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Icequeen isinpole position forbrutal 800-mile trekinto THEARCTIC; SNOW-GO AREA NELA JOINS TEAM AIMING FOR WORLD-FIRST Adventurous adopted Scot starts intensive training ahead of a major global mission to one of the most inaccessible places on the planet.

Byline: AMANDA KEENAN a.keenan@dailyrecord.co.uk

SHE pushed her body to the limit on a 100km walk in the Arctic Circle - but now Nela Popovichas has her sights set on an even tougher challenge.

The 40-year-old, who is based in Glasgow, has joined forces with one of the world's most experienced explorers, Jim McNeill, to attempt an expedition to the Northern Pole of Inaccessibility.

It's a point in the Arctic Ocean 200 miles from land - and a feat no one has achieved.

The epic 800-mile journey will begin on the shores of Canada and the challenging environment and terrain mean Nela and the team will have to contend with polar bears and treacherous ice.

She said: "It's going to be incredibly difficult and physically and emotionally demanding. We will have to spend up to 16 hours a day on our feet.

"We are aiming to do it next year, as it takes a lot of planning, and I have to make sure I'm in the best shape of my life."

Nela, who grew up in Sarajevo in Bosnia and started skiing when she was four, is undergoing an intensive training programme.

She is one of only a handful of women taking part and is following a special diet and lifting weights to build up her strength.

Nela said: "As a child, I was always very sporty and liked to challenge myself. In Sarajevo, the winter can be punishing, but I loved being out in the snow.

"I love situations when nature shows you who is boss - and ice and snow definitely have a way of exposing the true strength of your character.

"There has always been something enticing about exploration for me, but to a kid growing up in Sarajevo, an expedition like this seemed totally unobtainable.

"When I saw details of this project, I just felt like they were calling on people like me - a call I couldn't ignore.

"I feel so honoured to be part of it all and to be the Scottish contingent on the team. I might be Bosnian-born but I am incredibly proud to now be an adopted Scot. Glasgow is my home."

Along the tough route, team members will be gathering crucial data sets for the scientific community, including new information about how sea ice breaks up.

It makes the endeavour a major, globally significant project.

Partners include NASA, the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre, the Met Office, the Scott Polar Institute, the Norwegian Polar Institute and the Russian Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute.

This vital data will deliver information on the impact of continuing climate change.

Nela said: "I know I am in for a steep learning curve. The training alone will push me to my limit of endurance, but I can't wait.

"To be part of a team making history in a world where it is hard to do anything new, or go anywhere new, is thrilling beyond belief.

"To be able to also collect vital scientific data that will make a tangible difference to safeguarding our future gives the expedition an even greater purpose.

"We need to protect the planet for the next generation, particularly now with world leaders who are complete climate change deniers.

"We need to understand more about this amazing place we call home and make sure we're doing everything we can to make sure that everyone respects it."

Nela, who is head of events and operations for The Kiltwalk, was so inspired by one of the many children's charities the organisation raise money for that she completed a fundraising challenge of her own in February - a 100km walk into the Arctic Circle in north Finland.

It was here she re-discovered her childhood passion for freezing conditions.

She said: "At points, I felt tired but then I just thought, 'I've come out here to finish this, a lot of people are supporting me and donations are in. There's nowhere else to go - I just need to finish.' "I thought that would be the most difficult thing I'd ever do but when I heard about the expedition to the Northern Pole of Inaccessibility, I had to take part."

During the mission with Arctic explorer Jim, the team of 100 ordinary ice warriors will have to cope with freezing conditions over treacherous terrain.

Jim said: "This is the last world-first in polar expedition - no one has been to this part.

"It's one of the four north poles. There's the Geographic North Pole, where the lines meet; the Geomagnetic North; the Magnetic North, where the compass points, and if you get to it, it points down; and then there's the Northern Pole of Inaccessibility.

"It's 270-odd miles further than any journey to the North Pole, which is why it remains elusive to adventurers.

"You're bearing Mother Nature's worst; it's something you have to endure. It's about cunning and knowing how to use the right kit and do the right thing.

"Preparing the body is an intrinsic part of that.

"These guys will be pulling a Qajaq on skis. It's a hybrid between a sledge and a canoe. You can paddle it and tow it along, and it becomes a survival pod."

The ice warriors will be split into groups, each committed to a 20-day section of the expedition.

New people are flown in for each new leg - each of which is very different.

Jim explained: "It's very cold and dark when we start and very bad terrain, so the first people have to be the most competent and the strongest.

"The second team get to the Magnetic Pole and the third leg will move into the break-up zone.

"The fourth leg might be swimming. "This is the biggest and boldest endeavour I've ever done but it doesn't daunt me what we have to do."

Nela will take on at least one of the four 20-day legs and is hoping to raise PS25,000 towards the adventure.

She said: "It won't be easy but that's part of the fun. I'm looking forward to pushing myself in the most extreme environment."

." ? To donate, email nela@ice-warrior.com

As a kid in Sarajevo, an expedition like this seemed totally out of reach NELA POPOVICHAS

CAPTION(S):

ACCLIMATISING Nela chilling out at Snow Factor Braehead yesterday. Picture: Victoria Stewart

ICE WARRIORS Jim McNeill, top, and Nela

FREEZING FUN Nela in training for the expedition
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:0ARCT
Date:Jul 12, 2017
Words:1063
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