A typical near whiteout on Hardangervidda
(I wanted to publish this article after rememberance day on the 11th of November but unfortunately I didn’t have time. In the light of last Friday’s attacks in Prais this article now takes a slightly different slant.)
Apologies there will be no mention of swimming in the following text, extreme or otherwise with reason being that there was no water only ice and snow up on the high mountain plateau that is Hardangervidda.
In the last 2 winters I have twice been on back country skiing expeditions to Hardangervidda in Norway, spending each time over 1 week with my few companions and nobody else in the vast wilderness of the mountain plateau that ranges from around 1100m to just over 1700m above sea level and covering an area of 6,500 km². No trees grow there, it is snow covered for 8 months of the year and fierce winds blow in from the North sea making this one of the most inhospitable areas in Europe. If any more proof is needed it is where the most southerly herd of Rangifer tarandus, (reindeer) in europe resides. An ideal location to prepare and hone the skills needed for polar travel. It was also an ideal location for Norwegian resistance fighters to base themselves during world war two….
Ready to swim
For a few years, myself and Thomas Kofler had discussed a possible swim in Matscherjochsee, the highest lake in the Alps, situated on the Matscherjoch (Matscher pass) at 3190m above sealevel, in the Otzal alps of South Tyrol, Italy. Finally we agreed to attempt it on the first week of August this year. Thomas made a preliminary trip to the lake a few weeks before and confirmed that it was indeed difficult to reach, being on the opposite side of the valley from the nearest mountain hut and over 1300m above the parking place at Glieshof….
Slajs & Muzicek exit the 3c water
Success. That would be the one word to sum up the world first Kryathlon that was held at Velka Chuchle in Prague on Sunday the first of February 2015, orgamised by the International Kryathlon asssociation in cooperation with the swimming club 1.PKO and Skiparkchuchle. (The race is a memorial to Vaclav Patek who excelled in all three sports).
Finally, after several years the Kryathlon has become a reality and a race was held starting with winter swimming, then running and finishing with cross country skiing. As predicted, the first transition was arduous but everyone got through it and all 50 participants finished the race.
Usual poor visibilty last year on Hardangervidda
Hardangervidda is europe’s largest high mountain plateau, situated in Norway between Oslo and Bergen, at around 60 degrees north, the average altitude of the plateau is some 1400m. For some 8 months of the year this is a barren, white wilderness covered in snow.For the rest of the time tundra appears but not a tree is in sight until descending below 1000m into one of the valleys. With almost no vegetation, the high altitude and strong wind this place is forboding and has long been used as a simulation of the polar environment by great polar travellers such as Roald Amundsen who almost died here in the late 19th century when he was nearly buried alive in a snow hole during a blizzard….
Fear on the tundra
In March 2014 I travelled to the Kola Peninsula in the far north of European Russia. The logistics of day 1 were interesting as it involved leaving Prague at 12.30pm, flying to St Petersburg before arriving in Murmansk at 2.30am. I repacked my bag and managed to lie down on bench for 45mins before I went outsode to get the bus to the city centre. There I sourced some petrol for my stove whcih wasn’t easy as I had to ask a motorist to buy it for me as 5litres is the minimum buy and I just wanted 800ml! Then I took a bus, 2 hours to Olenegorsk, followed by a smaller bus to Revda one of the final settlements before the tundra wilderness extends east, arriving there at 12.30pm. After a short walk around and a visit to the local shop I met a local man with whom I spoke in Russian for several minutes.Hhe was surprised that i wanted to go alone to Seydozero lake and he gave me a good tip which was to take a taxi to the factory marking the start of the trailhead. It cost only 100rubles and was a good idea for the walk was uphill on a boring asphalt road for 8km….
Tasersiaq Lake, expedition goal
The expedition Greenland-Tasersiaq 2014 was the brainchild of Premek Morgan, a climber and trekker from the Czech Republic. Quite simply we would attmept to go where people hadn’t trodden for around 100 years since the Inuit abandoned this area of the hinterland for summer hunting….