I just got back from an epic 3 week work trip to Överkalix. Together with local guides and experts Niclas Bentzer, Robin Landin, Henrik Drugge, Rikard Boudin and Daniel Cedering I went out to scout trails in the region. Special guest Peter Mild joined us as well. Like Niclas he is a Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra veteran and it was great to get immediate feedback from people who participaqte in winter ultra events. Linnea Nilsson-Waara from Överkalix Kommun had co-ordinated everything perfectly and we had the best possible weather conditions. Pretty much two weeks of sunshine during the day and about one week of Northern Lights at night. Temperatures ranged from about – 25 degrees Celsius to – 10 degrees Celsius.
In seven days we drove our snowmobiles for about 600 km, to check existing trails and connections between them, to keep track of distances, elevation, possible checkpoints, shelters, significant waypoints and much more. To summarize the experience: IT WAS INCREDIBLE! The trails around Överkalix have everything to offer we are looking for. Frozen rivers, lakes and swamps, forests and hills with landscapes that seem from another planet. So, that part is pretty similar to what I know from the Yukon. One of the differences is that there are more twists and turns in the trail and we have more ups and downs in Sweden. This means that temperatures at the Lapland Arctic Ultra will be less extreme but the trail is more challenging. This will especially be true if there is a lot of fresh snow. There are also more crossings of trails and community roads in some areas. Most of these are not ploughed and thus not dangerous but some do have traffic and a couple of times we will need to cross larger roads with traffic. There athletes need to be carful and pay extra attention.
We still have a couple of decisions to make on some of the trail options we have. Our shorter distance will likely remain at around 185 km. For the second and longer loop we will decide soon. The distance of the longer race will likely come in at around 500 km.
Initially, some of the trails we broke ourselves and they were very soft. At one point I was very sceptical that these trails would be possible for fatbikes. Luckily I had been able hike parts of these trails 1 week later. A few nights of – 25 degrees Celsius in between and I needed no snowshoes. When I was on the trails it was actually snowing a lot. I still needed no snowshoes because it was very fluffy snow but it sure slowed down my sled. What will still make it challenging for fatbikers is the elevation. Having seen Niclas and Linnea on their xc-skis I think the Lapland Arctic Ultra will be great for this discipline! In the Yukon I normally tell people to think twice. The extreme cold is just so hard on hands and feet with the guys on skis. In Sweden, with less extreme temperatures and ups and downs, skiing should actually be fun. Especially with fresh snow everybody on skis will be at an advantage. BUT just like in the Yukon, you need to have the right skis and boots and you need to know how to use them. I will soon write a bit more about what gear is recommended.
If you want to check out some of the scenery we came across, please have a look at my Youtube Channel. There I uploaded videos of days 2 to 7 of trail scouting. At the end of this week I will hopefully have images uploaded to our gallery, too.
I am already getting a lot of enquiries about when the Montane Lapland Arctic Ultra 2022 will take place. I would love to be able to answer that question. However, I am currently waiting for the Yukon Quest to set their date for 2022. Then I can decide on the timing for the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra and the Montane Lapland Arctic Ultra. I am hoping for a start in the Yukon on the first weekend in February and a start in Sweden in the second week in March. It’s just that this could change considerable if the Quest breaks with their traditional timing. Once the decisions are made I will put out an update immediately.