Saturday 30 April 2011

Day Two- Cross Country Skiing and Ice Climbing

Pingu… that’s what I felt like shuffling past the igloo’s on cross country skis!

After a far superior nights sleep in a warm comfy double bed, to Ben’s bed of ice, we woke to another perfect blue bird day. This morning’s skill session was learning how to get by on the Nordic favourite- cross country skis.

We were once again down on the ‘sandy beach’ and were going to use the ski tracks that ran around the lake to practice our skills. First was scooting along on one ski. Before two skis, no poles and finally both skis and poles, at which point I managed to fall over… but whilst standing still!

The one thing that will still in my mind about cross country skiing and helped me throughout the week was the ‘disco’ dance taught by Eki, before being copied by the group in some weird version of ‘Thriller’ on Ice. After a trip down the lake to the village it was time to move on to downhill, I watched first time as they all flew down then decided to give it a go- screaming but staying upright.

I didn't think I'd enjoy cross country skiing, it always seemed a lot of hard work without the downhill thrill, but once I found balance on the thin ski's I actually quite enjoyed it!

Following a filling lunch it was time to ice climb- I was really looking forward to this! Fastening my crampons on for the first time ever I felt a thrill to be doing something I’d read about so much in the many climbing and adventure books I read.

Of course Ben picked it up no problem, apart from trying to break half the ice off the wall by pounding his axe in. Whilst enjoying it, I struggled with arm strength- as I found with rock climbing. Twice I stopped before the top, but on the final try I slowly and ungracefully made it all the way- what a feeling of achievement!
A very much deserved sauna and hot tub was enjoyed before dinner of creamy chicken. Teemu was looking after us this evening and told us a great story of Kimi Raikkonen's parents having to choose whether to use their savings to replace their outside loo with one indoors or support their sons motor racing career.

Friday 29 April 2011

Day One- Snowshoeing and Igloo Building

We woke to blue skies and sunshine, and surprisingly even -25ºC didn’t feel that cold!

A huge continental breakfast with plenty of coffee set us up for the day and we set off learning the skills of snowshoeing. For those that don’t know, snowshoes are a bit like plastic tennis rackets with metal grips underneath. To warm up we had a game of snowshoe frisbee in knee deep snow- I quickly learnt that you can’t run backwards with snowshoes…or you can but it usually finishes with a backward roll!

Then it was a lesson in uphill and downhill in deep snow, there are plenty of photo’s like this…

We made our way down to the ‘sandy beach’ at the edge of the ‘lake’, not that we could tell under the several foot of snow, but apparently it is sandy in summer, and split into our 2 igloo teams. We were with Ann and Jeff an American couple now living in Munich and set to work marking out the igloo and building a big pile of snow. We were actually building a quinzee, the Scandinavian version of the igloo, and to be honest it was more of a snow shelter.

So we spent a good few hours, digging and shovelling and were again surprised at how warm we actually were getting, ending up just in our thermals on top! Once we had a decent pile a snow we left it settle and enjoyed a much welcome break for a chicken soup lunch, then were back out on our snowshoes.

In the afternoon we headed back out on our snowshoes and into the Oulanka National Park and got told what to do if you meet a bear in snowshoes- it involves walking backwards (without the backward roll) talking nicely, doing the “Lapland Turn” then running when possible- somehow I think Eki was just having a laugh J

After walking to the semi frozen river and enjoyed the sunshine it was back to quinzee building- or digging this time. Me and Ann set to work either side of the mound, and like moles started digging a hole inside.

Much digging and covering ourselves with snow we had a hollowed out snow pile- ready to sleep in! We also made ourselves an ice ‘sofa’ on our ‘patio’.

After a great dinner of Salmon and chips it was time to wrap up warm and head to the quinzee for the night. It was a snug fit with four of us in and while it wasn’t cold and Ben made it though the night, after about 10 minutes of trying to sleep, the call of my bed 5 minutes walk away through the wood was just too much.

The Quinzee Crew

Thursday 28 April 2011

Finland- Arrival Day

As mentioned in the previous post, the next few posts are going to be a look back at our recent trip to Finland. My plan was to just summarise our trip… however once I got writing I found breaking down the fabulous things we did into a summary just didn’t do it justice! So the next week is going to be a day by day report on the amazing activities we got to do in the snowy wonderland…

Arrival Day

The first thing I will always remember about Lapland is stepping off the plane and taking that first breath of cold, dry air as I looked at the sign that read ‘Welcome to Lapland’. I turned to face Ben with a huge grin and a hundred emotions ran through me from disbelief that we were actually here, to slight nerves of the week ahead to pure excitement! The sun was getting low in the sky and it sent long shadows across the ice covered runway. At that moment I think I knew that this was going to be a special trip.

Kuusamo Airport

After meeting our group and leader for the week Eki, we hopped on a mini bus and flew along roads of packed ice- thank god for studded tyres! The scenery was like a fairytale book, thick snow every where, glistening and sparkling in the early evening light. We saw Ruka ski slopes from the mini bus- strange to be looking up at the tall red and white tower that I had been watching on the webcams for months.

Pulling up at Basecamp, seemingly in the middle of no-where, the main lodge looked cosy and inviting built out of locally grown logs and smoke coming out of the chimney from the huge open fire inside. Our room was lovely, on the ground floor so shame we missed out on the balcony, but the front was huge windows and a glass door, looking out through the woods and over the frozen lake. It was also fantastically warm- a little bit too warn as we found out later and I was surprised we slept with the temperature down at about 15ºC most of the week!

View from the Dining Room

Basecamp Oulanka loans out all the gear you need for the week, so we really didn’t need the 15kg bags we had taken with us, but had decided to supplement some of their stuff with our own. Getting the Salomon gear was really exciting, but I’m glad we took our own thermals- not for the cold but because it was too warm in their fleece thermals!

Dinner that evening was our first taste of Elk, a meat we became accustomed but not bored to during the week. Basecamp is as Ecological sustainable as possible, sourcing locally wherever is feasibly possible. Beef and Lamb, our staples in the UK are not farmed so far north, where snow covers the ground for about 6 months of the year, so Elk and Reindeer, whilst exotic to us, are quite the norm!

We also tasted some fab Finnish lager “Karhu Olut” or Bear Beer when translated.

As night fell, our nightly vigil of Northern Lights gazing began, hoping for even just a quick flash of green- but alas nothing, so it was off to bed filled with anticipation of what lay ahead tomorrow.

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Hello and Welcome to our Blog!

We hope you enjoy following our highs and lows of holidays, challenges, training and anything else we think is interesting. At present we are training for the Jersey ITEX challenge- 48 miles of walking in one day- as well as a walking holiday in Scotland where we will be walking part of the West highland Way followed by an ascent of Ben Nevis. So you’re in for plenty of stories of sore feet and blisters, and if you’re lucky maybe the odd graphic photo or two J

Once we are up and running and heading out on our first experiences/ challenges we will try and get a live Twitter feed and GPS tracking going too.

Our first few blogs though are going to be reflective, having returned a few weeks ago from one of the ‘Best Holidays of Our Lives!’ in Finland, thanks to Exodus Holidays and Basecamp Oulanka. Our experience was just too good to go unmentioned so our next blog will take you through the first few days and share our magical experience in a very snowy, but sunny Lapland.

This blog will soon make up part of our website which will have more info on our trips and experiences, so once we have recovered all of our files we lost when the hard drive died, sorted through them and finished building the site, we hope you’ll enjoy that too! For now though, have a look at our brief profile to the right or for Ben’s experience of John O’Groats to Lands End cycle ride last year have a look at 

Thanks for reading!