April 27, 2023
Ninety miles north of the Arctic Circle sits the most northern city in Sweden, Kiruna. Famous for its iron ore mine, it is situated within Swedish Lapland.
I have always been fascinated by the cold. Especially the documentaries I have watched where brave, and I think potentially crazy, men and women venture across the poles, pushing their bodies to the absolute limits. Well, my trip to the Arctic Circle wasn't about pushing my body to the limits, it was simply to cross a wild camping location off my bucket list. Something I've dreamt about for many years. I would have been happy to throw my bivvy bag down on the pavement outside the very modest Kiruna airport and sleep there for the night. At least I could have said, "I've now slept under the stars in the Arctic!"
My dad accompanied me on this very special trip. On his bucket list was to see the Northern Lights dance across the Arctic sky, a spectacle seen for millennia by our ancestors and now by tourists. For this trip we didn't class ourselves as tourists though, more explorers. Two wild campers from the UK looking to camp in temperatures as low as -20. To not only test ourselves in those temperatures but to tick that all important bucket list obstacle.
We flew into Stockholm where we boarded a small plane destined for Kiruna, a destination that's been on our minds for two years. From Kiruna we travelled by car to a small camp called Camp Alta. Located by the shores of a frozen lake where small wooden cabins dotted the shoreline. We called Camp Alta our basecamp. The cold air hit our lungs. It felt fresh and unpolluted.
Once at Camp Alta we went through our gear. Checking and then double checking we had packed everything. Especially warm socks! We headed to a local camping shop in town to pick up fuel supplies for our stoves (and maybe the odd Hilleberg tent for more UK adventures).
Our first night under the Arctic sky was the following day. We had packed out the pulk and were all set. For this trip we packed freeze-dried meals for our calories. We had used Expedition Foods in Mongolia so it was only natural we stuck to what we knew, and trusted. The meals are light, packed with the enough energy to keep us warm and above all else, very tasty. With our kit packed and food ready to be eaten, we set out onto the frozen lake of Alttajärvi, headed for our camping location on the other side of the lake. Coincidentally, it was International Bivvy Day. What better way to celebrate than doing a bivvy in the Arctic Circle?
The snow crunched underneath our Arctic boots. The noise strangely satisfying. The pulk was cutting through the powdered snow like some large ice trawler breaking through thick ice sheets. We arrived at our location. Just off the shoreline and up onto a small patch of land dotted with spruce trees. The Arctic tundra was nothing like I had experienced before. It was beautiful and savage at the same time. The temperature had dropped to -22 when we arrived at our chosen spot.
After digging out the snow ready for the Hilleberg Nallo 2, I dug a channel out of the snow to lay my bivvy bag down. Once set and just before the sun went down, we cranked up the stoves to melt snow for our meals. We hadn't covered a vast amount of distance but trekking through the thick powder was very hard work. Enough work to warrant an 800kcal Expedition Foods Spaghetti Bolognese.
Tucked up in my bivvy bag I couldn't help but look at the stars above. Rich in white light, the dots staggered the night sky. A distant cry from some animal broke the silence before the night fell quiet again.
Morning came fast. Everything around me had frozen. A thin layer of ice had formed on my bivvy bag from the condensation escaping. Like with any cold wild camp, especially in the Arctic, it was paramount we got about making breakfast and a warm drink. It wasn't the time for a late morning. I cranked up the MSR Reactor stove that sounded like a roaring jet. For our first night we didn't experience any northern lights race across the sky.
My second wild camp was solo. My dad had decided to stay in the cabin on the basis of the northern lights were likely to appear over our location. Tripod set up, the DSLR camera at the ready, it would simply be a waiting game.
I decided to venture across Lake Alttajärvi with the view to camp on the ice for the night. This time I packed just a rucksack and headed out onto the ice. Hours before, word got round the camp that there was a good chance the northern lights would appear this evening.
Just before dark I built a snow wall that surrounded my small MSR Advance Pro tent. A bright orange beacon amongst the thick snow drifts. I had packed a couple of meals from the Expedition Foods single serving range (including the Chocolate Chip Biscuit Pudding), and topped up with some snacks of locally sourced reindeer meat sticks. And then it happened.
Without warning the sky lit up. Different shades of green danced across the sky in long waves. Energised particles from our star hitting the Earth's atmosphere at 45 million mph resulting in a light show Iike I'd never seen before.
It was most definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Minutes had passed which felt like hours and then the sky was dark. The particles hitting the Earth's atmosphere had dissipated. Back in the comfort of my sleeping bag I had to pinch myself. Sleeping on a sheet of thick ice, witnessing the aurora borealis was a dream come true. I sensed my dad's excitement, finally his boyhood dream was fulfilled.
February 08, 2024
One of the great things about Expedition Foods is being able to support all the amazing people who are undertaking incredible adventures and expeditions around the globe.
One of the critical cogs in undertaking expeditions to Antarctica, are Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions who offers air transportation, logistic support, and guided experiences for those venturing to the interior of Antarctica.
January 12, 2024