Leeds survivalist tells of incredible 500 mile solo trek across Arctic Circle

A Leeds-born survival instructor battled temperatures of minus 40 degrees, sheer cliff edges and a dislocated shoulder to complete an incredible solo 500 mile trek across the Arctic Cirlce.

Friday, 27th March 2020, 11:45 am

Explorer, survivalist and 'musher' Brad Parsk, who was born and raised in Rothwell, said he was lucky to be alive after nine gruelling days travelling across Norway, Finland and Sweden, accompanied by only four huskies.

A musher is the term for the skilled driver of the dog sled.

Brad said he wanted to take on the challenge to "live fully, escape the hustle and bustle of modern life and to embrace the arctic wilderness in all its glory."

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Musher Brad Parsk with his huskies (photo: Brad Parsk).

The 33-year-old set off from just outside the Norweigan town of Tromso at the end of February

Battling a severe blizzard on the third day, with temperatures dropping to as low as minus 40, Brad said that the conditions tested all of his will and endurance in order to reach the overnight stop in Finnish territory - a tiny cabin perched on a snow-laden hilltop.

The former soldier then looped around and down into Sweden, taking on the mountainous and notoriously challenging 'King's Trail', navigating the steep cliff edges of Kebnekaise - one of Sweden's most dangerous mountains, which claims many lives each year.

Tackling cambered slopes that threatened to throw him and his dog team over the edge, he said it was one of the scariest moments of his life.

Brad battled across frozen landscapes for nine days (photo: Brad Parsk)

Surviving on simple, high energy food such as Nutella sandwiches and with sleep deprivation setting in, Brad made a simple mistake on day seven.

He leaned over to tie his bootlace without securing the snow hook in the ground to prevent the dogs from starting.

They suddenly darted off and with only one hand on the sled, and the other on his bootlace, the force ripped his shoulder out of its socket.

"Under duress, we all make mistakes but this one cost me dearly. The final two days were immensely painful", Brad said.

"This was probably the hardest thing I've ever done."

He arrived at the finish line in Nikkaluokta, Sweden, on the March 4, exhausted but happy.

Brad, an elected fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, said: "While this wasn't a race, the dogs performed incredibly well and I am so proud of them.

"Up in the mountains, we headed up countless inclines through three foot deep powder snow where the trail had become invisible.

"We had to create the trail for ourselves - a technique known as 'breaking trail' - and that really took it out of me and the dogs."

Having travelled in over 50 countries across five continents, and having spent more than a third of his life abroad, Brad is no stranger to extreme environments.

He is now back in the UK passing on his hard-earned survival skills to students of all ages.

He said his day job as a wilderness survival instructor keeps him in touch with his passions, and to share them with others.

The rookie musher now sets his sights on bigger challenges for next season and is looking out for sponsors who may be interested in his future exploits.

He hopes to run in the Iditarod one day, the world's toughest dog sled race, held in Alaska.

"I love the dogs, of course, but mushing is about so much more than that for me," Brad added.

"It's the coming together of all the elements - the wonderful landscapes, the crisp, clean air, the silence, the mountains, the boreal forests, the sound of the paws crunching snow underfoot and, if you're lucky, the northern lights.

"I've been lucky enough to see them many times now. But it's the cumulative effect of all the above that is like a masterpiece to me."

To learn more about Brad, visit www.bradparsk.com