Rocca Sparviera 22/02/18

Last day. Mountain drive up some more interesting roads with either no barrier or such a small one that it seems pointless. To Col de Lobe then Rocca Sparviera mediaeval village and chapel. Saw lots of wolf droppings also those of wild boar. The wolf had been eating the boar as some droppings were mainly boar hair. Golden eagle. We wore the ice grippers for a bit. It had been hot when we did this walk last year, this time started off in 3 layers and increased to 5. We walked about 15km.

Back down to the bar in Lantosque for St. Thomas beer. Then home to pack up.

Dinner chez Liz and Mel. Chili popcorn, tomato and mozzarella type cheese called burrata and basil, couscous with veg and meatballs in sauce, cheeses, chocolate and ginger mousse. All excellent.

Holiday is courtesy of Liz and Mel of Spacebetween.

From the fire of 2003

First cowslips
Wolf tracks
Rocca Sparviera
Bathtime

La Colmiane and Rimplas 21/02/18

We collected Suzanne and David and the bread from St. Martin. Drove to La Colmiane and parked a short way from the centre. It was amazingly cold, Mel reckoned -10 with wind chill. We walked for a good way until we reached the remains of an avalanche and then turned back as it was not safe to continue.

We had our usual fine lunch of salads and bread and tomatoes.

Back to the van and on to Rimplas. There is a Maginot line fort here. Up above the village quite a way. Bridget and I had walked this path last year. Back down and to Serena cafe in La Colmiane for the very seriously good hot chocolate.

Dinner: cheese straws, soufflé, butter beans in tomato sauce with salad and bread, tiramisu.

Holiday is courtesy of Liz and Mel of Spacebetween.

Le Boreon and Refuge de Cougorde 20/02/18

We picked up David and Suzanne in St. Martin. Up to Le Boreon. Onto snow shoes and then up and up for 500m of ascent.

The refuge was open this time so we sat inside to eat our lunch. Salads, nuts, bread, ham, cheese. All lovely. We got drinks but my hot chocolate was horrible. The coffees also looked a bit lumpy.

A lovely day with good weather. Back down to St. Martin. Into the Pirate cafe! Nice hot chocolate and a biere de Conte, also very good, nearly as nice as my home made lager!

Bought biscuits for my friends at work, Julie don’t tell the boys!

Dinner: beetroot with feta cheese, celeriac soup, very hot noodles, we all went red, had to open the door, blue cheese and fab home made oatcakes, so good I’ll be having a go, they were quite thick and very tasty.

Holiday is courtesy of Liz and Mel of Spacebetween.

La Cougourde

Henk, Margreet, David, Suzanne, Mel, Mike, Bridget
David and Suzanne
Margreet and Henk

Roya 19/02/18

Slept badly, too hot. We’re turning the heaters down. Breakfast and then out by 9. To St. Martin then Valdeblore then the Tinee valley. Up a scary road to Roya, the sort of road you don’t want to meet anything coming down. So we met the snow plough. Luckily just at a slightly wider section. Mel is also a very good driver.

Started off from Roya village at 1500m on snow shoes but soon took them off and put on Pogu ice grippers, these were perfect for the conditions. Walked up through the forest.

Beautiful walk in the sun. Snow mostly nice and firm. I managed to lose a walking pole to the mountain.

Lunch of bread, pasta salad, olives at about 1850m.

Returned the same way. Stopped at La Colmiane for beers and hot chocolates.

Thick fog and graupel.

Dinner: sort of samosa things with balsamic sauce, big roasted cheese, tagliatelle with creamy walnut sauce, pastries with honey and nuts. Liz is a fabulous cook.

Holiday is courtesy of Liz and Mel of Spacebetween.

Bridget or as I like to call her Brigitte
Henk leading the way

La Gordolasque 18/02/18

View from my window

The hut where they filmed Belle and Sebastien

Out by 9. Through Belvedere to the Gordolasque valley. Parked at 1600m and snow shoed up to nearly 2000m. Cold and hot and sunny and windy. Our party is Bridget who was here last year, Mike from Herefordshire, Henk and Margreet from near Rotterdam and Mel of course.

Chilly picnic, bulgur wheat salad, bread, cheese, speck, and olive pate, can’t remember proper name.

This valley is close to the Vallee des Merveilles and the very ancient rock carvings.

Back down hoping a pub would be open but Sunday and they are missing a trick. Back to long cold orange juice and water.

Some me time being quiet, so so good.

Dinner: arancini (wow!), Oeuf en cocotte with salad, chicken and chick pea spicy thing in a wrap, cassis and berries and home made ice cream. And beer and wine. Stuffed!

Nice chats.

Holiday is courtesy of Liz and Mel of Spacebetween.

St. Dalmas 17/02/18

Room warm with extra heater. Slept well. Woke in night and thought about putting my hat on. Croissant, coffee, toast.

To St. Martin Vesubie in the rain. Bimbled about and then coffee in the cafe. To St. Dalmas. We walked in the Black Forest without snow shoes for a couple of hours. Mostly it rained. Lunch in a nice shed with seats. Potato salad with nuts, baba ganoush, cheese, bread. Hot grape juice.

St. Dalmas is home to a very old Templar church.

Back to mulled wine and pretzels.

Dinner: pea pate, yum and bread, chestnut soup, pumpkin pie with salad and roast potatoes, ginger cake trifle with meringue. Yum yum.

The power cut. I went outside, the whole valley in darkness, my eyes adjusted quickly, owl hooting, just fab.

Holiday is courtesy of Liz and Mel of Spacebetween.

In Saint Martin Vesubie
St. Dalmas

Snow shoes Mercantour, February 2017

Fri 10th

It’s exactly 3 years since Chris and I took her last holiday to Finland where amongst lots of other things we went snow shoeing. She was so happy on that trip and we had a lovely quite magical time.
I’m still in bits and not really coping that well as yet.
I stayed last night in the Hilton at Liverpool airport and did actually sleep well. That’s something that’s slowly starting to improve as in I do sleep through sometimes now.
I’m writing this on the plane and just met my 3 companions for the week, Bridget, Pat and Graeme who are all in the row behind me.
A smooth painless flight with EasyJet. Only 2 hours. Arrived Nice at 10a.m. To be met by Mel who drove us to Berthemont which is an hour up the road.
Lovely to see him and Liz again. Pat and I are in the top gite and Bridget and Graeme in the bottom one.
Unpacked then baguette lunch with beer.
Mel showed us how to adjust the snow shoes to fit our boots and how to fit a Pogu mini crampon.
Bridget took us for a stroll round the village to warm us up. Nice in the sun.
Dinner with Mel and Liz. They showed us round the house.
Dinner – cheese twists with chilli, mozzarella salad, soup, daube (beef with orange) with polenta, roast spuds, broccoli and creamed mushrooms, custard and meringue pud. All amazingly good. Wine.
Sleep.

Sat 11th

My mum’s 100th birthday today.
Breakfast in the lower gite. Croissants coffee toast muesli yogurt.
Out to Le Boreon. Walked up to the Col de Salese at 2100m. Climb of about 600m. Hard work and felt v tired and out of breath as did others. Stunningly pretty and lovely.
Lunch – salad, cheese, ham, bread.
Back down with some practice at going down slopes. Dig heels in, back straight and knees bent!
About 6km or so.
Back to Berthemont. Rugby – Wales got beaten by England so Mel not a happy bunny.
Dinner – chilli popcorn, hummus, big cooked cheeses, gnocchi with fried cabbage and onion, cooked fruits with cream.

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Graeme and Pat
Graeme and Pat
Bridget and Mel
Bridget and Mel

Sun 12th

Drive south for 45 mins. Walk up to the col at the base of Roccassiera then to the ruined village of Rocca-Sparviera, looked into little chapel right up the mountain which had Templar crosses inside. Back up to the col and back down to the van.
Lunch – pasta tuna salad, boiled egg, bread, cheese.
About 13 km of distance plus 1300m of up and down. I did this walk with Liz and Mel but without the old village last time I was here in 2008. Lovely walk.
Dinner – crispy pastry things with beany inside, French onion soup, couscous with meatballs and tomato fresh sauce, choc nut fruit cream dessert. Delicious.

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Pat having a little rest
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Old village high up the mountain
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From doorway of chapel
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Genuine wolf poo

Mon 13th

Out in minibus to Rimplas near Valdeblore passing ski station. Maginot line fort. Walked to La Couletta and stopped for lunch at 1400m.
Lunch – potato salad, ham, cheese, peanuts and hot apple juice in effort to reduce my post lunch heartburn. No plantar fasciitis today as on feet for much shorter time. Only 600m of up and down today. Lovely walk. Stopped in St. Martin Vesubie for Pelforth lager and small shopping.
Dinner – tapenade on crispy toast, spinach tarte, fish stew with roast potatoes, oranges with lavender. Yum.

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Maginot fort
Roof in Rimplas
Roof in Rimplas

Tues 14th

To Le Boreon. Snow shoed up to Le Refuge Cougarde at 2100m. 1200m of up and down. Lunch inside refuge which was shut. Beany artichoke salad.
Graeme lost a snow shoe on way back down however Mel located it and fixed it back on.
Got a bit better at the snow shoe shuffle and the heels down descent techniques. Used the heel lifts to go uphill and the rear clips so as not to trip on steep descent.
Saw a chamois and some wolves in the wolf park just their tales.
Songs in my head
Climie Fisher – Love Changes Everything
Be Good Tanyas – Lakes of Pontchartrain
Dinner with Liz and Mel in their house – heart shaped pastry puffs, beetroot and goats cheese, pasta and sauce with beef strips, creamy fruity pudding. All fab.

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Bridget, Graeme, JR and Pat

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The big courgette
The big courgette

Weds 15th

Mel took us to the Tinee valley, another very steep sided valley about an hour and a quarter away. Up and up and up to Col de la Couillole at 1680m. Snow shoes to Sommet de Countent at  1990m.
Saw a black squirrel.
Back down, very hot and sunny, sloppy snow.
Tip: put pole through hole in snow basket in order to keep poles joined together and easier to use when needed comme ça.
Stopped at La Colmiane ski station at Valdeblore for Leffe beer for Mel, Graeme and me and hot choc for Bridget and Pat.
Dinner – dips, chard soup, butter chicken, basmati rice, chana dhal, lentil and potato curry with pitta. Home made coconut ice cream with melon liqueur. Yum yum.
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Thurs 16th

Utelle. Gorgeous walk up to the Sanctuaire de la Madone d’Utelle. 380m up. Quite steep on last 150m to reach plateau.
Went round the church. No quality control re the art in the cloister. Heard some singing/chanting.
Stopped in Lantosque for a St. Thomas beer. Good beer.
Back at the ranch, Bridget went for a horse ride with Liz.
Final meal upstairs with Liz and Mel.
Blue cheese and walnut (their own) on toast. Pasta with truffles. Big salad with eggs, ham a la Nicoise. Pineapples with booze on. Freixenet. Stayed up late with Liz and Mel.
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Band of travellers

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Fossil
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The bells of Utelle
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Lintel in Utelle

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Door in Utelle
Door in Utelle

Fri 17th

Up at 6.30. Breakfast at 7. Left at 7.45. Had to take mountain route diversion because of landslide on main road. It was very high with vertiginous drops, OMG! Then raced along the motorway to the airport. Seemed fast after a week of pootling along.
Easy flight. Slow on motorway getting home.
How lovely it was not driving or cooking and being in a beautiful and dry place with good company!
Videos from the trip.
The holiday was run by Mel and Liz from SpaceBetween.
Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

Winter Navigation training, 27th February to 2nd March, 2015

Fri 27th February
A nice if lengthy journey up to Aviemore. I used a split tickets site: http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/split-cheap-train-tickets/ and knocked about £80 off the cost. The drawback outgoing was this:
Taxi to station
Sowerby bridge to Hebden Bridge
Hebden to Preston long wait
Preston to Edinburgh Haymarket
Edinburgh to Aviemore
Split ticket had me changing at Burnley Manchester Road too but the ticket man and I agreed this was pointless which cut my trains from 5 to 4 and waiting at Preston was infinitely preferable to Burnley Manc Rd which has nothing to recommend it.
Great scenery and lots of snow. Almost Orient Express at times. Not the passengers though.
I stepped out of Aviemore station to a bitter wind. So quickly popped into Tesco and then bimbled around an outdoor shop while waiting for the minibus pickup to Glenmore Lodge. I chatted to Carson a young man from the USA who was going to do a winter skills weekend. Another man came and told us that he’d spent a week at the Lodge and that the food was plentiful but not haute cuisine. He went away and the minibus arrived. Hundreds of people and bags got out and Carson and I got in.
I paid a single supplement for a room to myself. My sleep is very poor these days and I would hate to be disrupting someone else as well as me.
The room was enormous and had beds from the Olympic village. So I may have slept on Bolt’s bed!
I picked up my gear from stores – shovel, ice axe, avalanche probe, avalanche transceiver, helmet, crampons.
To the bar for a veggie curry with rice and poppadoms. Not bad at all. Washed down with a half of Cairngorm brewery Trade Winds.
To bed.
Drumochda from the train
Drumochter from the train
Olympic beds
Olympic beds
Sat 28th February
Got up early and walked down the road to the reindeer centre but the reindeer were not at home.
Back to breakfast. All self service so I toasted my bread and buttered it then put beans on. Orange juice.  Collected lunch. More civilised than PYB where everyone throws themselves at the packed lunches before getting their breakfasts.
To lecture theatre for welcome from Nigel.
To Ryvoan room to meet others on course and our instructor Kirsty. Billy, Steve, John, Mary, Pat. Mary and Pat are both experts in Gaelic, pronounced Gallic, so I may have learnt a couple of words.
3 of us have summer ML and 3 are beginners. Kirsty did a fantastic job of managing a mixed group.
Spent the morning doing all the basics. We measured our paces along the flat and uphill on the same stretches I used on my very first nav course back in 2008.
We practised using the avalanche transceivers and probes, impressive bit of kit.
We used a 1:5,000 map which was surprisingly hard when so used to bigger scale. Looked at aspect of slope. Very useful.
Back to Lodge for late lunch.
Out in minibus to lower ski car park with the 1:50,000 map. We went past the reindeer and back through the forest. Felt much more comfortable with this map.
Back to the Lodge quite late so we missed tea and cake.
Wet kit in driying room. Shower and yet another rucksack repack. Dinner of lentils and pasta. Choc meringue pudding. All very good and tasty. Maybe not quite haute cuisine but very nice. I sat with Billy and Steve.
We were joined by another man called Neil who is a guide and instructor etc. out of Chamonix. Mentioned my trip up Mont Blanc and the Gouter hut. Also our guide then Stephane Benoist. Turns out they are pals. Steph has since lost many fingers and toes on Annapurna and had to move to different activities. I asked Neil to remember me to Steph and tell him I now have ML! Saw Neil later and he had just received message from Steph after not actually hearing from him for some time. How strange. Steph did remember me and sent me nice wishes. Am impressed that he did remember. He is a holder of the Piolet d’Or for climbing a not previously done face of Nuptse. I was sorry to hear about his injuries as he is a very nice man with young children, he does look like he’s really been through it on this site: http://www.altissima.org/en/stephane-benoist-ampute-apres-son-ascension-en-face-sud-de-lannapurna-6269.html My account of our Mont Blanc trip is also on this blog – entries for October 2009.
To the lecture room where Nigel gave us a most amusing talk on winter nav. I may be inspired to do some orienteering especially as I know where there is some near us.
2 halves of beer with Billy and Steve and Pat’s husband Ian who had been out ice climbing.
To bed.
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Sea King coming in to land at Glenmore Lodge.
Sea King coming in to land at Glenmore Lodge.

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Youngster
Youngster

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Sun 1st March
Slept well. Packed up to vacate room. Suitcase to luggage room (great idea that PYB could do).
Breakfast of beans on toast and coffee and juice.
Ryvoan room for recap. We all decided to use the 1:40,000 map. K went through route planning taking account of avalanche risk.
Nigel drove us up to car park and we set off. We used timing and pacing according to what we wanted to practice.
We had a go at directing someone on a bearing testing how far they could hear as well.
Made a journey to Utsi’s hut during which it started to snow. Utsi brought the reindeer over here 50 years ago and the reindeer herdsman had to sleep near his flock. Neat little hut where we lunched. It’s in the bottom picture on this page: http://www.cairngormreindeer.co.uk/History.aspx?nid=8b35281c-d64f-4548-93cc-4814c175b692
Back out and up and around hill. Crossed some snow in which I got my foot stuck. Kirsty came and helped me out. Had I been on my own I would have got my pole off the rucksack and put it across the hole to lever myself out as well as scrape the snow out. (I had to think like this as mostly I don’t have anyone to come and do what Kirsty did) I was stuck surprisingly fast. Up around hill to a lochan where the wind was quite fierce. Then followed the deer fence to the path. This took us down across a bridge and back up to the Sugar Bowl car park where Nigel picked us up.
Back to the Lodge. Kit back to stores. Collect suitcase. Collect hot choc and cake. Debrief. Farewell.
Nice young man took me to Aviemore in the minibus  I was the only passenger so had no worry about getting him to take me to door of Ravenscraig Guest House.
Jonathan welcomed me. Room was fine. Put wet kit in drying room. Shower. Out to the Winking Owl to eat. Had butternut squash and lentils. Only ok. Cairngorm Highland IPA.  Music quite depressing so didn’t feel like staying.
Red grouse
Red grouse

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It's that way...
It’s that way…
We are a bit cold and wet
We are a bit cold and wet
All the gang
All the gang
He wasn't around
He wasn’t around
This is pine marten poo
This is pine marten poo

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Utsi's hut
Utsi’s hut

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It's still Christmas in Aviemore
It’s still Christmas in Aviemore

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Mon 2nd March
Pitlochry, the next stop of the train. I loved this. The trains home all went really easily. It was snowing as I left Aviemore and on my way home I got messages to say it was snowing there too. It was great that the travelling was all painless. I enjoyed my weekend but actually I’d paid to be stretched a bit more and expected to be out on the snow straightaway, but have fed this back to Glenmore Lodge. I’ve said they need to be very clear about what the pre-requisites are for courses. I’ll be back with Paul Poole Mountaineering for next time round if he and I are both free at the same time. The dates just didn’t quite match up for me this year.

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

Dawn at Aviemore station
Dawn at Aviemore station

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Not likely at a railway station
Not likely at a railway station

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From the train
From the train

Snow Time in Finland February 2014

The photos in this post are a mixture of mine and Chris’s.

Sat 1st February

Chris picked me up and drove us to Gatwick stopping a couple of times on the way. Nice easy journey. Arrived at Sofitel, (perhaps a new venture for my dear cousin Sophy?!) We were met by a somewhat morose doorman in a long coat and a driver who took Chris’s car away. Mr Grumpy took us to reception in the grand atrium. Our room was fine and looked onto the central courtyard. We put the Prosecco in the fridge and wandered over the indoor walkway to the terminal to look at the shops which were a bit rubbish and to buy our breakfast in M&S.
An aperitif and then prepaid dinner in the hotel. We both had pasta mains, mine with funghi and Chris’s with carbonara, washed down with big glasses of Sauvignon. Nice young man from South Africa served us, very excited as he has not yet seen snow and was hoping it would come.
Back for après drinks. Read a bit and tried to sleep.
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Sun 2nd February
She snored and I sneezed and we both had terrible indigestion which I blame on the pasta.
At 3.20 we had to wake up fully to check out so that we could then check in at 4.10. All was fine and for once I didn’t get a good work over at security.
As we took our seats on the plane in a set of 3, I asked the girl on the end if she was with Exodus too and she said yes. She made no further remarks, so I thought she must be shy. I offered her a boiled sweet which she took but still didn’t say anything except thanks. And then another but still nothing. I was starting to think she was a bit lacking and wondering about a whole week in her company. As we landed I gave her another sweet. She thanked me and that was it, off we went. We didn’t land on snow, the runway had been cleared, a minor worry I’d had. Kuusamo is a tiny airport, ours was the only plane there. We were met by Bjorn aka Teddy. 25 of us onto a coach but not my sweet eating companion!
We set off and were immediately driving through forest on snow with no other cars hardly. Some more on the main road but not many. Past the turn into the town, past the ski resort of Ruka which is tiny and has the only big hill in the vicinity. The snow deepened as we went into the national park and the roads narrowed. Before long we got to Basecamp Oulanka (u not pronounced). Lunch of sweet potato soup and black bread. Pancake pudding. Very good. Then we were issued with equipment in a very hot room, we got 3 layers of legs and 3 of tops, boots, rucksack, sit mat, 2 pairs gloves, mittens and a hat. Later a headlamp and a flask. This took a long time. We had been given a double room and not a twin and this was not what we wanted or had paid for. The Basecamp staff sorted us out so that we had a double room each and they did this quickly but it was an Exodus cock up. We had to wait while my new double room was readied. I don’t know how those sharing a double room managed to fit 2 lots of the kit we’d just been given into one cupboard.
Bjorn gave us a long and complicated briefing for the week and we worked out what we wanted to do.
Unpacked, then dinner at  7 pm of salad and elk stew with potato. Choc cake for pud. We shared it.
At 8.30 went to Chris’s cabin for tea (her) and hot choc (me) with rum.
At 9 Carol rang, just coming off the machine so I rang her at 10, really flagging, so tired had lost ability to speak, only 8 pm at home.
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Mon 3rd February
Slept for hours and hours. Woke at 8.15. Breakfast of muesli and yoghurt, black bread, ham, cheese and salad. Coffee comes out of kettle on hot plate. Berry juice, water, tea and coffee available all the time in the big room.
Issued with snow shoes and walking poles. Out to the lake where we put them on, much easier design than when I last did this. Game of frisbee to warm up and gain confidence in running with them on. Into the forest. Walk on toes to go up and bounce like a trotting horse to go down (well that was my way of doing it). Also down slope on bum. Hugged a tree to hear the silence and feel the stillness. Went to viewpoint over frozen river, the rapids not frozen. Dipper dipping. To the mill and back to base.
Lunch of salmon and dill soup and black bread.
Some time later Chris and I went out on self guided walk on the Little Bear trail. The bears are currently hibernating. Went across suspended wobbly bridge over rapid river and later another bridge across frozen river, we heard it lapping underneath.
We went to a forest hut with lots of logs complete with hefty axe and saw. Also an outdoor compost loo which I made use of. Then back in the nearly dark. Sunset is at 3.30 but could still see when we got back at 4.45. Likewise I could see before sunrise at 9 this morning.
Change and then to the hot tub. Shower first. Hot tub not hot enough. Bit slippy on getting out onto ice. Eloise went for snow roll from hot tub (how brave) and came back in which possibly lowered the temperature!! Out and quick hot shower then back for shower in room but I picked a bad time as everyone was doing this so the water went off in the middle of hair conditioning but it all came right eventually.
G&T in Chris’s cabin. Dinner of chicken, veg and rice with curry sauce followed by salad. Pud was cake for Jenny’s birthday so she got up to blow out her candle and then Gary got down on one knee and asked her to marry him. She said yes. Not a dry eye in the place!
Back to my cabin for tea and hot choc with rum.
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Tues 4th February
Didn’t sleep so well, itching and scratching and still too hot so turned the heating off which didn’t make much difference. Into plush minibus to Riisitunturi park about 45 mins away, stopping to drop off one lot of dog sledders and pick up another lot who have to exchange the 4th layer of clothing which is ski pants and coats. I’m sure they haven’t divided us up size wise so not sure how this works. The park has a small 380 m hill where the snow clumps very heavily on the trees and makes strange shapes out of them. Very like those in Stephen King’s The Shining which I’ve just read or Narnia if you prefer less scary.
Norra led us along with Tessa, a Finn and Lisa, a volunteer (I think) from the UK. Norra says she does feel Scandinavian which I asked because of an online conversation I’d had with one of my relations. Great walk although misty so no views but mysterious and quite magical despite having to join in the games for Exodus’ 40th birthday. We have a slightly disappointing packed lunch of fruit juice, energy bar, raisins, sandwich made by us and a heavy sweet bun.
Back at Basecamp we start to make a Sami drum out of reindeer skin. It is intricate and absorbing work and a bit like being back at school although Bjorn is a kind teacher.
We then go off for dinner in the dark in a shelter with a big fire pit. We have elk with mashed potato, pickled gherkins and lingonberry jam. Also juice. Then we make pancakes. By this time I feel I’m coming down with a cold. We go back and finish the actual drum making. Back to Chris’s  cabin for hot choc and rum.
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Weds 5th February
Woke up in the night feeling gruesome but on waking this morning I have a cold but feel OK.
We drive off with Anneka back to Riisintunturi wearing even more clothes to meet Lauri at the husky farm, he is a gentle giant Laplander. I have the first team behind him, Chris behind me and then the other 4 plus Lauri’s handsome but silent colleague. I have a team of 4, Chris has 6. We set off after instruction at quite a lick. The dogs crap on the go so it’s important to brake for this, brake for downhill slopes, brake when the one in front stops. My dogs were quite good and I would have liked them to go a bit faster, they went quite slowly on the flat stretches and then fast down hills. Cornering was fab. We went up through the snow covered trees into the park. Very exhilarating for 10 km. Lauri has 60 dogs and knows them all, they all know their names. They got a gravy drink at the end and eat in the evening. 500 g mix of meat and biscuit.
Back to Basecamp. Fish soup for lunch which I quite liked despite not being big on fish. Spicy bun for pud.
Bjorn gave us kick sleighs to play with which got us used to falling over and not having any control over direction.
Issue of shoes and skis.
On the lake we first practised moving around on skis, then scootering on one leg then the other leg then bringing it together. Bjorn is very long and thin and showed us the desired movements in slow motion which was a most amazing sight with the length of his legs!
We tried a few goes but when Bjorn suggested the round the lake trip Chris decided to go home. We went over to a settlement and then Bjorn brought us back across a short slice of lake rather than the whole enormous thing. We did about 3 km and I only fell off right at the finish line. It was nearly dark so we went into the wood with our headlamps on. We walked up a little slope and tried to go down it. Pippa was very good at all of it. Jonathan succeeded with some minor wobbles and I veered off to the left and had to fall over to avoid the trees!
Dinner of veg lasagna and salad and apple cake with vanilla sauce.
Finished off our drums. Rang home a bit late.
Rum in my cabin.
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Northerly Angel

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Thurs 6th February
Set off just after 10.30 and snow shoed by ourselves to the frozen waterfall and could see Castle Rock. Very glad we hadn’t paid an extra charge to walk this in a group. It was a lovely walk but perfectly manageable on our own. We ate some nuts and choc but the Picnic bar for Chris was rock hard and my water bottle froze. Got back to Basecamp for a clothing change and then onto the minibus taxi with Eileen and Jack to go to Ruka which is small tacky looking ski resort to pick up those who had been doing snowmobiling and skiing there. As we waited I looked out the window and the skiers appeared as if they were in mid air.
Then to the reindeer farm, which was quite high and much, much colder, I put on all my layers (5) which was only just enough.
Mika took us to see 2 reindeer and the sleigh. Chris and I got in and our reindeer was hooked in and off we went on a very small circuit at a very gracious pace, more stop than go and the complete opposite of the huskies. Everyone had a twirl round doing this.
Then we went into the female reindeer pen to feed them moss which looked more like lichen. They liked this alright. Mika showed us to a little barn with a blazing fire. We took our boots off and put our feet on reindeer skins. It was very dark in the shed and smoky. First Mika gave us reindeer sausages already cooked to warm on the fire. Delicious and good with mustard. Then a cup of kettle coffee and a pastry made by his partner Satu’s mother. Needed spices or at least sugar. He told us the work of the reindeer farmer’s year which is hard and how reindeer farming operates in a commune type system. Then he sold us some crafts and the bus came to take us back to Ruka. We picked up the rest who had waited nearly half an hour in the cold for us. Back to Basecamp. Dinner of rainbow trout, mixed roast veg. Salad. Ice cream and berry sauce.
We sat around with the rest of the group in the evening for a change.
Back to Chris’s cabin for rum.
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Fri 7th February
Terrible night with nose dripping all night meaning I had to blow it about every 15 mins. Finally managed about 3 hours unbroken sleep. Chris also hadn’t slept well.
We decided not to build a quinsee and joined the snow shoe group plus 2 other couples who had opted out. Norra led us on the whole of the Little Bear trail. Fabulous walk through the forests and across frozen lakes. 10 km in 5.5 hours total which is not bad on snow shoes with lots of stops for drinks and photos. We stopped at a woodshed for lunch. Chris and I had made a small sandwich from the black bread and I had an egg which we added to our copious supplies of sweet things. We didn’t pay for a packed lunch as we didn’t feel it was worth the price. Norra quickly lit a fire using firelighters and matches she had brought and wood from the shed which the government provides for free. Some toasted their sandwiches. On the return section we went up 252 steps which was hard work as they were mostly snow covered but some had been reduced to ice so the bear claw part of the snow shoe was very necessary.
Back for hot choc and a doughnut. Then we went to the hot tub for C and sauna for me. So hot I couldn’t put my feet down.
I have had 4 showers today!
Dinner of elk stew with rice and barley, salad and quark pud with fruit basically a creamy fruity dish and v good.
To my shed for rum and hot drink and early to bed to sleep more and get better.
Little Bear Trail
Little Bear Trail

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Chris and Paul
Chris and Paul
252nd step
252nd step

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The man in the merino mask
The man in the merino mask

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Sat 8th February
Dog day.
Early start but our taxi was late. Drove for quite a while to Jaksamontie where Lauri, Marika and the 60 dogs live. First we togged up in their home which was quite old fashioned Scandi bling and reminded me of the B&B in Koenigstein. I got to model an all in one snowmobile padded boiler suit suitable for Everest. We met some husky puppies. Then to our sleds. The solo sledders set off first with another quiet handsome man then Lauri, then us, me in the sled with Chris driving then 3 more doubles behind us. I was wrapped up with a duvet and a reindeer skin on top. We set off at the usual cracking pace through the forest and on up into Riisitunturi park. I was glad for all my 5 layers top and 3 bottom. Chris was a good driver. She had to push the 8 dogs up a hill and pulled a muscle in her groin doing this. At halfway to lunch we stopped for a drink and swopped over. Our dogs were pretty good although one seemed constipated and we had frequent stops to deal with his poo non events.
A complete stop for lunch at a forest shelter. The soloists had arrived some 20 mins before and helped to carry the pots and pans and light the fire. We sat on our reindeer skins, used the compost loo and warmed up. Lunch was a long, slow drawn out affair. First elk stew with lots of cheese in it. Then bread with cheese on it. Then hot berry desert with cheese sounds bad but it was very, very good. Then coffee mixed with a splash of water in the dessert cup. Back into the sleds, this time with a thicker longer reindeer skin over me, sorry to whoever got my little one instead. I took some videos as we went along on our 8 dog open sleigh. At one stop John and Eileen’s 2 front dogs came up alongside me. The nearest sniffed and licked my reindeer and then ripped a huge chunk out of it. I tried to stop him and Lauri said doggo mustn’t eat anything but he started growling at me so I gave up on this thankless task.
We swopped over again putting the headlamps on and skated back to Lauri’s dog farm. Very magical whizzing through the snow by torchlight all spread out.
Back to Basecamp for shower, return all the kit, dinner of salmon and fried potatoes, salad, sort of Bakewell tart pudding. Paid our bills. Bjorn gave us a slide show of what it’s like there in the summer and a film of our week which he will send us.
To Chris’s room for a last hot rum, then packing then sleep.

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Coming to get you...
Coming to get you…
Lovely snowmobile outfit
Lovely snowmobile outfit

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Chris and Liinu
Chris and Liinu
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Liinu

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Oh To Be In Finland from Jak Radice on Vimeo.

Sun 9th February
Checked out, last breakfast and Bjorn took us to the mill to convene with silence, stillness and nature.
Bus arrived and Bjorn said we had arrived as guests and left as friends which felt very true despite the cynics!
Lisa with her broken arm said goodbye as not allowed to fly. Any excuse to stay longer.
To tiny airport, one tiny other plane there. Smooth procedures, no nagging about weight allowances, my case now lighter. Chris’s heavier. Eloise had 2 v small bags, I must look into lighter packing and holdalls.
Some small shopping and a coffee and onto plane.
I loved Finland, the food, the plumbing, the peace, the quiet, the wilderness, the people. And for Carol I did not see one single piece of litter all week.

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The dipper came to see us off.
The dipper came to see us off.

wilderness group from björn lindell on Vimeo.

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map with me and my navigation partner, Cath.