Snowshoes are mandatory gear for this race. You hopefully will not need them all the time but in warmer temperatures, when the snow becomes very soft, snowshoes will help you. Also, it is fairly normal in Swedish-Lapland that there is heavy snowfall at any time in winter. In those weather conditions snowshoes will be absolutely vital to get you from A to B. Even if we break trail for you again with snowmachines, the trail will be very soft and you will likely want to use your snowshoes to make good progress.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I best transport my water?
One thing is for sure, you should take along as much water as you can. In the cold you dehydrate very quickly and melting snow takes a long time. Athletes often can’t be bothered to get out their stoves to get snow melted. They decide to go on without drinking. Depending on how long the distance to the next checkpoint is, this can cause serious trouble.
If in addition you take a hydration baldder you should carry it on top of your first layer of clothing and underneath any other layers you wear. The tube and the mouthpiece should be insulated. There actually are hydration bladders for winter sports but it is also possible to do the insulation DIY. Remember to blow any liquid out of the tube when you are done drinking.
You definitely need 3 litres of insulated thermos bottles (see also Rules). These are quite heavy but there is nothing like hot chocolate or tea when you are really cold. In addition you can try transporting coke in a plastic bottle and attaching a heat pad to it. If you wrap this in some piece of clothing it will stay liquid for quite some time. But be careful. If it gets too cold the bottle may explode and get your gear wet.
How cold does it get?
The extreme temperatures in March, in some areas of the trail may go down to minus 30 degrees Celsius and colder. It is more likely that temperatures at night only go down to around – 20 degrees C. However, it is impossible to make reliable predictions. Anything is possible. Also, don’t forget the wind chill. Minus 25 degrees and wind will make it extremely cold, too.
How do I prevent frostbite and hypothermia?
Frostbite and hypothermia are a threat of any winter environment. Never make the mistake of thinking it won’t happen to you. It can happen very quickly. Some things to keep in mind:
- If you have problems with the blood circulation in your feet or hands the MLAU is not the race you should go to.
- Don’t wait until you get cold. Do something before that happens, i.e. put on a layer, rest, build a fire, sleep, drink something hot – depending on the circumstances.
- It’s important that you don’t get hot, either. If you sweat and then later on temperatures get colder your clothes will freeze solid.
- In addition to having the right clothes for extreme temperatures, you might want to take along chemical heat pads. They are not expensive and very good if your fingers are getting cold.
- If temperatures get too cold for moving to the next checkpoint, we recommend you make a fire. Building a fire will keep your body temperature up and the fire you can use to warm up and to melt snow/ice for a hot drink.
- Melting ice is more efficient than melting snow. That means if you are near a creek or lake it may be worth your while getting ice. However, you will need someting to cut the ice, like a small axe.
- You need to drink and eat well. Your body can deal a lot better with the cold if you take care of these basic needs.
- Make sure you can operate your stove and other equipment with gloves on.
- Under all circumstances try to avoid getting stove fuel on your skin when it is extremely cold. It can result in immediate frostbite.
- Be prepared for life threatening situations like extreme cold and getting into overflow. Develop scenarios how you deal with these situations. What to do first? Where are my matches and stromproof lighter? Where are my clothes for changing?
- Take along fire starter (several options available locally e.g. at Canadian Tire) in order to build a wood fire fast. Make sure you get it right the first time, i.e. use dry wood, don’t build the fire on a snow base (make a hole).
- If you have a down sleeping bag, use a Vapour Barrier Liner. Also, look into buying Vapour Barrier liner gloves and socks.
- If you borrow a sleeping bag or buy a used one make sure it has kept its loft. A sleeping bag that was stored the wrong way may have lost a lot of its capacity to warm you.
- Be very careful if you take your hydration bladder with you into the sleeping bag. Valves may defreeze and leak or the entire bladder bursts. Both has happened!
Also, please check out our section on Hypothermia & Frostbite.
Will I get water and food at the checkpoints?
Yes, all checkpoints will have hot water. Upon leaving a checkpoint we will provide water for you. At remote checkpoints it is good to let staff/volunteers know when you will need water and how much as water supply gets tight if everyone leaves at the same time and we don’t know about it in advance.
Regarding food we will have to see if Covid-19 will have an effect on this. At this point, we planning on providing food at most checkpoints. Please keep checking for news updates on this as it is possible we make some changes regarding food.
Even if we do provide food at all checkpoints, please keep in mind that you need extra food for sure. One meal a day from us is not enough. A good way to take care of meals is to use lightweight freeze dehydrated expedition food. You only need to add hot water and within minutes you have a great meal. Also, keep in mind that you need extra food in case of an emergency and being stuck between checkpoint or if you get lost. Also, you should have a good amount of food you can snack while you are on the move.
How is the trail marked?
The trail is marked. For our first edition, it will likely be a combination of existing and temporary trail markers. All markers will have some form of reflective and possibly also tape to identify them as race markers. You will still need common sense at times, especially if snowmobiles have driven over sticks or new snow and wind are covering the markers.
People have gone to sleep next to the trail and gone the wrong way once they got up again. Dehydration and exhaustion are also likely to get you lost or in trouble, even if the trail is well marked. Please remember that.
How often will the guides on snowmobiles check on us?
Under normal circumstances you will see our guides out on the trail at least once in 24 hours. Usually you will actually see them more often but in case of bad weather or evacuations they might be caught up and thus take a little longer to travel up and down the trail. However, you will not see our guides out on the trail at night. There are no routine trail checks at night and nor do we respond “Help” messages at night.
What do I need to know about the drop bags?
- For the MLAU you can make use of a travelling drop bag for the 500 km distance.
- For your drop bag please use something that does not break easily and can be labeled well. Please do not use plastic bags. With all the loading and unloading they break and it becomes a big mess.
- When you label the bag please keep in mind that a tape put on the bag also easily comes off (especially with the cold). Attach the label in a way that does not come off so easily.
- The bags may be in the cold for a couple of nights, i.e. in an enclosed trailer. So, please don’t put anything in there that breaks or explodes (e.g. coke bottle) if it’s in the cold.
- Don’t put anything in there that is fragile, e.g. cameras, phones. We don’t throw the bags around but they will be transported in a pile.
- Don’t put anything of great value in there (no passports, jewelery, cash). Your valuables should be with you.
- If you drop out during the race it could happen that your bag arrives there after you.
- When not needed anymore, the bags will be brought to the checkpoint in Överkalix.
How should I plan my arrival and departure dates?
How should I plan my arrival and departure dates?
If you do not have prior cold weather experience do not forget to include the training course in your travelling schedule. It takes place the four days before race start in Överkalix. If you don’t do the training course it still makes sense to fly in a couple of days early. That way you can acclimatise. And most important of all you won’t have to “freak out” if your luggage does not make it right away.
IMPORTANT: Sometimes bulky luggage (pulk sled …) is late. In that case it will help you if you packed some vital gear in your suitcase rather then the oversized luggage.
For departure from Sweden don’t plan your schedule too tight, i.e. it is recommended you only book a flight back for the day after the time limit of your respective race distance. You should also consider that you may be very exhausted. It is always recommendable to put your feet up in your accommodation for at least a day before you go back and have to sit in a plane for hours and hours.
Which checkpoints have got internet access?
Cell phone coverage, in the area we will be in, is very good. 4G is available almost everywhere. So, provided you have got the right contract, you can also access the internet. That certainly goes for Överkalix and checkpoints with road access and communities along the way.
At which checkpoints can I sleep inside?
We have not made a final decision as to which checkpoint will have sleeping space inside. Please keep an eye on news updates.
If you are a light sleeper it is sometimes actually better to rest before or after a checkpoint. Since at checkpoints there are often people coming and going, eating, sorting kit, etc. So, there is a certain noise level.
Should I take a tent?
It depends. For our race in the Yukon, traditionally a lot of athletes like to just use a bivy. Although, there have been more and more people over the years using a tent. Seeing that in Swedish Lapland it is more likely we get more snow, a tent is definitely a good option. If you do not have one, you should have a tarp and know how to use it. Otherwise, you risk getting snowed in.
Will we get a GPS track?
We do not plan on providing a full GPS-track of the trail. Mainly this is due to the fact that the trail can change from one year to the next. And it even may change on short notice – due to overflow or other reasons. Athletes who are tired may make the mistake to follow their GPS rather than focussing on the trail ahead and the trail markers. If they do that, they can get into some very dangerous situations. It is still good to have a GPS, though. It can tell you at what speed you are traveling at. Which in turn will allow you to take a better guess as to when you reach a checkpoint, when to take a break, etc. Also, if you really do get lost, you can back-track with the GPS or find a way to a checkpoint (as we do have the co-ordinates for checkpoints). But please keep in mind that walking off a trail and cross-country to a checkpoint, certainly when it is still far away, should be your last resort. Don’t forget, if even a good rest does not help you get back, you can use your Garmin inReach to let us know you need help.
We do give out maps of the trail but like the GPS these are for rough orientation only. Since the trail on the maps is based on a GPS-track that is not updated every year, the trail can be different. So, keep in mind: follow the trail markers and use common sense.
What is a Garmin inReach and how does it work?
The Garmin inReach is a satellite based tracker and communication device. It is mandatory for both distances, i.e. 185 and 500 km. As with any technology, there are pros and cons. But overall the positive aspects are more than the negative ones.
If the tracking function is active a Garmin inReach regularly sends its position via satellite. In our specific case it will be every 20 minutes. Thus we know where you are and so do friends and family back home. During the race a link to the map will be placed in a prominent position on our website.
In addition the Garmin inReach allows you to inform us if you plan to rest between two checkpoints and if you need help. In case of an emergency you can also push the “SOS” button. The main reason we have the inReach is for the SOS function. The SOS message to us means there is an absolutely life threatening situation. This also means if there is no life threatening situation, IT CAN’T BE PUSHED! Please keep in mind that the cost for a 911 rescue operation can be enormous and it has to be paid by you or your insurance. Furthermore, you do not want to use up public resource that may be needed somewhere else when it is not absolutely necessary. Obviously, if life is at risk it just has to be done. But if you are lost, tired, exhausted or have any other problem that a good rest and common sense can solve, do not push that button.
If it’s not an emergency and a good rest is of no help you can message us with pre-set message texts and/or type an individual text and ask for our help. You can do this if you have a problem and want to end your race then and there. But otherwise you are fine and will wait for us to come.
You also need to message (pre-set “I am bivying” message) us if you plan to have a longer rest between two checkpoints. That way we will know that your tracker is not moving but you are fine.
The cons of the inReach are that of course athletes can call for help when they really could have solved the problem themselves. Or they decided to message rather than going back to a checkpoint. Mind you, if you can’t walk anymore, that’s fine. Send the message. But being tired is no reason. Please just take a good rest and decide then. Because if we have to pick up someone who is actually perfectly fine and at the same time something serious happens, it is bad to have resources bound.
Another con is that it’s technology and it does not always work. Usually this is due to not operating the device correctly. But it also may be technical failure. It means we don’t get a signal and people back home start to worry. In most cases race headquarter knows what’s going on, e.g. because we got in-/out times of a checkpoint or just recently had contact with the athlete.
To sum it up, the safety that inReach brings to the race make it worth its while. The rental fee (tracking service, shipment and set-up included) is EUR 80.00/unit for the 500 km and EUR 60.00/unit for the 185 km. Individual text messages going out are EUR 1.00/message. All rates include Swedish VAT. Messages being received are also EUR 1.00/message but this is paid by MLAU.
If you bring your own inReach, there is a set-up fee of EUR 25.00. All athletes who bring their own inReach need to let us know by end of December at the latest. If we have not heard from you we will assume you need a rental unit and we will order one for you.
All athletes who bring their own inReach, please note that we will need some information from you and of course you need an active contract with Garmin.
What literature is usefull/interesting when preparing for the MLAU?
One of the things anyone preparing for the MLAU should do, is to read some of the great literature that is out there. There is a lot of reading material on winter survival, expeditions in cold regions and so on. A while back I asked in our MYAU facebook group, what books people found useful when getting ready for their Arctic adventures. Here are some of the suggestions:
- Yucan: Achieve any Big Goal using the 7P formula for success (English Edition) by Neil Thubron (winner MYAU 300 mile race, foot category, 2015)
- The Yukon Arctic Ultra: Ultra Marathon Adventure Racing Across Canada’s Frozen North by Mark Hines
- Fartleks & Flatulence by David Berridge
- Lure of the Quest: One Man’s Story of the 1025-mile Dog-sled Race Across North America’s Frozen Wastes, by John Balzar
- 8,000 Miles Across Alaska: A Runner’s Journeys on the Iditarod Trail, by Jill Homer and Tim Hewitt
- Into the North Wind: A thousand-mile bicycle adventure across frozen Alaska, by Jill Homer
- Ghost Trails: Journeys Through a Lifetime, by Jill Homer
- Canyons and Ice: The Wilderness Travels of Dick Griffith, by Kaylene Johnson-Sullivan
- Trails That Never End, by Tim Kelley
- Performing in Extreme Environments, by Lawrence Armstrong
- To Build a Fire, by Jack London
- South Pole Epic: First Bike Expedition to the South Pole, by Daniel Burton
- Alone in Antarctica, by Felicity Aston
- 300-Mile Man, by Phillip Gary Smith
- Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic, by Jennifer Niven
- On Thin Ice, by Eric Larsen