This article is also available in: Dutch
The first night in the Arctic wilderness was the worst night of the week. Because of my really painful back I was unable to get some proper sleep and woke up feeling exhausted. Besides that I’ve made the rookie mistake of wearing too much clothes in my sleeping bag which made me feel freezing cold all night long. To top it of I was woken up by crying huskies about 10 times. But there was no time to snooze, because I heard something ticking on the tent. Was it rain? And what is that dark spot on top of our tent?
Whiteout for breakfast
We zipped open our tent and the dark spot disappeared. It was snow. And now it was IN our tent. The horizon was completely gone, we got whiteout for breakfast! Whiteout is a weather condition that makes clouds merge into white snow surface. With no hirizon and no reference points, it can cause a pretty distorted orientation. It feels like standing in a gigantic white room with no walls. So weird! And yet so beautiful and surreal.
Despite the breathtaking view it really made our daily activities a lot harder. Because how do you navigate a dogsled when you can’t even see the horizon? And how I am going to find the toilet when I can’t even see where I’m going? I used te yellow snow scooter to find my way to the hill in front of the little building. Because even though personal hygiene wasn’t really a thing (how do you shower in the Arctic?), I was REALLY happy that there was an acutal toilet here. And by toilet I mean a hole in the ground with a seat made out of foam.
Having breakfast in the Arctic wilderness
And then it was time for our Real Turmat five star breakfast! The best tactic is to heat up the water the night before, so all you have to do in the morning is pour it into your Real Turmat bag and wait for a few minutes. Luckily we were smart enough to have done that, so we didn’t have to spend too much time on replenishing our energy levels. Because believe me when I say you desperately need it in conditions like these. The best thing would be to have breakfast inside your sleeping bag and then get dressed and go do the things you have to do. That way your body temperature starts to rise before it gets the chance to cool down and you won’t loose too much energy. Let’s think about that tomorrow!
My dogs were resting in their cosy jackets, curled up like snowy donuts. I couldn’t help myself but take a moment and realise the mindblowing performance that these dogs deliver during a week like this. No wonder they have been training for this moment all year! I gave all the dogs some cuddles and took some quick pictures before I went back to work. Because we had to feed the dogs, break down the tent, pack our sleds and continue our journey. A really cold journey.
Survival in a blizzard
Luckily our head musher Anna was super experienced and a real super hero, because we would have been screwed without her. How on earth (pun intended) do you navigate in a big white room with no horizon? Thanks to Anna all we had to do was hold on to our sled and trust our dogs instincts. This way we could focus on staying warm and hydrated and being amazed by our surroundings. Because that whiteout was fun for a few minutes, but boy did I curse at the conditions later that day. I was glad no one could hear me.
After a little while the cold feels like someone is stabbing you with a knife in your face all the time (sorry not sorry). It’s a suicide mission to stand on your sled backwards, so all you can do is suck it up and deal with it. And try to beat the little devil that says “Give up and go home.” One of the biggest consolations during a trip like this is food. I’m not even kidding. Except from the energy part, food is.. Comfort food. It gives you this little wave of excitement, warmth and mental strength. Lunch break came right on time and I spent it eating my reindeer stew inside of a windsack. Don’t I look fabulous or what?
Later that day the weather cleared and gave us a mindblowing view at snowy mountains, hills and trees. My camera was really struggling with capturing the true beauty of it all in the occrect white balance, but thanks to some serious Adobe software I can still show you what I saw that day. And what my team mates saw that day.
Delivered to mother nature at camp Kattuvuoma
By the end of the day we arrived in camp Kattuvuoma. After parking our sleds and finding a comfortable spot for our dogs, we had to go back to work. This time we could set up camp between the trees, hurray for some protetion! Setting up camp was so much easier than the day before, we could really tell we were getting better at this whole Arctic camping thing. We even had dinner before the sun went down! The weather was also much better than the snow storms we started the day with and the sunset was insanely beautiful.
This time we really had to use our snow shoes to get around camp. If you wouldn’t use them, you would end with snow up to your hips! Pretty annoying if you’re walking around holding a dog or bottles of water for cooking, I can tell you.
We were completely delivered to mother nature this time. No toilet, no shelter and we had to fetch our own water from a hole in the middle of a frozen lake. Which really was a big plus, because walking up to the hole was a really good exercise and made sure you’d stay warm. Especially in the morning!
The Arctic wilderness at its best
After dinner and making sure we had enough water for the next morning, I was so tired that I decided to skip the campfire and go to bed. Right when I was changing my bruised legs into my thermos pyjamas, I heard someone outside my tent. It was Sofia and the camera man! I invited them into my tent and had a really personal converstation with them.
You can find the interview in the Fjällräven video from day 5. You can probably tell by the look on my face and the sound of my voice that I was really struggling that night. This expedition was one big rollercoaster for me, especially emotionally. One moment you’re in the middle of a snow storm and you’re craving for a bath and your own bed. But an hour later the sun breaks through and you see the most beautiful landscapes you’ll ever see and realise you don’t ever want to go home again. You’re freezing, sweating, laughing, crying, tired and excited all at the same time. But what a day.. This really was the Arctic wilderness at its best.