Learning from Mother Nature

The sponsor meetings and media commitments in Dubai kept me so occupied, I didn’t even think about the importance of the upcoming week. It was my last exposure to subzero training ahead of the expedition. While I sat in front of a CNN crew shooting an interview at Almaz in Harvey Nichols, I looked down at my phone to read my trainers’ messages as they raided my house in London to pack my bags for the trip. Where are your plunge mitts? Do you need your RAB down coat? Fleece? Carabiners…

Learning from Mother Nature
Day one cross-country. Snowing with poor visibility

I barely had a chance to kiss my parents goodbye (again). Somehow it gets harder as I get older to say goodbye to them yet again. But this time my mind was already planning all the stuff I’d get done on the flight to Paris.

We drove from Paris to La Plagne and the training started the next day. I expected it to be physically grueling, at times scary. I looked forward to over four consecutive hours of hard work to test all the progress I gained in my indoor training.

As it turned out I barely noticed the hard work. It came with the territory. Instead the mental challenge came to life. Every action I did I compared to the realities that awaited me in April. Every time I slowed down to talk to my trainer, I thought about how I would freeze if I didn’t keep up the pace during the expedition. Every time I pulled out my BlackBerry to tweet or respond to my PR agent’s e-mails, I thought about the silence that awaited me. Every evening that was filled with a home-cooked meal, bath and remedial sports massage, I thought about the eight-hour days with no warmth at the end coming up in a month.

Learning from Mother Nature
Pulling a sled with rocks weighing about ten kilos each. My trainer said they were only five each to motivate me…
Learning from Mother Nature
At times, it was steep and hard not to slip down the entire slope which I had just spent 45 minutes climbing up!

And somehow guilt set in. Frustration set in. Frustration with myself, as I wanted more from myself, more resilience. I slept little and found sunrise a relief, as I woke up to meditate before the day started. Without that my mind raced, which made the daily trek even harder. This ended with a stern lecture from Philly, who herself competed as an extreme skier for a very long time. And understood the psyche of setting crazy goals.

Not being able to prepare for every aspect of the challenge is inherent to such expeditions. Fears that you never thought you had do surface. And those are the exact moments to press forward… which is what I did in La Plagne.


  1. Fahad on

    I’m really happy that one of our citizens has the patience and like to do such dangerous activities. I was always thinking to do such things but unfortunately I couldn’t do it and now after I see you guys doing it, it surprised me and I enjoyed much.

    Anyhow, can I ask you how you got the idea and how you explore and clarify it till you get to this level? And can you advise me what shall I do to follow your path and walk in your steps toward the top?

    Regards and hope to hear from you soon and take care in your journey. Be back safe.

  2. pim on

    Go girl!! remember, 80% mental - 20% physical

  3. Nesmah Anwar on

    Am really happy and proud of you Elham. I read an article about you in one of the magazines here in Dubai and I was fascinated and impressed by your determination to go to the North Pole. It’s a tough journey, but I bet you can do it.

    In fact you had inspired me to believe that anything can come true and you can follow your dream regardless of who you are.

    Having that said, I wish you all the best in your journey and may Allah bless your heart and soul.

  4. jessima on

    Keep keeping up with you through your tweets. The one about Oakley unable to give you prescription glasses shot me out on a trail of thought… It is commonplace but it is a different taste when something commonplace is delivered with realization…

    In this case… I was humbled by how helpless we humans really are, with all of our great advancements. We fear/hesitate to go forth for want of something such as 20/20 vision. Imagine all those people who have done it before with nothing but perseverance… and the will to survive.

    Loved the shot of you pulling rocks… it is so grounding… Do you realize on how many levels you are giving with this task that you have undertaken? Shine on!!!

    Much love to you, the angels are privileged to walk with you and keep you safe.

  5. Mathilde on

    Elham - we are all with you, you make us sooooo proud!! All the best, and love!

  6. Fire Child on

    Go Snow Princess! I am rooting for you with all my heart and soul! Te quiero con todo lo que tengo.

  7. Karabo on

    I’m so proud of you Elham!!! You remind me that even the things which one thinks are insurmountable challenges can be done with drive, determination and dedication! All the best! I’m rooting for you all the way from Jo’burg.. some 115 degrees south from your destination!

  8. Farheen Bizzari on

    You truly are an inspiration for all people regardless of their gender or nationality.
    I admire your commitment and dedication, and wish you all the best. Looking forward to your twitter updates and following you on your journey.

    All the best
    Farheen Bizzari, Sharjah

  9. Pam Durant on

    There really are no words to describe the inspiration and motivation that you encompass.  I wish you all the best on your journey!!  Not only are the locals in the UAE behind you, but the entire community is with you!

    Have a wonderful, safe journey!
    Pam Durant,

  10. Judith on

    Safe Journey Elham. You are a role model now!

  11. parwana on

    my dearest niece,  my mind is with u almost all day and every time i go towards my computer, all i think is you .  so straight away i check only ur site anything that has to do with u.  wish u all the luck and may allah be with u all the time.  ur aunt in kuwait .

  12. Shahla on

    Enjoy your journey and don’t lose your hope because God is with you.

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About this journal

This is Elham Al-Qasimi’s journal, kept as she prepares for her North Pole expedition. Keep track of both her preparation as well as her progress during the expedition here.

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Before she sets out on her expedition, Elham has a very busy schedule to follow. Follow a date link to read what she’ll be doing on that day.

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