Blog: Expedition to the North Pole
Published: 24 Sep 2018
I’ve just come back from the North Pole. It was without a doubt the most challenging thing I have ever done, but the truth is, I would go again.
I was travelling on my Churchill Fellowship as part of The Women's Euro-Arabian North Pole Expedition 2018, an international team of women from across Europe and the Middle East. Our goal was to journey to the North Pole, with the final 100km travelled by ski.
Like most of the team, it’s fair to say I was a novice polar explorer. I’m an Accounts Officer at Salford Royal Hospital. So travelling to the North Pole is quite a change from my usual routine.
So why did I do it? As my children have got older, I’ve felt a need to find a new niche, and to explore the world outside of my home and community. I don’t want to be constrained by the stereotypes people might have about 50-year-old Asian women.
When I heard about the expedition, I was determined to do it. Just believing in myself enough to apply was challenging. The training lasted for two years and, throughout, I was learning and growing as a person.
Reaching Barnoe basecamp in temperatures of -38⁰C was a shock, with my mind battling with my body for a few minutes. It felt like I was in a freezer turned up high. My eyelashes weighed so heavily that I couldn’t keep my eyes open. My frozen tears felt like sharp pieces of tiny glass pinching around my eyes. I started feeling the cold through my fingers and toes.
Below: Misba and the expedition team at the North Pole
During the expedition, I learnt to use various equipment and developed skills in navigation, food preparation and camp management. Almost as daunting was learning to use social media so that we could keep people updated on the expedition!
We faced many physical and mental trials, such as crossing shifting ice and having to pull sledges of food and fuel for the entire trip. On the second day, one member of our team suffered frostbite and had to be airlifted back to basecamp. Losing her after training together for two years was so sad.
The satisfaction I felt when I finally reached the North Pole was wonderful. One of the key aims of the project was to foster greater dialogue and understanding between Western and Arab cultures, and it was a privilege to share the experience with such a diverse group of women.
Our expedition showed that ordinary women from all walks of life can achieve quite extraordinary things and that age, faith, race and profession are not barriers to success.
I hope the expedition can inspire other women to reach beyond common expectation and fulfil their own ambitions. I am deeply proud to be the first British-Asian Muslim Woman to cross the North Pole.
A version of this article was first published in our 2018 newsletter. Read it here