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The Tough Girl Guide to Your First Cold Adventure with Ellen Piercy

Renata Chlumska  - Adventure athlete who became the first Swedish and Czech woman to climb Mount Everest and in 2005 did a circumnavigate of the lower 48 States of the United States by her own power.

Have a feeling you might want to embark on a ‘cold’ adventure? Ellen Piercy thought the same despite never having explored the challenges of a cold trek before. So she set off on an arctic expedition crossing Svalbard by ski (without knowing how to ski!).

No matter your age or experience level, a cold climate adventure isn’t out of your reach. With the right amount of preparation and determination, you can set off for whatever challenge your heart desires.

What should you know before taking off in the cold? What’s different about a potentially freezing adventure? Ellen Piercy shared her experience and advice on the Tough Girl podcast. Jumpstart your cold adventure plan with Ellen’s best advice.

Mentally Prepare for Your First Cold Adventure

Confront Impostor Syndrome

When preparing for a new challenge, facing a massive dose of imposter syndrome isn’t out of the ordinary. You may see people doing incredible things and think you are nothing like them.

Ellen took these same feelings of impostor syndrome head-on. “I set this challenge, partly, because I had absolutely no idea if I was going to be able to do it or not,” Ellen shares. “Then, I did it and it wasn’t the most horrendous, awful, hard thing. I just loved every moment of it.”

Now, Ellen sees that she is capable of doing something she’s never done before and had no idea she could do. Even though it wasn’t easy, Ellen finished and that helped change her impostor syndrome mindset.

Not sure if you’re capable of a particular challenge, especially one in the cold? That’s the point of trying it out! If an idea for an adventure is tugging at your thoughts, but you’ve never done it before, open yourself to the challenge of giving it a try.

Gain Skills in Training

For many cold adventures, you’ll need certain skills to be able to complete the expedition. Learning these skills can help you and your guide team (if going with a company), have confidence that you’re going to cope well in new circumstances.

Getting started can be as simple as finding a smaller version of the challenge you’d like to do. Ellen went on a polar training course in Norway with the same expedition company as her ultimate challenge to learn skiing and other cold weather skills.

“I spent a lot of my time on the bum, cursing because I couldn't get down the hills without falling over,” Ellen shares. “But I loved it. It was brilliant.” This experience gave Ellen a taste of what her ultimate adventure would be like. “Once I put the skis back on and set off, I’d actually forgotten very little. It only took me really a day to sort of get back to where I was at the stage of the polar training.”

Before you take on the cold adventure challenge of your dreams, consider what training might be helpful. Going on a smaller expedition with the guide company you want to work with can also help you see how you like working with them.

Prepare for Deep Focus

Once you’re prepared and at the starting line, you may find plenty of time for deep focus. “When we started skiing, it was game on, let’s go,” Ellen says. “The excitement and joy sort of came later. I almost didn't have time for the extremes of emotion.”

If you’re worried about mentally handling your challenge, Ellen’s experience may be reassuring. Particularly with technical work, your mind will be focused on the present moment.

Knowing she would have countless hours of time to herself as the group skied in a line, Ellen actually prepared things to think about. With this in mind, she was able to use her time to ponder ideas that fell aside during day-to-day life.

You can take advantage of your adventure by using your time to consider thoughts and ideas you’ve pushed aside or haven’t gotten to before.

Make it Happen

If you’re considering a cold challenge, chances are there could be things standing in your way. If you have time off work, kids or other responsibilities to plan around, keep in mind that it is still possible to go on your adventure. “It might just take longer to do it,” Ellen adds, “but you can still do it.”

Ellen’s next advice is to work out what your priorities are. What are you really going to want to do during your leave? Pondering what plans excite you the most can help you get started.

Finally, when you’ve got a goal, be prepared to pivot. There is a journey at hand when you’re working toward a major goal and every step you take forward is fantastic. Each task you do to train can be a great experience, even if you don’t make it where you thought you would. The journey of getting there should be fun, and if it’s not, you might need to change where you’re going.

Being able to call yourself a cold adventurer is almost a change of identity. It can change your perspective and approach. If this kind of challenge is calling to you, take that next step and you’ll be astounded where you end up.


Looking for a community of women passionate about the outdoors, including women who’ve completed incredible cold climate adventures? Listen to the Tough Girl Podcast for inspiration from women around the world.



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