With the ending of the group training with Hvitserk, I took the opportunity to go on my own solo journey around the Ustaoset and Finse region, and up to the Hardangervidda Plateau. With the South Pole plans at the end of the year, I aim to travel solo, so I need to have as much experience out by myself as possible. The journey to the Pole is not just physical, it’s also psychological – travelling alone for around 50 days, in the most extreme conditions, pulling the heavy weight of the pulk the entire time; the routine… every day, getting up, breakfast; packing up the sleeping bag and tent… skiing for the next eight hours or so… pitching the tent again; firing up the stoves and heating the water for food. Dinner and then sleep. And repeat. With nobody else around; just the satellite phone and locator beacon as your only means to contact the outside world a thousand miles away.
The Hardangervidda Plateau is a tremendous place to train. While the terrain is different from Antarctica – you have to ski through mountain passes and the wind is quite variable – the conditions can be formidable. I had a couple of storms with winds reaching around 70mph or so, and plenty of days with just constant strong headwinds. Then there were the whiteouts (I will write a separate post about them as you can say so much!!!), and travelling through deep snow, going up to your knees even with skis on that are meant to distribute your weight… and the climbing… It was tough! At the same time, with the tough conditions, Norway is wonderful because there is such great infrastructure. UT.no is a superb site that shows all the winter and summer trails (not in English, but it is easy to work out), and it also shows cabins where you can stay. You can use the site to easily plan out the routes you would like to take. From around early February people go out on their snow-mobiles to mark out the trails with long thin branches plugged into the snow as well, which would help anyone out there. The cabins were not open when I was there but if you join the DNT – like the backpackers association in the country (their website is also in English) – they give you a key that you can use to access the cabins in emergencies.
The second night out, I made a mistake with the tent in incredibly strong winds which led to some of the poles breaking… it was stupid of me, but I know what I did wrong and after repairing everything, it was nice for the confidence to be able to put the tent up again in similar conditions with no problem. Still hard when by yourself… so much harder than when with other people… but it’s something that I will have to deal with constantly in Antarctica. I won’t be able to just stay in the tent when it is windy – the winds will be merciless there! So ultimately, it was good to make the mistake in Norway where I could mend things and recover, to keep going. And ultimately, learn from what happened. It was a great feeling to arrive at Finse at the end of the time on the plateau having been able to work, navigate and travel through all those conditions, and it certainly helped build the confidence enough to know that with continued training, I’ll be able to manage on Antarctica. Exciting just to think about!!