Run E1 the opening stages

By Aleks Kashefi

It's the nature of big adventures...

You start, lacking in the ability to comprehend the task ahead, unsure of the landscape, doubting everything you've put into the planning and preparation, and unable to trust in your instincts to survive.

The journey to Nordkapp was long, 28 hours long and three times as expensive as first thought.

The wind is blowing. Strong enough that any tent in the area is held in place using large boulders, and the wind is bitingly cold. My tent is quick to setup, but within seconds of being ready for the first night, the main pole snaps. The middle section is now 3 and the design of the tent relies on a strong and flexible main pole. A repair tube is borrowed, a tent peg is tightly taped around the break but the forces that act on the pole are too high and it slowly sags. As though life was sleepy being drained from its once rigid frame.

I have to share a tent with Sophie, a lass who is running Scandinavia on the same route. Two nights shared until a new solution is found. A pole used to hold the tent up. Not ideal in anything but good weather but a solution better than sleeping amongst the midge and mosquitos. Day after day the landscape stretches out and not even a foot print is seen for days. There is not trail to follow other than the occasional cairn and splat of red paint. Distances become irrelevant as there is no way of working them out and hour after hour is spent with wet feet. Purgatory in the swamp lands of Norway. We travel beneath the sea in a tunnel. We tracker up mountains, me ahead and Sophie following in the distance, never too far that I lose sight of her. I am concerned about her ability to survive in this environment, and day after day she seems to get slower, her feet covered in blisters and despite her refusal to admit openly, painfully sore.

Day 8 we get lost...

The trail marking vanish and I have to use map and compass to workout where we are, where to head for and eventually across the river is a trail marking. The tension eases, Sophie unleashes some tears, admitting that she is tired & in pain, so it is time to stop and set up camp. A windy and wet eve on a hilltop, a breakfast of nuts, drying clothes and equipment in the gusts of wind and getting ready to head to a spot where we can find shelter. Sophie has decided to leave the trail and head to the bottoM of Scandinavia off the trail. It is beyond her skill set and I can't afford to stay with her. Time is running short as winter approaches and the chances of crossing the Swiss Alps reduces with each delay.

We part and I feel my adventure has now begun. I feel no responsibility other than for myself and it feels good. 80km, a tent pole replacement that never arrived, a bridge collapsing and my camera getting soaked, being freezing cold for what seems like hours and hours, sleeping between a bench and a cairn on a hill top, camping later, increasing the pace and then...

Falling from a rock in a river and without realising till 10km later, damaging my leg.

The pain gets worse until every step feel like a Herculean effort of will. Two days of nonstop and blinding pain. The temptation to press the SOS button, the need to get closer to civilisation and knowing there is 100km of mountain passes, river crossing and marshes before I am likely to even get a mobile signal and all with the background scent of food running out. I eat a cup of powdered milk and drink rapeseed oil left in a cabin. Fuel is fuel and even the foods I dislike are not be ignored.

I now reach more popular trails and meet three Finnish lads, dubbed the Knights that go Ni, a form of agreement in Finnish, where any statement made is likely to be countered with 'Ni', their presence helps get me 60km to the nearest village, a day's rest and trying to solve the issue with my leg, then more km of mountains. The highest on the rite so far with sections of frozen ground and snow, mountains carved and shaped by waterfalls, lakes bigger than any seen so far, snow storm and gales as I cross a mountain pass at 1000m and then a descent to the village of Abisko.

I'm sat here thinking that the terrain and landscape I have been through is increible. I referred to it as hostile in blog posts, but really it is neither hostile of friendly. It is what it is... A landscape that shapes man, and not one shaped by man. Ahead I have the biggest sections of no mans land, interspersed with mountain cabins and I wait to find out about a replacement tent. Without it, my progress is dictated by cabins and I have only the shelter of a survival bag should the weather turn. Autumn has arrived in the Arctic circle and with it the ever present threat of heavy snow and temperatures below zero.

I have new equipment... A 30l bag, adapted to provide more space internally and allow me to store waterproofs on the outside of the pack, I have 15000 calories of food and 6000 calories of Tailwind nutrition (an electrolyte sports drink) and between me and the next opportunity to replenish food supplies lies 250km of mountain wilderness. True wilderness where the chances of meeting a fellow human is low.

Still... The pain, the lack of calories (Aprox 600 calories per day for the first 25), enduring the cold and wet would have been for naught if I am to stop now.

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