Thursday, 21 April 2011
It's Monday April 11th and the weather could not have been better for dog sled training. The sun glinted off the shiny new sleds Milos has built; they are sleek and have additional soft brakes which fall between the extra wide runners, just behind the main brake and their addition makes downhills much easier. The runners have a kind of poly carbon material underneath and this makes them smooth, even over the wet roads which are melting fast. We spent some time getting to know our way around the sleds and harnessing up 4 dogs each, not the teams we will take on the main trip, but some familiar faces nonetheless.
The first run itself went smoothly, Rob came off at the first corner - he said he'd forgotten everything Milos told us about not being able to steer the sled and the fact that this is nothing like skiing - but it was a good place to come off and to get it out of the way. Despite the slushy nature of the snow we were able to get up some speed and travelling along the river, by the Ice Hotel was infinitely preferable to last year's run in the same spot, when we had temperatures of -30 and windchill on top of that. For Steve, Laura and I it was a revelation to be sledding in this weather. None of us really had any sense that the trip could be enjoyable!
We travelled for around 26 km before stopping to practice lining out with the cables that we'll be using in camp. Each team is secured to the team in front with a thick cable, which we carry in our sleds and any lines which are not wire are removed from biting distance for our overnight and long stops. It seemed very complicated but as usual Milos made it look simple. He also made the cooking of hot dogs in tins very straight forward: hit the tin with a knife a few times and shove it in the fire, delicious hot dogs 10 minutes later. We did a big loop home and by the time we returned the boys all had big grins on their faces, they are naturals and now none of us can wait to get going.
In the evening we went in to town as Steve was staying at the Ice Hotel, so we had a tour of the dripping, melting and slightly dingy site. What a difference a month makes. It was sad to see it like this, having been blown away last year, especially as I'm determined to build a room there one day. We had a drink on Mertz and then went back to Mushers for supper, connect 4 and backgammon. There is no need for an early night tonight as we will not be sledding tomorrow, there was a sense of real disappointment when we realised this. Now that we're here we just want to be sledding everyday.