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Arctic Ultras Training Course


Course dates have not yet been released for 2024, and it is likely the format will be different from previous editions. 

The course is open to anyone, whether you are committed to participating in an Arctic expedition, Arctic Ultra race, or just thinking about these for a future year.  In general, the intensity and pace of fast and light travel in the Arctic and sub-Arctic can be more comfortable than other single stage races, but nowhere else is it more important to be prepared for the environment.

Theory discussions:

Adaptations to the cold | Cold injuries | Exercise in the extreme cold | Race strategies

Nutrition and Hydration | Sleeping systems | Overflow and open water | Risks and Emergency procedures | Training and Fitness | Medevacs and self-evacs

Practical sessions:

Progress along the trails | Navigation methods | Stove use and maintenance | Melting snow and cooking food | Fire starting |Sleeping set-ups | GPS/Tracker use

We will test stoves and sleeping equipment each day, whilst going through rehearsals of setting up camps and continuing along the trails after. 

Why Head North?

For many of us, racing and adventuring in the sub-Arctic and Polar regions has become our passion (and obsession).  There is nowhere in the world like it.  It is the most beautiful environment I have ever seen, and one of the world's last true wildernesses.  Racing here requires a different mindset and respect for the environment than elsewhere.  The clothing, equipment, food, strategy, trails, pace and the dangers are all unique.  The few of us who finish these events relish the opportunity to spend time with others who have done so, to share stories (and often to make plans). 

The Experience


The goal of the course is to ensure athletes are well-prepared for fast and light travel in the sub-Arctic and Polar regions, and multi-day ultra races in these environments, such as the Iditarod Trail Invitational, 6633 Arctic Ultra, Montane Arctic Ultras and more.  For those who already have experience of such events, it will give a chance to test different equipment and perhaps to hear more about the science and strategy of racing in these environments.  For those without any particular plans to race in the cold, the course will hopefully shed light on the different races and help you decide if it is for you, and which events in particular.

Being sniffed by wolves, charged by moose, inconvenienced by a wolverine, sharing trail with a huge wolf pack and two mountain lions, falling through overflow, floundering in deep snow, succumbing to minor frostbite and broken ribs - these are just a few of my own learning experiences from the Arctic and sub-Arctic.  Still, none of it means much when progressing along as the northern lights dance directly overhead, like a waving curtain 100 miles tall.  The most common reason I hear that people are put off these events is the cold.  In all my time in that environment, the total time I have ever felt cold is perhaps one day out of several months.  The right gear and knowledge is almost all you need.

Why My Course?

I recommend people participate in all the training courses they can; read every blog post and web article, read every book, and get to the environment well ahead of the event, all to ensure they are as well-prepared as possible, and with the greatest chance of success.  My course is far enough ahead of the events to give people the best chance of practicing what is covered, and to finalise their kit choices before getting to the race location. 


My experience includes multiple podium finishes in Arctic ultras for the foot category, and two 'fastest rookie' finishes (first attempts).  I have accummulated thousands of miles of sled-hauling, in racing and independent expeditions, from the sub-Arctic to the Arctic sea ice.  I have also fat-biked thousands of miles in the Arctic and sub-Arctic.  Considering these and a variety of support roles, I have some useful practical experience to draw on in the sessions.  I am also an exercise physiologist and biomechanist, and give university lectures on exercise in the extreme cold.  Hence I have the right academic background to support presentations on cold adaptation, injury, training, nutrition, hydration, and all other aspects of completing these events.

The course is supported by some of the best brands for Polar expedition gear, with discounts available for participants.

Course Overview:

Aims & Objectives

The course will be a blend of theory and practical sessions.  The overall goal is to give everyone the confidence and know-how to move safely and effectively in the Arctic and sub-Arctic.  These environments will be the most unfamiliar and unnerving to many people.  Whereas in other locations when you experience a problem you can take a break and reset, in the cold even resting requires planning.  The course will include all the background information needed to understand the risks and how to ensure safe and efficient progress along the trails.

What's Involved

We will be covering the basics of using liquid-fuel stoves and their maintenance in sub-zero temperatures.  You will be cooking meals with the stoves at least once a day, and boiling water for hot drinks (and melting snow, if available).  Resting for breaks or to sleep requires some forethought, and you will go through these whilst out on the trails.  The basics of sled set-ups will be discussed, and some equipment will be available to test. 


Although we will spend some time in the hills, this is an Arctic Ultras training course and not a Winter Mountain Leader course.  The bulk of the course is theoretical, with additional focus on key practical skills that you need to make 'automatic' by the time you leave for The North. 


The different races have different levels of navigational knowledge required (you might go a day without seeing a trail marker or another competitor in the ITI, for example).  For most it is imperative that you are confident navigating via a handheld (and/or watch-based) GPS.  A map and compass is of little use over the distances of these races, and some trails are not well-marked at all. 

Sleeping Systems


There are a variety of sleeping systems that people use during the events, and during the course each will be looked at and considered, so you can get a feel of what you're most confident with.  As well as the different sleeping systems, racers have very different approaches to how and where they sleep.  This will also feature during the evening sessions out on the trails.  The penultimate day will involve a night-hike with multiple camp set-ups, before a final camp in the Peaks before returning to the venue in the morning.



I am very pleased to be working with Kovea in the UK, via their UK and European distributor I have used a few of their stoves over the years, most notably the Spider in the image above, and their Booster +1, which I use on expeditions in the Arctic and sub-Arctic. The quality and reliability of their stoves is excellent, as is the support given. I have used them the world-over, and am extremely pleased with them.

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