Archive for the ‘Arctic’ Category

Ski Touring in Arctic Sweden

Sunday, April 12th, 2015
Beaver Attack

Beaver Attack

Team Photo at Skaite

Team Photo at Skaite

Team Jump

Team Jump – note the handy vehicle which is a four wheel drive Volkswagen pick up with a cab to take five people, a big flat bed to take a couple of snowmobiles and a tail lift. What more could anyone ever want!

Our Hosts at Skaite

Our Hosts at Skaite

Svarte making flies under Erik's instructions

Svarte making flies under Erik’s instructions

Making Flies

Making Flies

Return from Kabla

Return from Kabla

Fishing Trip

Fishing Trip

29th March until 5th April 2015

Raffi Ki

Raffi Ki

Lunchtime Fire

Lunchtime Fire

Kabla Mountains

Kabla Mountains

Erik in the Hut

Erik in the Hut

Tsielekjokk Hut

Tsielekjokk Hut

Luckily we were invited for another skiing holiday in the Arctic by Charlotte and Svarte, an opportunity which of course we grabbed immediately. We flew to an airport which sounds a bit like a spicy Greek sausage and is just north of Umea. As we landed a little girl shrieked at the top of her voice “Christmas Trees – Hundreds and Hundreds of Christmas Trees!” which made me smile. We hired a car and headed off for a five hour drive northwards through well hundreds and hundreds of Christmas trees. It wasn’t long before I learnt to just use one foot when driving an automatic. We stayed the first night at Njavre and learnt the delight of the new tree bark toilet.  On Monday morning our gang of six drove up to Kvikkjokk to start the mini tour. Jokk means small river in either Swedish or Sami.

I’m not quite sure who it was (actually I do know but that would be churlish) but someone started to apply some sticky wax to their skis and we all followed like lemmings – more of lemmings later. This was a big mistake! The wax was so sticky that the skis constantly balled up and made progress very slow. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.  We tried to get the stuff off but with little success. Perspex compasses make good wax removers. So my Lesson Number One is “Go for a ski first before applying any wax”. Bet I forget that before next year. The days ski was to be all uphill save for a long trek across a lake which I normally find tends to be flat. After about 14 km we arrived at the tiny mountain rescue hut of Tsielekjokk. On the whole route we had only met one other skier who happened to be British and was towing a pulka. He had stayed in the same hut which made us worry that he may have eaten all our food but luckily our food drop remained intact. Charlotte and I took an axe and a bucket to try to get some water from the river. This is potentially a bit dangerous but we succeeded without falling in. The hut was wall to wall bodies as it was very small. Once the fire was lit it was very cosy and we all slept well. I suspect carbon monoxide poisoning may have lent a hand. We had a very lazy and long breakfast before setting off on the short distance to the fabulous farmhouse of Skaite where we were guests of the joint owners of the estate. Apart from a large and very beautiful main house there was also the most fantastic log sauna house next to an iced over river. There was a hole smashed through the ice were you can plunge yourself into icy water after the superheated sauna. Quite an experience! In the evening we had a scrumptious meal with a spectacular dug out cake filled with marzipan and cream. This stay was an unexpected luxury. Skaite can not be reached by road at any time of the year. It is only accessible by snowmobile in the winter or boat and a long walk in the summer, although helicopters are often used. The north of Sweden still has places that are 80 km from the nearest road and I mean any road at all, even a track. It is the biggest wilderness in Europe. On Wednesday after a fine breakfast we set off on the 14 km route down to Oarrenjarke which means squirrel peninsular. Every day that we go out skiing there is the ritual of the lunchtime fire. I love fires! There is quite an art to building a fire on snow but with Svarte’s excellent training I think we have the knack of it now. Our last few days were to be spent on day tours from Njavre. The first day Charlotte, Grit and I went to ski up a distant mountain (OK hill). We were able to pass our fire building badge with honours and we only got lost a couple of times. The second day was to be a mass snowmobile ride into the lovely Kabla mountains where we would all have lunch around a fire (of course) and then some of us would ski the 20 km back to base. The Kabla mountains are gorgeous! We saw a fluffy ball of a lemming frolicking in the snow. I haven’t yet mastered steep downhill skiing with these cross country skis so there were some long traverses and flip turns to lose height. I’d love to grasp the graceful Telemark turns. We only got lost once of the way back but still arrived before dark. The final day was another snowmobile trip to go ice fishing. Erik was the winner of the fishing competition by about ten times but Eric is a real expert – we all spent an hour or so one evening captivated by his fly making skills. There were all sorts of tools and clever tricks to produce what I think was called a Royal Coachman. We skied back down the narrow and sometimes steep tracks for last time. We were joined by Eleanor and the lovely dog Rafi Ki. There is a point when the snowplough just will not slow you down enough so you need to choose whether to let ‘em run at a breakneck speed (breakarm in my case) or to bail out into some deep snow. There must be another way! After a big meal of salmon(s) and cakes we said our goodbye and thankyous to everyone for we needed to head of back to the airport very early in the morning. Ryan air decided to greet us both with a £70.00 fine for not checking in online – at least the coffee on their planes is first class! Another lovely holiday – thank you to everyone who made it happen.

Sailing Cancelled!

Sunday, January 11th, 2015

South Dock, Rotherhithe 11th January 2015 Boff! I was really looking forward to a long weekend away sailing to the Medway but had to bottle out when the best forecast I could find (after shopping around) was westerly gale force 8 becoming severe gale force 9. That may just have been workable but the wind was forecast to remain strong westerly and I didn’t fancy getting a train back. The Thames can be a tricky little sail if the wind is gusting strongly, especially on the nose. I’ve been knocked down twice in the Thames but never anywhere else.

North Cape by Peder Balke

North Cape by Peder Balke

North Cape by Peder Balke

North Cape by Peder Balke

So instead I took the river bus from Greenland Pier into town to see the Peder Balke exhibition at the National Gallery. Peder Balke is a Norwegian artist and I confess I was rather saddened to be confronted with about 20 fine paintings of the North Cape. The reason it made me a bit miserable was because I should have been sailing round the North Cape this summer but this was another sailing trip that I had to pull out off earlier in the year. I could just imagine the good ship Sumara sailing close by such a wonderful cliff. I do like small exhibitions like this one. I went to the Turner exhibition at the Tate earlier in the year and decided blockbusters aren’t my thing. Some of Peder Balke’s paintings border on being kitsch but others are really inspiring especially the small black and white seascapes. If you like seascapes or like Norway then this exhibition is well worth a visit. What’s more, it is free!

Arctic Club Dinner

Monday, December 15th, 2014

13th December 2014

Queens College, Cambridge

A few months ago I was invited to lunch at the Athenaeum Club, and a very fine lunch it was too! Not only was I fed halibut but I was also asked if I would like to be a member of the Arctic Club. I have to confess that although I had heard of the Athenaeum Club I hadn’t heard about the Arctic Club. I soon realised that it is a huge honour to be invited to be a member so I was very chuffed to find that my application had been passed by the committee and I am now a member. The Club is a gathering of people who have a keen interest in the Arctic and who have led or been members of at least two Arctic Expeditions. They provide funding for worthy expeditions via their own Arctic Club award or through the Gino Watkins Award. I have already been able to help provide some slightly dated advice to a couple from Imperial College hoping to sail to Svalbard. I have threatened them with the punishment of watching my slides from my trip there a good few years ago. I suppose that is where Clubs like this can be so helpful as amongst all the members there will be someone who has been there or done that. Every year the club holds a special dinner. This year it was at the Old Hall at Queens College, Cambridge. It is a chance to meet other members and discuss any plans for future trips. It is also a chance to eat fantastic food in a very wonderful hall. In the morning after the dinner we all gathered at the Scott Polar Research Institute for coffee and to hear a presentation from Olly Sanders who was awarded funding from the Arctic Club. He gave a brilliant and very entertaining talk about his kayaking adventure around Cape Farewell. It was very inspiring and I am very tempted to travel to North Wales and learn how to do it from his company www.rockandseaadventures.co.uk. I took a couple of photos with me which I found tucked into a book at Arthur Beale’s. The book has invoices signed by Shackleton plus a picture of Quest. The challenge is to identify the two chaps with the dogs. Answers below please! We left some photo copies with the Scott Polar Research Institute so they are on the case too.

Press Release!

The Scott Polar Research Institute have come up trumps! They actually have the film negatives and copies of the photos can be bought online from their website. They all originate from the British Arctic Route Expedition 1930 – 1931. The two chaps are Quentin Riley holding the pipe and J M Scott smoking a cigarette and putting on gloves. They were setting setting off to relieve Courtauld. The photo was by Henry Cozens and it was taken in Greenland. Arthur Beale supplied the expedition with Arctic Club Rope.

The other picture of Quest shows her unloading at Base Fjord on the same expedition.

Who are these chaps?

Who are these chaps?

Shackleton's Ship Quest

Shackleton’s Ship Quest