A former Royal Marine from South Molton is in the midst of a mammoth task to ski 1,615 miles the length Norway - in the depths of winter. David Leaning decided to make his extreme journey to raise money for the Mines Advisory Group charity after he saw th
A former Royal Marine from South Molton is in the midst of a mammoth task to ski 1,615 miles the length Norway - in the depths of winter.David Leaning decided to make his extreme journey to raise money for the Mines Advisory Group charity after he saw the horror and misery caused by landmines during a tour of duty in Afghanistan with the Marines.He spoke to the North Devon Gazette on Thursday as he paused to rest at a hotel in Haugestol near Telemark in southern Norway after two days of see-sawing weather and frayed nerves."Every day is an adventure, something unexpected happens or I have to change plans," he said."Like having to turn back the day before yesterday after four hours because the weather was so bad - then yesterday being blown along by the wind so fast I could achieve two days of skiing in one day!"With an 80-pound pack, an average temperature of minus 10 degrees Celsius feeling more like minus 20 with the wind chill factor, plus blizzards and treacherous ice, it has hardly been a walk in the park.Blisters which became severe open sores and a painful shoulder injury have not helped."My worst moments have been having to turn back, they are the most morale-sapping," said Dave."And skiing across frozen lakes is never fun, since the rivers flowing into them take longer to freeze - I was on one and could feel and see the ice cracking beneath me."My jaw was clamped so tight I thought my fillings would crack. I was shaking - if you fell in your chances of survival are pretty slim."He continued: "In a straight line it looks as if I have done about 300 kilometres, but it's been much more than that because you can hardly travel in a straight line."I get up early and set off, sometimes I sleep in a tent, many times I have used 'DNT' huts belonging to the Norwegian trekking association - where you can get a fire going and help yourself to supplies - and once I slept in cave."Dave, 28, left the Marines in May, but the Corps has supported the expedition from the start, with maps and advice, while any day now he is expecting a supply drop when the Marines visit Norway during a training exercise.His epic cross-country journey has been greeted warmly by the people of Norway and in many cases when he has knocked on a door to beg a garage floor or barn to sleep in, he has been ushered inside, given a good meal and shown to the guest bedroom.On another occasion, seeking shelter for the night, Dave found himself skiing downhill through a dense mountain forest guided only by the light from his head torch:"That's not advisable. Then I crossed an ice bridge across a river - another dodgy experience - and found myself next to a waterfall with steep rocks either side... and the torch began to fail."Eventually I found a cave."Since leaving Lindeness on New Year's Eve, his endurance and fortitude might have dimmed very occasionally, but Dave is determined to raise money and awareness for the Mines Advisory Group, which carries out crucial work around the globe to remove the detritus of war which has and continues to end or blight do many lives."Landmines suck - I can't put it any better than that," said Dave."Most live their lives without ever having to face the possibility they will be killed or mutilated by something they tread on but for others this fear is the background to their everyday lives.While serving in Afghanistan I faced the possibility of 'minestrike.' I returned; others were less fortunate. But mines do not distinguish between soldiers and non-combatants, and innocent lives are snuffed out or irrevocably changed on a daily basis by these indiscriminate weapons."The end of the trek will be at Nordkapp, 500 kilometres inside the Arctic Circle and Dave timed his trip to miss the worst of the cold in the extreme north - but if he takes too long the snows will begin to melt so it is a race against time to reach the northern most tip of the country before the spring.In the meantime he has been supported back "in Blighty" by his father "Spud" Leaning, himself an ex-serviceman, who has just left for Norway to meet his son and provide new maps.Dave's incredible journey can be followed daily via his online diary and a series of photographs at www.skinorway.org He would be immensely grateful if anyone would like to donate money to the Mines Advisory Group or sponsor his journey - full details are available on the website.