Oslo - Mile 0 - Jun 19th, 2018
``You cannot pick up a bag and start for the North Pole as you would go to Philadelphia... It will take all of two years to get ready... [T]he food has to be especially carefully prepared, otherwise the men get scurvy, and it is no use to be an explorer unless you live to come back.`` -Roald Amundsen
Like Amundsen, my plan for a grand Arctic trek began about two years ago. In its earliest formulations, it was on a much greater, and far less practical scale than it ended up. Initially, I wanted to hike the entire E1 Long-Distance Trail, one of the European Ramblers` Association`s 14 Long-Distance Trails which crisscross Europe. That 5,000 mile hike, from the southern tip of Italy to the northern tip of Norway, would have taken well over half a year to through-hike, and more money than I have (and certainly more than I would have had, had I not worked through most of this year in order to fund this hike).
After looking through a multitude of online resources, I quickly realized that first plan`s impracticality, and gradually shortened the plan; starting in Switzerland, then Germany, then southern Sweden. Finally, I settled on hiking just the two northernmost portions of the E1: the Nordkalottruta (Arctic Trail), running from Sulitjelma to Kautokeino, both in Norway, and the recently-constructed section of trail from Kautokeino to the North Cape (as close as we`ll get to the North Pole).
Early in my planning, I realized that a trek such as this would be both more enjoyable and more practical if it were to be a group endeavor. The natural choice for a hiking partner was, of course, my outdoors-loving, Scandinavian-American friend Liam. The duo soon became a trio with the addition of our mutual friend from school and scouting, Sam, and then a quartet when Liam invited his friend Kristian, a Norway native, to join us. I`m told that four is the ideal size for a functional group, and I`m looking forward to putting that to the test.
The Nordkalottruta starts and ends in Norway, but it crosses the border with Sweden 15 times, and enters twice into Finland as well. (Conveniently, this requires that we carry three different currencies: Norwegian Kroner, Swedish Kronor, and Euros). The entire hike will take place above the Arctic Circle. The first portion will take us through the northern portion of the Scandinavian Mountains, similar in stature to the Appalachians (but with decidedly fewer trees). As we continue north, the terrain will gradually flatten into a marshy tundra. The final portion of the hike will take us across the island of Mageroya, and to the North Cape, the northernmost European point accessible by foot or car. All in all, we hope to hike 640 miles.
The long-form story of our planning and preparation for this trip probably merits its own blog post, which I may or not get to writing (this next week will be our busiest yet). The short form is that all four expedition members, despite frustrations, complications, and miscommunications, have dedicated an impressive amount of time and energy (I don`t even want to think about the money) to turning our crazy dream into a reality. I think I can speak for my expedition-mates in saying that we`re incredibly excited to finally be embarking on the journey we`ve been talking about for two years, not to mention incredibly thankful to our parents, siblings, friends, scout leaders, and everyone else who has supported our vision.
More updates soon, as we explore Oslo and Trondheim, and prepare to hit the trail, hopefully within the week! In the meantime, if you haven`t already, please consider pledging a donation to IWGIA, an amazing human rights organization, on our HikeFor page!
Eli, Liam, Sam, and Kristian
Oslo - Mile 0 - Jun 19th, 2018