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.

Meet the Dragon Tamers

This summer I spent several weeks as a crew member onboard Draken Harald Hårfagre, a Viking longship, that is  the largest ever built in modern times.  You can read more about my adventures starting here, but now meet the crew that were the dragon tamers.

The crew members were a diverse group of people, from professional sailors who’d spent a lifetime at sea to others that had only been on one sailing holiday before, from some of the most experienced Viking ship crew to dingy sailors, rowers and kayakers.  We came from all corners of the world, Scandianavia and Scotland, Estonia and England, New Zealand and the USA, France and Canada, Malta and Spain (and I’ve probably missed someone out… sorry!), speaking several languages between us (and only a few able to say døde røde rådne røgede ørreder).

The theme of the weekly photo challenge is community.

12 Days of Christmas #5: Oh Christmas Tree!

IMG_2204Things are becoming considerably more festive at home now.  This afternoon I picked up a Christmas tree from a nearby Country Park, then dug out the fairy lights and decorations from the loft.  Now I’m sitting next to a twinkling, sparkly masterpiece (albeit sitting in a wastepaper bin held down with my diving weight belt), and picking pine needles out of my socks. Continue reading

12 Days of Christmas #3: Have you met the Yule Goat?

Thinking about animals associated with this time of year, and there’s a few contenders that might pop into your head.  Reindeer most likely, red noses or not; a donkey, the stable (hohoho!) of a school nativity play, not to mention the camels of the Wise Men; sometimes even penguins and polar bears appear in festive displays.  And who can resist this compilation of cute creatures wearing Santa hats from the Top 10 of Everything?

Too cute to even quantify.

But did you know about the Yule Goat?  Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand

As a visitor to Iceland, it almost seems like there’s a waterfall around every bend. Dramatic cascading falls, beautiful ribbon-like streams, rainbow trimmed sheets of water, and thundering cataracts.  But the grandest of all Icelandic waterfalls is Dettifoss, where the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river drops 45m into the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon.  Fed by the Vatnajökull glacier, and frequent rain and snow, the falls are the most powerful waterfall in Europe.

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Dettifoss, Iceland

Here’s the link to the weekly photo challenge.

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.

How to Train your Dragon, Part 3.

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Foul weather sailing.  Photo by Peder Jacobsson.

Making a tack or a gybe in Drakan is hard work for the crew involved, especially when we’re beating our way up a narrow fjord and changing direction every 10 minutes or so. The ship can’t run as close to the wind as a modern sailing ship, so we have to make tighter zigzags, taking much longer to cover the forward distance. Continue reading

How to Train your Dragon, Part 2.

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Sailing in the small boats.

So previously I described the work involved in raising the sail and letting it fly. But unless you’re running completely downwind, much greater control of the sail is needed, by securing the bottom corner of the sail closest to the wind, the hals, and trimming its shape with a variety of ropes. It’s much easier to see how the process works in the smaller square-sailed boats. Continue reading

Night Sailing

Slip out from port in evening dim

Colour draining from the sky

Crossing quicksilver streams

Lights red over green; sailing

Leave the fjord for open sea

Home lights slip from the horizon

Bright Hurtigruten lights chase the coast

Oilfield flares offshore

Look down over the bow

In the dark of night

Dark water, flying over fathoms deep

Constellations of phosphorescence

Wind squalls, reef the sail

Hands cramping and cold

Watching the lighthouse’s sweep

Safe to the shores of morning.

Hellisøy Lighthouse, Fedja.  Photograph by  Tord Andre Oen
Hellisøy Lighthouse, Fedja. Photograph by Tord Andre Oen