Have you been dreaming of an Arctic adventure? Your first winter camp in 40 degrees below zero? Or do you just need to escape the stresses of everyday life and enjoy some time out? Backcountry skiing on the Finnmarksvidda plateau could be just what you’re looking for.
There’s something special about Finnmarksvidda. This strangely monotonous landscape which can somehow still surprise you with sudden color and temperature variations.
Traversing Finnmarksvidda—one of the wildest and northernmost regions of Norway—is an amazing way to experience nature.
The light changes from pale blue to pale pink, purple and dark blue... and then they appear; The magical Northern Lights, which take your breath away.
The vast plains, hours on your skis, the stillness, and not least the knowledge that you are traveling through the land of the Sami, make for a powerful experience. There is something wild and exotic about Finnmarksvidda.
I got together with a group of girls for a trip organized by Ousland Explorers, guided by Moa Hundseid. The expedition company is owned by the polar exploration legend Borge Ousland, and we were very excited about the challenge ahead.
Traversing Finnmarksvidda is a genuine adventure, and really gives you a taste of what it’s like to be on a polar expedition. If you’re dreaming about a major expedition across Greenland, Svalbard or Antarctica, this is the perfect way to start. Testing your abilities in a similar environment is the best training and preparation you can get.
Our group meets in the small town of Alta before we head out on our adventure. We turn out to be five girls and one male fighter pilot, who clearly had not read that this was a girls’ trip. But he’s welcome anyway!
Some of us had barely been on backcountry skis before, while others had never experienced the ice-cold polar night. But together, we make up a team bound for Karasjok.
Setting out on an adventure with a bunch of strangers can, for many people, involve taking a major leap out of their comfort zone. But you quickly start to feel like a team, because everyone’s in the same boat. We may all be strangers, but we have the same goal.
Finnmarksvidda is in the center of Finnmark—the northernmost county in Norway—and in high season, conditions are easily comparable to those of the coldest and most remote expeditions in the Arctic and Antarctic. The region is busiest in spring, but we’re traveling while the polar night still holds the north in its icy grip—the temperature at night can drop to -40 °C, sometimes lower. In these temperatures, you really feel the power of the Northern Lights as they dance across the sky. Man, they’re bewitching!
You get nothing for nothing here: the days are short, the temperature is low and your sled is heavy. We’re hoping to perfect our camping technique, navigation, strategies, and teamwork, as well as enjoy nature, the polar night and the peace of the plateau.
The distance we have to cover is around 120 km, and to complete that we will need five full days on skis. Five days is long enough to give you that vital field experience and toughen up your body.
For many people, a monotonous landscape like that of the plateau offers the space they need for meditation, a cure for restlessness, the opportunity to daydream, or simply to experience being present in the moment. Just as the weather conditions can change in the blink of an eye, your mood can shift dramatically out here, from one extreme to another.
Fortunately, cell phone coverage is virtually non-existent on the plateau. That gives you a much-needed digital detox. And we all benefit from that. When was the last time you did something for the first time?
OUR ADVENTURE DAY BY DAY:
We meet in Alta. A charming little town in the far north, where
we spend the day preparing for the trip. As a team, we pack food, test equipment, check the weather forecast and plan the route.
We check over the equipment one last time and travel by car to the start point. From there, we ski to the Jotka mountain cabin, our home for the night. The wind is howling while we set up camp. For dinner, it’s REAL Turmat backpacking food, and on the menu, today is Tikka Masala. My favorite!
We ski all day south-east towards Lesjavre, the biggest lake on the Finnmarksvidda plateau. The sun is shining and the mood is buoyant. Now we are right in the middle of the tundra, a typical Finnmarksvidda landscape. This is a day that gives us a chance to find our rhythm and get used to the equipment. We can enjoy views of the huge open plains and really feel the cold Arctic air.
We set up camp with the thermometer reading minus 40 degrees. This is when you need the right clothing and equipment, and a good dose of gallows humor!
We cross Lesjavre in a total whiteout. It is in this region, with its immense, flat plains, that you can feel like you are on a more traditional expedition in a place like Greenland or Antarctica.
From the flat plains we move towards a slightly hillier area, pass Øvre Mollisjok mountain cabin and continue on towards Ravnastua. Pulling a heavy sled in whiteout conditions is a good way to test your mental resilience.
We arrive in Karasjok and stay overnight in the amazing Engholm Lodge. They serve us a feast of hot food, and we get to really celebrate our trip across the plain.
We take the bus to Lakselv airport, Banak, then travel home with a mountain of experiences and a bunch of new friends.