NORGE PÅ LANGS: Winter 2018 “The length of Norway on skis”
This coming January I will set off on the longest and most challenging ski-journey of my life. I plan to complete the classic “Norge På Langs”, which is roughly translated as “Norway from end to end”. Norway is a very long country. To help you visualise the distance involved here, they say that if you rotated Norway using its capital Oslo as the pivot point then the Northern Cape would reach as far south as the boot of Italy. I aim to complete this 2500km journey on my nordic skis, alone and without mechanical transportation between during the winter of 2018.
For those who have never visited Norway, or only ever glanced briefly at it on the map of Europe, let me encourage your deeper attention. It is a land built from mountains rising out of the sea. Quiet rolling, open plateaus; deep sided glens and jagged crests, vast forests and wild untracked spaces. A land littered with lakes, streams and rivers, all escaping the heartland towards a complicated fractal coastline of islands, inlets and imposing fjords. Wild Norway is a magical place, fascinating, hauntingly beautiful and reminiscent of a past more immediate and more connected with the natural world.
Winter stakes a firm claim on this land, closing summer roads, freezing lakes, burying summer cabins to their rooves in snow, and deepening the sense of isolation and remoteness in soft lights and shadows of short days and long cold nights.
Skiing the length of Norway has been a long nurtured dream; the glowing ember of inspiration ignited by a friend’s crossing in 2003; but it will not be my first such endeavour. During the winter of 2015 I organised and lead a British Army expedition that skied across the entire European alpine chain. In 83 days we linked a journey from close to Vienna in Austria to Menton on the south coast of France. It was one of the most powerful and vivid experiences of my life; such intense learning, rich with the essence of life; shared moments forging a calm clarity that eased my relentless questioning. I loved it.
I plan to set out mid-January 2018 with the aim of completing the traverse in around 80-90days. My route will take me through some of the most remote mountains of Norway and through the borderlands with Sweden and Finland. I aim to travel as fast and light as possible, relying on my strong background in cross-country skiing and fast alpinism. For accommodation I plan to use the DNT (Norwegian trekking association) mountain hut system, which is extensive in southern Norway, and other private cabins and lodges. As I progress further north the distances between suitable huts increases significantly and I may need to make some bivouacs or ski much longer distances. I plan to pick up pre-positioned resupply parcels of food, maps and other essential items at various points along the route.
In order to cope with the prolonged physical effort and exposure to the cold I will need to eat a high calorie diet with significant protein and fat levels. I need my food to be relatively light because at times I will need to be entirely self-sufficient and carry up to a week’s supply. I am very pleased that Pulsin have agreed to support me with Beond organic snacks and protein bars during my traverse. I’m a great fan of both these products and have used them consistently whilst training in the past.
Initially daylight hours will be short, and winter storms combined with unconsolidated snow may pose significant challenges. If it is a low-snow winter then I will have to complete some sections on foot. I will be using metal edged Nordic Touring skis which can be waxed for touring over gentle terrain and fitted with a short skin for tackling steeper ascents.
From mid-Norway above Trondheim I will have to be more self-sufficient with longer durations without resupply. The final sections across the Finmark plateau in the far north cross vast upland areas littered with lakes of various sizes. It is imperative that I complete this section before the first major spring thaw which normally happens around the middle of April. If the snowpack and lakes here are not frozen then traversing this section becomes much more dangerous and time consuming. I plan on arriving at Nordkapp (the finish!) at the end of the first week in April.
I am looking forward to this winter with a measure of trepidation and excitement. I am aware that many difficulties lie ahead and that there will always be unforeseen challenges, setbacks and moments of doubt. I know from experience that the outcome of no adventure is certain. When we step away from the known we take a risk, be it physical or psychological. But if we can find the courage to face that risk and reconcile ourselves to the potential loss we begin to develop resilience and strength in the face of adversity.
I know that what I have learned from facing challenges in the mountains has helped me through the most difficult moments in my life. Precious memories and hard won lessons from which I draw strength, hope and courage to face whatever the future may bring!
I am self-funding my adventure but hope to raise the profile of and raise money for the Ulysses Trust. The Ulysses Trust is a charity that provides a source of funding for adventurous training expeditions for Reservists and Cadet Organisations. More information can be found HERE.
If you are able to support them or know of any potential donors then please put them in touch. Whilst I am alone, skiing in difficult and challenging conditions this winter, the knowledge that I am helping raise money for this very worthy organisation will be a big psychological boost.