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Back to the Arctic... But on a budget

Back to the Arctic... But on a budget

We didn't have much time. KP works as a teacher so February half term was our only option after promising to one another after a glass of wine too many in December. I get a feeling about whether a trip is going to happen and I got it with this one so it happened. It's a gut feeling - is it worth it? Am I fully committed? I get this feeling because I'm the type of person who can't help but go full steam ahead on an idea that I fall in love with. 

So we made a cheers and a pinky promise to start our plans to go back to the Arctic and sure enough, the next day I had made the calls, planned the best dates and got our basic route figured out. It was on. 

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A typical Arctic night

A typical Arctic night

Happy Valentines Day! 

If you're sat at home or on the way to somewhere and looking for something completely un valentines related and not romantic in any way, look no further! Here's a little snippet from my latest expedition that I had in January - I headed back to above the Arctic circle to ski along the Norwegian-Russian border...

"It’s past midnight and it’s snowing. I should probably get out and clear the snow off the tent. I struggle out of my enormously warm sleeping bag only to be met with the cold and fresh arctic air that lingers. I close my sleeping bag in an attempt to trap the heat that I’ve created in there. With only one person in the tent, the tent only provides protection from the elements, not the temperature. 

I don’t bother with my trousers and just go out in my down jacket over my base layers with my boots on loose. Sure enough, the snow has covered the tent so I shake it off. It’s not too bad, but being awake I may as well clear it now before I can’t physically get out of the tent.

My team mate and furry friend, Snø, is curled up and covered in snow. It’s something like -32C outside, I don’t know how he is able to keep warm. I have to remind myself he’s a working dog and this is what he’s built for but I can’t help comparing him to my dog at home who has very similar characteristics to him.

It’s so dark but the stars light up the sky. I don’t see any northern lights but I don’t want to wait up, I’ve already seen some spectacular ones on this expedition and all I can think about is that I don’t want any more heat leaving my warmed up sleeping bag.

Snø hasn’t budged. He was anxious when I first climbed into the tent and left him outside. He’s not used to being alone and so let out quite pathetic yet super sweet cries. It made me feel a little uneasy with him being so antsy though. He was focused on starring into the forest I’m camped next to as if there’s something in there.

There’s so many animal tracks around us that I’m sure he’s right to think there are things out there although I’m more nervous about the other direction, Russia. I can see it, it's metres away and this whole time I’ve been skiing along its border being sure to not even breathe over to the Russian side at risk of being taken by the Russians... seriously. I've already had the Norwegian border control come by and warn me of the consequences. The soldiers, rifles in tow, asked me questions, checked the rope I had attached to me and Snø then let me be on my way.

They skidooed off. If they are skiidooing then the ice is definitely secure enough for Snø and I. It's not until I edge off the border inland towards the weaker part of the lake that the ice becomes a little more questionable. Snø refuses to go the direction I want to go by cowering behind me. I'm sure he is just frightened by the sudden crunch of the snow pack compressing onto the ice but I decide to trust him and find a different way seeing as he spends almost every day of his life running on frozen lakes and I don't.

I get back inside the tent. Strip my boots and realign my sleeping mat and thermorest. I do the usual silent cry as I remove my down jacket to get in to my sleeping bag- cold! I then do a kind of bum hop to shimmy into my sleeping bag and sleeping liner. Before shutting my eyes I make sure everything is where it should be. Pee bottle - check. Head torch - check. Large knife for protection - check. 

After a few minutes of trying to get what essentially is just under the duvet, I'm in. It's such a palaver this winter expedition business, but I love it."