Sunday, 13 March 2011

Thunder on the Tundra - Skiing Finnmarksvidda - The Plan

Yep, I'm heading to the tundra in the far north of Norway. While much of Europe is in the first flush of Spring there are still some Winter adventures to be had here in Scandinavia. The plan is simple. Fly to Alta at the north-western edge of Finnmarksvidda and then ski in a southerly direction, vaguely parallel to the 93 road, to the town of Kautokeino. Travel will be off-trail and will not cross any roads. It's hard to give an exact distance as the route will be at the mercy of the terrain and navigation choices (follow the stream beds or ridges?) but by road the two towns are roughly 125km apart. This will be my longest winter trip by quite some margin.

Thankfully this man, Jörgen Johansson, will be on hand to try and keep me out of trouble. Vastly experienced and a proponent of the lightweight wilderness travel philosophy I have enjoyed Jörgen's company before on Nordic Lightpacking's Vålådalen trip. When Jörgen first suggested this trip to Finnmark I knew I had to do everything possible to make it happen. Last year Jörgen undertook a trip that really captured my imagination with his ski tour of the Sarek in Sweden. His musings on the lightweight equipment he used in this type of winter environment resonated with me strongly and have directly influenced many of my choices on this trip.

Chief amongst these is the decision to use Incredible Rulks. Jörgen first highlighted his take on using small sleds combined with rucksacks in this article on BPL. He developed the design further with The Rulk Rebooted which also happened to be the direction I saw the concept moving. Having used one now I can see their advantage over trying to ski under a large heavy pack or using a traditional pulk that can't be 'shouldered'.

So that's the plan. We'll be heading north in a little over a week. I'm going with my eyes and mind wide open to what I hope will be an enjoyable, challenging and educational trip.

15 comments:

Martin Rye said...

Wow Joe. That is some trip you have planed there. Top back country guide to teach you snow travel as well. Have a great time.

Joe Newton said...

Martin - I am filled with feelings of excitement and trepidation in equal measure. I'm glad Jorgen will be there to keep me on an even keel!

Mark Roberts said...

Funny, I was looking at a map of that area the other day and thinking "Hmm... Potential hiking area." Have a great trip!

Nielsen Brown said...

Wow what a fantastic trip, I have no doubt you and Jörgen will have a fantastic time.

Enjoy

kate said...

i can't think of anything better, have a brilliant trip. look forward to your musings

Joe Newton said...

Mark - thanks, I'm sure we will. Between us we have purchased 10 maps of the area during the planning stages of this trip and the scope for summer and winter adventures is eye-opening. Many of the maps have no roads or marked paths on them at all.

Roger & Kate - thank you.

Jörgen Johansson said...

Joe is of course completely off on a tangent if he thinks the plan is that I should keep him on even keel. Instead it is my wife that demands that I have someone young and fit along to ensure that my walker is fully pumped.

korpijaakko said...

Sounds very, very great trip! All this expedition stuff has made me wonder about lighter options for winter trips... Though it's hard to go light if carrying a gun is mandatory and you need glacier gear, etc. But maybe something could be done and maybe you can share your experiences after your trip?

Dave Hanlon said...

Big undertaking Joe! Wishing you good weather little wind good snow and bags that insulate.

Tomas said...

Agh! I'm crazy jealous, it sounds like it's going to be an amazing trip! I also read Jörgen's posts about his trip across Sarek and was really influenced by them, I would love to do a Winter Sarek trip but have just had too much job pressure to get away for a long trek. Best of luck, hope you have a great adventure!

samh said...

This trip is commendable. Period.

Fraser said...

Sounds great, looking forward to the write up!

Gustav Boström said...

I'm mighty jealous Joe. I would have liked to do such a trip this year, but have too many obligations right now. Maybe I will get away for a long weekend somewhere though.
Howcome you decided on Finnmarksvidda?

Gustav Boström said...

Korpijaako - are you Going to Svalbard? That's the only place I know of that requires you to bring a gun. I recommend that you read Jörgens account of his Sarek trip. You could start from that pack list and work yourself up so to speak adding what you need. Choosing a full-length Paris pulk with proper towing poles will save you a lot of weight, while still leaving space for a rifle and glacier gear.

Joe Newton said...

Jorgen - it seems both our loved ones are putting a lot of faith in both of us to keep the other one safe!

Korpijaakko - my first feelings are that as soon as you need equipment like guns and ammo to stay safe that saving a few ounces on your tent choice becomes irrelevant. However, the more I think about it the more I still believe that applying elements of the lightweight philosophy will make wilderness travel easier and safer. Your trip to Svalbard is in a different league to our wee adventure however and I wouldn't blame you for taking some heavier and more durable gear.

Dave - here's hoping that my down bag/synthetic quilt combo goes some way to help deal with moisture accumulation.

Tomas - thanks. I hope you get to undertake your dream trip across the Sarek one day. Maybe next winter...

Sam - you say 'commendable', all my non-backpacking friends say 'crazy' ;)

Fraser - thanks

Gustav - the decision to go to Finnmark was the search for trail-less wilderness in Scandinavia, a rapidly decreasing commodity.