Photo by James Bishop, Tod Fairbairn, Stephanie Pearson, Raan Parton
By Raan Parton
In April of this year I was honored to receive an invite from close friends at the Swedish outdoor company & our newest New York retailer, Fjällräven, to join a select group of eight participants for their annual Polar Expedition. We spent seven days dog sledding above the frozen timber line, 125 miles north of the Arctic Circle through the Laplands. The Arctic adventure proved to be the perfect opportunity to field test an early model of our Sierra Designs US- exclusive 60/40 Mountain Parka.
We arrived in the Norwegian town of Tromsø on April 15th to meet out teammates, both human and canine. Our 200 mile expedition to the tiny town of Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, was filled with daily 6-8 hour crossings to our next camp destinations where we enjoyed sleeping in remote trekking huts and Sami fishing camps. The dogs would curl up and sleep outside in the snow and were fed high fat meat mixed with a dry food in the evening and at dawn before we set out for the day. The dogs would run an average of 12 miles per hour and, on long crossings, can go as far as 90 miles in one day.
During daily lunch breaks we were treated to some true Scandinavian meals consisting of cured reindeer, whitefish from the ice lakes, polar bread with lingonberry jam, moose stew and other traditional Swedish fare. One of the most memorable moments was hitting an unexpected storm with 40 mile per hour winds and 15 feet of visibility which swept us off our trail for 2 hours. Thanks to the help of the satellite link & GPS we found our way to our destination that concluded the exhausting 11 hour day.
The expedition went into the heart of indigenous Sami country, following the old reindeer routes to the most inaccessible corners of Arctic Lapland. We were able to stop at a traditional tannery where the native Sami people sell reindeer hides for local leather good manufacturing.
The temperatures reached as low as -4 Fahrenheit and as hot as 50 degrees Fahrenheit. We were able to dodge the brunt of the cold because the trip was during the tail end of the season. In the evenings, our small group shared stories of past expeditions with our guide Kenth Fjellborg, a native Swede born in the town of Poikkijärvi where his family has lived for nine generations. Kenth got involved in mushing as a teenager and, after winning his first sled dog race in 1989, he traveled to Alaska to learn more about the competitive side of the sport and became a competitor in the Iditarod.
Stories like Kenth’s and many others resulted in lasting friendships and a trip of a lifetime and an incredible destination to test our our exclusive mountain parka. Glad to share a photostory from the trek and can’t thank Martin, Andrea and Kenth enough for the warm hospitality on the cold trail.