Update: This post was meant to send last week, but the signal on my phone cut out. I actually ended up having no phone signal for the whole trip which meant my solo ski had to be altered slightly, but will explain all in an up coming post.
Starting this morning we embarked on the 930km drive to Hammastunturin wilderness area in the far north of Finland. We will drive through the night and should arrive in the early hours tomorrow. From here we will start an 8 day solo skiing trip – The Bear Ski.
It’s called this as traditionally this would be around the time of year when the bear would be hunted in Finland. The bears start to wake up between now and April when the snow starts to melt. The hunt was traditionally at this time as the bears move slower due to the deep snow, meaning the ski wearing hunters are able to track and catch the bear.
But do not fear, we are not hunting a bear! And hopefully won’t be hunted either… They’ll all still be sleeping in this area and even if they were awake they wouldn’t bother with the likes of us.
This trip feels like the real test of our bushcraft and campcraft skills we’ve learnt over the last 8months. We will be cooking on fire 3 times a day, gathering and preparing all the wood, skiing through the day and setting up a new camp each afternoon and sleeping in a lean to shelter. We are completely self sufficient, taking memories and leaving only ski tracks…
After the last few weekends preparing food and kit everyone is itching to get going. And the pulkkas (sledges) are weighing between 45-66 kgs! I didn’t weigh mine, maybe it’s better not to know.
I’ve been dreaming of clear skies and cold nights, anticipating temperatures down to -20℃. But this week’s weather’s looks like it’s going to be a balmy wet week of around 0℃, dropping to -3/4℃ some nights… Not ideal, and a real challenge to ski on, especially when your pulling a big ‘ol sledge behind you. It’s possible to expect an average speed of 500m an hour in really wet snow! This may mean skiing through the night when the temperatures are lower and the ice is harder and quicker and sleeping in the day. Or changing routes and camping locations to adjust to the weather.
By far one of the most challenging trips I’ve attempted. Although there’s many of us skiing, we all have different routes, and the only contact with people will be with the teachers at the checkup camps (twice in the trip) and maybe a brief encounter with a passing classmate or reindeer herder. Other than that it is just snow, trees, rivers, marshland, hills and solitude. Almost complete isolation where we are responsible for our safety and well-being.
Hopefully emerging from the other side with a few tales to tell and a glint in our eyes. Till then…