Norway wilderness preparation

Submitted by jono on 01 Mar 2017.

Making expeditions happen is a lot of work. There are multiple puzzles to resolve and - initially at least - uncertainties on every front.

Website development and writing takes many hours. Presenting a simple concept is anything but simple. Selecting a charity is complex - particularly with multiple languages and nationalities to consider.

And of course having decided upon doing something slightly loopy you've got to figure out how to actually do it. Equipment must be customised to overcome particular obstacles (details of which I'll save for another post). The mental toying with ideas and search for inspiration happens day and night, and eventually becomes draining.

Securing sponsors takes more time and energy. I'm in the happy situation now of having main sponsors on board. Starboard (board), Severne (rig), and Stohlquist (drysuit). Great gear that fills me with confidence for the very exposed and remote Arctic section that I'll be sailing in just a few months time.

Logistics for getting to the start, organising publicity, blog / social media updates, publishing my book, testing ideas, developing contacts en route, attending to the financial aspects, studying the route, getting expedition fit... all these things and more compete for time which suddenly seems in very short supply.

The bottom line is that expedition planning is more than a full time occupation. And when you only see only the hurdles that can leave you deflated and even uncertain.

So it was fantastic to get up to Finnmark in Northern Norway last week and do some actual expeditioning, reminding myself that - yes - I do really love this sort of thing.

Temperatures were indeed arctic, never rising above -15ºC and down to -35ºC at night. I never got to the open sea (the coastal roads near the border are closed in winter) but through time skiing and camping in the wilderness I certainly became much more tuned in to the natural environment of Finnmark. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my guide Helene for teaching me to not only survive, but also to enjoy - and even be in control - in the winter conditions. Skiing is not windsurfing - but there are parallels with going 'off grid' for a number of days at a time - and the experience has given me confidence in my ability to meet the challenges that I will face in the first 1000km come early summer.

Pictures from the trip describe this hypnotic landscape far better than I can.

  • The Finnmark region of Norway shares borders with Finland and Russia.
    The Finnmark region of Norway shares borders with Finland and Russia.
  • The border with Finland is porous, but crossing into Russia would get you arrested.
    The border with Finland is porous, but crossing into Russia would get you arrested.
  • Finnish observation tower
    Finnish observation tower
  • Moose prints. There were quite a few animal tracks in the snow but the animals themselves remained well hidden.
    Moose prints. There were quite a few animal tracks in the snow but the animals themselves remained well hidden.
  • Forest and lake, lake and forest, forest and lake...
    Forest and lake, lake and forest, forest and lake...
  • Long evenings and long shadows.
    Long evenings and long shadows.
  • Shortly before the temperature plummetted to -35ºC.
    Shortly before the temperature plummetted to -35ºC.
  • Helene making off with my sled.
    Helene making off with my sled.
  • Back at civilisation in Kirkenes, the sheltered waters of the Fjord were iced up.
    Back at civilisation in Kirkenes, the sheltered waters of the Fjord were iced up.
  • Ski-hiking and windsurfing require very different technical skills, but the fundamental requirements of food, water, warmth and sleep are common to all forms of expedition.
    Ski-hiking and windsurfing require very different technical skills, but the fundamental requirements of food, water, warmth and sleep are common to all forms of expedition.
  • I'd head back. Tomorrow.
    I'd head back. Tomorrow.

I also headed up - slightly nervously - to see the border commissioner. Predictably, my request to sail across the border to Russia was rejected. His job - I was informed - was to prevent anyone doing anything unusual or unexpected near the border. Lobbing a stone into the river could get me arrested. The norwegian and russian military keep a close eye on each other and it is in nobody's interests to make the other side jumpy.

I've certainly no gripe with that, and the commissioner was very cordial and full of interest about the expedition. I'm glad I asked. The commissioner sent me away with a very nice soviet era map, a request to keep him informed and instructions to stay on the west side of the line.

Tagged with: Norway Preparation