Twenty ordinary men and women recently went on a tough expedition to the Arctic, using dog sleds.
Among them is Rizal Khalif, 42, the first Malaysian selected as a participant in the expedition that took place from April 9 to 15.
He was introduced to the media at a press conference in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, organised by outdoor brand Fjallraven. “Fearlessness is not just for the young – it’s never too late to start (an adventure),” said the Malaysia Airlines employee when asked why he wanted to join the expedition.
Fjallraven Polar is a 300km journey to the Arctic wilderness that is participated by folks from all over the world, as well as a big pack of dogs. Participants were selected by the public through a voting process on Facebook. The other participants selected for this year’s expedition were from Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Greece, England, Germany, Portugal, Hungary, Serbia, Kyrgyzstan, United States, Australia, South Korea, Taiwan, and India.
Participants travel in harsh environmental conditions, facing blizzards, –30°C temperatures, and more.
“Fjallraven Polar is the opportunity for a few lucky people to test their limits on the adventure of a lifetime,” Fjallraven South East Asia director Paul Khor said.
The seed for Fjallraven Polar was planted in the early 1990s when Swedish entrepreneur and Fjallraven outdoor brand founder Ake Nordin met one of Sweden’s leading dog sled drivers, Kenth Fjellborg. Fjellborg had just participated in the Iditarod, the world’s toughest dog sleigh competition through Alaska, and this inspired Nordin greatly.
What was originally a race across the Arctic eventually transformed into an expedition for ordinary people.
“Taking people without wilderness skills into one of the world’s harshest environments – the Arctic tundra … it sounds crazy, right? But Fjallraven believes that with the right support, gear, and mindset, this adventure is achievable,” Khor explained.
The participants travelled from Signaldalen in Norway, to Vakkarajarvi in Sweden in five days. They were trained by Fjallraven’s team of experts. Participants then had to drive their own sleds, take care of their dogs, prepare all their own food, and set up their own camps.
This meant that Rizal would also have to take care of his own dogs during the expedition.
“I would be handling not just one but six Huskies. I don’t have any experience with dogs, so, to navigate the entire journey with six dogs would be my toughest challenge,” he shared during the press conference.
He added that he consulted with a mufti in Malaysia on ablution methods, which he would need to perform on his journey.
However, Rizal said that his biggest challenge was a daily activity that we hardly ever worry about – peeing. “Relieving myself during the journey, especially with the many layers of winter clothing that I’d be wearing (would be challenging)!”
Rizal is quite the adventurer. He has visited almost every country in South-East Asia, mainly for motorbike touring, backpacking, mountaineering, and white water rafting. “I love to see the world in its own simple and natural way,” he said.
“I believe that every new experience, especially one as challenging as Fjallraven Polar, can make me a better man. It will be a humbling journey to test myself to the limits, and perhaps, it would inspire others to test their limits too.”