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Kebnekaise in Winter

Continuing from Stuck in Swedish snow

Trying to plough through the deep snow. Skiing Kunsgleden trail in winter

Trying to plough through the deep snow. Skiing Kunsgleden trail in winter

Kebnekaise fjällstation, Swedish Lapland, February, Saturday morning. The weather was far from ideal for my first ski touring trip. Fresh, deep snow had just covered the area around us with the forecast of snow storm in two days. So the question for us was, if we still felt confident to start our ski touring trip to Abisko. After some time of weighing pros and cons, Cody and I stayed optimistic and decided to give it a go. In the worst case scenario we would turn around to the safety of the Kebenekaise hut. My adventure began.
First time for me on Nordic skis, and here I was, ski touring towards Abisko. I hiked the route from Nikkaluokta to Abisko in Autumn 2012 and was looking forward to stunning views, but with a more winterly look this time. The huts on the trail would welcome us with their fire places and I would start hating roasted vegetable flavoured cous cous again.
As we had taken a snowmobile to Kebenekaise, the route was a bit shorter than last time, with less than 100km of skiing ahead of us. While still in Wales, worried if I could make it (being an inexperienced skier), I was told by my boyfriend that the route was mostly flat and ideal for beginners like me. Then, when we met up in Kiruna, his prediction shifted somehow to 50% chance of finishing the route.

Kunsgleden trail in winter. Wish could ski better...

Kunsgleden trail in winter. Wish could ski better…

With good spirits, I was doing my best to keep Cody within sight as he broke trail through the deep snow. Over hills, down hills, around corners, I was moving my skis as fast as I could to keep up. Snowy mountain landscapes filled me with energy to keep going. Well, not fast enough (or should I be honest and say it was a snail pace?), as when after about an hour of what was a huge effort to me, I looked back just to see that we moved less than a kilometre from the hut. Cody was very kind, trying to hide his frustration as I was trying to push through the deep snow in a far from graceful way. Not seeing my skis under the deep snow didn’t help much either, despite having Cody’s tracks to follow. My skis seemed to have their own ideas where they wanted to go, which was often not in the same direction. Cody had fatter skis with skins on, and he was able to make a kind of a track for me, but it was still too deep and uneven for my skills. Hence a few moments of getting stuck or falling which made me aware how vulnerable a turtle can feel lying on its shell (see my last post for more detail). Then he asked me, trying to keep a casual “you’re-not-annoying-me” face, which was unsuccessful, if I could go a bit faster… There was no point in lying that I could, so we decided to turn around.

Deep snow, skiing Kunsgleden trail near Kebnekaise Fjällstation

Deep snow, skiing Kunsgleden trail near Kebnekaise Fjällstation

Going back felt like a failure and I was disappointed with myself, but I knew that it was the right decision. There was no chance of me skiing to the next hut, not even to mention finishing the trail in that snail speed. I really wanted to do it; being away from civilisation and exploring the wilds of Lapland, seeing the mountains and the Kungsleden trail all covered in snow would be so awesome. We played a bit with an idea of trying the following day if other people or snowmobiles would cut through to make better track. But thinking about trying again was definitely not an option when I woke up on Sunday morning with a sore throat and not feeling well. I was glad that I was not in the middle of a skiing trip as my physical fitness came close to zero. We decided to stay in the Kebnekaise fjällstation (more about this awesome hut in my next post).
I recently went to a talk by the British climber Andy Kirkpatrick. He talked a lot about failure, that it was often more important than success, as the failure leaves us with a desire to try again; the goal still seems attractive and motivating. And when we succeed, it might often be less exciting than what we had imagined before. While listening to his words, I was thinking that my ski touring dream would have to wait for another year or two, but it was not the end of it. And even more, I now have a challenge that I’m looking forward to facing.  Before I got on the airplane in February, the Kungsleden in winter just seemed like some exciting adventure. Now it is a goal, something I will need to train and prepare for, you can’t be so arrogant and try to ski the Kunglseden trail without having Nordic skis on before, and be less of a wuss. It might not be next year, or the year after that. But one day, I will definitely be back, with skis on my feet, heading into those wild mountains.

Snowy mountains near Kebnekaise Fjällstation

Snowy mountains near Kebnekaise Fjällstation