Husky Sledding, Sweden (Part 2)
aurora borealis (polar aurorae)
Our trip with Eric took us through some of the most serene snow covered forests and flats of the frozen lakes in the region east of Kiruna. (Unfortunately, Google maps currently doesn't cover the region in high enough resolution for the routes to be tagged.) When travelling with the huskies, the only sounds that can be heard is the soft padding of the huskies feet on the snow, the sound of the sled forging it's way through bright snow and of course the huskies panting and howling whenever we stopped. We always travelled in single file convoy. This allowed our dogs to follow Eric's team without much hesitation. But crucially, it meant that incompatible dogs are never running side by side.
Contrary to what some people may think, the huskies dogs absolutely love sledding! You can see from their behaviour that they 100% enjoy pulling the sled. They are always eager to go. On stopping, some of the dogs test your precariously placed anchor. They continue to tug at the guide cables testing their luck. Funnily also, when you use your brakes excessively, they seem to turn around to say "Hey, what's going on? We want to go faster!"
This trip into the Artic Circle in late March was towards the end of the winter season, day light hours were therefore longer. During the days we were treated with almost unbroken sunshine, though lake crossing were bitterly cold. Temperatures above -5 is too hot for huskies due to their thick coats, a trip in such conditions is not recommended as they perform better in colder temperatures. The dogs were frequently seen running their tongues along the snow at the side of the trails leaving slivers of imprints, quenching their first. On stopping, many would roll onto their backs attempting to make use of the time to chill! A daily routine was followed where we would start with feeding the dogs a salmon and dried food mix. The mix was created by adding copious amounts hot water producing an "appetising" slop served on snow. In contrast, in the evening the dogs were given a 1 kilogram slab of frozen meat each. An axe was used to break a pre-formed 10 kg slab. Eric had warned us that the best and only technique for serving these slabs was to throw them. Handing the slabs over could lead to potential injury. We weren't sure if this was his Artic humour! The dogs were friendly enough and definitely well trained.
For those of you who want to visit Scandinavia for the sole purpose of seeing the Northern Lights (Or aurora borealis), you should definitely consider combining it with another activity. I have seen adventure packages labelled as "Northern Lights Safari", but of course there's no guarantee of good sightings.
As I mentioned in Part 1, we were lucky enough to see a glimpse of the light display on arriving at Kiruna. We were also treated by a late display on our third night. At around midnight we saw a huge static band of faint green arcing over the sky. We were staying at the larger lodge and were able to lay reindeer skins on the snow and grab multiple sleeping bags in preparation to watch the main feature. This static band remained uneventful for a further cold 50 minutes before it lashed across the moonlit sky. It was as if the green band was an elasticband stretching from horizon to horizon, snapping causing it to whip around in slow motion.
20 second exposure shot with the camera point straight up.
The overnight stays were typically at lodges which consisted of severval wooden lodges, most included a sauna also! The lodges don't have running water and no electricity. The wood burning sauna was a great way to wind down after a day on the sleds!
We would like to thank Eric for providing an unforgettable experience. The insights into arctic survival and expedition anecdotes complimented the trip with the huskies. Eric runs sleding and extreme tours for Lapland Wilderness Tours. The full set of images from our trip to Kiruna can be seen here.