miscellany

Flailing, Falling, Failing: Telemark Dreams

Skiing. It's not something that comes naturally to us Brits. It has to work its way into our bones through bruises and aching muscles.

Since moving to Finland, much hilarity has been had at my expense over my ability to flail wildly out of control down even the gentlest of slopes.

There's something about XC skiing that terrifies me. I'm fine in the tracks as long as they're flat. Show me a hill and my legs start to quiver and shake. Throw in a corner and collapse at best, and head-on collision at worse are sure to follow. Those skinny skis and me just don't seem to get along very well.

I first learned to ski (downhill) in Romania in the early 90's. I was taught by Cédric – a guy who had been in the French Foreign Legion (I kid you not) – a ski instructor form Montpellier I was working with at a charity in Bucuresti. I enjoyed it a lot, but the thing with skiing is you have to keep doing it, and it's an expensive hobby. In the intervening 20 years, I can count the amount of times I've been downhill skiing on one hand. And each time requires a day or two of re-learning, remembering, and falling down a lot.

In recent years, though, I've discovered the joys of backcountry skiing. I picked up a a pair of

Madshus Eons

while in the US for jaunts around Minneapolis, which shares similar landscapes and snow conditions with southern Finland. Back in Lapland I've enjoyed roaming around with them when the snow allows it.

Fortunately, backcountry skiing in Finland has the advantage of there not being many people around to watch you making an arse of yourself. It's also a lot easier than charging downhill – you can choose your own route to match your skills and/or fear-o-meter.

Backcountry skiing is, of course, of the free-heel variety, so it's natural to want to try a few telemark style turns as you swish downhill. While the Eons have a little sidecut to faciltate easy turns, they have a fairly thin profile, and are not really intended for epic swooping down precipitous inclines. I've manages a few gentle half turns in them, but mainly through luck – I have no actual idea what I'm doing beyond what I read in

a book

.

Imagine my excitement, then when my friend Abe messaged me and offered to teach me some of the telemark magic! Abe is a really nice guy, an

excellent photographer

, and a life-long ski-bum. Who better to learn from?

It might surprise some to learn that we have a ski resort in Rovaniemi at Ounasvaara – it's small, and not very high (surprise surprise), but it's nice to have. Abe's been skiing there for twenty years or so (as well as in, you know,

proper mountains

) and he managed to swing me a free telemark ski rental and lift pass from the resort (for which I am very grateful).

After getting geared up, Abe asked where I wanted to start. I looked up at the slopes... Although I've been down them before on alpine skis, it was some years ago, and I really wasn't sure how much I remembered. Baby steps, baby slopes then.

It was a good decision. Abe explained some telemark basics and showed me a few examples. It looked easy enough. I pushed off, and immediately discovered I had forgotten how to ski. Before I know what was happening I was down. Hmmm. This was going to need a slightly different approach.

We rapidly embarked on a downhill refresher course – there was no way I could even contemplate anything remotely telemark-y without re-familiarising myself with the basics. It wasn't long before the concepts came back to me, but my muscle memory was claiming amnesia. It was was quite frustrating. The only thing falling in place was me.

I recalled all the bad initial first days of the past, and remembered that with skiing often, after you take a break, it all comes back to you. Usually something clicks overnight and the second day on the slopes you're flying downhill like a natural (well,

more

 natural). We didn't have a day to take a break, but maybe a quick hot chocolate and some cheesy Euro-pop in the ski cafe would get the juices flowing again.

I sat and watched Finnish three-year-olds ski better than British forty-three year olds. (Incidentally, as I write this, a group of three-year-old kids from daycare are walking by my window carrying cross-country skis, as if to taunt me.)

Refreshed, I agreed to finally braving the slopes. Abe asked if I wanted to change to downhill skis and (perhaps foolishly, in retrospect) I declined. Up, up, up we go, all the way to the very top of the 200m hill (

I know!

), the

sounds of Loreen ringing in my ears

from the cafe.

Coming down was okay. I fell a couple of times and ended up experimenting with some off-piste downhill by accident. I can't say it all came flooding back to me; for some reason it seemed a lot harder than I remembered. Perhaps it was the telemark skis adding a little thrill to the learning curve.

Once I get going, I can keep going fairly well. My problem is stopping. I never really mastered that cool sideways parallel stop, and I seem to favour turning left over turning right. If I need to stop on a right turn, it's pretty much a guaranteed tumble of the gnarly variety.

Abe, of course, was in his element (he did fall once that day, but I suspect he did it just to make me feel better).

Getting down the hill, and getting comfortable with speed. "Speed fixes the mistakes," Abe tells me. I watched as knee-high children whizzed by, my sagging, crest-fallen figure.

Telemark looks so effortless in the hands of pros like Abe. A sweeping, gentle swoosh, a natural line, carving your way down a hill, Norwegian folk music playing gently in the background. I didn't expect to master it in one lesson, of course, but I had hoped to at least manage a half-decent turn. It was not to be.

We took a couple more runs down the slope, but by then my telemark ambitions had been severely cut down to size. I need to master staying on two feet before I attempt skiing on one.

But I'm not giving up. I will rise to fall another day.

My thanks to Jouni "Abe" Laaksomies for his time and patience, and Ounasvaara Ski Resort for the rental and ski pass.

MYOG: Pulk, Pulkka, Ahkio

Q: What do nerdy backpackers say when they get a little bit too excited about making their own gear?

A: OHMYOG!

I'd wanted a pulk (or ahkio, as they are called in Lapland) for some time, and while the professional Fjellpulken pulks really look the part, they are pretty heavy (over 7.5kg with poles and harness), and very expensive – from around €700 for an X-Country, to over €1700 for a Transport 401: a little bit outside my budget. A lot, in fact.

While there is a time and a place for a hardcore pulks, in the gently rolling landscape of Finland they are a little bit overkill for all but the most extreme trips or situations.

Luckily, there's a well-known alternative that you can make yourself using a Paris Expedition sled, and some ingenuity. It may not have all the bells and whistles of a Fjellpulken, but for the kind of "expeditions" I get up to at the moment, I was confident it would be more than enough.

Let me show you how to make one!

I should begin by saying that none of this is my idea. Ed Bouffard – an ex-NOLS instructor – wrote the book on MYOG pulks, and you can download it for free from SkiPulk.com, where you can also buy  parts to make your own Paris Expedition more advanced pulk.

I like to keep things simple, so the pulk I made is the most basic, hassle-free version to be found in the booklet: a simple pipe pulk.

This is just about the easiest MYOG project you can imagine. It takes virtually no skill (high on my list of priorities) and is really cheap. If you live somewhere with a half-decent amount of snow, it's worth making just for the fun of it and the sense of achievement – not to mention the satisfaction at having saved €700.

Here's what you need:

(Note: I made two at the same time, so the image above shows additional materials)

1 x Paris Expedition pulk

About 10m of 8mm cord

2 x carabiners (or similar)

2 x lengths of 12-15mm (1/2 inch) conduit

A short 20cm length of guy cord

I got my Paris Expedition from

Globetrotter.de

 for €39.99. I read you can get them direct from the manufacturer,

EraPro

in the US/Canada, though you might have to buy as a group. In Finland they are available also from

Varuste.net

.

The cord cost around €5, the carabiners €4, and the conduit €4.80. So the total cost for the basic pulk was €53.79! Quite a considerable saving over a Fjellpulken.

There is a

cheaper Paris Expedition made out of a lighter material

, but I think it's better to stick with something that has a little rigidity to it.

Step 1

The first thing to do is thread the cord around the pulk, using the holes that are already provided. The reason for this is that you will distribute the pulling force over the whole pulk, rather than just at the two front holes.

Step 2

When you've threaded the rope all the way around, pull it through  so you have about 2.5m (8.2ft) coming from each of the grommeted holes on the front – although the length of the poles will be shorter, you need some additional play for knots.

At this point it's a good idea to set fire to stuff. Or at least to burn the ends of the cut rope, to stop them from fraying.

Step 3

The first knot you need to tie is right outside the grommet where the rope enters the pulk. This is to stop the cord slipping in and out of the hole. A double overhand will do the trick.

Step 4

Next you need to measure and cur your poles. The purpose of the poles is to stop the pulk sliding into your back when stopping or going downhill. They need to be long enough so that the tail end of your skis don't slap the pulk as you go.

You can find out the approximate length by setting up your skis, and measuring from your hip to the tail of your ski, and then adding some extra to be on the safe side. It's good not to have the poles too long, so you have more control in confined areas.

The SkiPulk .pdf suggests 6 ft / 182cm to be a good length. I cut mine to 190cm.

The conduit is cut easily with a hacksaw.

Step 5

Feet the cord through the conduit, and tie a loop (I used a figure eight on a bight), keeping it as close to the conduit exit as possible. This was the only trick part as it necessitates keeping the pole in place and tying the knot. You could ask someone to hold the pole, and you can always tighten or reposition the knot later if it has too much play.

Step 6

When you use the pulk, the poles are crossed to provide more maneuverability. To keep them together, tie a small loop around them, about half way along their length. You can also duct tape this loop to

one

 of the poles to keep it in position if you want. I didn't bother.

And voila! The finished pulk:

All you need now is to attach the loops to your harness. As I'm an inveterate cheapskate, I thought I'd have a look at my collection of backpacks to see if I could use any of the hipbelts. Lo and behold, my Granite Gear Vapor Trail (now known as the

Crown A.C.

) has an excellent removable hipbelt with stitched webbing perfect for attaching the carabiners. If you don't have a suitable belt, Globetrotter has a

simple harness

on sale which will do the job nicely.

It was time for a test!

After a quick ski around the park, I grabbed the first person I could find and headed off to find a trail.

Although my passenger weighed a scant 12kg (26.5 lb), she seemed satisfied with the smoothness of the ride, until she got a bit fed up and decided she wanted to walk.

Until that point we had been skiing along a relatively clear trail, so I thought I'd head "off-piste".

At first, my

Madshus Eons

coped pretty well with the light, fluffy snow we get here.

But soon, I got that familiar sinking feeling, where one has to break some serious trail.

Until before long...

Around this point I seriously started to wonder whether I should get some

Madshus Annums

, which sound a lot more suitable for backcountry skiing in fluff:

"The 2013 Madshus Annum backcountry skis (formerly Karhu XCD Guide) are the result of many requests from serious backcountry skiers for a waxless, full-metal edge backcountry touring ski that is ultra-fat to absolutely float on super deep soft snow and/or fresh powder when breaking trail and ripping telemark turns on the downhills."

I'd previously thought the Annum's would be overkill, but that description (apart form the bit about ripping telemark turns) seems to accurately describe what I encounter regularly up here. I'd be interested if any Annum users out there can comment.

Anyway, it was fun, and I decided to make an additional modification to the sled.

When testing in the park, I used my toolbox as a load. It fell out on more than one occasion when turning in deep snow. When you're attached to poles and on skis, having to faff around putting things back in a pulk is not particularly enjoyable, so I returned to tke SkiPulk .pdf for advice on adding a load retention system.

I decided to go for the simple shock cord solution, which is very simple, but has a clever modification that enables you to easily load the pulk without having to take off your gloves to tie knots.

First, drill sets of two holes near the existing holes in the pulk, then use the hacksaw to cut entry points so you can slip the cord in easily. 

Drill two single holes at the front of the pulk. Feed one end of the shock cord into one of these holes and tie a knot under the rim to stop it coming out.

Then feed the rope in a criss-cross pattern around the pulk, thus:

You don't have to pull everything really tight - just enough to make sure it's not loose. When you load the pulk, you can quickly remove the sections of cord that you need to. 

The SkiPulk book suggests wrapping your gear burrito-style in a tarp, which can later be used in camp. Ultralight afficionados should of course be aware that this advice does not apply to the lightweight materials used in UL tarps and shelters, which could easily rip. In

Allen & Mike's Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book

, they recommend packing gear in a duffel bag, but you could also easily use a UL backpack – and if you position it with the shoulder straps upwards, with clever packing you can also carry the pulk, attached to your backpack, on your back should you need to cross any more difficult terrrain.

Lastly, you may be wondering why I didn't make an

Incredible Rulk

– of the kind that

Jörgen

and

Joe

made using a Paris Expedition? I decided to make this version this year and see how I get on with it, and adapt it into a rulk next winter. 

Now... to test it for real!

Sidetracked Inspiration

I was, as they say, "well-chuffed" to be asked to write a short guide for a 2 to 3 day hiking route in Lapland by  Sidetracked's Andrew Mazibrada (he of Journeyman Traveler fame). If you've not checked out Sidetracked you should – it offers a collection of interesting, well-written, and excellently presented articles and reports from adventures large and small.

My inspirational guide is definitely from the smaller side of the sidetracks, but nonetheless I thoroughly enjoyed writing it. It's essentially the route from Urho Kekkonen National Park that I wrote about in my recent trip reoprt, and you can read it here.

I think it works nicely as a companion piece to my more existential report on this blog "Scenes from Urho Kekkonen" (which I'm very happy people have been enjoying).

New paths from old

Time to take the dog out again. I can see him itching to run after a few days of short walks. I remember a path I've never taken in Vennivaara, and quickly check the online maps. Surprise, surprise... there's a laavu! Excellent! An opportunity to stop for a coffee and test out a new accessory for my BushBuddy.

Decision made. Off we go.

Damaged duckboards, roots, forest wetland, rocks... Since the arrival of the

fatbikes

, I find myself closely analysing every path I trail for potential bikepacking possibilities. This one would definitely be classed as technical, but I see the unmistakeable tracks of previous riders, so not impossible.

It's exciting to reassess familiar trails in light of new opportunities. With a packraft and a fatbike, the world opens up. An 18km one-way trail which would make a pretty good day hike becomes part of a larger loop on a bike. Throw in a lake or stream and I've got myself a nice little overnighter, right on my doorstep.

This makes me smile.

I continue to explore the new trail. Bright green grass sways verdant near a stream. Cloudberries ripen in the dappled sunshine. Sphagnum moss covers the mires and wetlands, springing underfoot. Rufus takes a dip and bounces around, mad with joy.

Summer is in full swing.

Between Seasons (That Sinking Feeling)

The snow is finally melting! Even the ice has started to break (albeit on the turbulent confluence of the Ounasjoki and Kemijoki), and as I write this I can hear a cacophony of returning arctic terns hanging out on the fringes of the ice.

At this time of year, I'm caught between two seasons: winter on the way out, and summer not quite here. This winter seems to have been especially harsh. We have twice as much snow as we normally do at this time of year, and that snow is hanging on, fragile and unpredictable, showing utter contempt for snow shoes or skis.

But still, the sudden, welcome visibility of running water refreshes the soul, and tempts me to new adventures. 

It's a sensory transformation as much as any other. Gone are the muted sounds of deep snow cover, replaced by the trickle of melt water, and the crystalline tinkling of ice on drifting on the river. A sudden warmth on the face. The smell of earth. All these things bring a smile to my face. It'll soon be time to dig out the trail runners and go hiking.

But every glimpse of grass send me thinking back to just a few weeks ago:

I find wanting one more trip in the crispy white. The roads are clear, and my bike is oiled and ready to roll, but the snow in the forest still tempts me.

On an evening dog walk, I test out the snow. It's corn, but seems like it'll hold my Eons. On the return journey I make a recce up to Ounasvaara to check out the situation on the hill. The ski trails are still there; the tracks are gone, but the heavily compacted trails look pretty good. Best of all, there's nobody else on them. It seems the locals have given up. I sense an opportunity for some solitude.

Okay then. It's decided. I'll give it one more go. Tomorrow. 

When I arrive at the parking area, it is as it was the day before: empty.

It's a public holiday. I really thought there'd be some people out making the most of what remains. The city center was busy, and there were plenty of people walking by the river, but Ounasvaara is silent; forgotten. As if people have turned their backs on winter, refusing to look, hoping that it'll just go away if they ignore it hard enough.

But here I am, giving it one last chance. And as walking is still forbidden, I don my skis.

I slip off and find it surprisingly good going. The trail has just the right amount of snow on it for easy kick'n'glide. I even manage to get up a little speed on the downhill. I'm pleasantly surprised once again by the grip on the waxless Eons.

Hey, this is actually fun. And just as I start to wonder why there aren't more Finns out enjoying the last of the winter glöggi, I see one.

A lone skier skates past me. We look at each other, and experience the "should I say hello or not" moment. I opt for the middle ground and smile. He slides by, impassive, probably thinking I'm mad.

I stop and take in my surroundings for a moment. I realize that this is the same spot I was snow showing in a couple of months ago. It all looked so different then.

On that day, icy fronds coated every branch. I'd seen it before in damp areas, but on this occasion the lichen-like hairs were longer then anything I'd witnessed.

On that trip the snow was deep, dry, and fluffy. You'd sink waist deep into the insubstantial flakes. On this trip I'd soon face another problem.

I get a little bored on the tracks. I mean, the Eons are backcountry skis after all. What's the point of having them if you can't head off the trail and explore the less-travelled areas?

I decided to break off the ski trails, and head for the forest. I have a pretty good idea that the snow won't carry me, so I follow what appears to have once been a snow shoe trail  – indentations and foot prints, which, once compacted, sinter and solidify, leaving a better trail to ski over.

I soon discover I was wise to ski. As I sort-of-float along the hint of a path, I see one sorry soul has gone before me, wearing only shoes. I can't imagine the amount of fun this person had.

It isn't long before I get a first-hand taste of the snow myself. I know around the side of the hill that'll keep me on the level. I head off from the vague trail and immediately get a sinking feeling.

After a couple of meters I'm down in the snow, my skis sunk deep and criss-crossed. I shove the poles deep down and push myself up slowly. Another two meters. This time I don't fall, but the skis dive deep and I create my own mini crevasse.

This is getting tiresome.

I shuffle on. Two kicks forward, then down we go. Pull back the ski. Get it out the snow. Waddle like a slapstick duck. Try again. 

In the distance I see another brave soul, struggling through the slop. I watch for a while to see what he is on. Skis? No. Snow shoes? No. Just shoes? I watch him fall deep into the snow with every step. Yep. Just shoes. It must be a tourist. I can almost hear him sighing in frustration.

I find another faint trail, and decide to try my luck again.

But halfway up the trail vanishes and I hit the same problem. 

I give up and zig-zag up the hill, back to the ski trail, a broken man. You've beaten me, Winter. You're no fun anymore. You're cold and indifferent and you always have to have the last laugh. Sure, you're pretty in your glistening white coat, but I've met someone else: she's warm, open, and generous. She's called Summer and she's coming to get you.

I find the tracks and slide off down the hill, happy at last to be back on reasonable terms. I even squeeze off a slip-shod half telemark turn on my quivering legs at the bottom of the hill. I take little pride in this, and promise to return next year and master the skills.

Stupidly, with one success under my belt, I decide to give the forest one more go. 

It's the same. Utterly pointless. Today is a good day to give up and go home.

I back track to the swamp, glad to be taking the easy route. Soon, all this snow will be gone and I'll be walking on the duckboards that still lie deep undercover.

Soon. But not yet.

Back at the car I take of my slush-coated skis. There's a hotel at the top of the hill, mainly used during the ski season, but closed now (although I'm pretty certain you could still get a couple of good runs if you were determined).

I remember there's a good view from the roof of the hotel, and climb up. I'd forgotten how good. Lapland opens up around me, low, squat, but unmistakeable. 

I look longingly to the North, where the hills start to rise, and the untamed Ounasjoki river calls. Both are still snow and ice-bound, but not for much longer. I can feel it.

I'm through with you, Winter. You've been great, but you're one of those awkward types that never knows when it's time to leave the party. It's already April 30th, and way past your bedtime. Your days are numbered.

How do I know?

Because it's 23:30, and there's a light on the horizon.

Reconnecting

Hey, you missed the turning! Where are you going?

I thought we'd go somewhere different. Somewhere we used to go, back in the old days.

Why?

I thought it'd be nice, that's all... We don't get to go out much on long walks anymore. Don't you miss that?

Is is far? I kinda need to pee.

It's not that far. Don't you remember? Twenty minutes or so.

Oh, man! I wish you'd told me. I could have gone before we left.

Quit whining.

Why?

Because I'm trying to drive, and the whining is getting annoying. You never used to do that.

I do now. Whining's cool. 

Not from where I'm sitting.

Get used to it. Are we there yet?

No.

Okay. I'll just whine some more.

Great. Thanks Rufus.

No problemo, Elton.

Elton?? WTF?

If you get to name me after some queer songwriter...

Rufus Wainwright is a great songwriter. What did you want to be called?

Thor. 

Hmmm. Maybe if you were a German Shepherd. But you're a Spaniel.

Whatever, Elton. Are we there yet?

Yes.

Come on!

I'm coming. I just have to grab the gear.

You're taking forever. I'm going to run over here for a bit.

Well, don't go too far!

As if! When have I ever gone too far?

Well there was that time with the elk. And the reindeer. And that hare. Hey... come back here and wait for me!

You're so

slow!

Yeah, well, I want to take a picture.

Of what?

The river.

Why, man?

It looks awesome!

It's just a river. You can't walk on a river. Let's go!

Just hang on.

Oh for pete's sake. You're taking another one?

It's for the blog.

You're still writing that thing?

Well, I'm trying too. It's kind of hard at the moment.

You should let me write it. I've got all the time in the world. I could do a guest post on ultralight canine footwear.

You don't wear any.

I've been meaning to talk to you about a vapor barrier liner system.

You're a dog. Seriously... Let me take this picture and let's go.

I thought you said we were going now!

I have to put on my snowshoes.

Oh no...

What?

You're going to start going on about how awesome your hiking gear is, aren't you?

I wasn't going to "go on" about it. Just mention that my MSR Lightning Ascents are performing well, but the buckles still annoy me occasionally. There. All done.

Hmmm... We'll see. Which way now?

Left.

Why can't we go right?

I like going left.

How come everyone else goes right?

I don't know.. Maybe it's a Finnish vs. English thing. I like going clockwise.

Well, I'm going right.

No you're not.

Watch me, sucker.

This way.

Nah, this way's much better. I'm off. See ya!

I've got cheese.

Okay. Coming.

So how far is this little walk of yours?

Not far. Up the hill and down again. You really don't remember? We used to do this all the time.

Oh hang on... this isn't one of those walks where you expect me to sleep

outside

 is it?

Oh, so you remember that!

Oh yeah. It was raining and freezing cold in the middle of summer. I started to shiver and nearly died.

It wasn't that bad. I gave you my fleece! Drama queen. Rufus really was the perfect name for you.

Which way now, Elton?

Well, if we go left we got to that laavu, but it's longer. If we cut through the forest it's shorter, but there's no trail and the snow looks pretty deep.

Thanks for stating the obvious. Let's take the short cut. It looks more fun.

It looks pretty hard going.

I thought those snowshoes had "maximum floatation"?

They do... but this is the wrong kind of snow.

Are you working for British Rail now?

Let's go the laavu way. At least someone's walked that way.

Whatever.

Hey – I think there's some sausage here. You want some?

Nah, I'm good.

I think I've figured out why they walk the other way around.

Oh, really? Your lemon-sized dog brain has discovered higher reasoning, huh?

It's pretty obvious. They go up the hill, then come down and stop here at the laavu for food. If we go the way you obstinately insist on going, there's nowhere to sit down at the end.

You're not saying much. I'm right aren't I?

No. And anyway, there's a picnic table at the top of the hill near the viewing tower. We're going to stop and have tea there. Let's get moving. I've got it all planned.

Uh-huh. We'll see about that.

Okay, this

is

pretty hard going.

I'm doing fine.

Yeah, well, you're walking behind me, aren't you.

I'm not stupid.

Jesus!

Where?

What?

You said, "Cheese!"

No. "Jesus." This damned snow.

So where's the cheese?

There is no cheese! It's the snow. The stupid snow shoes are sinking straight down. I might as well not be wearing them. I bought the long versions specifically because I was tall and they're supposed to make me float above the snow like some kind of weightless angel, but they don't. This sodding snow is too soft and fluffy. I'm knackered and we haven't even got to the hill yet... Hey! Where'd you go?

Huh? Oh, I found something more interesting over here.

What is it?

A piece of dirt.

Thanks.

Or maybe it's reindeer shit. Hmm. Let me see... Yep. Reindeer shit. 

Awesome. So I'm less interesting than reindeer shit to you?

Pretty much.

I have cheese.

Now you're talking!

I dunno. Maybe we should turn back. This is hard going.

What are you? A man or a chihuahua? 

I'm an unfit chihuahua of a man. It's pathetic. This isn't even a proper hill.

Then quit whining. That's my job. Come on. I'll lead the way for a bit.

Okay. But I might have to stop every now and then.

Don't worry, I'll keep an eye on you.

Cheers.

Hey look! That sign about the amusing lichen is here, and that rock thing you're always going on about is just up ahead. 

The glacial erratic? That means we're nearly at the top!

How did I know you were going to say that?

Wow, Rufus! We made it! We're at the top! Look how deep the snow is! The snow and wind have completely erased the trail.

How are we going to find our way?

Don't worry, I know a dog with a really good sense of smell.

Heheh. It's pretty cool up here, man! Look at that sign! It's almost buried in snow!

Yeah. And that's not the only thing.

Whaddaya mean?

Well, remember that picnic table I was planning to stop at for a nice cup of tea?

Uh-huh...

Well, one small flaw in that plan...

Yeah. Maybe not such a great plan.

Perhaps we should forget it and keep moving.

Yeah, we can always stop at that nice laavu at the end of... Oh... Wait a minute. We're going the wrong way around, aren't we?

Very funny, smartass.

So we're up here at the top of a hill. The trail has vanished under 1.5 meters of snow. The wind is howling. It's -10ªC. It's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses.

What??

Come on, man! Blues Brothers!

Is that what you get up to while we're out? Watching my old DVDs?

DVDs? Hello, Grandad! iTunes?

How about you cut the sarcasm and find the trail, big nose?

You're one to talk... How about some cheese?

You ate it all.

I can smell it still!

That's my cheese. For emergencies.

Your cheese??? I thought we were a team? 

Can't you find weevils in birch bark or something?

Here. I'll share the cheese. Anything for a peaceful life. Now come on. It's cold and I don't want to take off my Laufbursche huckePACK and put on my down jacket...

Here we go again...

Hey...

What?

You're walking on my snow shoe tails!

It's easier.

Not for me. I can't lift them with you standing on them.

It's really deep! I keep falling in.

I know... but it won't be for long. Once we get off the top and out the wind the trail will reappear. Just keep off my tails and stay behind me.

Hey look! There's a couple of Finns coming this way! Also known as "the right way." I'm going to go and annoy them.

Okay.

This is

much

 better now. They made a path for us.

Yeah. We made one for them too, though.

Yeah, true. Hey - take a heroic photo of me.

I'll do my best.

Awesome! I look noble.

Well done, Thor.

Heheh.

Hey - I wanted to try out this live video thing too. Bambuser.

That's a bit of a stupid name. But sure, go for it.

What do you think? People all over the world just saw you live!

By "people all over the world", you meant about 3 losers with nothing else better to do than watch a dog run through snow, right?

Well, "losers" is a pretty harsh criticism. I do that all the time.

I rest my case. But whatever floats your boat, man. I'm just enjoying myself.

You are?

Yeah. Aren't you?

Yes. I am. But we're almost at the end.

I sense another romantic landscape photo op coming up...

You could be right.

Lovely.

It is, isn't it? So what do you say? Had enough? Time to go home?

 I guess so.

This was good though. I'm glad we came here. I think we needed it.

Yeah. It was just like old times.