LCPL BETHANY GREY

LCPL BETHANY GREY,
ROYAL LOGISTIC CORPS

LCpl Beth Grey is a Class 3 Movement Controller at 29 Regiment, Royal Logistics Corps (RLC), in South Cerney.

Before joining the Army Beth graduated from Swansea University with a degree in Psychology and Criminology. She then went on to backpack around Africa doing a variety of voluntary work with remote villages, teaching basic HIV and malaria prevention, assisted in building schools, farming and community development in various countries across the continent.

Beth plays rugby for the RLC and Army Development team, and took part in several Crossfit competitions in 2016. She is also a keen kayaker and scuba diver, and likes exploring the Welsh countryside, obstacle races, climbing trees and jumping off waterfalls. @icemaidenbeth

SGT VICTORIA MCINDEWAR

SGT VICTORIA MCINDEWAR,
INTELLIGENCE CORPS

Sgt Victoria McIndewar joined the army in 2009 and has had an eclectic career in the Intelligence Corps completing tours in East Africa, Afghanistan and the Falkland Islands. Vikki currently works for 1 Military Intelligence Battalion as part of the world wide crisis response team.

Prior to joining the Army she gained a BA in Political and Social Sciences from Bangor University where she enjoyed rugby, skiing and the outdoors.

Vikki is a keen skier and has been fortunate to take part in numerous ski expeditions with the Army. In her spare time she is busy ticking off countries around the world that she is yet to explore, and has spent months travelling around East Africa, Alaska and South America, allowing her to expand her horizons and experience many cultures. @icemaidenvikki

LCPL STEPHANIE INNES-SMITH

LCPL STEPHANIE INNES-SMITH,
INTELLIGENCE CORPS

LCpl Stephanie Innes-Smith graduated in 2008 with an MA in French and Spanish from the University of St Andrews.  After a spell as a French teacher, she decided to pursue a legal career and qualified as a solicitor in September 2016. She is also training to be a counsellor and is a mediocre student of Russian and Arabic.

Steph has enjoyed many opportunities during her time with 5 MI Army Reserve, including language courses, battlefield studies and paragliding, and is looking forward to an expedition to Papua New Guinea in 2017. In 2016 Steph completed the National Three Peak Challenge for the Child Brain Injury Trust and the Yorkshire 100k for Blind Veterans.

In her spare time, she volunteers as a befriender for the Leeds Asylum Seeker Support Network and enjoys making clothes of dubious quality.  @icemaidensteph

Ex Ice Ready complete!

On 19th November eleven of us headed out to Norway for our second Arctic training expedition, Ex Ice Ready. The idea was to practise our march and camping routines, and get used to spending long days dragging our pulks across frozen lakes. But, there was one problem, the lakes hadn’t frozen! And, unusually for the time of year, there was very little snow which meant choosing ski routes and camp sites was a serious challenge.

We hit the ground running, leaving the warmth of the airport transfer to immediately start pitching tents and boiling water for our first dehydrated meal. We would not see a bed, a shower, a toilet or change of clothes for two weeks.

Photographer: Cpl Timothy Jones RLC Crown Copyright 2016

The length of our ski days gradually increased as we got used to having a pulk in tow, and we were plunged into crevasse rescue training, taking it in turns to ski off a cliff and be hauled up. This was essential safety training for the last section of our journey across Antarctica where we will need to ski roped up to each other.

Photo credit: www.mountainvibs.com

After a few days of much-needed snow, we journeyed out into the wilderness, a line of pink jackets towing pulks packed with 30kg of food, kit and fuel across the Arctic landscape.

The route was hilly and the days were long – we started skiing at 8.30am and completed one hour legs, stopping for a 7min break every hour to eat and drink. This continued for 10 hours until we pitched tents around 6.30pm, boiled water for food and drink and were fast asleep by 9pm!

Our drills became pretty slick and we were able to pop the tent up in a fierce wind, conjure our stoves into life and have a warm meal inside us within an hour. This gave us time to patch up our blisters, repair holes in gloves and prepare our vital snack bags for the next day.

Photographer: Cpl Timothy Jones RLC Crown Copyright 2016

Food was a constant topic of conversation thanks to team dietician and team member Rin Cobb’s carefully prepared and delicious rations. We would like to thank all the lovely people at Real Foods, Munchy Seeds, Top Herd Snacks, Planters Nuts and Fruizion Flapjacks for keeping the Ice Maidens happy and fuelled throughout a gruelling 14 days.

After 13 nights on the ice and an epic journey across the tundra where we saw just one bird and two moose, we returned to civilisation, entering base camp just as the temperature depth charged to -25 degrees.

Photographer: Cpl Timothy Jones RLC Crown Copyright 2016

Filled with an enormous sense of achievement after what, for many of us, was the toughest two weeks of our lives, we completed the next stage of selection and five team members were invited to join Nat Taylor and Nics Wetherill in the build-up to Antarctica. They are Major Sandy Hennis, Lt Zanna Baker, Lt Jenni Stephenson, LSgt Sophie Montagne and Pte Rin Cobb. This squad of seven will train over the next 11 months, and the final team of 5 that will travel to Chile and then Antarctica will be announced in 2017.

The Ice Maidens would like to thank SSgt Will Brant, Capt Vibs Sefland, Maj Gill Neil and Lucy for their outstanding help and support throughout Exercise Ice Ready. Thank you!

Guernsey Marathon – with a tyre

Six of us (Nat, Nics, Sandy, Steph, Rin and Sophie) headed to Guernsey for the August bank holiday weekend to take part in the Guernsey Marathon.

The organisers very kindly allowed us to start a couple of hours early so that we could get round the course with our tyre before midnight! We set off at dawn, taking it in turns to do one hour shifts with the tyre while the rest of the team walked or roller-skied alongside and provided outstanding morale. Although the locals thought we were nuts as we circumnavigated their island with a tyre, they were incredibly supportive and cheered us on right until the end.

Afterwards we seized the opportunity to explore the island where Rin grew up and see some of the sites with our very own local tour guide. This included a paddle boarding session which inspired the paddle boarding instructor to put this video together.

A trip to the seaside wouldn’t be complete without fish and chips on the beach, and we thought we’d do some early calorie-loading for our next trip to Norway in November.

And just before we left we popped into BBC Radio Guernsey to do an interview which you can listen to here.

 

 

 

An eventful July weekend – Saunders Mountain Marathon

On 2nd – 3rd July the Ice Maidens came from all corners of the UK to gather in the Lake District for the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon.

This 2-day orienteering race was designed to test the team’s micro-navigation skills, stamina and endurance as they ran (and walked) across the fells between carefully concealed check points. Competing in pairs, we practised our march routine by eating on the move and pausing for no longer than 7min breaks throughout the 8hr day. We had to carry our tents, food, kit, stoves and clothing for every weather that Cumbria decided to throw at us!

Nat & Nics at the start of the race

Just as the teams were descending a steep hill into the overnight campsite, one of the squad, Steph Innes-Smith slipped and fell off a cliff into a river. Fortunately, our two Ice Maiden doctors were on hand to administer first aid and help Steph get airlifted to hospital. She suffered minor back injuries, a broken arm and a wound to the head but is recovering well and should be back in training in time for Ex Ice Ready in November.

All very jealous that Steph got a ride in a helicopter, the rest of us camped in a bog in torrential rain and then got up to finish the race, coming together as one group due to the depleted numbers and the events of the day before. We finished in high spirits and were thrilled to be reunited with our rather battered team-mate as she was discharged from hospital. We wish Steph a super-speedy recovery!

Survivors’ photo!

 

 

 

ICE MAIDENS train in silence in the Brecon Beacons

Rin CobbPte Rin Cobb

An Army Reservist, Rin is a Combat Medical Technician in the Royal Army Medical Corps, attached to 7 Rifles in Oxford. For her day job as a dietician she advises athletes on performance nutrition, and also works with patients in hospital.

So I’ve just got back from another epic training weekend with my fellow Ice Maidens and felt inspired to pen a few words to help you get a picture of what we’re up to in the run up to Exercise Ice Ready this coming November. Naturally I’m sat here with a performance enhancing coffee and nutritious blueberry muffin to help my creative juices flow and keep my brain suitably fuelled. Each month the #sisterswithsledges meet up for training to make sure we cover all the essential bits like crevasse rescue and expedition first-aid for heading back to Norway and hopefully beyond. It also gives us the chance to get to know each other a bit better.

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Our latest venture took us to Ice Maiden Beth’s homeland, Wales, with the aim of beasting us, or in Army terminology “to undertake endurance training mimicking march routine”. Cue our illustrious leader, Ice Maiden Nat, a very well connected individual who just happened to know the chap organising a 42mile Ultra Marathon in the Brecon Beacons that same weekend…can you see where this is going? Fortunately she volunteered our services to collect the signs after the race rather than enter for the race itself and so we set off on Saturday morning doing 50 minutes walking with 5 minutes rest for the whole day, as per the Antarctic march routine.

One of the big challenges the team will need to overcome when down south is the solitude of skiing as the team of five will ski alone, one behind the other for 10hrs a day with little chance to interact except in the evenings…for 70 days! With this in mind, Ice Maiden Shiryn issued all of us with earplugs and we proceeded to march in silence, allowing us to be one with our thoughts…so what did I think about? Well I’m no stranger to having to occupy my mind for quite unsociable swathes of time from previous adventures (not to mention sitting in clinic where no-one’s turned up), but I did find myself pondering all sorts; the magnificent view, flapjack or munchy bag, trying to remember the words to “do you want to build a snowman”, and whether I needed to prioritise a pee at the next break. I have no doubt if you asked the other Ice Maidens, they’d come up with a similarly random mix of thoughts which has got to be better than repeating “just keep walking” in the voice of Dory.

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At the top of Pen Y Fan, under beautiful blue skies with our left sided sunburn, we got the obligatory summit team pic with 20 miles under our belts and headed back to our beautiful Roundhouse Yurt for the night. Now this was not just any yurt, if M&S made yurts, this would have people salivating and was a definite upgrade from the Arctic bell tents we’d used in Norway! After a restful night’s sleep, we greeted the day outside with some sun salutations led by our very own yoga instructor Shiryn, much to the delight of the local village and farmers far and wide.

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We finished off the weekend, trying out roller skis, an ingenious invention to help you train for Nordic skiing without snow. They’re definitely going to take some getting used to so will be yet another eyebrow raising feature of our training programmes, but then the Ice Maidens are used to these comical looks from our hours of dragging tyres.

Thanks to Ice Maiden Shiryn and Ice Maiden Beth for organising such a fantastic weekend and to Roundhouse Yurts for hosting us!

Follow Rin’s training on twitter @icemaidenrin

What happens when the Army deploys an ICE MAIDEN?

Sgt Vikki McIndewarVikki Blog

It is unclear who made the joke but when my unit realised I was trying to get to Antarctica they did a little research and saw Antarctica is actually a ‘desert’. Someone somewhere decided the best place to train for said ‘desert’ would be the actual desert! So I am now sitting in the sand at an average temperature of 26-34 degrees and often 100% humidity attempting to get some training in. I guess the joke is on me, after being told ‘if you sweat you die’ every day I hope I sweat a little less and I constantly look like I got in the shower with all my clothes on.

Temp- Vikki Blog

The sun rises at around 0555 so training begins at 0530, unless its scheduled PT when they get really excited and arrange it for 0450, yes next week its 0450….this is not good, I feel 0450 should only be seen if you didn’t get to bed because you were out having fun, but it is not a time to be heading to the gym…blurgh. We are controlled by the daily flag which if flown black means no outdoor exercise due to the excessive heat. As we move into the summer or ‘ridiculously hot’ season the black flag is seen more and more often. Lots of changes on camp and the new 7 day working week may have an impact on my training but for now I try to get as much in as possible even if it means doing squats in my office.

Vikki Blog training

I have been lucky enough to meet some inspirational people such as Tanya Clement 20th US woman to have climbed Mt. Everest, and the fifth American women to have reached the top by the North Ridge & Welshman Tom Whittaker the first amputee to summit Everest in 1998 on his 3rd attempt. Both had great advice and great stories to tell. Thanks to America 300, a US volunteer company that organise events and entertainment around the world, the troops remain entertained and inspired.

I am looking forward to heading back to he UK to have a nice long shower. 3 minute ‘ship showers’ just isn’t enough. I try to ration the water as I need at least 2 showers a day with all of the training and sweating. Not long to push now then a whole new training program, goodbye to Vincent (my tyre) and hello to running in the rain. I can’t wait, although I will miss the laughs we have at Tabata training.

Follow Vikki’s training on Twitter @exicemaiden

A week in the life of Nat Taylor: Full time doctor, part time expedition organiser

Nat Taylor blogNat is the Regimental Medical Officer (RMO) for 1 RIFLES, based in Chepstow, and is one of the organisers of EXERCISE ICE MAIDEN. She is an adventure racer, winner of an Arctic ultra marathon and preparing for her fifth Iron Man.
Read more about Nat.

Monday begins with 1 hour of tyre dragging before running a clinic in the local civilian practice to maintain my GP skills. Getting up at 6am after 2 weeks on a military field exercise was a challenge, but this morning I am greeted by a beautiful crisp, clear morning to lure me outside. The afternoon is spent in meetings, catching up on work and I leave the office at 7pm after doing some EXERCISE ICE MAIDEN planning. Luckily a mate has invited me over for food so I don’t have to worry about finding time to cook this evening. Phew!

Tuesday. What a day! After a morning swim (I entered Iron Man Wales at the weekend and am working hard on my swimming) work starts as soon as I get through the medical centre doors with sick people to see and decisions regarding soldiers’ ability to work. I wish I had planned ahead and made breakfast to eat in the car on the way to work. Lesson most certainly learnt as my stomach grumbles loudly until lunch!

I’m due to head to Lichfield to assess a course tomorrow but as I check the joining instructions (paperwork) I realise the course has been moved to Gosport. So glad I checked, but now rather than visit the grandparents on the way I’ll have a 5am start and 125 mile drive to make the morning brief. Needless to say I only have the energy and motivation for some evening yoga today.

Wednesday. Assessing the Battlefield Trauma Advanced Life Support (BATLS) course goes well and is followed by a conference call with a documentary team that are interested in filming EXERCISE ICE MAIDEN. I always get excited and re-energised after talking about ICE MAIDEN, despite the fact Nics and I have been working on this project for over 18 months now. After the long drive from Gosport to Chepstow, I go for a run in the local woods for a spot of fresh air. It is my first run in weeks due to being away on exercise and, as is often the case, I have to force myself to get out there but once I get going I don’t want the run to end. Whenever I feel too drained from work to exercise, I try to remember how energised I feel afterwards and that gets me out the front door!

Nat Taylor blog

On Thursday I cycle to the pool, do a tough swim session, cycle to work and then do circuits with my soldiers. An active morning before sitting down and reviewing medical centre procedures with senior figures at brigade (a bit like a regional manager for the medical sector within the Army). I manage to squeeze in 30 minutes of EXERCISE ICE MAIDEN admin for a bit of light relief, then have an afternoon clinic and more ICE MAIDEN work before heading home.

Friday starts with a hard Wattbike session, then morning clinic for the soldiers. I finish work at lunchtime and head to Bristol airport to catch a flight to Scotland. It’s the weekend!!!                  .

Saturday finds me walking in Scotland with a friend who wanted to spend her first long day in the Scottish hills since her son’s birth a year ago. The day starts at 6.30am and we are at the start of the trail with ice axes, crampons and emergency kit by 10am. Armed with Poppy the dog, we summit three munros. Although Poppy makes it to every peak first, we let her take the glory and thoroughly enjoy ourselves.

Nat Taylor blog
Considering it is late March, there is sunshine at points and the brocken spectre came out in all its glory at the first summit. This was a reminder of why we do winter walking in Scotland…because (just occasionally) it can be so beautiful!

Brocken spectre

A few patches of snow and ice but no need to deploy the crampons, and navigation is made easier when we get above the cloud where the views are stunning. We arrive back at the car 6 hours after we started with a feeling of satisfied fatigue and the delightful prospect of a beer. Back home my mate was greeted by two very enthusiastic young children and a relieved husband!

An evening spent reliving the day’s activity on the hill led to plans for next year and leaving the kids for a few days to attack a spine of munros over two nights, with some wild camping thrown in. This will be perfect EXERCISE ICE MAIDEN training!

Hill walking is accessible to so many and so long as you can navigate and have the basic safety equipment there is no reason not to get out there. It’s a great workout, you can do it throughout the UK and it’s FREE!

Follow Nat’s training on Twitter @icemaidennat

Selection for EXERCISE ICE READY announced

After an incredible two weeks in the Arctic Circle on EXERCISE ICE BAMBI, it has been a difficult decision for Nics and Nat to select those going on to EXERCISE ICE READY. They would like to wish the Ice Maidens leaving at this stage the best of luck in their future adventures.

We look forward to EXERCISE ICE READY this November back in Norway with Zanna Baker, Shiryn Burns-Hill, Jenni Stephenson, Sandy Hennis, Sara Canning, Rin Cobb, Hayley Creighton, Beth Grey, Steph Innes-Smith, Vikki McIndewar and Sophie Montagne.

Read more on EX ICE READY.