• Peter Dutfield

Guy’s First Arctic Ski Touring Trip.Part Seven (Finale)

Updated: Feb 15

I had slept quite well but woke up with the realisation that Devdishytta was my last night in the wilderness, today we ski out to the road, Odd Knut and civilisation, I felt a little sad.


The next morning was another stunning day, cold but bright and sunny, not a cloud in the sky.

Good morning happy dog and campers, not too cold, only minus 10 last night!


We were only about 3k from the summer road-head, but as the road is not cleared during the winter, we have to follow the road on ski for another 5k or 6k to where Odd Knut can drive his van. If we take our time, in this weather we can easily be at the pickup point in 3 hours. So I am in no rush to leave this beautiful valley. We had a decent size breakfast, mainly just what was left over, leaving the last of our cheese, butter and Ryvita for lunch on the trail. The campers left fairly early and we pottered about the hut, tidying and putting the remainder of the firewood to dry for the next residents. One last brew of tea, check the doors, windows and air vents are closed. One last look round and we leave the wilderness, hopefully just for another year.

We were now down low enough to see the occasional conifer tree and the colour contrast seemed to enhance the already stunning scenery.


Looking north east across the regulated lake, The Rosta valley is just behind those mountains. The evergreen conifer trees lower down enhance the already stunning scenery.


Devdis is quite the local beauty spot, it was Saturday lunchtime and we met several people skiing round the lake. Most had a dog with them, usually helping to pull the owners, or occasionally with a small pulk, presumably to carry lunch for the party.


It was Saturday afternoon, we met several locals out enjoying the nice weather, the temperature would probably be around minus five, with no wind!


We get to the road head with Guy pulling the pulk, his skiing had improved enormously during the last two weeks, so I thought he should have a go at some down hill, while I observe how he manages the pulk. The surface and the gradient were comfortable and I followed a few yards behind, taking the occasional photograph. Then after a mile or so of this we went over a slight rise and the road steepened up and dropped away almost out of sight in front. I thought Guy might stop and suggest I take over, no chance, he went for it full pelt! I am not sure if he saw what I could see. Traffic, lots of it! Coming the other way was a large heavily laden dog sledge, while behind them were two large snow scooters. Guy was moving at a fair rate of knots towards them. My first thought was, “will he remember which country he is in, they drive on the right in Norway.” This looks terrifying.



Guy, flying down the hill like the expert he now was, he had become an excellent skier in the last couple of weeks, a true Arctic veteran, I was quite impressed.


I had no need to worry, Guy handled the pulk with calm and professionalism. I felt proud and privileged to have been here to witness him develop his skills.


We had enjoyed excellent snow conditions after the new snow during the first week, very little bad weather and quite a few good weather days. All in all a good trip.


It was lovely gliding down the road on a smooth surface in the sunshine, but round the corner about 500m away was the car park where we would meet Odd Knut and the end of our adventure, I felt a little sad.


Skiing down the road in the sunshine was very relaxing, it was quite warm and I was feeling a bit lethargic. We were now well down and in among the conifer trees for the first time in two weeks, it seemed quite novel. Then I became aware of a smell that was unpleasant and yet very familiar to me, but in my relaxed state I was unable to think what it was. The road turned a corner, and there just a couple of hundred metres away was the car park where Odd Knut was to pick us up. That was the smell, cars, vans, dirty diesel, petrol fumes. It really was quite a surprise, we had been living in a poison free environment in the clean mountain air for two weeks, and my brain had forgotten just how bad it smelled.

We waited in the sun, watching the world go by, dogs, lots of them, some sledge dogs, some people on ski with just one dog, the lead attached to a belt round the owners waist. I noticed they had a special hook on the belt that enabled the owner to adjust the tension on the lead, or act as a quick release in emergency. It’s interesting, I struggle to control my ski never mind controlling the dog at the same time. Several snow scooters, lots of different sizes and types, some with small trailers, some with large trailers. I once saw a large trailer on ski, in the middle of a lake about a mile from the shore. It folded out into a small caravan and the occupants were camping and fishing through a hole the ice, behind a wind shelter, the type we would use on the beach. All this was towed by a snow scooter.

We sat there slowly trying to adjust to life a bit more ordinary, is this ordinary? I suppose it is ordinary if you live in the Arctic and it’s Saturday afternoon, just like at home everyone wants to go out and make the best of the weekend weather. After about three parts of an hour, Odd Knut turned up with his van.

Half an hour later, after unloading our gear into his old house, (he had built himself a new house and keeps the old one for visiting clients), we were heading for his sauna and looking forward to his Venison Stew that he said was coming later. It was a real treat to wear clean clothes and finish off the very last drop of our whisky.

Well, we have survived, pretty well unscathed apart from Guy’s ski binding, but that's really just another lesson learned, from now on I will make sure there is at least one spare cable in the party.


A rough map of our route. Definitely not to scale




WOW! If this is civilization can we have more please?


We breakfasted on orange juice, cereals, and bacon and egg, with loads of fresh bread, and gallons of tea with fresh milk, finishing off with more bread, butter and jam, then fresh fruit. What a feast, wonderful after the dehydrated food we had been eating the last two weeks.



Guy doesn't look a bit like the condemned man now!


I should mention that our skiing is no quicker than walking, so what is the point some may ask. The advantage is, when the snow is two feet deep it is impossible to walk more than a few hundred metres. You ski on the top at about the same speed as when walking, also it becomes quite hard to carry a rucksack of much more than 20 kilos. But it is relatively easy to pull a pulk of 40 kilos.


I have to say a very big thank you to Guy. At 69 I was finding carrying very heavy loads or pulling a pulk up steep hills very hard. I had to face it, I was getting old and I wouldn't have been able to do this trip without his youth, vigour and friendship…... Thank you Guy,

Pete.


Also I have not mentioned until now, Guy is a Diabetic and has to rely on regular insulin injections. He saw his diabetic nurse before he came and she fitted him with an automatic insulin pump, I believe this was slightly experimental and had an alarm that seemed to be set a little too sensitive causing it to go off in the middle of the night. At first I found this extremely disconcerting, particularly as Guy slept so soundly he wasn't aware of the bleeping alarm. I would wake in the night wondering if the hut was on fire, when I realised what the sound was, my first thought was “Is Guy still alive!” Guy was very laid back, I would wake him he would mutter some sort of apology fiddle with the alarm then turn over and go back to sleep.


All is OK I still have someone to pull the pulk…


A very special man.

Thank you Guy, very much.

Pete.


A last word from Guy

All that is now left, is for the Skis to go off to be repaired and the pulk to be put back into storage at Pete’s. Then in twelve months time, take on my second trip to the Arctic Circle in search of snow, log fires, the northern lights, and the wonderful silence and solitude mixed with the camaraderie of old friends and people you have just met. This can only ever be achieved on an expedition.


I can’t wait!


Guy Oliver


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To anyone wanting to try a trip like this I would suggest they learn the craft with a commercial guided trip or two probably in Sweden, there are more people in Sweden and the huts are usually equipped with a radio for emergencies if there is no phone signal. Also there is a warden on hand to give advice and help if necessary. After getting some experience in Sweden this tour would be a good one to do as a first for a novice skier.


Or of course you could always employ Guy.

Another option would be to contact the DNT


https://english.dnt.no/guided-tours/



Here are some contact details for Odd Knut and a couple of videos if anyone fancies a dog trip up there,


Odd Knut Thoresen

+47 97 66 92 84


Kjosnes, 9334, ØVERBYGD

(Målselv, Troms)

Norway


https://auroratroms.com/activities-in-the-area/


Dog Sledding with Odd Knut


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8z5PvdD3W0


If you enjoyed this adventure, then you may like to read my book:-


Pete’s Himalayan Adventure.” It’s available as a digital download from Wolverhampton Mountaineering Club for £5 with all proceeds going to the Mountain Rescue Association.


If you contact the website they will forward a message to me.


© Pete Dutfield, February, 2021



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