Ice camping in the North

Lena Padukova, ski hiking with expedition sledge - off to some ice camping
This is what I did exactly a year ago, in late April and early May 2016. The spring has been warm and came early to Oslo, so I decided to get the last slice of winter by going up North, where the ice was still thick and the snow was still falling.

Traces in the deep snow in Northern Scandinavia, in April-May
I summoned a small expedition, totaling 3 brave souls longing for cold weather, and off we drove. The spring gave way to cold rain, and finally snow as the roads climbed the cold mountains. Our target was a large frozen mountain lake, where we could ski for hours, and pitch tent on the water. But first, we made a camp half way on the approach.

Camping in the snow
The Tentipi is a tent that gets the inspiration from traditional nomadic living, does not require much effort to pitch (I can easily do it by myself), and has only a single pole. It protects perfectly from snow and rain, and stands OK to wind. The one that I have fits 7 persons very tight, being 3 or 4 gives a lot of space luxury. Since the tent has adjustable ventilation in its top, and is made of a non-flammable natural material, it's fully possible to have a wood stove or even a small fire inside.

My Tentipi pitched in the dark of the night. Illuminated by regular flashlights from within.
During the night, it snowed quite heavily. Almost a half a meter of the tent's walls disappeared under the snow as we woke up.

Lower part of the tent buried in snow. Great stuff, it acts as isolation against cold and wind. The ventilation is built-in on the top of the tent.

The snow-lined forests surrounded us and we were absolutely alone there. But we were to go even further off.

We came to the village of Gjendesheim, which I had earlier visited as a guide for Besseggen, a classic trip I organised for 14 people. This time, it was absolutely deserted - the cafes were closed, the cabins empty, and both the boat quay and the surroundings were covered in deep white snow. The lake was frozen and also snow-covered, perfect for a long skiing hike.

The sledge, packed to limit of bursting and then a bit more
I brought my expedition sledge and dragging harness. For me, this was an excellent possibility to exercise for longer Arctic skiing trips, so I did not control the amount of the luggage I brought. The sledge was full of gear, food, drinks, and non-essentials. Dragging a heavy sledge is great all-round training!

Lena Padukova, dragging the expedition sledge as the wind, snow and cold worsens
We took turns in dragging, and I tried out both hard and soft connection between the sledge and the harness. We also had our backpacks on with personal gear, sleeping bags etc. Everyone in the team grasped the technique almost immediately, and enjoyed the hike.

Soon after we started, the Spring weather turned, unpredictable as it is. Wind picked up loose snow, and mixed it with snow coming from the skies. The low clouds at this high altitude can make a decent white-out. The daylight was dimmed. We went on.

Selfie in the snow-wind during a short rest
The amount of clothing had to be adjusted depending on who was dragging the sledge. During pauses, it is as usual important to put on extra clothes in order to not to start freezing. Large protection glasses are also recommended, a normal snow-board or ski-mask is fine.

Since the weather was shifting from one or two degrees above zero, to freezing point, to below freezing, and due to the fact that some new snow with a different temperature was falling, it was tricky to adjust the ski wax. Dragging the sledge requires a stickier wax, otherwise you just slide backwards. But if the wax is too sticky, the snow builds up in thick layers under the skis, and suddenly all you can do is walk. We all found individual ways of handling that, some were better than others. Finally, we were at the spot we wanted to camp on - in the middle of the lake, on the ice, with great stone cliffs as a distant backdrop.

Tent pitched again, immediately beginning to get covered with snow
The tent was pitched, the skis were taken off, we changed to winter boots and now there was time for recreation! We made a few attempts to make a hole in the ice, for some winter bathing. The project took most of the evening, since the ice was over 60 cm thick, maybe up to a meter. As the darkness started to fall, we were still not deeper than a half a meter into the ice - so we abandoned the aspirations for having a bath, and returned to the tent for rest and dinner.

Winter beauty on a mountain lake
The white-out moved on, leaving us with crisp fresh air and beautiful views of the mountains. The setting sun hit the landscape with amazing colors, and I could just not stop taking pictures. "Nature imitates art" - an absolute beauty to watch and photograph.

My Tentipi at dusk
We moved on inside and made a nice dinner, then slept to the shooting sounds of the thick spring ice, with many meters of ice-cold water below us. During the summer, there will be boatloads of happy tourists here enjoying the sun, and a few fishermen trying their luck - and for them, it will be unthinkable that somebody had been camping in the midst of it all, in the cold and quiet of the soft snow and solid ice.

Driving back: the road is excavated from the snow. The walls are 2-3 meters tall at the least.
If you also miss winter during the summer, there are several other destinations to go. Greenland is a possibility, and I happily bring people for both glacier walking and other activities - read about some of my adventures here.

The next expedition to the North will be on the lightest days of June, join or read more here - still some places left! Expect polar beauty and possibly polar bears.