit narky and a bit moody…That could be the biggest hidden challenge! How are we going to cope for six days together? Will we come back as best friends?!
Amanda N: Somebody will complain about the snoring when we come back!
You’re all busy women and have much to juggle – like careers and children! How do you make time for adventure?
Amanda W: I think if you want something doing, you ask a busy person to do it! If you have the right mind set it’s not a problem. We’re all women who don’t sit back and relax, we’re always looking for challenges. We’ve just had to organise and schedule it into our diaries. Knowing that you’ve got to lay an hour aside five or six days a week, you schedule it in like it’s a priority.
Amanda N: The training was hard to schedule and commit to, but once you commit it’s hard NOT do it! We schedule around our training now.
Amanda W: And we’re women. We’re used to multitasking!
You’ve managed to raise over £103,000 to date, all of which goes to your 4 charities. Tell us a bit more why you picked them?
Carroll: We’ve reached our target and people are still giving, it’s fantastic. Although some of my mates are waiting till I do it just to make sure!
Amanda W: Social media has been brilliant. We’ve really embraced everything with local media, TV, social media, fundraising… it’s been a massive business plan to reach our target.
Amanda N: We made a conscious effort to choose charities which aren’t at the forefront of fundraising; smaller ones which are closer to our hearts. We tried to get a broad spectrum of charities ages, disabilities and illnesses, so there’s something for everyone to donate to.
Carroll: Our first charity is Insight Counselling. I’m on the board and am the fundraiser for it. It’s a free counselling service in Teeside and Angus. It’s something very close to my heart.
Fiona: The second is Medical Detection Dogs. It’s the future that dogs can sniff out whether you’re going to fall asleep, need insulin, have cancer… There’s only one in Scotland, but the money we’ve raised will probably help to train another two.
Amanda W: Age Scotland is our third charity. In the past two years I’ve lost my father, my stepfather and mother in law. I’ve noticed that family dynamics have totally changed – gone are the days where you grow old where you live. Children love their parents but move away for jobs and that leaves parents housebound… so a one-hour phone call once a day really helps. Age Scotland are great by reaching out to lonely older people and make them feel part of life again.
Amanda N: The final charity is Coppafeel. It’s a breast cancer education charity which goes around universities and schools teaching younger girls how to breast check. Preventative measures are really important.
What advice would you give women of any age – or budding adventurers in general – who want to chase their dreams?
Sarah: If you want to do something, you have to make it happen. Allocate the time, make some changes… because you only have one shot at life, you have to make the most of it! When this opportunity came up, I had grown-up children and thought, ‘yeah, I’d love to do this!’ For something like this, you think, ‘another five years, and I might not be doing it’… so you have to make the time and be a bit selfish, if you really want to do it.
Amanda W: A mad bunch of friends helps too!
Amanda N: It makes it easier being together, definitely.