5 Books Set in Cold Places to Curl Up With This Winter

IMG_3884Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.  And what makes a cold winter evening even better is a good book to curl up with (and perhaps also a glass or two of amaretto and ice). When the wind is howling and sleet lashing the window, snuggle into your favourite tartan jammies, and read all about the ice and snow from the warmth and comfort of your armchair.  With the radio playing softly in the background, lights sparkling on the Christmas tree, and someone bringing warm mince pies occasionally, I can’t think of a more perfect way to enjoy the books below.

 

The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

In the introduction to this book, Cherry-Garrard notes: Polar Exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time that has been devised. As the youngest member of the team accompanying Robert Falcon Scott on his ill-fated attempt to reach the South Pole, Cherry-Garrard was one of only three survivors, and part of the rescue mission that discovered the frozen bodies of his colleagues. His account pieces together diary extracts from other team members, adding details of scientific endeavours and anecdotes of resilience and endurance in the frozen south.

Buy it here.

This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland by Gretel Ehrlich

Long fascinated by the icy landscapes and exotic culture, Ehrlich travels extensively in Greenland, meeting people walking the line between a traditional way of life and modern development. She draws heavily on the journals of Danish-Greenlandic explorer Knud Rasmussen from the 1920s and 30s, retracing expeditions by kayak and dogsled. The book combines travel diary with biography, ethnographic study and geography. 

Buy it here.

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A Winter Book by Tove Jansson

Finnish author Jansson is best known for the Moomin stories, and although this collection of short pieces is for adults, it captures the same feeling of childlike wonder her famous creations have for nature, landscape and life. The beautifully observed stories have a lightness of touch and at the same time a deep truth, making them a joy to read. For a bonus recommendation, seek out her short novel The True Deceiver as a follow up. 

Buy it here.

Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez

This book is difficult to summarise in just a short paragraph. It details Lopez’s travels in the High Arctic, meditating on the landscapes and wildlife, how we explain and interact with them, drawing on historical, cultural, philosophical and scientific significances. This is not an easy book to digest, but the sparklingly beautiful prose and interesting, informative subjects make you want to take your time, and enjoy the brilliance. Best dipped into over a series of winter afternoons. 

Buy it here.

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver 

A bone-chilling ghost story set in an abandoned whaling camp in the Spitzbergen archipelago, high in the Arctic, in the late 1930s. With thoughts of impending war not far from the collective consciousness, a British scientific expedition establish themselves in a remote corner, against the advice of the Norwegian administration. As the dazzling brightness of 24-hour daylight gives way to the creeping polar night, a growing unease builds in the team, but is the horror a presence in the darkness or the madness of isolation in a challenging environment?  Buy it here.

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Have you got any icy and snowy suggestions for a wintry reading list?

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you follow them to buy a book I recommend, I get a small payment from the company, at no charge to you whatsoever. It helps keep my book habit going.

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Help me win a place in the Fjällräven Polar

The best adventures often aren’t the “Bucket List” ideas that you dream about for years and years. Sometimes they are the things that happen just when you’re in the right place at the right time, things that you stumble across as you browse websites, flick through magazines or get chatting to people that you meet.

I think I’ve found my next adventure. The newsletter for my favourite outdoor magazine popped into my inbox on a quiet morning, topped with a picture of a person swaddled in Arctic gear, face hidden by ski goggles and a fur-trimmed hood, standing alongside a team of sled dogs waiting to be hitched up. I managed to read the words “Take part in…” before I’d followed the link to the event. I want this.

 

The Fjällräven Polar is an event that takes place in the Scandinavian Arctic, a 300km dogsled run through the mountains and over the tundra, from Signaldalen in northern Norway, to the forest around Jukkasjärvi in Sweden, finishing on the frozen lake. Participants camp out each night of the expedition, which takes place in April, when temperatures have been known to drop to minus 30°C and even lower, especially with biting wind sweeping across the treeless tundra.

Despite the extreme conditions, the event is for ordinary people, not survival experts or polar explorers, looking for the adventure of a lifetime. It aims to give people the chance to discover the harsh beauty of the Arctic, to test themselves in a challenging environment, and show how the right equipment and knowledge can open up new experiences.

Entry is limited to 20 people, two from each “country”identified by Fjällräven*. One of these will automatically win a place by receiving the most votes on their application on the website. The other person will be selected by Fjällräven to take part in the event.

I’ve got a long way to go to beat some of the other British entries, especially as they’ve had almost 3 weeks longer to garner votes than me (and may even have been planning their campaign since last year). So here is my appeal: please help me win a place in the Fjällräven Polar! Follow this link to my profile, and click on the button to vote. I promise to share my stories with you when I get back.

Thank you for your support.

All images in this post are from Fjällräven.co.uk or Fjällrävenpolar.com

*Participants in the event will come from each of the following countries or groups: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Germany, UK, USA, Hungary, Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg) and other countries (the Rest of the World)!

12 Days of Christmas #6: Reindeer

I love reindeer.  I’ve been to visit the reindeer herd that live on the Cairngorm plateau in Scotland, and I’ve seen some grazing in fields next to the Hringvegur (ring road) in the Eastfjords of Iceland.  I’ve been to Finnish Lapland and watched families take rides in reindeer-drawn sleds, and seen the Sami round-up pens in Kautokeino and Karasjok.

IMG_0491v2Skiing on the empty fells above Båtsfjord  a small herd of reindeer crossed over the crest of the hill to our front.  They continued down towards us, the only sound in the still* air was the soft crunch of snow under their feet.

*A tenuous link to Ailsa’s weekly travel theme of still.

Travel Theme: Sky

This week’s travel theme from “Where’s my backpack?” is sky.  So what better way to show off the sky than a sunset from the end of the world?  Or it might be the sunrise, as both happened within 10 minutes of each other.

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Views from Gjesvær, Nordkapp

Just a few days later and neither would happen again for another 2 and a half months, as the midnight sun doesn’t drop below the horizon north of the Arctic Circle.

The Royal and Ancient Society of Polar Bears

PB face telegraph.co.uk
photograph by Daniel J. Cox; http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Who doesn’t love a polar bear?  Although, as the world’s largest terrestrial carnivore, with a healthy sense of curiosity and an enormous pair of front paws, it may not be a wise idea to think of it as a cute, cuddly creature.  To the indigenous people of the Arctic they are the great wanderers, embodying the qualities of resilience, tirelessness and adaptive intelligence.  Other cultures believed that the bears were the keepers of magic, the givers  and takers of power.

The Norwegian settlement of Hammerfest, at 70° 39′ 48″ North, lays claim to being the northernmost city in the world.  It also adopts the polar bear as the symbol of the city. Continue reading

The Midnight Sun at the Top of the World

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The Globe Monument, Nordkapp

The rugged cliffs of Nordkapp, at 71°10’21” North, with the Globe Monument perched above, is an iconic travel destination receiving in the region of 200,000 visitors a year, and providing the start and finish point for a number of epic journeys across the continent.

However, its also known as one of the biggest tourist traps in Europe, an ultra-expensive day out in an already expensive country. It isn’t even the true northernmost point of Norway, which is either somewhere in the Svalbard archipealgo, Kinnarodden, north of Mehamn on the Nordkyn peninsula, or nearby Knivskjelodden, depending on the definition used.

So, is it really worth visiting?

Continue reading

A letter to the Norwegian Tourism Ministry (Draft)

Dear Minister for Tourism,

Hei! (See how I demonstrate my mastery of the Norwegian language, oh yes!) I’ve recently returned from a wonderful week in Finnmark region, exploring the rugged coastline and wild tundra, meeting the welcoming local people, and experiencing the otherworldliness of the midnight sun.

However…

Continue reading