FINNMARKSVIDDA

DAY 1 – a good start

After just 3 hours of sleeping i got up at 4:15 to be one of the 4 passengers on the plane to Lakselv. Which I must admit was a great starting place. The town has an amazing waiting room at the bus terminal – the place is so warm that i suspect the locals use it as a sauna in the evenings. I left there my skis and pluk and walked to the nearby tank station to get my self some fuel for the stove. And I was just on time for the morning round of delicious cinnamon buns! Half an hour later i was on the bus heading 15 km north to Stabbursnes, where my little skiing expedition started. I got off at the Stabbursdalen National Park office and continued further up the main road to where a snow machine track lead me into the valley. The route was simple: when the snow machine track disappeared, I followed a reindeer fence and to the waterfalls on Stabburselva. From there on I had to go on the river – very carefully and always close the bank… A park ranger in Stabbursnes warned me that the river is not safe this year. I pitched the camp in a narrow river terrace when the canyon got wider again. 15 km on this sleepy day – not bad!

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At the waterfalls.
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My tent in the moonlight at the river canyon walls. I could almost hear coyotes howling…

DAY 2 – over the mountains

It snowed during the night and the river was covered by fresh fluffy snow. I was breaking through the snow in many places and my pulk was plowing a deep track behind me. At the river bends there was still surprisingly a lot of open water and I had to venture into the forest every now and then. There the snow was even deeper and less compacted by the wind. But i got myself a companion to entertain me – a moose! Well, i saw her already the day before and since it was always a female i suspect it was the same animal all the way. Today I was following her tracks on the river and every now and then I saw her on the slope. Around lunch time, I reached an non-passable part of  the river canyon and i had to go over the mountains. The summer track goes north, but my plan was to turn south on the Finnmark plateau and I did not want to make long detours. I am not sure if I will ever found out how the northern route would be, but the one i took had a rough start and quite terrible continuation. Perhaps my moose friend could advised me a better way. She was standing up on the opposite side on the valley watching me crawl though the sleep snow drifts on the mountain side. She did not want to go anywhere. I had to catch my breath and stop for lunch on the top of the climb to wave her goodbye before i disappeared behind the slope. The snow on the mountain was quite the opposite of the one in the valley. It was much more compacted by the wind of course, but unfortunately there was not much of it! The slopes were so rocky that i had to walk in the labyrinth between the stones protruding out of the snow. My poor pulk followed me blindly and shreds of orange plastic we left behind were marking our way. At points the slopes were so depleted of snow that i had to take the skis off and drag the pulk over the snow drifts on the sleep mountain slopes. She and her 30 kg were dangling on the rope below me and i was hoping that a sudden jerk will not blow me off the mountain. All worked out well and by the nightfall we were another 15 km further, off the mountain, out of the river valley that i had to cross again and on the Finnmark plateau!

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Stabburselva canyon: frozen river with snowdrifts and exposed ice
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Fleeing out of the flooded river ice. The dark patch in the background is open water in the middle of the river.

DAY 3 – perfect snow

The Finnmark plateau is sometimes called ‘little Greenland’ – its cold and windy, relatively flat and all white. There are no roads, just a preferred direction in which you want to go. Imagine you see no trees, just slight undulation of the landscape and suddenly visibility falls below 50 m. You have everything with you in your pulk – stay alert and self confident and your compass will lead you.

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A lonely tree: perfect place for lunch.

DAY 4 – a bad day

‘I had only 6 and half day planned for my trip. I have already used 2 days to reach the plateau. Yesterday i walked from 6am to 6pm and covered 25 km. That is a very good distance, but I will not be able to make it all the way unless I keep to it.’ Those were my sobering thoughts of the morning. Then, only 100 m away from the camp I found a snow machine road! I followed it for 3 km to figure out that its not going exactly where I want it to. By that time I got the taste for the easy ride, but there was simply no more. I was searching around, hoping to get lucky again, but all the tracks I ve found were no good. I had to return back to my old friend – the compass. I realized I have to shorten my trip a bit and change the course straight to Ravnastua, the last cabin before the descend from the plateau. It was a long day, but with all the detours I ve ‘only’ managed to cover 20 km in a straight line.

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My favorite breakfast: oats with powder milk, raisins and nuts, topped with big chunks of butter. I will drink a cup of hot black current power juice over it. The water is almost boiling…

DAY 5 – a good decision

I woke up in a cold day with stunning clear sky – for the first morning on the trip. It must have been close to -20 centigrade, but i slept well and was ready for a new day in the winter wonderland. I was skiing over hills, all in a straight line towards Ravnastua. The plateau somehow did not feel very flat today. On my 4th ascent that day I found a lonely snow machine track going up right where I wanted. Perfect! Few minutes later I had the honor of meeting the person who made the track. He came down to me on his snow machine, his dog faithfully sitting on the back seat, to ask me to make a 2 km detour, so that i wouldn’t scare his reindeer. He said they had a tough winter and he doesn’t want to exhaust them additionally with uncontrolled running around in the snow. ‘They are used to snow machines, but skiers are a rare species nowadays and you never know what might startle them.’ OK. No, I do not want make any trouble to this man, do i? But a 2 km detour? He looked and my grim face and suggested immediately: ‘I can help you! I can take you around the hill!’ How? Well, he attached my pulk to his machine and tied one end of his lasso rope to it and gave me the other end. I must have looked pretty confused, so he asked: ‘You have done this before, right?’ Hm, actually not… And the the fun started! It felt like water skiing up the hill. It was a bit scary downhill though as my skis were faster than his machine. When he got me where he wanted he pointed towards a direction and said that Ravnastua is right over there. It seemed this was the last climb of the day and I felt I made the right decision to cut my way short and go directly to the hut. 25 km today.

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Frost rime on my skis illustrates how cold the mornings were.
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Gliding on the perfect hard snow surface.
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The two tracks meet.
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Alf Johanessen, the Norwegian Sami that took me on the detour ride with his shepherd dog, snow machine and lasso.

DAY 6 – the lazy day

Last evening I set the camp at the already broken ski track going towards Ravnastua. I was just 4 km away from the hut and I felt so pleased with my self, that i decided to reward my self with a lazy morning. I got up at 5am (1 hour later that usually) and spent a record 2 hours cuddling myself in the tent before I got out.When I reached Ravnastua I met a couple of dog sledge teams that were just setting off. We had a nice chat and they shared their tea with me. From the hut onward I was going on the snow machine road and I did not have to care about direction or soft snow. Such a relaxing day. I descended from the plateau and skied along the river towards Karasjok. 29 km  – short day, but record distance.

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The last hilltop before the descent to the Karašjohka river

DAY 7 – the spare day

This was my spare day in case of a bad weather. I still had food and fuel left and the night caught me on the river. I was to lazy to get to the town and hustle with the hotel check-in. So, I stayed where I was with only a couple of kilometers left to the end. The weather forecast said the temperature should stay at the usual -20, but I woke up in the morning with -30! That encouraged me to hurry up and at 9am I was in Karasjok on the tank station enjoying the luxury of the fresh cinnamon buns and coffee.

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Staying warm at -30 centigrade.

This trip was over 130 km long, I covered the distance in 6 days. For most it I had to break my own trail. It was my fist long winter solo travel and it was a great experience that taught me a lot about Finnmark and myself.

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