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YEPs prepare for Nunavut

Xue Xi's

I am counting the days left for the expedition. I am also counting the numbers for my training. Until now, 60 kilometers running, 250 floors walking, 700 pull ups, 1400 push ups, all for this coming unusual adventure.
Having no place to go for a hike, I go upstairs with backpack filled with sand bags.

They used to be my improvised barbells,15 kg each .They are killing my shoulders now but I really enjoy it. Finally a good reason to train hard for.

Every day my T-shirt is washed by my body. They are never really dry in the past weeks. I think I am ready after all this. Train for a reason, go for a dream!



With one week until we leave for the expedition and 6 weeks into our training, my excitement is almost uncontainable! The training program Luke sent us 6 weeks ago has filled the hours of my afternoons and weekends and I couldn't be happier. I battled to find places to do good hikes as the area I live in is particularly flat however I did manage to get a few hours of climbing practice under my belt that I know will be valuable.


They’re staring at me. But instead of eyes, there are laces challenging me. Often enough I’ve eased my feet into those smelly and dirty running shoes and jogged as usual: Up the hill, down the hill. Most of the times I’ve really enjoyed the exercise and being outside in nature. But of course there have been also some days when it would’ve been much more convenient to stay at home. Then I made myself think about the physical activities we’ll endure during the expedition. I don’t want to be the one, that holds back the team… thus this has meant so far many kilometers of running and a couple of hours of swimming. Not to forget those tricky push-ups.

Another important part of every day the last weeks was the checking of E-mails. Before my Pangaea-involvement there wasn’t much in my Inbox. As for now: many interesting Project-news and messages of other Young Explorers float in. Additionally the more information we get about our Nunavut Expedition, the more excited I get! After I got the overall timetable with some of the activities like Big Wall Climbing and Visiting an old Mine Site for example, I was so thrilled that I spent hours on the Internet to check out the details about places like Clyde River and Igloolik.

At times it was difficult to deal with the disappointment, when another newspaper, magazine or company replied negatively or not at all. But the more you try and contact, the more positive results come out. I’m sure Mike Horn himself has had problems finding sponsors in the beginning of his Explorer career…

Not only electronically the mail has been more than interesting. Also the actual mail-man has brought nice surprises. Normally there is not much in the mail: bills and advertisements; Maybe some postcards (which I really enjoy). Now it’s the first thing in the morning to check the mailbox. We’ve received great packages of gear (thanks to the sponsors), also the press and friends write suddenly to you. An extraordinary surprise was a book with amazing Polar regions photographs of National Geographic. Thanks!

Well, I think I’ve given my best so far preparing for the biggest adventure of my life. But I’m actually not sure if you can ever be done preparing for the vast wonders of nature…


Eternally dirty shoes, Mike Horn's T-shirt, Selection Camp playlist, my dog – and I can start running. Morning exercices advised by Luke consist of jogging or cycling and strenght training, more and more intense every week. I also go swimming, as in my opinion there's no other sport engaging all the muscles and so pleasant at once. As far as I know, the others go climbing, hiking, cycling. Well, I found another sport, more exhaustive and painful than anything else: shopping.

Althought most of the Expedition gear was sponsored (getting an enormous package with all the pretty clothes and high quality equipment was simply awesome: I was running around the house, trying on every jacket, pair of trousers, even socks for about an hour :); thank you!), there were some last things we needed to buy on our own. I tried to prepare for this challege: I made a list of things that I wanted to buy and shops where it seemed possible to get them, but when I was already facing the task everything turned out to be useless… After 5 hours spent in various sport centres and other stores I felt completely drained from strength and a few more items reminded on the list.


Time really flew past the last couple of weeks since returning from the YEP 9th Selection Camp in Chateaux d’Oex! The SA media was very eager to hear about my time at the camp & also about the planned Mike Horn YEP expedition to Nunavut. Newspapers, magazines & radio stations all wanted to hear about it . I soon learned that one needs to be very specific and clear when dealing with the press because they love to dramatize everything! But I am happy that the Mike Horn Young Explorer Program got a lot of media exposure and I have several interviews & presentations lined up for after the expedition as well. I would suggest future YEPs to get some guidance at the selection camps about dealing with the press  (and modelling as well 😉 . This added skill will help us to spread the Mike Horn Pangaea message more easily.

As a South African I had to apply for Canada and USA visas. This was quite stressfull as the Canada embassy is in Pretoria ( 1300km away from Cape Town) and I had to be 100% sure that my documentation was correctly completed & couriered by plane in time. Fortunately all went well and I received my passport/visa in time for my USA visa interview in Cape Town. Even though I’ll only be in transit via Washington , USA granted me a “crew” visa valid for 10years as I will be sailing the seas as from next year ☺ . I am slowly beginning to feel like an international explorer ☺.

Physical Training has been GREAT fun for me – although we are in middle of our winter, we had sunny days for most of the time. So I needed no excuse to go mountainbiking, running or hiking on the hilly wine farms surrounding my village! My swim training continued in the evenings at the gym. I always find that swimming really relaxes my muscles and is a great way of low impact exercise. As I am a complete novice when it comes to big wall climbing, I asked one of SA’s best climbers (Matt Bush) to guide me on a couple of Table Mountain rockfaces & “practice makes perfect” – I am now much more confident with the gear & have come to trust my rope !

After receiving our required kit /gear list , I was on a mission to find real hiking shoes . The Selection Camp raid definitely convinced me about the importance of wearing good supportive hiking boots ! Finding hiking boots in SA that is suitable to wear with cramp-ons for the glacier trekking we are planning to do, was not easy ! But I am very happy with the La Sportiva Vajolet boots I bought & have put many kilometres of hiking on them already ☺ . Hiking with 18kg in our new Quechua backpacks definitely puts extra strain on your body, but I can already see myself exploring many different hiking routes in my beautiful country in the near future!

Getting the sponsored expedition gear felt like the best present ever! At first the Cape Town customs confiscated everything and wanted me to pay a lot of import duty & taxes as well, but after I gave them all my letters & documents & visas ( thanks Martin for fast response & help) , it was cleared & I could unpack & fit. I immediately tested the clothes’ warming capabilities by wearing it after my Speedo Africa Ice Swim event – it’s amazing how well the technical design works in extreme cold – thanks Quechua! This weekend my friends & I am going to one of the coldest places in the Western Cape – Ceres. Snow is predicted & I hope to do some acclimmatisation hiking in the surrounding mountains.

Off course there are more to do than just physical exercise – Prof Roswitha Stolz gave us a very technical workbook about Baffin Island & we have to study all about the climate, geography & people of this area. Our group has also been researching various Arctic issues as preparation for our expedition project and managed to get many first aid kits & soccer balls sponsoredI 

As we count down the days till leaving for Nunavut, I am doing more visualization excersizes. I find that this helps with how I deal with new & unexpected situations. The trick is to “see” yourself triumphantly finishing the obstacles you are faced with! Big wall climbing, glacier trekking, sailing icy North West Passage waters ,  minus 0ËšC temperatures , unpredictable weather forcing a changed plan of action  and different personalities crammed into confined spaces are just some of the many challenges that this extreme YEP Nunavut Expedition are going to throw at us.

I have enjoyed my training programme in the most beautiful natural surroundings here in the most southern tip of Africa and  cannot wait to get on the plane to Nunavut to explore the most northern tip of Arctic Americas !


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