Some of our special guests this year are hailing all the way from Scandinavia: the Baffin Babes. If you’re not familiar with these adventurous ladies, the Baffin Babes are four Scandinavian women who, in 2009, skied 1,200 kilometers across Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic. Their adventure faced them with everything from 40 below weather to hanging with polar bears. We caught up with Baffin Babe Emma Simonsson to learn more.
What inspired you to put together this expedition?
Our love and passion for the outdoors, and a dream of living among the nature for a longer time. Also the attraction of adventure, where you seek challenges and push your own limits.
What was the hardest part of the expedition? What was the most rewarding?
The hardest day was actually the last day, when we all realized it was over. It was such a big sorrow, none of us wanted it to be over, and we moved in slow motion trying to make the day longer. But of course there were hard parts while out as well, for example handling the extreme cold temperatures, and when we skied over a glacier area and big crevasses opened up in all directions in front of us, and the visibility were poor. Most rewarding was the feeling of freedom that I get when I’m out for such a long time, the feeling of being so present in what’s now, so alive. I get in to a meditative flow while skiing and then you get to share it all with your best friends, that’s amazing! And some of the highlights were definitely bathing in a seal hole, climbing broad peaks and having a polar bear just 30 meters away!
It says on the sponsor section of your website that you had 21 kg [about 46 pounds] of chocolate with you on your expedition. Is that true? What else did you eat?
I think it was almost 32 kg of chocolate, too little if you ask Vera and Kristin who are true chocolate lovers! We had built up a fat reserve before, but of course still needed lost of calories out there each day. In the morning we had 4 dl of oatmeal for each person, added oil and nuts, that’s a huge portion! During the day we had a 100 grams of chocolate, 100 grams of nuts, 2 protein power bars, and 2 liters of warm liquid, which we portioned out during the day. For dinner we had a double portion of freeze dried food and added oil, to get enough calories. But you always wish you had more food!
After such an expedition, “normal” life must be quite different. How do you stay active and adventurous?
Coming back to civilization after 3 months out was a real shock, I stepped out of the bus at the central station and needed to pee, for a short second I was on my way to just drag my pants down, then I realized I was in town. So I looked for a toilet, but there you had to pay and I had no money, so I went to the cash machine and couldn’t remember the pin numbers for my Visa card and my cell phone. On the way to my apartment I jumped on the wrong tram 4 times before I found my way and it felt like everything moved so fast while I were moving in slow motion, and once at the door to my apartment I hadn’t got any keys to get in! But being outdoors and active is a normal way of living for me. I set up my life in order to have as much time as possible to be outdoors and do what a love. In summer I live up north in Norway to be able to go climbing, kayaking, and then in winter I move to the mountains to be able to go skiing everyday. I think the trick is not to get locked up with too much work, and set times. And adventures don’t need to be long expeditions, you can have lots of adventures in your everyday life.
Since returning from your expedition, you have done a lot of speaking and won several awards for your adventure. What are some of the main messages that you share with people?
We want to inspire people to get out, to believe in themselves and their dreams. And that doing adventures and expeditions is enjoyable and fun, not just something harsh and tuff, you don’t have to be a super hero to be able to do it, we are just ordinary girls with a strong passion for adventure and nature.
How do you think the social dynamic of an all-female expedition is different from an all-male expedition?
It’s hard to answer because you always end up doing big generalizations between the sexes. Personality differences could be much bigger then the differences between the sexes. But still in today’s society we all get socialized into being men and women, and how to act due to our gender. We didn’t have an expedition leader, for us it was very important that we were all equal in the team. Maybe men in general put their teams together with a more traditional hierarchy structure. We also talked a lot before hand and while out about how we wanted the group to work, and I think that could be a more traditional female thing to do. We learn and get socialized to be more communicative and open for talks about feelings and so on. And of course girls have more fun :)
What role do you think sports and the outdoors play in shaping female leaders? Why do you think more women aren’t out doing expeditions like this?
There’s a lot of women doing real cool stuff and loving the outdoors, but still it’s a traditionally male dominated area. The stereotypical adventurer is a tall guy with ice in his beard. I think in today’s society, boys still get more encouraged to believe in themselves than girls, therefore they in general have better self esteem, and therefore can take their love for the outdoors a step longer. Because you do need self esteem when setting out on an unknown path and also for example when your presenting your project for sponsors. People really supported us being an all female expedition, but we also did get comments, especially from middle age men, that we weren’t going to make it. That we weren’t strong enough and didn’t know how to handle a rifle, just to mention some examples. And of course that could put you down, the barriers you meet along the way might still be bigger for females, so you really have to believe in yourself, your project and your own knowledge.
Next year in 2012 we will go out on several bigger trips again. Everything isn’t all set yet, but what I can say is the expeditions will include skis, spectacular places and lots of fun! Follow us on Facebook and you will soon know. There are no babes like the Baffin Babes!
Images: Baffin Babes