The Railway platform at Finse, Norway. Once the train leaves you are cut off. It is not accessible by road.

Ski and equipment Training was at Finse, Norway. This is where general fitness and cross country skiing are tested. Fitness levels for Last Degree and 4/5 Day expeditions do not need to be "epic" but you need to be aerobically fit and used to long hikes over a number of days.

After a pretty rigorous training regime at home I was pleased to record a personal best of completing in 7 and a half hours, a 50 kilometre hike with 8 kg weights in my backpack. On the trip to the Pole you must be able to ski for up to 10 hours a day (covering about 20-25 kilometres) and pull a sled with up to 50 kilo-grams on board. Finse is famous in the annals of Polar training. Fridtjof Nansen visited and Shackleton trained here before his expedition to Antartica.

Finse, Norway - Population 10

Finse is the highest situated railway station on the Bergen railway at 1222 metres above sea level and is located approximately 2 hours by train from Bergen and 4 hours from Oslo. Placed in the midst of the Hardangervidden mountain plateau in between two National Parks Finse is remote, yet easily reached by train.

Finse village was first established in connection to the construction of the Bergen railway and has since then been the base for the snow clearing operations which keep the tracks open during winter.

At its peak, Finse had a population of approximately 200 people. Today, only 10 people have a permanent address at Finse, which increases to 30-35 people during the high season.

The deep snow drifts at the Finse 1222 Hotel

The main entrance to Finse 1222

Tourism is Finse's most important industry, however, environmental research also plays a vital role.

The place is well known as a specialized winter destination, and many expedition teams choose to test their equipment in the harsh conditions at Finse before embarking on their polar expeditions. Be-cause of the unspoilt and wild landscape and a long ski season (November - June), the place is a favoured place for ski enthusiasts.

Finse is a car free zone and is only reachable by Train.

Training took place over 5 days in Jan 2008 and again for 5 days in Feb 2009. Looking on from the left is Ronny Fins?s. Ronny is from Finse. In the Antarctic summer he is the chef at ALE's base camp, Patriot Hills. Otherwise he is doing kiting journeys and teaching for the past 11 years. He also did three kite trips from South Pole to Hercules Inlet, in 2003, 2004 and January 2008. With the last one he skied the 1130 km from the South Pole in 5 days. On one stretch he covered a distance of 271,45 nm or 502,73 km in less than 24hours, a new world record.

On the leftmost sled is David Harrison from England, myself on the centre sled and on the right is Dan Bull an Australian, recently returned from successfully summiting Mount Everest. Good company - it was hard not to feel intimidated!

Time for a break, some fruit tea! It was actually quite nice. This photo was taken on the 2008 training trip and the calm was in stark contrast to the weather that was to come the following day. That day was a 'brutal' hike in appalling conditions, to simulate an emergency evacuation. We skied for 5 hours most of it in total whiteout. Temperatures of -20 C and winds gusting close to 100km.

On the 2009 Trip, the worst day was the second last day. The night before I hadn't slept at all. Temperatures were -30 degrees and in the tent my exhaled breath kept falling back on my face as a freezing drizzle. This would be followed by an inhalation of freezing air into the lungs that served as an ice cold radiator from within! The day was 10 grueling hours of cross country skiing up and down the highlands that surround Finse. The day finished in darkness at around 8:00pm, having started at 10:00 AM with just 5 breaks, most no longer than 10 minutes each and all of fresh water consumed by the end of the second break. The skiing up the hills with the heavy sleds was very, very heavy going, especially when dehydrated. We covered about 22 kilometres in what was easily a 7,500 calorie burn!

David in the foreground, myself and Dan.

Skiing up the hills with the heavy sleds was hugely energy sapping.

David, Dan and Borge Ousland taking a quick break.

Glad to be getting back to Finse at the end of Training, Feb 2009.

Packed up and ready to go on the last day of Training.