Overcoming depression through a love of hiking

John Pate
Tell us about the expedition

The expedition is an opportunity for 20 ordinary people from across the world to travel north into the Arctic Circle for the adventure of a lifetime. With the help of 200 sled dogs, the participants will travel 300 km from the edge of the Norwegian fjords to Swedish Lapland. It takes place over a week in April 2019.

What does it involve?

First of all, you have to be lucky enough to be selected to go. This is either through gaining the most votes in your region or being selected by a judging panel. That’s the easy part! Once you make it to Norway you have to guide your team of dogs across 300 km of Arctic wilderness, wild camping along the way with your fellow adventurers. With temperatures as low as -30°C and possible blizzard conditions it’s a challenge in some of harshest conditions you can face.

Why did you decide to get involved?

I’ve loved adventures and the outdoors since camping and hiking as a child. This particular adventure grabbed my attention and got my imagination running wild.

I applied because, like many others in our profession, I have suffered from mental health issues – specifically depression – over the past few years. This made me feel incapable or deserving of doing such things. However, after a long journey – and a number of peaks and troughs along the way – I’m happy to say I am heading in the right direction. It hasn’t been easy, but with the right support I now feel able to get back to doing what I love, so as soon as I heard about this expedition, I couldn’t wait to apply.

I also knew it would be a great platform from which to raise mental health awareness and give others some much-needed hope.

Have you done anything like this before?

Never! I’ve been in freezing conditions in the Andes and Iceland, but never anywhere as extreme and remote as Lapland. I certainly don’t have the first idea about driving a sled dog team, but I’m keen to learn.

Is there any special training involved?

If I get a place, I may need to work on my fitness. It’s a physically demanding journey and more tiring than my day job as an equine vet. I think I could do with gaining a few kilograms of insulation too! If you’re chosen, you get all the training and equipment you need.

Why should we vote for you?

From a selfish point of view, it would be the experience of a lifetime. However, it also has the potential to be so much more, helping a lot of other people by generating awareness of mental health disorders. I want to be a positive example, giving others hope when they need it most. Just through applying I have been given a platform to help others, but I want to make the biggest difference I can, as one way of saying thank you to the many people who have helped me. You can vote for me here!

If you get a place, what are you most looking forward to?

The whole experience – from start to finish – would be incredible. Being on the back of a dog sled looking out across the frozen landscape is the sort of experience you would never forget. It’s an experience that would stay with you. As a passionate photographer, there would also be some spectacular scenery to capture, with the chance of seeing the northern lights as well.

… and least looking forward to?

The obvious answer is the cold, but I think that just adds to part of the experience and it wouldn’t be the same without it. Saying that … I will certainly be packing lots of layers!

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