I felt the warmth on my face as the afternoon sun crept through the mountain ridges, my body hot from from the layers of winter clothing and the gore-tex jacket and pants keeping all the moisture in. My winter backpack weighing in at 11 kilos and well prepared for anything the cold winter night could throw my way. I had been longing for this moment for over 4 months, planning, preparing and daydreaming about this very scene, the skis under my feet, backpack on my back and the magnificent mountainous regions stretching as far as my eyes could see.

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I had planned everything in the minutest of details, nothing left to chance, this far out in the Swedish wilds in the middle of winter is nothing to take lightly. -20 degrees and fridged wind blowing through the valley, even the slightest mistake could lead to serious problems.

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My skis, a pair of Madshus Glittertind backcountry skis are made for this kind of backcountry touring, my poles and my trusty ski boots all fitted and working in unison, propelling me across the harsh arctic landscape. A smile is stuck on my face, and sheer joy has taken over my consciousness. Then, from out of nowhere I hear a snap, suddenly my ski is off to the side of me, I lose my balance and fall, somewhat reluctantly, headfirst into a deep snow drift. Smile gone, joy replaced with pain, the pain of freezing wind blowing down onto my wet, cold face. ”Shit” I said, as I looked down, realizing the sole on my ski boot had separated from the boot itself.

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Sitting there, hands frozen, ears and toes starting to go numb, and tears dripping from my eyes because of the cold harsh wind, I knew I had a problem. 10 kilometers away from the nearest cottage, and now no skis to ride on. As I looked up, not too far away I spotted a small emergency wind shelter, strategically placed for just these kinds of incidents. I picked myself up and made my way to the shelter. I took off my ski boot and assessed the damage – the sole had almost completely come off from the rest of my boot. Not sure how to fix it, I did the only thing I could do, I wiped my boot clean, pulled out my duck tape and got to work.

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The patch job might not have been the best, but for fucks sake, it’s duck tape and I’m desperate. As the saying goes ”if you can’t fix it with duck tape, your not using enough”. After fixing my ski boot I had a decision to make: Stay here at the wind shelter for the night, or jump on my skis and hope I can make it back to my starting point and to safety before night fall. I sat in the shelter for a while longer, freezing, I decided it would be best to jump on my skis and make a go for it.

I learned some very important lessons this day: 1. Duck tape doesn’t hold in freezing cold and 2. If one boot breaks, there is a high possibility the other will follow suit.

After less than two kilometers into my 10 kilometer journey both the silver tape and my only working boot broke. 8 kilometers back to safety, night fall in an hour and I was starting to prefer the warmth of a house and bed to my current predicament.

Now balancing on two cross country skis I made my way painstakingly slow and wet (I fell, a lot). I couldn’t help but see myself in an episode of some Bear Grylls survival show, fantasizing about how I might have to eat tree bark and drink my own piss to survive. Or perhaps I would be like one of those Vietnam blokes that during the war sought refuge in the jungles only to come out 40 years later to a whole new world. Yes, these are the fantasies that kept my mind occupied during this cold journey back to safety. Finally, after deep in fantasy about how king Gustav Vasa must have felt this way when he skied 90 kilometers on one ski in the 1600s to get away from an invading army, finally, I crossed the marker I had been waiting for, and not too soon either. The 2 kilometer marker.

Now both my soles have come completely off, there was simply no possibility for me to even balance on my skis anymore. So I took my skis off, strapped them on my HMG sidewinder, took my ski boots off and hiked the remaining distance in knee high snow. It was cold, but exhilarating, my adrenaline pumping hard kept my feet and body warm.

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This is the story of my 4 day trip in the frozen backcountry of Jämtland in northern Sweden. The 4 day trip that ended up being just one day because of one fateful decision I made the week prior: Namely, the choice not to buy new ski boots when I knew the ones I had were starting to get worse of the wear. I knew I probably should have, I knew it in advance, I had even looked at a few but opted to wait until next season, thinking I could get one more out of the boots I had. To say this story could have ended much much worse is an understatement. No cell communications, no GPS phone with me, and the particular route I chose was the complete opposite of the one I had left with my wife – for really spontaneous reasons.

With that said, I had a great time, I learned a lot and I can laugh about it now. So heres my suggestion – when it comes to winter camping, don’t be stupid.

My gear for the trip:

Item Ounces Grams
Packing
Thermarest Pillow Sheet 1.9 54
Black Pillow Case Holder 1.5 43
Red 2l Pack Bag 0.7 21
Hmg Sidewinder 4400 34.2 970
Shelter
Msr Winter Stake 0.8 22
Msr Winter Stake 0.8 22
Msr Winter Stake 0.8 22
Msr Winter Stake 0.8 22
Hilleberg Enan 38.8 1100
Sleep
Montbell Ul Pillow 2.6 73
Enlightened Equipment Quilt 22.9 650
Pee Bottle 0.5 15
Xtherm 20.5 580
Ee 30 Syntheic 28.1 798
Cooking
Sea To Summit Long Spoon Ti 0.4 12
Zefa Water Bottle 3.5 98
Marches 0.4 11
Feet Warmer Water Bottle 0.4 10
Feet Warmer Water Bottle 0.4 10
Evernew Flatpot W Lid 4.8 136
Clothing
Western Mountaineering Booties 4 114
Wp 200g Pants 6.1 174
Haglofs Green Wind Jacket 2.3 65
Kristal Ul Gator 3.2 92
As Tucas Red Beanie 1.8 52
Montbell Puffy Pants 16.8 475
Haglofs Black Layer 2 Sweater 14.3 405
Wp Thick Socks 2.9 81
Hestra Mittens 8 226
Wm Flight Jacket Xl 13 368
Haglifs Lim Puffy Jacket 6.7 191
Other
Murla Knife 0.7 20
Candle Lantern 6 170
Ul Teeth Care 3.1 89
Bd Headlamp 3.6 101
Iphone 6s Plus Ink Case 9.9 282
Msr Towel 1.2 35
First Aid Kit 3.1 89
Usb Cables 0.8 24
Snowclaw 5.9 168
Fuji X-t1 Body 16.1 456
Fuji Samyang 12mm 10.4 294
Fuji 18-55 11 311
Fuji Battery 1.6 46
Fuji Battery 1.6 46
13000 Battery Pack 12.3 348
Worn
Black Beenie 1.2 35
Aklima Hoody Wool 13.3 377
Black Shell Pants 25.3 717
Salomon Goretex Orange Shell 870 31 879
Puma Winter Running Tights 9.4 267
Fleece Mittens Bula 2.5 70
As Lucas Ul Pants 2.3 64
Consumables
Butane Cannister Small 7.1 202
Food For A Day 26.5 750
Food For A Day 26.5 750
Food For A Day 26.5 750
Toilet Papper 5.3 150
Total 423.1 11993

Posted by Kenneth Shaw

Blogger, photographer and backpacker. If you like my writing or my site don't be afraid to follow me, like or share my posts here on the site. Thanks and enjoy!

One Comment

  1. What a mess! You were lucky it happened on the first day.
    My winter boots died on me this winter as well but it was much warmer and much closer to home. I even had thoughts about what would I do if I lost my boot’ sole in a very remote place in deep snow.

    Good you made it out of there, keep up the good job!

    Like

    Reply

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