Clothing to meet Mother Nature head on.

Arctic Training and Expedition part 1

Posted: Feb 13 2012

I have spent the last four days running through ATE's Arctic Expedition training intro course and hence have not had time to write about it......so here it is a few days late!
First of all a quick intro.....ATE are a company based in Central Norway made up of experts in the field of Arctic travel and expedition. They also have access to experts in outdoor skills, cooking and living in nature. Between them, they have a massive amount of knowledge and experience, and hence have started a business to train people in these crafts. Clients range from serious polar explorers all the way to people who want to learn the basic skills needed to live out in the cold. It's also a great way to test yourself a little if your thinking of doing anything remotely like an expedition. Lets face it, it's better to figure out it's not for you on a mountain side in Norway rather than half way across the North Pole!!!
    So Petter Thorsen of ATE had invited me and some like minded friends to try out the new course they are offering for beginners. The course aims to give you a taste of expedition life, knowledge on clothing, food, hydration, travel, skiing etc etc
   We left freezing Gatwick for an equally cold Tronheim......although it felt much colder in Gatwick even though the actually temperature (1C) was higher than Trondheim (-2C). Petter picked us all up and drove us up to Storlien just across the border in Sweden. It's a small ski resort town in an ideal location for the kind of stuff we would be doing. Accommodation was at the Storvallensfjallgard which is about two kilometers from the town. The accommodation was great, with fantastic food, drying rooms and a Sauna after a hard days skiing! The hosts Tina and Niklaus are lovely and welcoming people, and nothing was a problem for them......including putting on a dinner for the late arrivals who got in at ten thirty at night!
     So day one started with a lovely breakfast and some lectures on Skis, clothing and arctic basics. For me, this was fantastic and exactly the kind of small details that I had hoped for. Of course, they recommend Brynje products, especially the mesh Super Thermo, but it's not because they are sponsored by them (they are not) but because they know that is what works best.....and they've used it at the Poles to prove it!
I will not go  through everything here.......you'll have to do the course....but we spent a few hours just going through kit basics.  To see if we had all taken it in, Petter asked us to go and get dressed ready to ski for some hours. It was -7C outside and blowing. So it was Super Thermo boxers, Classic Original Merino longs, Skald soft shell pants, Classic Original Zip Polo, Classic merino long sleeve shirt and the Skald Jacket.....along with the Skald mountain hat. When we got outside everyone was very eager to get going to warm up. The key to dressing is to get dressed for how you will feel 10 minutes into the skiing. If you get dressed to be warm the minute you walk out, you'll be guaranteed to over heat once you warm up skiing.


















After a shaky start by the non-skiers (which was inevitable to be fair to them), we got underway on a 5km trail. Everyone picked up the skills very well, and before long the whole group was moving with relative comfort. Downhills still posed some challenges though, but this is the hardest part to master on expedition skis.
The weather started to deteriorate a little with the wind picking up and snow falling. Temperature dropped to -10C with wind chill driving it down to -20C. Everyone was kitted out with  Brynje Super Thermo mesh and all to a man agreed that it was the key to keeping them warm in the conditions. The Skald kit was also fantastic, keeping the wind out, but breathing well. The fur hood was especially welcome as the wind tried to get in to any exposed gaps in the clothing. As you can see, most people had hoods up at this point, but my Brynje Sklad mountain hat kept me warm by blocking any wind and keeping my head warm. Its a great hat for these conditions!
    Everyone made it back to the hotel safe and sound were we had some lunch and coffee. There was a lot of talk about how we had dressed and some people changed for the afternoon ski session. Again, weather was down to -10C and windy in the afternoon, but everyone was eager again to try their new skills on a slightly longer route. We ended up doing more climbing and got up and out of the trees. Lovely mountains vistas opened up and made all the hard work worth it.
With the light fading rapidly, we made it down from the hills through some "tasty" little descents. There were a few stumbles and some people ate a lot of snow! Once back at the hotel however it was shower and sauna time followed by a lovely dinner. Once we had digested, Petter showed us footage and pictures of the trips to the North Pole, Greenland and Svalbard. Again, there was much detail passed on as almost every picture revealed another interesting bit of knowledge to share.
So day one ended with a few beers, tired bodies but lots of smiles!

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