So. That was something.
It was the most extreme Arctic trek that Breaking Strain have ever led. They contemplated cancelling the second night camping due to cold.
I survived. I completed the trek. Just.
But I’m getting ahead of myself….
I reckon there’s probably 4 blog posts in this. I’ll start with the build-up to the trek (this post). Then I’ll cover the trek itself. Then I’ll say a bit about the people. And… as a final treat to my multiple followers, I’ll finish with a post entitled ‘Why I took all my clothes off in -24 degrees’. It is less sexy, and more hypothermia-inducing than it sounds. But that is for another day. A teaser, if you will, to keep you reading through the next few posts. Lucky you.
Today: The build-up.
The excitement of Edinburgh airport, meeting the team, Wetherspoons breakfast, flights to London, Helsinki, and Rovaniemi were all slightly tainted by the fact that Finnair didn’t put any luggage on the plane from Helsinki. Not so much as a pulk bag. Se we were 17 intrepid and excited trekkers, with no kit. Never mind.
We checked into our hotel. If you want a feel for the era it was designed in, let me just tell you that there were 4 clocks on the wall of the foyer comparing time zones of the following cities: Rovaniemi, New York, London, Peking (that’s Beijing….from the 60s….). Picture 1960s browns, panelling, and décor. Lovely.
Outside was -24. Degrees. Celsius. Which is cold.
So, on the first night of acclimatising to Finland we did what anyone would do – we went to an Irish Pub. Guinness never tasted so good.
The next morning following a safety briefing and snowshoe lesson a miracle occurred – our bags arrived!! The trek was ON!
So, my fellow trekker Olivia and I, along with our new friend Michelle, decided the best preparation for our trek the following day would not be warmth and rest, but would be Huskie driving. Do you call it driving? I’m not sure. There’s probably a more appropriate phrase. A more literal phrase would “holding on for dear life while your fingers and toes freeze off because, for some reason, it hadn’t occurred to you that being pulled along at up to 30 kms per hour in -24 degrees would feel pretty cold”. But I think ‘driving’ will do for our purposes.
There is something so romantic about the idea of huskie driving: standing on the back of the sled, while you friend sits comfortably in front enjoying the relaxing ride and views, a reindeer fur warming the seat, huskies pulling you along, breathing in the pristine air, feeling refreshed and alive! In reality it was bloody cold, there was a lot of stopping and starting, the huskies were loud and yapping and then… there was the smell. What were we smelling, you might ask? Dog business. I think the running got them moving, so to speak. It was an experience, I’m glad we did it, but I’m not desperate to do it again. There is nothing worse than huskies shitting in a line in front of you.
And so, a final meal, home to bed, and a good nights’ sleep before we set off. The last piece of advice from our fearless guides was this: “Have a coffee at breakfast. Try to get your system moving so that you can go to the toilet before we set off. Number 2s. There are no toilets until we get to camp at night time. If you need to go along the way, it’s a hole in the snow. And the snow could be metres deep each side of the track so it will have to be on the actual compressed snow of the snowmobile trail”.
I hoped – prayed!! – that all my fellow trekkers would take this advice, help themselves to coffee to get their systems moving in the morning. I had images of huskies shitting in a line in front of me and I realised that there would be something worse….
Next post: the trek itself. A little taster “An important law of nature: humans shouldn’t camp outside, in -34 degrees, on a frozen lake”