Cross Country Skiing at minus 25

Spending the Christmas holidays in the most Northern part of Finland the focus is on Cross Country Skiing which in fact is a perfect training for hikers. You train not only most of your leg muscles but even arms and shoulders.
We stay in Äskäslompolo-Ylläsjärvi, at the Southern end of the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park in Finnish Lapland, where they offer up to 300 kilometers of perfectly groomed skiing tracks. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pallas-Yll%C3%A4stunturi_National_Park and wwIMG_0829w.yllas.fi
The main challenge was the temperatures which stayed around minus 20 to 25 degrees (Celsius) the whole week, some days going down to minus 30. You have to tape sensitive parts of your face in order to avoid frostbites and staying out much longer than 2 hours is not recommended.
We really hope we´ll not find such low temperatures on the AT as our gear is planned for down to around minus 5 Celsius.
Managed to cover 20 to 30 kilometers every day which seems OK considering the frosty temperatures.
In Ylläsjärvi, 100 km north of the Arctic Circle, it´s polar night at the moment, which means you have daylight only between 10 am and 2 pm and the sun is not rising above the horizon for some weeks.

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Nordenskiöldslopp, the first, longest and hardest skiing race ever

The first, longest and hardest skiing race ever, Nordenskiöldsloppet (Nordenskiöldsrace) will come to life again after 133 years!
We have started to plan for organizing the Nordenskiöldsrace on the original route and 220 kilometers distance Jokkmokk – Kvikkjokk – Jokkmokk in the end of March 2017!
nordenskioldslopp
This first and toughest skiing competition in history – Cross Country skiing of course, there was no other type of skiing at that time – was carried out on 4th of April 1884. The placewas Jokkmokk, Norrbotten County, in the inner parts of North Sweden, exactly at the Arctic Circle.
The distance was, which today seems quite unbelievable, 220 kilometers (22 Swedish miles or 136 UK/US miles) and the winner time was 21 hours and 22 minutes. That day ski racing was born!
Can you imagine to ski 220 kilometers within a little bit more than 21 hours, using 1884`s heavy, up to 3 meters long, wooden skis, on of course not-groomed tracks, without service stations where you get isotonic drinks and energy bars? The legend says that the only food the participants received during the race was some reindeer meat and schnapps at the half distance turning point in Kvikkjokk.

skidor1IMG_0623The background is that famous Finnish-Swedish polar explorer and researcher Erik Adolf Nordenskiöld, supported and instructed by two Sami members of his party, during one of his expeditions to Greenland skied 100 kilometers within a single day. When he came back to Sweden, people did not believe his report. In order to proof that it is possible and that he had told the truth the Nordenskiöldsrace was arranged one year later. A historic moment for skiing and winter sports!
18 competitors started from Purkijaurholmen some kilometers outside of Jokkmokk. 21 hours later, when the fastest skiers returned to Jokkmokk, two of the racers, Pava-Lasse Nilsson Tuorda and Per-Olof Amundsson Länta were still together and a spurt decided who would be become the winner of the first skiing race ever. At the end Pava-Lasse Nilsson Tuorda won and took home price money and winning award.

Something for long distance hikers that seek new challenges?

More information about the region: www.jokkmokk.se, www.destinationjokkmokk.se; www.swedishlapland.se
Facebook site Nordenskiöldslopp (mainly in Swedish): https://www.facebook.com/nordenskioldsloppet

Our new ultra light backpacks

IMG_0820[1]Weight is of course one of the most decisive issues when planning for a 3500 km long hike. Our ambition was from the very beginning to keep our basic stuff below 8 kg. Which in fact means that there will be some days – I hope only a few – we´ll have to carry up to 15 kg: Basic equipment plus up to 5 kg of food plus 2-3 liter water.
Meeting the target is even harder if you are 1,95 m tall: many parts of your pack weigh much more in XXL size than in M, S or XS. Especially for sleeping pads the difference is quite significant.
After some months of research and discussions I decided to order the Lightwave Ultrahike 60 which weighs 1,2 kg in the largest size. IMG_0822[1]My old Low Alpine 65 liters backpack had around 2,7 kg.
For Silva the decision was much harder. She really likes here old backpack which she used for many years and as the difference in weight is not that much (1,7 kg) it took months to come to a conclusion. Finally her choice was the ULA Circuit (1,05 kg).

Impressions from hiking in North Sweden

Skierfe4 Skierfe3 Skierfe2 Skierfe1

Some pictures from 2014 season´s last hike which in fact was in September. We climbed the top of Skierfe mountain which offers fantastic views over the Rapadalen delta and Eastern parts of the Sarek National Park.
Here at and north of the Artic Circle the summer hiking season is not longer than midsummer end of June to mid or end of September. Earlier it´s too much snow and later the risk for bad weather, first snow storms and cold snaps is high.
The main period for skiing tours is end of February to beginning of May.

From 100 km running to 3500 km hiking

My so far most demanding long distance challenge was doing 100 km running competitions in the end of th 1990ties. My best time was 8h20min which still is around top 60 in the Austrian all time rankings. In addition I did even some 25 marathons,  best time was 2,54, but then I suffered from a chronic inflammation of my achilles tendon and never got back to this level.100km_98
Later, in 2008 and  2009 I participated in a 120 km Ultra Trailrun in the North Swedish Mountains which took around 18 hours.

Regarding the mental part of handling ultra distances for me 2 strategies were most helpful when completing a 100 km running competition:
1) Always concentrate on the next 5-10 kilometers, never think about how far it still is to the finish line.IMG_2672
2) Picture crossing the finish line and how it will feel – which in fact was one of the best moments in life. At the moment I have Mt. Katahdin as screen backgound on my computers and smart phones. Hope this will help to make the AT!
In theory it´s just managing to do 35 x 100 km!

Getting mentally prepared

AppalachianTrialsMaybe even more important than shaping your physical fitness is to prepare mentally. The certainly best you can do to tackle the problem is to read Zach Davis´ book APPALACHIAN TRIALS.

“Each year, it is estimated that more than 2,000 people set out to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, yet seven in ten ultimately fall short of their goal. Given the countless number of how-to books and websites offering information about logistics, gear, and endurance training, one would think that more people would finish this 2,200 mile trek. Why then, do so many hikers quit prematurely?
After successfully thru-hiking the AT in five months with zero prior backpacking experience, author, Zach Davis, is convinced he’s discovered the answer. Aspiring thru-hikers, Davis tells readers, are preparing the wrong way- sweating on the StairMaster, meticulously plotting each re-supply box, or obsessing over the perfect sleeping bag or pair of socks.
While the AT undoubtedly presents extraordinary physical challenges, it is the psychological and emotional struggles that drive people off the trail. Conquering these mental obstacles is the key to success. This groundbreaking book focuses on the most important and overlooked piece of equipment of all- the gear between one’s ears.”

More info: Appalachian Trials