GP flies flag for Ark on trailblazing ski challenge

It is described as the World’s toughest expedition race – and Hampshire GP Roisin Ward has set her sights on being part of the first British women’s team to conquer it.

Roisin, her sister Jo Bush, and their friend Linda Johnston Rohrbasser are just weeks away from taking part in the Asnes Expedition Amundsen – and as well as blazing a trail, the three women are aiming to raise thousands of pounds for good causes.

Mother-of-three Roisin, who is a GP at The Clift Surgery, in Bramley, will be flying the flag for Ark Cancer Centre Charity, which is raising £5million to fund supportive care and services, complementary therapies, and an enhanced environment within a new NHS cancer treatment centre at Basingstoke hospital.

Roisin and her team-mates have been training for 18 months to get in peak condition for the challenge which will see them back country ski with a fully-packed sled across 100km of the Hardangervidda Plateau in Norway – following in the footsteps of the legendary Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen.

The scale of the challenge facing the trio and the other entrants is summed up on the event organiser’s website which states: “Asnes Expedition Amundsen is an expedition race like no other. Solo or part of a team, this is a tough challenge. You will not see a lot of people. The Hardangervidda mountain plateau in February/March could appear beautiful and idyllic, but can quickly become dangerous and wild.”

Roisin said: “Preparing for this has involved 18 months of committed training, but the challenge it poses is a small reminder of the day-to-day difficulties faced by those coping with cancer.

“I have been aware of Ark and what it is seeking to achieve for some time. Being a GP and living locally, I wanted to support a charity that means something to the community I am in.”

As part of her preparation, 46-year-old Roisin has completed two three-day marathon challenges, and she can regularly be seen pulling a tyre behind her on her training sessions. The team have also been out to Norway for some crucial acclimatisation training.

Roisin said: “You need to build up a variety of skills, and also to build up the right muscles. The biggest challenge will be the unknown environment and what the weather will throw at us. I am hoping that it will be beautiful weather!”

Around 150 people – in individual or team class sections – will be taking part in the challenge, which will start on February 27 and needs to be completed within a 60-hour deadline.

The rules stipulate that the sled must weigh a minimum 40 kilos at the start and finish, and the entrants must record at least eight hours of rest over the three race checkpoints.

Roisin said: “This will be a massive personal and collective challenge for all of us, but Jo, Linda and I have trained and prepared well. We are determined to succeed, and appreciate the support that our families and friends have given us, and we hope people will support the good causes we are raising money for.”

To sponsor Roisin, please go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/roisin-ward2. Jo, who is a tax partner at Ernst Young, is raising funds for meningitis charity Life for a Cure, while fellow 50-year-old Linda, a paediatrician, is supporting Care in Action, a charity that focusses on changing the lives of vulnerable children.

Merv Rees, Ark Cancer Centre Charity trustee and liver cancer surgeon, who is a driving force behind the cancer treatment centre project, said: “Good luck to Roisin and her fellow team members as they take on this daunting challenge. Everyone at Ark is grateful for her wonderful support.”

The new cancer treatment centre will largely be funded by Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Picture caption: Roisin, Jo and Linda on one of their recent training visits to Norway.