29 January 2008

Husky Adventures

After weeks and weeks of mild temperatures and rainy weather the winter finally arrives in Tromso with lots and lots of snow! On the last weekend of January, my brother Jan and I organize sledges and dogs and prepare for a weekend in the wilderness. Jan has 3 huskies himself and from friends we receive another 11 dogs. Food needs to be prepared - 14 dogs eat loads of stuff, especially when they work out for several hours every day. We also pack the tent and our sleepingbags. In the dark early in the morning we select the dogs and off we go...

Once we arrive in Kvaloya, an island west of Tromso, everything has to go very quickly because the dogs easily become very excited.They know that we have a great day ahead!

First we attach the sledges to trees to avoid that the dogs just run off with them. A group of 6 to 8 huskies has such immense power that it is impossible for a human to hold back a sledge by himself. To secure the sledges we ram specially designed metal anchors into the frozen ground and then attach the dogs one by one.
On the picture below you can see how impatiently the lead dogs look at Jan as if they want to say: "When are we going to start...? Hey! Come on, what takes you so long messing with that sledge? Let's go!"

While we wait, there is a lot of noise, barking and howling! But as soon as we leave, the noise quiets down and the only thing we hear is the snow crunching under the sledges and the breathing of the dogs... wonderful!

After an hour of riding, we arrive on a small ridge. There is a little cottage with a stove up here. Very cozy - but not for us this time. We plan to go on for at least another four hours and then set up camp somewhere in the middle of the island, maybe on the shore of a frozen lake?

The day is really beautiful. We are very lucky with the weather. Since a couple of days the sun is back over the horizon in Tromso. But because of bad weather conditions we both didn't manage yet to see the sun after those two long months of polar winter up here. But then...

It is unbelievable how it feels to see the sun again after such a long time! It is some kind of a magic moment for me to feel the sunlight tickle my skin. I close my eyes and enjoy and forget the barking of my 6 dogs who just don't understand why it takes me so long again... "What is it with these humans and the bloody sun? Can't we just keep running now?"

In the late afternoon we find a nice little lake inmidst a forest. We decide to stop and set up camp here. It is getting dark again. Huskies have a thick fur and don't need any shelter for one night in the open. They curl up into a hairy ball and doze off quickly. Sometimes you find them under a cover of snow in the morning.

Jan and I build up his tent - also a Hilleberg tent (see my equipment overview). After feeding the dogs it's time for a soup and a cup of hot tea.

During the night there is heavy snowfall and in the morning we cannot see our tracks from yesterday at all. The dogs are all well and so are we. Breakfast for them is a mix of meat, fish and fat, for us it's fresh hot coffee!

It is hard work for the dogs to get through the fresh powder snow. It takes us much longer to get uphill again and into the valley on the other side of the island where the truck is parked. There is also a lot of wind today and we first fear that we have to spend another night out here despite the fact that we all have to be at work tomorrow morning (including the dogs who are scheduled for a trip with a group of tourists).

Well, in the end it works out. After a tough day we arrive back at the car. The huskies deserve a fat dinner now and Jan and I enjoy a hot sauna. Yippie! Until next time...

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