Archive for the ‘Skijoring & Sledding’ Categoryby Northernmost on December 3, 2012 in ACTIVITIES & WORK, Hilary, Lapland, Skijoring & Sledding, Thunder, Tuisku with No Comments
We kicked-off the sledding season with a weekend trip to magical Aktse. Aktse is an old mountain settlement in Swedish Lapland, known also as The Gate to Sarek. This is where many hikers start their journey into Sarek, which is a large and mountainous wilderness area located north of the Arctic Circle. Dogs are only allowed to enter the Sarek National Park between January and April so we could go no further than Aktse. But from here we enjoyed amazing views into the famous u-shaped Rapadalen valley.
Surrounded by three distinct mountains; Tjahkkelij, Nammásj, and the holy mountain of Skierffe, Aktse is a unique place in many ways. For over 200 years a Sámi family has maintained a homestead on the meadows just below Skierffe, making their living from hunting and fishing, and later also by providing a boat-taxi service to summer visitors. The Swedish Tourist Association (STF) has a mountain hut close to the homestead but this time of the year all guests are long gone and won’t return until February, when the sun yet again rises above the horizon.
Heading towards Aktse on the ice of Lake Lájtávrre. We kept as close to the shore as possible as the ice conditions are still unpredictable in early December.
Fredrik and I enjoy visiting the mountains during the off-season, the scenery is so quiet and beautiful this time of the year – like a dream in blue, pink and white.
Our initial plan was to run three dogs in front of the Nordic sled and attach both mine and Fredrik’s skijoring line to it, but the trail turned out to be so narrow in many places that there wasn’t room for both of us. Instead we placed Thunder and Hilary in front of the sled, while Tuisku had “the day off” and pulled only me behind. As you can see in the photo, Tuisku was all fired up and eager to go.
Passing through the snowclad virgin forests of Ultevis Fjällurskog Nature Reserve.
Fredrik, Hilary and Thunder with Tjahkkelj in the background.
The name Aktse means “nine” in the Lule Sámi language and, according to the legend, nine bears have been killed near the large “aktsekallio” boulder which rests on the ridge leading up to Skierffe.
Luckily we didn’t encounter any bears on our trip, but reindeer and elks crossed our path on Sunday.
Hilary completed two legs towards her WTD-title during this excursion. She has a fantastic pulling ability and always wants to keep going, regardless of weather or trail conditions. These are qualities that we really value in a Malamute and since we run small teams, the effort of each dog really counts.
We had planned to spend the night camping under the star-studded sky but the winds picked up during Saturday evening and the combination of strong winds and chilly -22C (-8F) made us opt to sleep indoors instead (as a precaution we had borrowed the key to one of the cabins). When we arrived to the cabin the indoor temperature was -13C (9F) so we had to work hard to keep the fire going and warm up the place to an acceptable sleeping temperature. After feeding the dogs and ourselves we listened to classical music on the battery-powered radio and stayed awake until the candles burned out. A very relaxing weekend in the mountains and a great start to the sledding season. You can see some more photos from our trip in our Aktse Gallery.
We have typical April weather here in Lapland – blue skies and sunshine one day, and heavy snowfall the next. On clear days we make trips to the mountains and when it’s snowing we work the dogs on the forest trails starting from home. Yesterday Fredrik took the 5-dog team out for a run while I enjoyed a lazy day in the cabin. After more than two weeks of daily working activities my legs are starting to feel a little heavy and it was nice to take a break from the trail, reading a book in front of the fire instead. We’re at the end of our winter and we have had a really good sledding season this year so I won’t miss Lapland too much when we head home this week. I’m ready to stow away sleds and skis and begin preparing for spring and summer!
Titan and Gem in wheel, Lyra and Hilary in the middle, and Tuisku in front. Tuisku has been working in single lead several times this season and has done really well!
Titan and Gem resting during a break on the trail.
We went for another trip in the blue world of the mountains this evening. The top layer of the trail was a bit soft from fresh snow and perfect for skijoring with skating skis. We had planned to ski down to Sioskuru but had to change our route as the trail was closed due to avalanche risk in the area. Instead we climbed to the top of Ounastunturi to admire the views of Enontekiö. On our way down we bumped into a group on mountain bikes who were going on a fell expedition on two wheels! Biking in the snow looks odd to me, but they seemed to have a good time. Hopefully the weather will stay cold during the next few days or else they’ll find themselves stuck in deep snow
Yesterday I took the trio for a ride in the beautiful low fell area surrounding the village of Näkkälä. The temperature was around -2C when we left home but due to the wind chill factor it dropped down to -20 C about halfway into the trail. Must have been the first time ever that I wasn’t geared up for the weather. Dressed for spring, I was like a frozen icicle when we returned home in the evening.
My small team of Malamutes – Tuisku, Gem and Titan.
At least I didn’t have to worry about cold feet as I was wearing these fantastic boots. If you’re looking for something warm for next winter I can highly recommend the Swedish Jörnkängan. These boots are handmade and quite pricey but warmer than any boot I’ve tried so far.
Three happy tails :)
Another stunning day in Lapland and perfect weather for a picnic! We packed our rucksacks and skijored to nearby Lake Ullajärvi with the pups and Tuisku and enjoyed a lazy day in the sun. It was a good opportunity for socialization as many people passed our lean-to shelter on the skiing trail and the pups had to practise being passive and quiet, also when other dogs were passing by, which isn’t always that easy. We also had company of four curious Siberian Jay birds who came to feed off our picnic. After the trip we headed straight for the wood heated sauna. In other words, a very typical day in Lapland
Yesterday we harnessed up Tuisku, Gem and Titan after dinner and went for a ride in the mountains. This time of the year the sun doesn’t set until 9.30 in the evening and with every day we have about thirty minutes of more daylight. Around midsummer the sun doesn’t set at all for several weeks and if the snow remains on higher altitudes we can go skijoring under the midnight sun. I’m surprised sometimes that so few people have discovered Lapland – we often have the trail and the views all to ourselves. Last night we spent two hours climbing before reaching the plateau where we enjoyed about an hour of leisurely skijoring before it was time to start the long descent home. When skijoring without a sled or pulk, going downhill is almost as tough as going uphill as you have to constantly use your legs and feet as brakes to slow down. Our Mals are always extra eager when we set out on a mountain trip. I guess they can sense the adventure the same way we do and the wind that sweeps through the valleys carries all sorts of interesting information for scent-oriented Malamutes. We didn’t see any reindeer or wild animals last night, but in Lapland they are never far away.
We travelled to a village near the Norwegian border today and went for a short run with the sled along the Arctic Trail which connects Finland with Norway and Sweden. Lyra and Hilary are SO good in harness, feels like they are professional sled dogs already! I had to look in their Puppy Training Gallery to see how many times they’ve actually worked on a 3-dog team (I save photos from all their working activities in this album, just to keep track) and found that this was actually only their second time in front of the sled. Wow, makes me even more impressed! Tuisku did great in single lead and we had a lovely day in the sun. On our way home we discovered some new trails that we haven’t tried before so I’m keen to go back to explore those. This weekend I’m skiing with my mom and we’re also taking Tuisku, Titan and Gem for a longer ride. Wish the holiday could go on forever!
On Sunday we brought the pups and the sunny weather with us and travelled to Sweden to meet with our friends Sara and James Barstow of Ayakulik Alaskan Malamutes. Sara and James are currently on a Grand Tour of Lapland together with their three Alaskan Malamutes so we decided to meet up near Jukkasjärvi in the heart of Swedish Lapland for a wilderness weekend. Sara and James own Lyra’s litter brother “Xion “(Sledog Dream Factory) so this was a great chance for the siblings to get together for a playdate. We had amazing weather during both days and besides chatting about Malamutes and having saunas we managed to squeeze in some sledding and skijoring too. Hilary and Lyra gained some more valuable trail experience and had plenty of fun playing with the very sweet and handsome Xion. Thanks Sara, James, Oakley, Kiska and Xion for a great weekend!
We woke up to -23C and clear blue skies and were quick to get ready after breakfast. Cold weather means perfect trails and we had fantastic skijoring today, completing 33km (20.5 mi) along our “local” trail that connects Hetta in Finland with Kautokeino in Norway. The dogs love the cold weather and needed fewer breaks to cool down than yesterday. The hard trails meant effortless skijoring but the intense sunshine takes its toll and I think we’re all having an early night tonight!
Our Easter Holiday couldn’t have started better – perfect dogs, trails and weather and happiness all around. It’s days like these we dream of during the dark winter and that make all the hard work worthwhile. Tuisku, Gem and Titan have been on a sledding picnic today and our youngsters, Hilary and Lyra, have been trying out working independently in harness on a skijoring trip on the lake. We stay out from dawn to dusk to make the most of our time in Lapland. To us this is true bliss!
Spring has arrived with a bang! There’s open water on the lake and the whooper swans are keeping us awake at night with their loud “whooping” calls that can be heard for kilometres. Another sure sign of spring are our females in season. We are keeping our fingers crossed they’ll all be in and out of season before we travel to Lapland later this month. This weekend was filled with fun activities; we went to an interesting and rewarding puppy class on Saturday and enjoyed a long sunny walk afterwards. On Sunday we put our skis on and conditions are really perfect right now – we can ski anywhere on the hard frozen crust and are not limited to any trails. When you’re skijoring behind an eager Malamute, with the wind at your back and the sun on your face, it’s easy travelling
We’ve been on a weekend trip to Vålådalen in Jämtland to meet with our friends Aimee Campbell and Ian Elliott from the UK. Ian and Aimee are on holiday in Dalarna in Sweden so we decided to meet up about halfway between Dalarna and our home for a fun “Malamute weekend”. Sweden is a relatively big country so the journey from our home on the coast to Vålådalen is 580km (360 mi) single way. I wish we had been closer as then we would have been able to spend more time together.
Ian and Aimee are the owners of Twisp and Leader (Mountain Home’s Packice Twisp WTD WPD WWPD and Mountain Home’s Lead Dog at Packice WTD WPD WWPD) who are full siblings of our girl Hilary but from a previous litter. They also own Dash, who is the uncle of our Titan, and senior girls Breezer and Kia who are related to Dash. It was therefore natural for us to bring along Hilary and Titan on this trip and also our girl Lyra, who is related to the Packice dogs through both Mountain Home and the UK bloodlines. Talk about a family reunion!
From left to right: Leader, Breezer, Dash and Twisp.
We had all kinds of weather during our stay in Vålådalen – snow, rain, strong winds and a glimpse of the sun too. I didn’t use the camera much because of the weather but I know Aimee took some pictures so hopefully we’ll get to see them later. We had a lovely time together and made two short trips along the local trails. The Packice Malamutes have superb manners and are perfect trail companions so it was an ideal opportunity for our gang (who very rarely encounter other dogs when out working) to share the trail with these friendly Mals. Hopefully we’ll be able to have a similar “family reunion” another year!
Puppy training update:
Hilary and Lyra worked really well in harness throughout the weekend and we are very pleased with their performance – they are true naturals in harness! While the girls haven’t completed many miles they have nevertheless experienced many useful things during their first working season:
- Working on a 2-dog skijoring team
Working on a 3-dog sledding team
Different terrains – flat and hilly
Different weather and trail conditions
Working alongside unknown dogs
Encountering snowmobiles, people and wildlife on the trail
To us, puppy training is more about “trail socialization” than actual physical training. Most important is that all early experiences are of a positive kind so that the harness, sled and skis is associated with having fun! We feel that Hilary and Lyra now have a good foundation for the future and during the rest of the season we can focus more on training our adult dogs. You can view photos from the girls’ first season in harness in their Working Gallery.