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CHARLIE: This adventure threw up a real mix of environments and weather conditions.
A hot start cruising down Ivalojoki gave us a false hope of an easy ride. The temperature plummeted to just above freezing and the wind blew with determination from the north. We earned the right to exit the river and enter Inarijarvi having battled against the relentless wind which at one point stopped us dead, a real life canoe/river treadmill!
We soon realised that the lake needed to be treated as a small sea. Storms could be seen brewing in the distance as the sun shone on us. Some stunning views as the wind created real safety issues with waves that challenged our canoes capabilities. We abandoned the water for an island which was a safe haven from the waves that were threatening to capsize us.
Spending time on an island in the middle of a giant lake was a great experience that is unavailable in the UK. It gave us a great opportunity to test our bushcraft skills.
After ditching the canoes we shouldered our packs and moved on foot out of the Boreal Forest on to the Arctic Tundra. My shoulders were soon reminded of the grinding pressure from a heavy pack, time to focus the mind on the next km, get it done.
Wet, windy, cold, it wears you down. We took shelter in some wonderful wilderness huts, we relished these protective shells that gave us time to reflect on the wilderness environment that we were privileged to engage with.
Gradually exposure, physical effort and a lack of sleep make their mark. The final hill completed at the Norwegian boarder left me with a true sense of accomplishment.
We planned, turned up, executed. I can’t wait for the next Boreal adventure.
FRANCIS: This was my second 3N Challenge, Canada and Lapland offer two very different problems. To me Canada was a more extreme physical challenge; the route was less obvious, the trail more challenging, overall though it was a lot more forgiving than Lapland. Mistakes in Canada were met with warm weather and long late evenings. Mistakes in Lapland in the cold may well have led to fatalities.
The canoe phase started as a fun shoot of fairly easy flowing water, we made great time, we had to make a couple of sensible decisions to line around impassable areas but we made good time and in the sunshine all was well. Then the temperature dropped and it got windy. Crossing open water laden with kit in canoes with the land at times a good way off requires very sensible decision making, get it wrong and you either won’t make the shore, or if you do you won’t have your kit with you and you’d likely freeze. As we came out of the sheltered river section onto open water we literally were getting blown backwards, this was a new experience. No way forward, all of us have enough experience to know we’ll be okay to pitch up so we dash to the nearest firm land, do a bit of exploration and find an amazing camp site.
Next day the wind drops and we move on – plain sailing in good conditions but open water crossings are serious business, team conversation, take the short route and hit the crossing, canoes lashed together moving as one unit, we can deal with a fair bit of chop. As the week progresses though we hit a section, it’s close to islands but the realisation hits that if we go into the water we are in serious trouble and the waves are getting to the point they could capsize us. So sensible decisions, make an island, comfortable camp pitch up and wait for a window. Actually, it’s a great part of the trip, time to set a good camp, plenty of wood for fires, explore the island and be patient. I think I would be more panicked if this was my first trip but we have food and shelter, we can wait. More team decisions, check the weather, look at the map, seize the moment. We have completed a lot of the planned canoe trip but decide it is futile to continue, again, sensible decision. Steve’s nav skills get us a good route and it is island sprints during weather breaks. We make the mainland, all of us I think relived and then need a transport to the hiking phase.
The hike in Lapland simply cannot be compared to the brutality of the Ontario trail. Open scrub similar to my local Dartmoor, huts to sleep in (if you are the first there). We have to traverse a few bogs but this is civilised. I am reminded not to get too cocky by a slip into a stream luckily no harm done but a reminder that a broken ankle would be no joke. It’s still a tough trek but I guess these things are hard to compare, last trip I was sick and lost a tooth this time the trail felt more relaxed.
Overall Canada, physically challenging, felt safer, Lapland less demanding on the body, much more dangerous and demonstrated the importance of good decision making.