Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Partner site of Ravenlore Bushcraft and Wilderness Skills and Waylandscape. Arctic Exploration, Travel and Photography.
Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Partner site of Ravenlore Bushcraft and Wilderness Skills and Waylandscape. Arctic Exploration, Travel and Photography.
Part of the Lore and Saga family of web sites
Ice Raven is a partner site of Ravenlore Bushcraft and Wilderness Skills Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure

2012 Expedition - Arctic Norway Report: Part Two.

More Arrivals - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

Sunday: No matter how much you plan there is always something that gets forgotten. In this case I hadn’t noted down the rendezvous time. I knew it had been changed from the original time and I had a vague memory that it was 11:00 but because I wasn’t sure I was at the airport from just after 09:00.

There were not many tracks in the new snow so I didn’t think I’d missed it.

The roads were a lot easier for a bit of fresh snow. But the temperature was still a mild 0°C. I sat and watched the world go by to see what happened.

I must admit that by now I was looking forward to some company. Solitude is great at times but it’s also nice to share experiences sometimes.

11:00 turned out to be correct.

Woody drove up in a van for all the gear just after a plane had landed, people then started appearing out of the arrivals area while Pete and Lennart hauled themselves down the approach road.

Fire House - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

We were all pointed in the direction of a bus and soon on our way to the farm which was to act as a support centre for the course.

Inside Kata - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

We returned to the Firehouse to cook and for a briefing on clothing and kit for the environment followed by time to sort out our packing for travelling to the course location in the morning.

By Monday morning it had blown up a bit of a hoolie with driving wet snow and one of the Laavus came down the hard way.

Chris the Cat’s alarm went off at 05:00 instead of 07:00 which gave us some extra time to air the sleeping bags in the Firehouse.

Dropping our gear off at the “Firehouse”, part of a farm near to the camping area, it turned out we were to spend our first night in Katas with stoves we could use if necessary. First job was to sort traditional bedding out using coniferous vegetation thatched with birch twigs. Quite effective I must say.

It was a large investment in time for a single night but as it transpired, the tents were to be used for another course running at the same time so fair enough.

With nothing needing drying we decided not to bother with the stove for that evening.

My simple tarp shelter  - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

Woody gave us notice that if the foul conditions continued we might hole up there a bit longer but before long the weather broke and we set off up the track and into the woods.

Because the sleds were at the back we got caught up in a twisted path cut by the walkers which was a bit of a mistake. We would have been better off cutting a straighter trail on fresh snow but that was a lesson learned.

Chris the Cat building his shelter - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

We were going to build the shelters that we would use and sleep in for the rest of the course. Woody showed us the Sledge knot, a useful little knot for fastening two spars together and then most of the other participants took a trip to the local supermarket for provisions.

In theory I could cut anything I liked for my shelter but I’ve never really felt comfortable cutting live wood  for such a temporary purpose.

I had a couple of tarps and some cordage so I quickly threw up a simple shelter.

Bob building his shelter - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

Most took the opportunity to build sturdy frames for their tarps that might seem wasteful in UK woodland but here provided a useful service to the farm owner, thinning his woodland somewhat.

In addition to my trusty poly cotton tarp I had brought a silvered plastic tarp/reflective blanket. This saw much use over the fortnight and certainly earned it’s place in future kit lists for this environment.

Ted building his shelter - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

I’m not normally a fan of plastic tarps or even lightweight synthetic ones for that matter. I find they tend to flap noisily in the wind.

Something I soon discovered on this trip though is that they also shed snow a lot better than poly cotton and when frozen the noise is pretty similar anyway.

The plastic tarps seemed to hold up fairly well against sparks from the fires and at the end of the day are cheap and easy to replace.

Woody and Pete - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

Some made natural beds while others like myself relied upon the bedding we had brought with us.

Pete and Shane were my next door neighbours and were ambitiously building a large lean to but as the snow began to fall again and with the light fading I offered to build a fireplace for them if I could share it for cooking.

This saved us running two fires, needing twice as much firewood and seemed a satisfactory arrangement.

Tarp Shelter in Snow - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

For the first night, I dropped a large dead pine that actually provided us with wood for a few evenings. We later added two or three other dead standing trees to our woodpile and had more than enough to see us through.

Woody joined us under Pete and Shane’s tarp for a convivial evening as the snow gathered all around us.

I used a few spare cut tree tops from the building debris and propped them against a make shift frame to act as a snow break in front of my entrance and by morning that precaution had proved it’s value.

Tuesday: Snow on the tarp and some on the dry bags near the entrance but non at all on the bedding.

Chris the Cat at Shelter - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

The days proceedings started, of course, with melting snow followed with breakfast. I was getting heartily fed up with porridge by now and wished I had stuck to my normal fare of fried bacon or sausages (Although my previous comments about Scandinavian sausages still holds true.)

Ted in Shelter - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.
Lennart at Shelter - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

By living out in our own shelters part of the objective of the course was to develop the routines that make life not just sustainable but comfortable as well.

By taking a week out in advance of the course I felt I had things pretty sorted.

Others that had just arrived seemed to be coping well too. Temperatures were hovering around freezing point so it was wet snow we were dealing with but so far no major problems.

Woody and Shane by Shelter - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

Working in this environment it is essential to remain organised. An axe sheath or even the axe itself soon disappears under fresh snowfall.

Clothing needs to be brushed down before standing anywhere near to a fire to prevent ice or snow from melting and soaking you through.

It is the little things like this that make the difference between comfort and hardship.

Arctic Course Woods - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved. Bob in Shelter - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

The schedule seemed quite relaxed but there was always something to do.

Once day sacks had been packed we were on our way to a local lake for our next tutorial.

Woodys Shelter - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

After some instruction about ice safety and procedures it was out onto the ice to have a go with the ice drilling equipment.

The ice we were on was a little over a metre thick so little chance of penetrating it by any other methods.

These narrow holes would be the sort of thing we would be fishing through later in the week.

The next thing we were shown was how to use an axe to produce a hole big enough to drop a bucket into for water collection.

Cutting Ice Bowl for Water Collection - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

It seems a foolish thing to admit now but I couldn’t help wonder how we were going to cut through a metre of ice with an axe?

In practice, you only need to dig deep enough for the bucket and the ice drill connects the bowl to the water underneath which  then fills up the bowl.

I can’t believe I didn’t think of that.

Ice Bowl Drilled Through - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.
Pete on Arctic Course - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

Back to camp for lunch. It had been bright in the morning but now it was snowing softly.

Ross gave us a quick lesson on carving a traditional style ice fishing rod and we then set about collecting the additional firewood we needed before cooking our main meal and settling fairly early to bed.

Emergency Snow Shelter - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

Wednesday: A short walk up the valley to find snow deep enough to make snow shelters.

I’d read a lot about snow shelters in preparation for this trip and the initial snow wall that we built for an emergency shelter was no great surprise.

Roofing over Emergency Shelter - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

This is an efficient shelter that is much faster to build than a quinzhee and in any kind of emergency situation such speed of construction could make all the difference.

We all sat down for lunch around the shelter and while most of us tucked into a variety of cold snacks like salami, cheese or gorp, Woody gathered a few sticks, lit a fire and fried himself a meal of Blodpolse on Polarbröd.  Now that’s what I call style.

After lunch we were looking at tree felling in extreme cold. Unfortunately, at barely freezing temperatures, this would have to be just a basic tree felling lesson.

Possibly because most of the books on this subject are written for mountaineers I hadn’t seen any suggesting the use of cut boughs and foliage to support a snow roof before.

Fast to build and very effective.

With the addition of some bedding such a shelter could be very comfortable indeed.

It is often such practical and simple ideas that get overlooked in books and courses like this can be a good way of helping you to cut to the chase.

Inside Emergency Shelter - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.
Arctic Course Group Shot - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

Apparently trees become much more unpredictable when semi frozen and safety becomes an even greater concern than it normally is.

Added to this the difficulty in moving quickly in the snow if things go wrong and the potential dangers soon mount up.

For this kind of job there really is no substitute for a decent axe.

While this might just have been possible with my little trailhawk it would have taken me all day.

In a little over 40 minutes with a medium sized axe we had the tree down, trimmed and sectioned ready to transport. That included teaching time.

Tree Felling in the Snow - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.
Chris the Cat in Shelter - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

Back at camp the thawing / barely freezing conditions were making those camp routines even more important.

Tarps were getting wet and then freezing solid. Knots were seizing up. Condensation was seeping into everything not well sealed up. In many ways this was a lot more challenging than if the temperature had been ten degrees colder.

Guylines after Thaw and Freeze - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

One thing that needs to be considered when melting snow for water is that it is a very good insulator.

A pot full of snow just put on the fire or over a stove can very quickly ruin your cooking pot.

The first thing that happens when the snow in the bottom of the pan melts is that it is soaked up by the snow above it.

Snowball Soup - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

That leaves a space between the pot and the snow which can heat up sufficiently to melt a thin aluminium pan or warp a steel one.

To solve this problem I tended to keep one water bottle purely for “sacrificial” water.

By heating this water and then dropping packed snowballs into it there was always liquid at the bottom of the pan to circulate the heat and melt the snow.

This led to the common description of this constant practice being “making snowball soup”.

In the evening we returned to the lake to set up a few night lines under the ice and to see if we might see the Aurora.

Bob in Snow - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

We did get a show but nothing like I’d seen the week before. Disappointing for some I suspect but sadly that is the nature if such phenomena.

Thursday: A quick demonstration to illustrate the dangers of getting buried in snow by a collapsing shelter. This involved burying each other but Bob more than most.

Building a Quinzhee - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

This is followed by a team effort to build a quinzhee.

It takes a lot of work to build one of these and this was just designed for two people. The principle is simple.

Make a large pile of snow, pack it down a bit and then poke sticks about 12 inches long into it. These sticks are to help you gauge the thickness of the walls as you dig it out from within.

With a little experience you can dispense with the sticks and judge it by the light filtering through the snow but we decided to go for the hedgehog method.

Once you have your pile you need to let it “set up” for a while, during which time the snow consolidates and sets much harder.

Building Quinzhee - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.
Setting Up Quinzhee - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

Once this has been done you can then tunnel into the mound and excavate your shelter from the inside.

Ideally you keep your entrance hole quite low so that warmer air will be trapped in the upper parts of the quinzhee.

One approach is to cut a bigger hole for ease of access and then fill it back in when the inside has been dug out.

Ours seemed to fall in between these two schools with an entrance that was a bit high really but using the excavated snow to build a wind break at an angle to the entry way.

All that remained was a competition to decide who would sleep in it.

The first two people to make a sustainable fire in the area around the quinzhee get to use it for the night.

I had just emerged from an hours digging and shaping and thought I had no chance.

Inside Quinzhee - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.
Ice Fishing - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

As evening fell, the temperature was now well above freezing and raining too. Pete decided at the last minute that he was already struggling to keep his gear dry so a night in the Quinzhee was not likely to help.

That left me with a double sized shelter all to myself but with a thaw well in progress it turned out to be the least comfortable night of my stay.

It was not cold but that was the problem.

The roof was domed so that most of the drips would run down to the sides but it was still damp and rather humid.

Arctic Course Quinzhee - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

It looked like a large dog, somewhat bigger than the sled dogs on the farm.

In theory it could have been a wolf but if so it is from a very small population. They are critically endangered throughout Scandinavia and particularly in Norway.

This seemed a fitting time for Woody’s final lesson of the course which was about trapping.

He demonstrated a number of ingenious methods, mostly based upon a simple toggle system.

Woody Demonsrating Trap - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

Pete beat me hands down, but much to my amazement with the help of a handful of birch bark handed me by Ted, I came in second place.

The afternoon was spent back at the lake.

We checked the lines which had secured none of the wary fish below and then set about trying to tempt them with various jigs and lures. Again, unsuccessful.

We are told that the locals take lots of fish out of this lake, it’s just a shame they don’t put some back in so we can catch some.

Settling in to Quinzhee - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

Friday: last day of the course. I struck camp soon after leaving the quinzhee. It didn’t take long as there was no major structure to deal with.

One of the lads noticed some large paw prints running straight through the camp which interested Woody because something had attacked on of the sheep at the farm during the night.

Wolf or Dog Track - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

To round off the course we all had to go off and create our own traps showing our understanding of that toggle system and for the most part we all succeeded.

A little time left to demolish our shelter structures, removing all cordage in the process before making our way back to the farm to collect a few belongings remaining there.

The course was formally ended but a few of us had two more days in the area before our flights home.

 

Part One         Part Three

Sub Zero Crew - Bushcraft UK
Arctic Expeditions, Equipment and Reviews Extreme Weather, Equipment and Reviews

Unless noted otherwise, all photography, artwork and content on this site is copyrighted. © Gary Waidson 2014 All rights reserved.

The Ice Raven Project promotes sustainable and low impact bushcraft and wilderness skills in Arctic and winter conditions. This includes the use of  tents, tarps  and snow shelters where possible. Fires are only used where safe and where use and collection of firewood will not damage the natural environment. We often travel to locations by public transport and then use snowshoes, sleds, toboggans and pulks to transport our equipment into the wilderness.

Ice Raven is a partner site of Ravenlore Bushcraft and Wilderness Skills