The Ski

The skiing portion of the journey is about 2700 km from Lindesnes in the very south of Norway to the Nordkinn, the most northerly mainland point of Norway and indeed Europe. This route goes along the mountainous spine of Scandinavia crossing occasionally into Sweden.

These mountains are the geological remnants of a mountain belt which once rivalled the Himalayas of today, namely the Caledonian mountains and were formed when Europe collided into Greenland some 400 million tears ago. Numerous ice ages have ground them down from 8000 metres to 2000 metres.

Indeed Scandinavia is just shaking of the traces of the last ice age and the landscape is still peppered with glaciers and lakes. It was only some 300 generations ago when the ice sheet which covered the entire region melted sufficiently for reindeer, wolverine mammoth and man to cross over from the unfrozen plains of Central Europe.

During the winter months Scandinavia returns to this earlier epoch and the entire country is again covered in snow and ice. Even the reindeer must retreat from the mountains down to the extensive forests. Contrary to the ice age the winter now loses its grip by late April onwards most of this winter landscape thaws out in a lively and vibrant spring and the ice can accumulate.

The only possibility to ski the length of this ancient mountain chain is in the winter. This is from early January, when the snow has started to accumulate, until the end of April, when the spring bursts forth. This means the ski has to take less than about 120 days. I will not be the first to do this trip and the various people who have done it before usually manage it in about 100 days.

En route there is a network of isolated cabins scattered through the mountains. However these are far and few between in some areas and camping the frozen landscape is the only option. About half of all the nights will be spent in a tent. Where there are cabins I will use them to warm up and dry off.

I will hopefully use the cabins to shelter from the winter storms which become quite frequent in March. However, there will be the occasional blizzard when one just has to, dig a hole in the snow, put up the tent, get into a sleeping bag and hunker down and wait a day or two until the worst has passed before setting off again. This stormy weather will usually come from the west in Atlantic depressions. It will usually deposit a lot of snow but the temperatures will only drop to about -10°C

At other time the weather will come from the east. In this case a Continental high pressure system will develop and the descending air will keep the low pressure systems at bay. The weather during these periods will become very dry and crystal clear, with crunchy firm snow with a covering of frost. However, it will also become very cold with the night time temperature dropping to -40°C.

As Norway is so far north the daylight will be very short in January at only about 5-6 hours. As I head north however the daylight hours will increase rapidly. By the spring Equinox on the 21st March I should cross the Arctic circle near I should be enjoying 14 hours daylight and further north by late April it will be light for nearly 24 hours. This is a huge advantage but it means the snow disappears quickly and the ski will become a race against the seasons.

I will be taking everything in a rucksack. Having experimented with sledges, or pulks, before I know they slow progress considerably. However the maximum weight I can carry comfortably is 25Kg. Into this 25kg must go everything one needs to be entirely self sufficient for a winters week. The rucksack itself, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, spade, stove, fuel, gadgets, clothes and then a week’s worth of food. The diet will not be pleasant!

The skis boots and equipment I will be using are designed to be lightweight and comfortable so I can eek out an extra few kilometres each day. The skis will permanently have short kicker skins attached to the mid section to give maximum glide and also grip to propel the next step. This will negate the use of wax. The boots and bindings I will be using are of the NNN-BC type which are a lot more comfortable, warmer and faster than any modern plastic equivalent which so much in favour at the moment with those who need more rigidity and control.

Further reading