I set off on an adventure, a husky expedition in northern Norway.
I had spent a few days in Tromso working, and took an early flight out of Tromso heading north-east, to Alta.
The first night in Alta I stayed at the Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, a short drive out of town into the wilderness. The hotel sits on the banks of the Gammelbollo River. The hotel is constructed each year from ice taken upstream, and is 2500sqm. It was minus 21 outside, but -4 in the hotel!
We were picked up in the morning by Roger, who was going to be one of our guides on the husky expedition.
We arrived at the Trasti & Trine kennels and met Trine, who is the owner of Trasti & Trine and would also be with us. Being early January it was cold, and we were left under no illusion that we could expect anything up to -35 over the coming days. We all geared up, and then geared up some more, with more layers than you can imagine.
We were each given a card with five names, and these were the names of our dog teams. After some instruction we headed out to the dog yard to find our dogs, harness them, and put them on the line.
My team were Ailegas, Wilma, Soivuu, Champ and Nallo. I would come to know them well.
We had some more instruction from Trine and Roger, but the sense of anticipation was at boiling point. I have done husky mushing before, bet let us just say it has not always gone to plan. Roger would set of first, and then we would follow. The dogs want to go, and the closer they get to going, the more they want to go. They are barking and howling, at ever increasing decibels, jumping around, pulling on the sled, and I have already seen that the exit from the yard is quite small, leading onto a very narrow and winding path down to the river.
Then Roger is off, next Laura, then me! This first bit is tricky, as you have your foot on the brake, but you have to lean down to the side to pick up your anchor brake, and you know that the moment you do, you are off, a sudden jerk, keep on the sled and in control, through the gates of the yard, onto a winding forest track with trees, corners, bumps and lots of things that look like they can do damage, at what seems a speed far too fast for the course.
Then you hit the river, and a sense of calm comes over me. I liked the river at that moment, no sharp turns or sinister looking low branches, and you can hear the dogs feet tapping on the snow, and they are getting their rhythm. We stop after a short while and Roger checks that everyone is okay. The first thing I do is reposition my hat, gloves, anything exposed, as we are going to be out for quite a few hours, and it is around minus 25.
We are heading up onto the Finnmark mountain plateau, so after following the river in the valley for a while we start to climb. As you climb you can feel the dogs working harder, and you start to kick off the sled to help them up, and on steeper sections you actually get off and walk. One thing you should never do is let go of the sled, never ever let go, no matter what. As you climb, if the dogs don’t think you are working hard enough, they will give you a glance back, a kind of “come on”.
After about two and a half hours we stopped for lunch.
About twenty minutes after lunch we hit the mountain plateau. The next few hours we would be travelling over a series of lakes heading for one of the mountain cabins. The light fell, but we had clear skies, and it was now below minus 30. We hit some heavy fog banks, and you kept losing sight of the sled in front and behind. You would keep looking for the head-lamp in the distance, and every once in a while we would bunch up together and go again.
Standing on the sled over the lakes it got really cold, and you had to jump on the sled, move your arms, anything you could to keep the circulation going.
We arrived at the cabin and the first priority is getting the dogs off the line, fed, and comfortable for the night. They really are tough, and have no problem sleeping outside in cold temperatures. We had to bring everything we needed with us in the sleds. The cabin took a few hours with the stoves on to get above freezing, and for the food to thaw some.
We sat down for a hard earned dinner and Trine and Roger told us stories of their husky exploits. Turns out they are both pretty tough, competing at the highest level. They have run in the Iditarod and Finnmarkslopet, Roger winning the Finnmarkslopet three times and finishing 19 in the Iditarod. To give you some context, the Iditarod is in Alaska and covers approximately 1700km. Turns out in a past life Roger was a police officer, and competed in the Finnmarkslopet once with alsatians!
Read more about our husky sledding holidays here ….