As I crossed Sarek, passed the Point of Inaccessability, and moved into Padjelanta, the weather did not get much better. The wind, the snow and the fog continued to conspire in order to make visibility scarce, and navigation as difficult as possible. However, at times the clouds dissipated and an amazing view opened up - in all hues of blue! There was still wind though, and the cover of fog threatened to roll in any second despite the occasional bright sun.
|As soon as sun gets out, the snow deteriorates quickly. Here, a major avalanche hazard. I needed to avoid such places.|
I was still skiing solo, with limited supplies including fuel. The plan was to continue as fast as possible through Padjelanta, and to come to the border of the national park which would take several days. There, it's possible to be picked up by a snowmobile, and there is a couple of hour's travelling distance to the nearest road. From there, it takes about 24 hours to get to the nearest large city. But there was still a lot of snow to put behind the skis until then.
|The sun's out over the wilderness, time to make some photos!|
Expedition pulk making traces across the remote Arctic areas.
After passing Duottar, my objective was to reach the foot of Aras. At the saddle between Stuor Dijdder and Unna Liemak, near the lake Njallajavrasj, I found lee behind a large stone and had a lunch, mended the abrasion sores on my feet, and headed forth without much ado, as usual. Now, the terrain was sloping downwards, there was a good visibility for once, a little bit of sun, and the going was much faster!
|Finding lee behind a large stone - lucky to find one in this landscape. Otherwise, the wind finds great speeds here as nothing really stops it.|
Allowing myself to relax, I continued down. As I was skiing downwards, suddenly the left ski lost grip - probably because of uneven surface. My leg got twisted and I fell over it, the ski stuck dead in the wrong angle, the weight of the pulk rushing over me and crushing the joints. I felt the damage in slow motion, the knee and the ankle twisting and almost detaching under the pushing motion of the expedition pulk heading downhill. The acute pain cut through the reality together with the realization of how bad this is.
|Does not matter how beautiful it is, when you've hurt yourself and the pain is the world|
At last I fell over to the ground. The pain made me creep into fetus position. It took me a while to gather myself after the intense pain shock. I tried to get up, but realized I could no longer stand, let alone walk or ski.
The training kicked in. I called for help on the Iridium phone. I stabilized the leg by putting a jury-rigged splint on both sides, fastening it with duct tape - now, the pain was easier to control and it was bearable to do some movements with upper body without triggering severe pain. Next thing, I put on all the warm clothes I had, got into a wind sack, and arranged a mat to sit or lie on while I figure out what to do next.
|The jury-rigged splint on the bad leg. Iridium unit at the left.|
The choices were to try and camp or dig into the snow right here, in case help would take many hours or even days. Or continue waiting in the same position. I could try to move forth, but the risk of hurting myself even more was imperative. The weather was deteriorating fast, the sun had turned into clouds, the wind was blowing harder, the fog was rolling in and the visibility was getting quite bad. I downloaded the weather report and it confirmed what I was seeing - the weather was getting back into close to white-out. I was realizing that help may not come through.
|Skis marking my spot, together with signal-colored fabric from my pulk.|
You can see the visibility getting worse.
At last, I got a reply about multiple units being on their way. However, only one unit made it to the destination that day. After a total of 2,5-3 hours in the snow, wind and cold I got picked up by trained professionals, and transported into a hospital. All the respect and creds to these amazing individuals doing their jobs, in any conditions. I would give them multiple hugs and high praises, would I not have been affected by pain, cold, painkillers and post-traumatic stress.
The hospital staff got me X-rayed, which also meant I had to remove the splint. I had made it out of the avalanche shovel handle, and the avalanche probe - two pieces of equipment that were long, sturdy and close to hand. After all, if you carry safety gear, then you gotta make use of them - right? I should rather have used the extra ski pole I carried in the pulk, instead of using the shovel handle which I might need to camp - but the ski pole including everything else was at the bottom of the pulk, too far away to reach for when I was affected by pain and all.
The X-ray showed no skeletal damage, only soft tissue damage. Lucky for me, as I was otherwise worried about the long rehabilitation period that would jeopardize my coming adventure plans, as well as firefighter duty. Since there were no fractures, the emergency room could do nothing more for me - so I was sent off to the cold Gällivare night, limping and aching. The knee was swollen to the size of a coconut, the ankle also swollen, stuffed into the skiing boot. Walking on my own was impossible - luckily I could use the ski poles as crutches. I finally got into a hotel and had a torturous night, pained not only by the bad leg, but also by the heat. I had been sleeping in sub-zero temperatures for some time now - suddenly, I had to endure room temperature and thick blankets. I literally bathed in sweat the whole night.
Then I booked a train ticket home, and spent around 24 hours getting there. A very abrupt end to the adventure, however I'm happy that it was not much worse than that. I'm extremely happy to have brought the Iridium unit, otherwise I would risk hurting myself even more, stuck in the middle of nowhere with a bad leg and bad weather.
|From the Laponian poetry wall, in central Umeå.|
This was my first ever evacuation, not counting all the exercises and training. I guess that keeping in mind all the dangerous stuff I've done this far, it makes good statistics. I'm very happy I'm alive, I'm thankful to all the staff who helped me, and I'm making the best effort to heal and get back on the horse. Thank you all for the support - see you soon in other blog posts! The next adventure starts in about three weeks, but up until then I have several exciting things to tell. All the best!