Exploring Norway with Randi Skaug - Norway’s first woman to climb Everest

Fog had fallen like an avalanche and our GPS system was failing. It’s easy to get in trouble when you’re so remote and at the mercy of Mother Nature. Rain hammered down, restricting our vision and rendering our head torches useless; with no visual we could bank the boat. None of us would last long in these freezing waters, you didn’t need to be an expert to know that.

Our tiny vessel is beginning to let in a small amount of fear, but Randi’s voice turns it into adrenaline. Explorers can do that, they have the ability to make you feel safe. This select group of extraordinary people conquer some of the toughest terrains in the world and live to tell their stories…laughing about it over a beer. You believe in them, but more importantly you trust them.

I had never been to Norway, but now I was heading towards the Lofoten islands. This was not my normal life and it was not the first time today that danger had crossed my path.

From an early age my mother had always encouraged me to be confident, ‘just walk up to people and tell them your name and the rest will come’. This simple gesture has served me well in life, but now I was going to try it virtually. A week ago, I skyped a stranger and told her my name. Randi Skaug is the first Norwegian woman to reach Everest’s summit and she’s living a new life in the wild on her very own private island…in the Arctic Circle.

This is why I had travelled 15 arduous hours, to experience off grid travel and get a taste of life as an explorer. Lesson one: real adventurers sleep outside, even in winter in the arctic circle. I just hope my excitement covered the shock and fear of freezing to death. The urge to sleep with all my clothes on and possibly even my backpack is overwhelming, I am not prepared.

“You’ll take my base layers, oh and you’ll need this one’. Randi handed me a balaclava, similar to the one she wore on Everest. We laid cocooned in our shells…silent, watching the dance of the Northern Lights, I realise what a unique gift Randi has given me. I wonder how I will sleep, but the sun is already waking me.

At 44 Randi decided to change her life journey, she ditched the day job and set her sights on Everest. Since that moment she has taken every challenge to the extreme to become one of the world’s most versatile explorers. While most who turn 40 will be piling money into a pension or battling the corporate ladder; Randi chose adventure.

The morning begins with a hike. Randi bounces forward like a springer spaniel, whilst my cautious steps expose my inexperience of climbing in these conditions, but before I can dwell on my short comings a tap on the shoulder turns me around. I stop focusing on my feet and look up. I’m left speechless by nature’s beauty, I was on top of the world. Today I had chosen adventure.

Toasting marshmallows back on Randi’s snowy beach, staring out on an explorer’s paradise of ice capped mountains and uncharted ventures, I start to understand why Randi is here. Her journey back to the basics has already fuelled me to put my stagnated plans into action, be mindful, kind to others and where you can, inspire.

Explorers like Randi are captivating, because we can share their journey with little sanction on our own lives. They inspire us because they show us what is possible…and they give us hope.

The next day I wake with a renewed energy and as we cast our lines out to sea, Randi’s huge smile fills my frosty fingers with excitement, she tells me this is kongefølelsen, which means to be a king of your emotions. I hope I remember to keep this feeling close to me when I return home, so that I can share it with my son.

As night falls there is one more treat in store. The sky holds back the sleet and beckons us forward with open arms. Our boots leave dents in the self-made path; when you own an island, nothing is off limits. This time it’s not about the view, but a chance to live life through the eyes of Norway’s most adventurous woman and an opportunity for me to climb my own Everest.

By the time I come to leave Naustholmen my body is aching, but my mind is overflowing. If you have a dream, make it a plan and put it into action. The journey starts the moment you decide ‘you can do it’.

Written by Trish Conti: Trish is a U.K. based travel, fiction and broadcast writer exploring the corners of the world rarely ventured; always looking for the next journey and experience to replay when her old legs refuse to carry her backpack any longer. To read more go to trishconti.co.uk.