I had been told that you can have quite vivid dreams and a feeling of disrupted sleep whilst out on a polar journey. There are probably multifarious explanations for this including a quite different (to your usual) high calorie diet, the complete darkness, silence and crisp fresh air, and the physical exertions of the previous day. I woke a little cold, having had what felt like broken sleep, but still very refreshed. In fact by the end of this trip I think it was the single most energising/refreshing seven days I’ve ever had.
The morning routine swang into action as we hurriedly packed our sleeping gear away and got into some semblance of an upright position. This first day from waking to skiing we where pretty slow, around three hours I think. By the end of the journey we would have shaved this much closer to two hours. Before we set off however Mike checked in with the base team back home for a weather update. Unbeknown to us, the day ahead would serve as a critical lesson on the importance of getting regular weather updates, and re-evaluating your aims according to the weather that presents itself as you go on your way.
High winds and mild weather were forecast – doesn’t sound to bad really. I don’t remember a lot of the detail of the day’s ski as most of it was spent with our heads down to grind out the mileage. It was unseasonably warm, up to 0 degree’s at times, so the snow that was falling wetted out our gear. This wouldn’t normally be an issue on a stroll in the mountains, but coupled with strong biting winds it’s a recipe for disaster – you can get cold really quickly! You can see from the photo’s below it was pretty windswept that day.
In fact the weather was absolutely appalling. So bad that we were close to having to abandon the trip due to the high wind speed’s. Whilst we might have been able to walk/ski without falling over it would have been almost impossible to pitch a tent, without which the likely outcome is freezing to death. The critical question here is not is the wind speed low enough for me to be able to walk/ski today? it’s is it low enough so I can walk/ski and then get a tent up at the end of the day. We were very close to having to abandon, and that would really have broken me, it would have been a great disappointment. Thankfully Mike the decision that we should press on and see if we could cover the remaining miles to make the remote hut at Jotka Fjellstue.
We marched out the final four miles across the frozen lake (Joat’kajv’ri) to the hut. It was a shame not to be able to camp, but I had loved the elemental challenge of the day. We were warmly greeted into the wooden hut by a young Slovakian chap, and treated to copious amounts of tea and coffee. We spent the evening drying our kit (without which we probably wouldn’t have been able to carry on) over a fantastic wood burner and swopping stories of our various past adventure exploits , and spent the night in the hut, whilst catching glimpses of the northern lights. In a microcosm that’s what makes any adventure worthwhile, the challenge and beauty of mother nature and the relationships you form with your fellow man.
Here’s a nice video showing the Finnmark plateau in finer weather. Looks epic.