It has been less than two weeks since I took my skis off for the final time at Nordkapp on completion of my solo ski journey the length of Norway. The immediate rush of emotions and elation that energised me that day has subsided into a deep sense of contentment.
For those of you who were not aware, this winter I took time away from work to press pause on life and embark on a journey that I have dreamed about for years.
“Norge på Langs” is the term Norwegians use to describe this journey. The idea is to travel on foot from one end of their very long country to the other. From Lindesnes lighthouse on the southern coast to Nordkapp in the arctic north, or visa versa.
It has become recognised as one of Europe’s finest long distance summer treks. More recently people have started to attempt it in winter on skis. One of the most charming aspects of this journey is that there is no fixed route, nor style in which you have to do it. You choose how you engage with the challenge, whether you travel alone or with friends, what route you take and how much distance you travel each day. There is no real recommended route, just lots of options and choices to be made about how to link a logical line through over 2500km of wild and mountainous terrain.
After a good deal of reflection on what motivates me in Nordic skiing I chose not to take a pulk (tow a sledge) and to try to be as self-sufficient as possible whilst travelling relatively light. I hoped that I would be able to travel good distances when the weather was favourable and enjoy the skiing more, whilst at the same time not compromising safety. When travelling off-track in the Norwegian mountains it’s always advisable to have enough clothing and equipment to survive an emergency bivouac should the weather suddenly turn against you or you encounter a problem.
First ski tracks encountered after 3 week of breaking trail.
Of course this meant that my rucksack wasn’t as light as I would have liked. I always carried a goretex bivvi bag, sleeping bag, thermarest and roll mat together with a gas stove, pan set and several days’ worth of food. I’ve estimated that my rucksack weighed between 15-18kg depending on how much food I was carrying.
When I set out on the 14th January, although I hoped for a safe and successful journey, I recognised that I could encounter conditions or circumstances that would prevent me from completing it. By choosing to travel alone, I had to factor in the higher level of commitment involved. I am not, and never have been a high risk taker. As a Mountain Guide I evaluate and manage risk all the time but I am always making decisions for the group as a whole; for my clients. One aspect of this journey that I particularly enjoyed was the freedom to make decisions concerning my condition and capacities in relation to the environment and the challenge, and at times to see how close to that line I was prepared to venture.
Reaching my next overnight stop.
I know that I have been incredibly fortunate with the snow and weather conditions this winter season. Although I experienced some of the coldest and continuously cold conditions of my life (several weeks between minus 30 and 40 degrees C!!), this winter has been marked by lots of snow and remarkably few days of very high winds. That isn’t to say I didn’t have bad weather, but I rarely had to sit tight because of it.
It has been one of the most memorable, continuously uplifting and important challenges that I have ever undertaken. Each of the 82 days of my journey was special and satisfying in unique ways, and I am grateful for each of them, no matter how difficult or unpleasant certain sections seemed at the time. There was always something for which I was grateful and now they are all woven into a very special place in my memory.
Meeting a herd of reindeer in Finnmark.
Norway is a fascinating and beautiful country. The people who I met along the way, who welcomed me, advised me, helped me and encouraged me have made my journey more than just a physical one. I have made many new friends, and although it may be some time before I get to see them again, they will remain one of the best parts of my journey.
Every journey comes to an end. For me, this winter, my physical journey ended at Nordkapp, when I took off my skis for the final time. Inside, that journey continues, and I find myself brimming with new energy and ideas about how to share my love of Nordic skiing with a wider audience. As I said to myself on so many occasions this winter… “This is amazing… I love Norway, I love snow, I love skiing… “ and I loved skiing the length of Norway! Totally recommended!
Through the course of her journey Tania has been raising money for the charity “The Ulysses Trust” which provides a vital source of funding for Army Cadets to undertake expeditions and adventure education. Tania has almost reached her fundraising goal and Tracks and Trails have also supported her goal. So if you can help with that last little bit we know it would be deeply appreciated! https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/tanianoakes1.