CLICK HERE TO RETURN TO RONA'S SITE

"You want me to go where?
Who are these women,
anyway?"

 
Support the expedition charity, the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund.
 
With many thanks to

 for sponsoring web hosting.
 

Rona and Cathy are featured in this month's GQ magazine, two of six explorers 'for whom the adventure never ends'.
Take one round-the-world yachtswoman, one high-altitude mountaineer, and one Norwegian dog-racing expert, 24 dogs bred to run, add herds of several thousand reindeer, mountains, lakes, lots of snow and place deep in Europe's last wilderness, the Norwegian Arctic.   What do you have?

The Nordkapp 2004 expedition, with Rona Cant & Cathy O'Dowd.

This expedition has now been successfully completed.

71 10' 21": At 13.50 Western European time on Wed 21 April 2004 the Nordkapp expedition reached its objective. Three tired mushers and 26 tired dogs (one so tired she was being given a lift in a sled) arrived at the northern-most point of Europe, the Nordkapp. We cracked open a bottle of champagne and celebrated the successful conclusion to 11 days of travelling.
It has to be said that the wilderness is not what it once was and we were greeted by a visitors centre and a coachload of tourists all frantically photographing the dogs. Nevertheless we could look out over the deep blue sea, lying calm under stormy grey skies, and know that nothing lay between us and the North Pole.
All that remained was a line of sled tracks stretching across 528 kms of snow, some 4 million paw prints from the dogs, gradually melting away in the spring sunshine, and some terrific memories.

Goodbye and happy travels from the Nordkapp 2004 team.

For the dispatches from the trail, click here.

Q: So how do you run a website from the back of a dog-sled, on the move through the Norwegian Arctic, in average temperatures of -20C?

A: Click here.

We have been swamped with emails wishing us good luck and god speed on our trip. Thanks to all of you who have emailed and phoned. Your support means a lot to us.

  • You have nothing but my complete and utter admiration. Go Girls. Rikki Arundel.
  • Sound awfully adventurous. Have fun. Roland Magg.
  • I know you have experience  in cold climates but please keep your extremities warm.  Mine still bother me after 1944-45 in Europe. Ed O'Dowd.
  • Will follow your journey with interest with children at school. Special prayers of peace at this Easter time surround you. Take care. Shirley Cole
  • Wow what a challenge. Kevin.
  • I am sure there will be an abundance of marvelous vistas as well as fulfilling experiences.  I wish you and your team the Best of Luck. Alan Wade.
  • sounds absolutely terrific . . . . Good Luck! Jenny.
  • keep my fingers crossed for you every time you go for an adventure: Sending you all our love and support, Rebeca and little Sarah 
  • Sounds like a great adventure about to start! Safe Travels. Colin
  • I do hope you have a wonderful trip - wish I was going too!  Michele Marriott
  • Have a super journey. Enjoy the challenge. God Bless, Agnes Fitzgerald.
  • Wishing you success and - a lot of pleasure. It will really be silent up there! Apart from the dogs' noises, and even they can be very silent. Claudia Shade.
  • I wish you and Rona all the strength and powers of endurance you need for this adventurous trip! Irina
  • I wish you lots of success. With your track record and professionalism, this adventure will become again a future reference on how to achieve great challenges. Wim Mangodt
  • Good luck, enjoy, it looks extremely exciting, Karen Ballantine
  • I wish you a FANTASTIC adventure with lots of laughs, amazing sights and a healthy, safe return!! Tracy Plaice
  • Your dog sled adventure will be one of a kind, sounds great, good luck and have fun. Ravi Chandran.
  • wow thats great stuff, good luck. Don MacRobert. PS can I lend u a hot water bottle
  • the trip sounds amazing!! Margaret Gee
  • you are in our prayers...all of you.... Bill Lauterbach

08 April: Picture below left: Rona and Cathy downing the coffee to try and stay awake at Heathrow, waiting for the flight out to Oslo.

07 April Cathy: Picture above right: Myself  trying to sort and pack all the communication equipment needed to run the website. In fact it comes down to the Iridium satellite phone and the Ipaq PDA that I am holding in my hands. But super-lightweight gear still comes with a jungle of wires and batteries and extras.

07 April Rona: Having got over my panic attack on Monday, when I was physically ill, we've got to the point where there is nothing left to do but pack and go. It will be great just to get out there, away from all the preparations. What isn't done now isn't done. We just have to go...
Click here for a farewell video from Rona (Broadband recommended)

07 April 20.10 Cathy:  Rona and I are in her flat in Oxford, doing the final packing. The entire floor of her living room is covered with technical kit - batteries, chargers, leads, and fancy light-weight gizmos. They may each be very dinky but when you put it all together there seems to be a hell of a lot of stuff. With large numbers of people wanting to know about the expedition, we alternate between taking phone calls, sending emails, doing sporadic bits of packing, and remembering things we don't have and should nip out and buy (actually that is just me - Rona seems more organised).
I have a scare yesterday when I realised we didn't have the lithium AA batteries that are the source of power for the website technology - the PDA and the sat phone. I couldn't find any in Andorra, so as I travelled today, Rona has been scouring the countryside of Oxfordshire looking for batteries. Which she found, saving the day for the entire communications challenge.

07 April 09.01 Cathy:  At Barcelona airport, with all of 21/2 hours sleep on the bus to here. I am not feeling at my brightest. One day I will leave on an expedition beautifully organised, but this definitely isn't that trip. But I love technology when it works, as I update this website, standing outside the business class lounge using their unsecured wifi access.
I'm already getting strange looks from airport security as they examine the cold weather battery packs that will power the video camera during the expedition.

06 April Cathy: 20:34 and counting. I should be packing but I am keeping the time from 1am to 3am for that. For me this is the final countdown. I catch a bus at 04.30 tomorrow morning to go first to the UK to meet up with Rona, and then on to Norway the next day.
For complicated reasons, I only got the communications kit today. I am still trying to get it all to work. Not a good thing to be doing when tired and in a hurry. So far I have received some brilliant support from both Altaire, who are hosting this website, and from ExplorersWeb, who have supplied the comms kit. Sitting in Andorra, I have tech support people backing up this expedition in London, Stockholm and New York. Truly an international enterprise.
I have a sinking feeling that I will be working right through until its time for the bus. That gives me 7 good hours, as long as I can keep awake!

Daily Express - 5 April
Look out for an article about Rona and Cathy's trip in the Daily Express on Monday 5 April. 

05 April Rona: Sky TV made it - they called to say what they would be asking me and then over a very crackly line asked the questions in such a roundabout way that it was quite difficult to realise that these were the same questions.  Anyway, the interview was done and went out Sunday morning and they are sending me a tape of it. I kept hearing dogs barking in the background which was a little distracting. But something we will get used to no doubt. Why do they ask you questions that you can't possibly know the answers to until you get there????

30 March Rona: Eureka! We have our first sponsorship cheque. It is a light at the end of a very long tunnel. Today, quite unsolicited I received a cheque for 25 it felt sooo good. We only have 9 days and 24,975 to go.

I spoke to one company today and they may well be able to give us our passage back from Nordkapp on the steamer as they own the steamer. He will let me know!

28th March Rona: Well it's been a kaleidoscope of emotions as we come to the run up to the start of this expedition. Cathy and I agreed that we had achieved a considerable amount on our training weekend and I came back to England refreshed and ready to really go for the sponsorship and follow up all the leads I could possibly find.

Interspersed with the sponsorship issue I had meetings and talks to deal with as this was my career and I could not put it completely on hold. There were telephone calls to Per-Thore's wife as last minute arrangements were made so that we could organise the flights. I left this to Cathy as it had defeated me and like the organised lady she is it was soon dealt with.

I had my speaking career to deal with which entailed going to Liverpool and Manchester. It is certainly good that Cathy and Per-Thore are with me on the expedition as I managed to get lost 4 times, once in Liverpool and 3 times in Manchester. This trip meant that the telephone calls had to wait until the following Monday when they all started off again. It is soul destroying to sit on the telephone day after day contacting companies, following up contacts and getting rejected time and time again. But we still have 2 weeks until we leave so there's still time to find a sponsor.

26 March Cathy: Perhaps surprisingly, with our departure for Norway only two weeks away, the expedition is the last thing on my mind. Virtually all the organisation has been done. The only outstanding items are some specialised communications equipment that is being sent from the USA. But even that has been dispatched, and is somewhere in the air between America and Europe. There is nothing more to be done until it arrives.
First priority now is to organise the rest of my life, to get everything in order so that it runs smoothly during my absence on expedition. Together with team-mates, I have already begun the preparation for a big 2005 expedition, and all sorts of information needs to be sent out before I leave. Similarly, all the organisation for my corporate clients in late April and in May needs to be done now, before I vanish for most of April.

The running saga of getting footage onto Sky News....

Taken from emails by Rona:

11 March: As to Sky  they are going to film me in the gym and then I shall go into the Studio Saturday morning. The idea is that they will put together photos/film from training weekend, etc.
12 March: So I waited at the gym - standing very erect! at 2.30 I called Sky they had decided that the Spanish bomb was more important scrubbed me but not told me!  We love them. Apparently they will do a live interview here with a cable van outside - should be interesting - or we may be outside!
13 March: guy from the News Desk called  saying that yes they would come here on Saturday to
film me.  It was to go out live at 9.45.  by 9.15 no sign.  I called and they were near but were sitting on one side of a bollard waiting for the baker's van on the other side to move - why was the only question that came to mind.
So they duly arrived and set up - first time they had used that particular van and lots of techie problems which were gradually sorted out.  I spoke with the studio in London and eventually we were ready to
roll.  Then the girl comes rushing over to say that they (we in Oxford) were transmitting pictures which were getting to the satellite on the roof of the studio but they could not download them.  So that was the end of that interview.
14 March: have got back to Sky on interview they will call ...

The saga continues... Watch this space!

07 March   Pictures from the training weekend:
  

  
Rona: Well, I have just returned from our Andorra training weekend. It takes a whole day of travelling to get there, so we were up at 4 on Friday morning to catch the 7.20 from Luton. From Barcelona to Cathy's house is a 4 hr coach drive, she lives in a lovely house in the old part of La Massana. The mountains are incredible. They are all crowded one on top of the other, the roads twist and turn through them giving great views at every bend. It had not dawned on me how high it was above sea level, training at 1800 metres. For Cathy, as an high-altitude mountaineer and being born in Johannesburg, this was of no consequence. For this round-the-world sailor, being born and bred in Essex and slightly asthmatic, it was of some concern.
However, I need not have worried, I could breathe and it was simply great being back in the snow and with the dogs, who are of such diverse character.
There is a lot of work to be done but I can't wait to start on this expedition.

Cathy: Rona and I have spent the weekend in Andorra, getting to work with some local dogs and sledders. It has been partly to get photographs and video footage to give to our media partners before we leave for the main event, but also to learn a few skills (for me) and brush up on a few skills (for Rona) to give us a head start when we arrive in the Norwegian Arctic.
The last week has been a bit dispiriting as we chased hot sponsorship leads that then fizzled into nothing, and this weekend has been a huge boost to our morale - in beautiful landscapes with glorious weather, and handsome dogs just dieing to run. It is a reminder that it is worth all the effort to get this project off the ground.

Thanks to David and the Pal ski resort in Andorra for allowing us to use their dogs.

29 Feb Rona: Cathy has been over here partly for work and partly to take part in a number of interviews that we have been having with various media contacts. The last few days have been interesting and very exciting as we have been interviewed by Bloomberg TV, LBC with Sandi Toksvig and just this morning Central News came to film and interview us. It has also been an opportunity for us to get to know each other better.

Cathy has now gone off working on her speaking career whilst I have been exploring more avenues for sponsorship. It certainly gets the emotions working as you think you have a hot lead only to have your hopes dashed but persistency will pay off, it is just a question of numbers!

Early Friday morning we are heading to Andorra for Cathy this is going home, for me it is a new adventure. It is our training weekend when we make sure all the communication and camera equipment is working and try out our skills with dog-sleds. It will be a very effective training as the temperature at the moment is 11 deg C.

It is just 5 weeks now until we head off to the last wilderness

Bloomberg TV - weekend of 28 and 29 Feb
Look out for an interview with Cathy and Rona on Bloomberg Sport over the weekend.

26 Feb Cathy: It suddenly dawned on me that this expedition is only six weeks away and we really are going. For so many months it is simply a dream that you are trying to wish into reality, and suddenly it is a reality that is approaching much too fast. There is still so much to do!
The bad news is that the cameraman that we hoped would be joining us has pulled out, so we are hunting around to replace him at short notice. There are no concessions for the cameraman, no snowmobiles to film from, or sleds for him to relax on. He (or she), like everyone else, has to drive an 8-dog team every day, and film in addition.
The good news is that we have a sponsorship prospect simmering, although nothing is certain until the money is banked. And the publicity portfolio - which is an essential part of the sponsorship raising - is developing nicely. Yesterday Rona and I did the Bloomberg interview that will air over the weekend. Today we did a live interview on LBC. Everybody wants more information, to follow our progress and hear the tales afterwards.

Meet the team in London - Wednesday 25 February 2004

The Explorers Club British Chapter and Boisdale Bishopsgate
Present the second in their series of an Evening with Explorers

17 Feb Per-Thore: Looks like that we are going to be famouse on or "little" dogsled trip.
I have used the weekend to pack most of the dog food for the expedition + I have been training the dogs quite hard. Yesterday I did drive a 12 dogteam on a 35k trip, it was a fast on..... I only used 1 1/2 houre on it.
But we won't be going that fast because of the weight of the sleds. Right now it looks like that we will have a depot in Kautokeino. It will mostly be dog food in the depot.
I will try to rent a cabin from the Norwegian gouverment some kilometres from kautokeino - that could be the only time on those 10 days we will be in a house.
We will stay in tent, and we will have 2 of them. The tents are expeditions tent (simmular to those that is used on Northpol expeditions)

14 Feb Cathy: Our sponsorship director has slipped on an icy London pavement and broken his collarbone very badly. And we thought the dangerous bit was the expeditioning!
The team is doing a quick reorganisation as we work out how to fill Neil's role, while still keeping the rest of our lives on track.
Although it is always the expedition itself that gets the attention, in fact it is little more than a great finale to months of planning and preparation.

10 Feb Per-Thore: Right now it's just to few houres in the day, it should have been 72 insted of 24. Im just finiched whit the last sled for the expedition ( 4 of them ).

I had a meeting whit my friend (Tom Frode Johansen) who has done this trip before, and the planning on how far we shall drive every day - where it's good place to put up the tents - how much dog food we need etc.. are going well..
There will be a lot of weight on the sleds - we ned for example 20 kilo of meat for the dogs every day + dry food. But thats the easy things to find out. what takes time to put to gether is all the bits and pieces that we need to repear the sleds on the trail.
All the camp equitment is ok, I still had to order the tents and the sled bags.

29 Jan Cathy: Getting our web window open to the world has been a great achievement. It has taken shape in the strangest places, on aeroplanes, in hotels, right now at Barcelona airport, as I try to balance making a living, keeping the expedition moving, and spending some time in my new house in Andorra.
I am on my way home from a good few days in London with Rona and Alex - the expedition publicist. It all seemed a little more real in the middle of London's Big Freeze, with snow blanketing the ground, and chaos on the streets and the train lines. On days like that, we can only wish for the simplicity of a dog-sled. Might cause something of a stir, though, sledding down Oxford Street.
We are chasing all the accessories of a modern expedition: publicity, contacts, a television documentary, above all SPONSORSHIP. The path through the Norwegian Arctic begins in the corporate head offices of London.

28 Jan Rona: I'm excited about this - I have the T-Shirt -
Some people wish it would happen, others sit and wait for it to happen, successful people make it happen!
The latter fits us all!
 

Meet the team & hear the tale at the inaugural Johnnie Walker Black Label/GQ lecture...
Venue: Travellers Club in Pall Mall
Date: Thursday 13 May 2004
Time: 18.30 to 21.00
To obtain tickets write to:
GQ, Vogue House, 1 Hanover Square, London, W1S 1JU before 5 May.
Snow, Sleds and Silence

Reserve a hot-off-the-press, first edition, autographed copy of Rona Cant's forthcoming book about this expedition:

Email Rona at rona@ronacant.com.

Follow the team in the media....
Expedition updates are featured on:
Sky TV
Bloomberg TV
Central TV
Channel 6 TV (Oxford area)
BBC Radio 5 Live with Eammon Holmes
LBC Radio with Sandi Toksvig
Saga Radio
BBC Radio Oxford Breakfast Programme
Radio Fox FM
Oxford Star (daily print)
Daily Express
Geographical magazine (May issue)
ExpeditionZone website
 

Copyright Cathy O'Dowd & Rona Cant 2004. All rights reserved                                                   Web hosting sponsored by Altaire.