Monday, 15 February 2016

Dog Sledding in the Arctic

There are some days when I feel all sorry for myself, and that my life sucks. We all get those days, and usually they can be cured by Ben and Jerrys and Netflix in bed. However in reality I do realise I I’m doing pretty alright. No, it wasn’t handed to me, I work very hard as a financial analyst, however I do know I’m very fortunate now. So mid last year I decided I wanted to do something for charity. Do something that wasn’t about me and do something that would actually help someone else.

So I pretty much thought it was fate when my friend Claire (of Twins that Travel) posted on Facebook that she was going to head to the Arctic for the charity she works for; the Spinal Injuries Association. Well a day later I signed up too.

The challenge was to dog sled across the Arctic for 5 days, roughing it out in the freezing cold, living extremely basically and of course raising money for charity. So over the next 5 months I fundraised and tried to prepare the best I could, until the day arrived.

I hopped on a plane to Stockholm and then another to Kiruna, and eventually made it to my destination.

Have you ever seen a plane land of snow before?

We got off the plane to feel the bitter cold hit us smack in the face. Icey was definitely the word. The temperatures cold get as cold as -40c! So it was definitely layers before style. However looking around took my mind off it. Pristine white, even by the airport, which to be honest wasn’t much more than an outpost.

It was getting late in the day, so today was about getting ready, kitted up in the extreme suit (on top of my million layers) and having one last relatively normal night.

The next day we woke up at the early start of 7am to get ready to start our adventure. Outside the Mushers Lodge where we stayed was just the most incredibly snow covering. A foot deep, it covered the trees, the buildings, everything that was outside had a sparkling, pristine white glow.

But I can tell you now, that was nothing till we got away from civilization. 

First we had to go meet our dogs and get them harnessed up.

Now I want to make it very clear, these dogs are half working, half wild dogs. These are not domestic dogs like you’d have at home. This is what they are raised to do, run and follow. They are extremely well looked after and they are not being made to do anything they don’t want to do. You could see it when you went near the dogs they were so excited to get out and run, they even put their heads in their own harnesses.

After we harnessed up the dogs, learned how to control our sleds, put our very basic belongings in the sled, we were hurriedly told to get on. It was all a bit of a whirl wind, and in true me fashion I had a million questions, yet there was no time. In a blink of an eye, Mush! We were off!

I found the sleds quite hard to balance on for the first hour and fell off about 5 times. However once I found my snow feet, it was such a thrill. The speeds ranged from a slow jog pace, right through to speedy.

We twisted and turned through forests, then ran straight for miles across frozen lakes. Whilst the general landscape was white, it was never dull.

On the first day the weather was quite harsh, with it snowing and strong winds.

You might notice my photos are a little... rough around the edges... well taking photos in extreme can damage the camera, and the were times when my whole camera went white. The first day was a test but I got better as I learned. I'm going to do a post on tips which will cover how to take photos in the cold.

With the wind in my face, the only way to describe it was surreal. It's a little like Narnia.

There is no phone signal, no electricity and I didn't wear any jewelry so I had no idea what the time was at any point on the day. Time seemed to not exist.

However when we got hungry, it was time for lunch.

We found a teepee in the middle of nowhere and decided that it was a good place for a rest.

After lunch we were off again.

After another half a day of sledding we arrived at our camp for the night.

But it was long before we could rest, there was work to be done.

The dogs needed to be put to bed, fed and watered.

And reality check moment came when I was scrabbling around on my hands and knees trying to find bark to light a fire. 

Which then needed to be repeated at 7am too.

Which was revolting.

Then there collecting water from the river to use for drinking.

Although with this view, it wasn't such a chore.

Arctic Dog Sledding Kiruna, Sweden (34)
Arctic Dog Sledding Kiruna, Sweden (33)
Arctic Dog Sledding Kiruna, Sweden (35)

Soon it was to time to harness up again and move on.

Arctic Dog Sledding Kiruna, Sweden (38)

Although my dog, Bear, had other ideas. Typical. 

The days after we had lunch where ever we were when we got hungry, which meant setting up camp in the middle of the snow.

Even if that was in an area of pure nothing.

After our first night in a shepherds hut, it was time to build our igloo for the night. Yep, I said that right, I would be sleeping in an igloo. I'm not sure I was quite prepared for that.

I don't have any photos of us building it it was pitch black and it took hours. It is exhausting. Basically shoveling snow into a huge mound, letting it freeze, and then craving it out. Which yes, is as big an effort as it sounds. Damn Pingu lied to me as a child.

I learned that actually no matter what the temperature is outside it will always be -5c inside an igloo. Which was why I survived. Ok I might be a little over reacting, but with some reindeer skins, and a lot of layers it was quite snug in fact.

So when I woke to see the sun streaming down that day, it was quite magical. 

Arctic Dog Sledding Kiruna, Sweden (46)

Not a cloud, nor snow in the sky.

Never had I seen such beauty. Unspoiled perfection. You can't comprehend what it was like. The beauty was just glorious and mesmerizing. 

On the final day the tempretures dropped and it was bloody freezing. I had never known cold like it. I couldn't feel my toes or hands. In my over dramatic mind I cried frost bite. Ok so not so much, but wow I will never complain about London's cold again! 

Arctic Dog Sledding Kiruna, Sweden (50)

After days of camping out in the utter cold, we soon saw the lights of the town again. 

It had been an incredible, incredible experience and one I will never forget. There were times when I hated it. The cold, the trawling through the snow trying to find bark for a fire... yet it was amazing too. 

And to top it off, on the last night, the Northern Lights appeared.

Now that's a magic ending. 


  1. This looks absolutely stunning! A trip of a lifetime, it looks so incredible - so brave of you!

    Erin xx

  2. Wow Laura, this looks absolutely incredible! You're so luck that the Northern Lights popped up to say goodbye too x

  3. Bravo Laura, looks like a difficult yet fantastic trip!

    Sandra | Cake + Whisky

  4. Oh wow, this looks absolutely amazing. What a great experience! x

    NINEGRANDSTUDENT: A Student Lifestyle Blog

  5. I am so glad you had a good experience. Now you've got me wanting to experience the speed of dog sledding. I'm really happy you saw the Northern Lights. I want to see them someday too.

  6. Are you going to do a post about the charity? It would be good to hear how you actually raised the money and how much.

  7. I've seen some really 'glam' posts on dog sledding which looked amazing, but I love this for how real it is. And I think your pictures are beautiful so I'll be looking forward to your tips post x

    Laura x |

  8. I've seen some really 'glam' posts on dog sledding which looked amazing, but I love this for how real it is. And I think your pictures are beautiful so I'll be looking forward to your tips post x

    Laura x |

  9. Oh wow, it must have been the most breathtakingly lovely experience connecting to nature surrounded by all the snow and the dogs, with the Northern Lights overhead. Seriously amazing shots here, Laura! x

    Tamsin / A Certain Adventure

  10. amazing article!i love it, i remember my trip to the artic land! thanks to this company!i will never forget the beauty of that trip!the nature and the spirit that i saw!just amazing!


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