Why An Epic Cold-Weather Expedition Should Be Your 2024 Vacation


Scientists have confirmed that January and February broke global heat records and predictions for the spring suggest soaring temperatures won’t be abating. It’s no surprise, then, that one of accommodation platform Booking.com’s travel predictions for 2024 was ‘cool-cations’, where people visit colder climes to ‘revive and refresh themselves’. According to the site’s annual report where predictions are published, the majority (51%) of travelers surveyed said that climate change will impact the way they plan their vacation in 2024, while over half (56%) say that as temperatures soar close to home, they will use their vacation to cool down elsewhere.

For some adventurers like Louis Rudd, the first Briton to reach the South Pole solo, and Wendy Searle, the 7th woman to ski solo to the South Pole, subzero temperatures are a standard feature of their travels. They are now working with luxury outerwear and travel experience brand Shackleton on challenges in Europe that give a taster of what their expeditions involve including a women’s polar skills trip to Norway and a Mont Blanc summit challenge. Rudd and Searle will be leading the experiences. Here’s what they say about preparing for an ambitious expedition and for cold weather.

Why You Should Undertake An Expedition

According to Rudd, the physical and mental rewards of taking on an expedition are huge. “Although it is sometimes daunting to take on a big challenge, it’s when we push ourselves outside of our comfort zones that we really grow,” he says. “The sense of achievement, confidence and self-belief that you attain after a successful trip can then be used in all parts of your life going forward.”

“It’s when you’re outside your comfort zone that you learn so much about yourself, and about what’s important,” Searle adds. “When we’re on our own expeditions, it’s often about that feeling where life is precious, and death is close. It’s where you feel most alive.” Their Shackleton Challenges intend to help other people to be in that place. “People often come on Challenges with some trepidation—and that’s no bad thing—but they leave with a new perspective on themselves and the life they’re returning to.”

How To Prepare For An Expedition

Rudd and Searle have worked with plenty of clients on preparating for big expeditions. “I always recommend to clients to get as fit as they possibly can for a challenge as there are many obstacles to overcome during a trip and at least if your fitness is good it’s one less thing to have to deal with,” says Rudd. “The fitter and better prepared you are for an expedition the more you will enjoy it.”

This may involve tyre hauling, strength and conditioning in the gym or the use of an altitude chamber if they are planning to summit a high peak. Tyre hauling, Searle explains, is the traditional way of training without snow. “You use a sledding harness—not a million miles from the kind Scott and Amundsen would have used—and a big 4×4 tyre and off you go.” To prepare for a mountain climb, she suggests putting some weight in a backpack and finding some hills.

There’s a lot of mental preparation you can do too. “Read as much as you can about the journey ahead, talk to anyone you can find who’s done it, and gather advice,” says Searle. “I visualize my journey as seeing myself finishing strongly—there are always uncertainties and doubts that creep in but that’s normal too.”

Best Clothing And Equipment For A Cold Weather Expedition

Rudd doesn’t embark on an expedition without his Shackleton Kaplan compact cap for protection from bright sunlight on high-altitude mountain trips and his Shackleton Rothera mid-weight down jacket for use in base camps to keep the chill off. He also always packs a pee bottle. “Needing a pee in the middle of the night in a tent in Antarctica or a high mountain camp in the Himalayas, having a pee bottle is a godsend,” he says. “It saves having to get dressed, head outside, get cold and then try to get back to sleep!”

Searle emphasizes the importance of a good layering system comprising decent thermal layers and a windproof outer. She also recommends investing in high-quality gloves like Hestra gore-tex ski gloves. Searle brings a Nalgene water bottle which doubles up as a hot water bottle in the tent and provides water for drinking throughout the night that won’t freeze by morning. She wears a Shackleton Hercules jacket on trips. “It comes in a women’s fit and packs down so small, “ she says. “I wore it on the summit of Aconcagua a few weeks ago—it’s taken a hammering but it seems to survive anything!”

“Deep Reserves Of Mental Resilience”

For Rudd and Searle, undertaking challenges that push you mentally and physically to extremes is life-changing. In 2018, Rudd skied solo for over 900 miles across the Antarctic landmass. “It was a long lonely journey that I often doubted I would complete,” he says. “Just under halfway across I had an encounter with a small bird called a Snow Petrel, which was a surreal experience as I had never seen any wildlife in Antarctica before this. I took it as a good omen that I would be ok and it completely changed my mental perspective from that moment on. I’m not particularly spiritual or superstitious but that encounter will live with me forever.”

For Searle, her most memorable moment was her first sighting of the South Pole after 42 days alone. “It was the culmination of five years of training and fundraising,” she says. “I didn’t know until that moment that I was going to make it—so much can happen so quickly on a polar journey.” She also emphasizes the value of moments of hardship and suffering, “wondering how I’ll go on for another day, another hour, even another step, when the conditions seem too ferocious, the mountain too steep, the air too thin, and I feel exhausted.” She looks back on those moments and knows she’s been able to “draw on some deep reserves of mental resilience that spur me on to keep pushing my limits.”

Shackleton Challenges To Book In 2024

Women’s Polar Skills Challenge, Finse, Norway

Shackleton’s Women’s Polar Skills Challenge is aiming to open up the world of polar exploration even further.

Dates: 24.03.24 – 29.03.24

Days: 6

  • In a space designed by women, for women, the course will be based in Norway’s Finse, the home of polar training, and led by Wendy Searle.
  • The week-long Women’s Polar Skills Challenge will coach women in all the essential techniques required for them to survive, travel and thrive in the world’s most inhospitable environments.
  • The course’s classroom-based sessions will be followed by an overnight expedition on the ice where nighttime temperatures regularly plummet to -25°C. Participants will be hauling a pulk with all of their cooking and camping equipment over undulating terrain to a spectacular polar location in the Hardangervidda National Park.

Norway Hut to Hut Challenge, Norway

Ski-traverse across the stunning Hallingskarvet National Park whilst seeking the unique remote refuge of the Norwegian hut system.

Date: 24.03.24 – 29.03.24

Days: 6

  • The Hut to Hut Challenge includes long distances and undulating terrain.
  • Ski a challenging route, covering about 65km, led by renowned polar guides, starting and ending at the iconic Finse 1222 Hotel.
  • Stay in three of the 500 ‘DNT’ mountain huts in Norway which provide refuge in wilderness areas.
  • Ski through mountain passes, across frozen lakes, and into valleys, with stunning views of Hardangerjokulen and surrounding areas.
  • Daily distances will increase incrementally (as you further familiarise yourself with polar travel), whilst spending the evenings in the comfort of traditional Norwegian accommodation, listening to remarkable stories from record-breaking polar explorers.

Lofoten Expedition Challenge, Norway

Traverse Norway’s 100km Lofoten archipelago on foot and by sea.

Date: 15.06.24 – 27.07.24

Days: 7

  • A year’s worth of adventure experiences in one week, this unique Challenge is designed for explorers to push themselves in some of the most spectacular, varied and demanding landscapes in the world.
  • Lofoten is situated deep in the Norwegian Arctic Circle in the land of the midnight sun. It’s a place of raw, northerly elements where big ocean swells slam into jagged mountain peaks rising vertically from the sea. Few places on earth bring together the elements of mountain and ocean with such photogenic drama—it’s no surprise that it appears on so many bucket lists. Most of the greatest sights are inaccessible and only by hiking and climbing do you get to appreciate the islands properly—and increase your chances of sighting moose or even orca. 
  • Shackleton’s guides have designed a special June crossing of the islands to take in the finest elements at the best time of year: hugging the coastlines of fjords, crossing through elevated snow fields, summiting mountain peaks, descending onto pristine beaches, negotiating your way across boulder fields and traversing ridges; each day is different.
  • Progressing through the week, you’ll get more comfortable with the gnarly hiking Norway has to offer.
  • This will culminate with an ascent at the end of the week of one of the highest peaks on the Moskenesoya island and an iconic ridge traverse which you’ll remember for a lifetime.

Mont Blanc Summit Challenge, Western Europe

Climb and summit Western Europe’s highest peak.

Date: 30.06.24 – 06.07.24

Days: 7

  • Rising to 4,808m, the ‘white mountain’ is the highest peak in the Alps and Western Europe. Its first ascent in 1786 marked the beginning of modern mountaineering and has given this iconic peak ‘must-climb’ status amongst adventurers worldwide ever since.
  • Shackleton’s comprehensive preparation programme includes physical training and nutrition guidance and will lay the foundations for what will undoubtedly be one of the most memorable and rewarding weeks of your life.
  • Once in the Alps, you will be based in Shackleton’s Chamonix HQ, where the team will meticulously prepare you for your summit attempt before taking on the ultimate goal.


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