I since long was interested in the experience of camping outside in very low temperatures for a prolonged period of time. After a two-month mountain-bike trip through the Kyrgyz Mountains in summer 2012 and being currently very much into cycling, I asked myself why not bringing these worlds together. That way I came up with the idea of cycling through the northern regions of the Scandinavian Mountains in February.
I prepared for about two months in reading up on the issues of staying outside in temperatures down to -50°C, as well as the problems my bike would face. It was quite an investment to obtain all the equipment needed to protect myself from these conditions, keeping it simultaneously reasonably light-weight. I knew though, that it wouldn’t be the last time I’d venture into extremes of cold.
I started my 700km-loop through the Scandinavian mountains in Arvidsjaur (Sweden). Via the Silver-Road I cycled northwards, passing the polar circle. In Mo i Rana (Norway), I replenished my supplies and went back south-east via a different route. Since I was alone, I had to employ a trailer to be able to take along all the equipment. Spiked tires were also compulsory in order to appreciate the Scandinavian ice-roads.
The experience I made over these nearly three weeks on the road was penetrating. I was amazed how differently the world was behaving. The most interesting bits were the short timeframes when I was crawling out and into the sleeping bag and dressing/undressing the thick warm down-clothing, as well as going to the toilet and when I needed my fingers to fiddle around with my equipment or the bike. Taking care of ones’ feet turned out to be a major problem, which peaked into a minor frost-bite on my right big toe at the end of the tour. It happened because I made a mistake on a very chilly morning, when the temperatures dropped to -37°C. Photography was different as well. Taking pictures turned out to be only possible while holding ones’ breathe, since the eye-piece would immediately freeze and without face-mask the metal body of my camera was burning on my cheeks.
Nevertheless this world has enchanted me. When temperatures dropped below -30°C, the environment seemed to enter a state of silence, of literally zero, a planet made of glass. You could hear the ice of the lakes groaning in the distance and cracking right next to your ear while spending the night on it. The periods of day-light were still quite short, and the sun was most of the time low over the horizon, diving the landscape into a soft, gentle atmosphere. On cloudy days I appreciated the warmer temperatures and the thick snowfall that added to the sleepy mood of the scenery and the loneliness of the roads beyond the polar circle.