Monday, 22 March 2010

The Wrong Ice Conditions

Sunday was a special day. I stood atop Suomenlinna, the Fortress Island that stands guard over the harbour of Helsinki. From there I looked out over the Baltic sea in one direction and across to the buildings of Helsinki on the other. Another high point on the island is surmounted by a church that doubles up as a light house. The regular pulses of light brought rhythm to the early dawn. Hopping across the snow in front of the church was a hare. The peaceful scene came at the end of a week when I had skied across the breadth of Finland from the Russian Border to the Swedish border.

The event was the ‘Border to Border’ ski marathon event. People from 18 countries came together to tackle the 440km route. The end point was Tornio a small town on the Swedish border. If all had gone according to plan; I would have ended by skiing across the Tornio River and right up to the lobby of the Town hotel.

It was not to be. Although this winter is the coldest for many years (dropping to minus 36 degrees C) the ice on the lakes and rivers was not as strong as it should have been. Heavy snows had come early in the winter whilst the ice was still thin. This had then provided insulation from the severe cold above preventing the formation of thick strong ice.

The ice on the Tornio River was strong enough to take skiers as evidenced by the large number of ice-hole fishermen sitting over their round holes in the ice with their short fishing rods. The problem was a river further to the east where there was water on the ice and snow on top of that. This river prevented us from going further. We were forced to end the journey a few km short of the full distance.

I still harbour the wish to finish the ‘Border to Border’ event at the doors of the hotel in Tornio, to take off my skis and walk downstairs and into the sauna to then relax. To fulfil my dream I will need to return another year when ice conditions are better.

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