Extreme cold. Sure these images do look cold. They´re from the time back doing the Kolyma Expedition 2004-5. Our thermometers only went to -58 degrees Celsius, so we never knew if it actually was colder or not, but according to friends in Yakutsk, the cold along the Kolyma very seldom go below this. Not like in Yakutsk, Verkhoyansk and Oymyakon! But for us, -58 was cold enough. It is almost impossible to describe the pain involve din living outdoors which we do for a lot of the time, Johan Ivarsson and me. And pulling our 330 pounds sledges (Fjellpulken), causing us to sweat, since snow turns into sandlike resitance when temperatures hit below -48 degrees Celsius. BUT, than again, note this, this just normal temperatures and in many instances, life for the locals. Even though they today don´t haul our weights, sleeping outdoors in a tent is very common for furhunters and reindeer herders. Yes, they have stoves, but turn them off in the night. So we were no heroes indeed. The local people, yes, the best of the best!
My year canoing and skiing the Kolyma River together with Johan Ivarsson completely changed my life. Nothing was ever the same after that. Except Johan and me! It was a tough start in the canoe, so much gear, so much water, thunderstorms, whitewater, speed, but it was truly the dream of freedom and complete wilderness. The Norwegian Canoe in itself Ally was incredible and the only damage, as far as I remember, was helpful Siberians! It was the freest, freshest, most relaxed, peaceful time of my life. After that I grew up! And a roller coaster in all directions began. I miss Siberia often, though I don´t dwell on it a lot. Just happy I have had the privilige to be there at that time.
We thought hunting and fishing with be so easy in Siberia! Such an enormous place, lots of fish and wildlife like moose, bears and wild reindeer, But a typhoon moved in 2nd day and we had serious, serious problems with the storms, the fast water and hardly any…fish or sightings of wildlife. Until the day we found a stream in the enormous clouds of mosquitoes, gnats and flies and got our first graylings. From this moment, things got easier. Until the extreme cold came. These first three months, probably the best in my life before the girls arrived.
Siberia changed my life in many ways, for good and bad. The main reason was the incredibly amazing local people on route. Their warmth, generosity and friendship is completely contrary to the extreme winter cold. Here´s a few of the greatest of Siberians on route and I often think back to these fantastic people, which I rate as the best I have ever come across after visiting over a 100 plus countries. Around 120 I think.
Either you have it or not. Local Siberians say, if you are not born in this vast area, you can never survive on fishing and hunting. Our idea was to be self sufficient at least until the winter. But without people and settlements along the Kolyma, we would not have survived, though the closer we got the ices freezing up, the better we got. But when winter came, impossible. But we had a great time!
What is it like sleeping in a tent when it is close to -60 degrees Celsius (-76 F)? Often during lectures I have men coming up to me saying, I have slept in -40 one night. And they look very proud. Fine. The difference is that most of them have not pulled a 330 pound heavy sledge and spent long periods in darkness and outside on skis. That makes things slightly more complicated. For me, I just didn´t hardly sleep at all. At times unrelenting pain, others you just shake until you are tired enough to nod off briefly. Elbows, knees and your nose which sticks up to be able to get some air, you turn as often as you have energy to do it. Getting up, to use a proper word in an Arctic winter setting, it is a nightmare. At times our petrol was frozen and not usable, we just chewed anything rockhard, got up, got the things on the sledge, moved into those harnesses, tried to get those heavy pulkas moving. Like being in an Arctic prison, eyes froze up immediately due to the warmth from inside of pure movemnet. It is cold. And, yes, Börge Ousland hates my sleeping bag and always brings it up. It did it´s job. And two Swedes survived it…;-) Kolyma 2004-05