Sunday, 24 April 2011

Thursday lunchtime

This morning's drive ended with two memorable quotes: Laura to Gaynor - "I didn't realise we'd signed up for Dog Sledding Extreme!" and Miloš to Rob - "Challenging enough for you...?" So you'll get the gist.

We started early this morning as Miloš gave us two options last night, we either travel for a few km by road, which would have meant a bit of man handling of sleds and a lot of slush or we risked a short cut across a region not normally used as a trail by sleds or snowmobiles. Gaynor and Miloš had tried this route the previous year and had found the snow so soft that it had taken them 2 and a half hours to cross as they'd had to push the sleds through. This year there is a thin, crispy crust of ice over the snow, which only yields if the dogs' paws pierce it and there are only 8 sleds, so we voted to leave before the sun's warmth had thawed the upper layer. It was the right decision. This was the most exhilarating route I'd taken. 

Short cut
The dogs rose to the challenge and when their feet pierced the ice and they plunged into the soft fluff beneath they forged on, even though they must have felt as if the ground was disappearing below them. It felt amazing to be crossing virgin snow, following Miloš as he chose our route. We had to go slowly for the majority of the journey as it's necessary to brake whenever the dogs hit a soft patch so that we don't run into them, then we have to release the brake immediately as they pull themselves out and onwards. It was an exhilarating drive, which lasted for about 45 minutes.

Then it all went a bit Pete Tong. We stopped for water at a stream and Rob and Gaynor filled the containers and we also had to go onto the road for a very short run. At the top of a ridge Miloš dug through a drift to get us back into the snow and the dogs had to climb through whilst we pushed. Those in front of me managed, with some effort, to jump back onto their runners as the dogs gained speed but I just couldn't. My team is so strong and they took off downhill at a pace with me dragging behind, hanging on with the words "never let go of your dogs" ringing in my ears and snow covering me (apparently) as I tried to get up but just kept falling between the runners. Eventually we ran into the back of the team in front of us and I managed to get my sled almost upright, but exactly the same thing happened again as I saw them all disappear over the horizon. At the bottom of the hill my dogs stopped. Not because they were ready for me to get on at last, but because by now the leaders had disappeared altogether. We couldn't see a track at all, other than and old one going vertically up the hill to our right. Andy weighed anchor to help me pull me team around and get them going up the hill but within 100 yards Zero lay down and refused to go any further. It took me at least 3 minutes to realise he'd slipped his collar and this was why he wouldn't move, thank goodness for Andy, he saved me. Sadly I was so jiggered that I fell off the edge of the top drift, landing on the road and covering the sled, my coat, boots and trousers with sludge. I felt terribly guilty, their beautiful new kit was filthy.


When we stopped for lunch I realised I was still shaking and necked half a bottle of rescue remedy, before settling down to hot dogs round the fire. Having got through 'the worst', according to Miloš, we relaxed and recouped for about 2 hours. Actually it was the best as well as the worst, the short cut had given me a notion of how it would be without human evidence in the snow and it had sent my mind into dreamland, or that could have been the rescue remedy...

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