Road to the Arctic
Backcountry skiing and snow-kite technical preparations were a much more solitary road than my parallel learning to sail. No confined places and constantly overlooking teammates, instead: white landscapes, cold air, lots of snow and infinite “nothing” ahead. The polar cold is probably one of the harshest environment, but what an experience!
Except for alpine skiing, I’d never practice any serious Nordic skiing before, but I was very determined to learn it. We have all been inspired by: Nicolas Vanier, Borge Ousland, Mike Horn, Dixie Dansercoer, Alain Hubert and others explorers stories’ ! Happy enough my friend Gaël already practiced Backcountry skiing since several years, and when I asked: “where should I go lose myself for 2 weeks and then come back” he already had the answer: “Try the Kungsleden!”.
The Kungsleden, literally the Kings’ trail, is a Swedish path that covers several hundred kilometers of tundra, forests and mountains, including the magnificent Sarek national park. You can cross it by foot in the summer and on skis in the winter. I decided to give it a try, and thanks to two genius associations called “CapExpe” and “Oukiok” I was able to rent some quality equipment at a very reasonable price. After acquiring some skills and trying out the equipment in the French Jura for then days I was ready to invade Sweden!
I packed two weeks of food, and flew for the first time to Laponia, what a crazy experience! The four season tents I rented was attacked by a reindeer on my very first day which could have terminated the trip early, happily enough it hold. Contrary to alpine skiing, Nordic skiing requires to provide all the locomotion effort and downhills are real challenges since your heels hang loose. Moreover, if you pull a sledge or “pulka”, it will try to terminate you in every slope by running you over. Backcountry skiing is more like a daily marathon: you ski all day, you are slow, you can’t stop more than ten minutes since it’s freezing and at the end of the day you still sleep in a tent. Nonetheless it’s a lot of fun and you get to see mind blowing panoramas, I also got to see my first Northern lights (aurora borealis). Here is a little video of the reindeer attack.
These first two journeys were a big success, but I still needed to improve my skills and learn to use a kite! I decided I would go learn to kitesurf in Spain, manage snow-kiting in France, and depart for a one month trip in order to confirm all these competences. In February 2017 I was finally ready: one month to cross Lapland from West to East! I packed more food and more of everything, resulting in an 80 kg sledge to pull, and off I go. Again a crazy trip, resulting in the crossing of three countries; Norway, Sweden and Finland, and after more than 500 km and the loss of a few kilograms I reached my goal. Here is a little video of the trip.
Today, I’m preparing for the serious stuff: 2.500 km through Canada from Kugaaruk (by the arctic) to Winnipeg. The kite will enable me to take advantage of the wind, and I hope to succeed the crossing in 3 months. I’ll also have to deal with polar bears and wolves, which I hope won’t be interested into Belgian meat!