Fjestad's insight

The mushers in FL-1000 came in to checkpoint Levajok 1 today.

Written by: Stein Håvard Fjestad /transl. Elisabeth Simonsen
Photo: Stein Håvard Fjestad
Date: 11.03.2012 08:39


Levajok early morning. The first 14 dog-teams in FM-1000 arrived within two hours. Between 03:50 and 05:50. The run time for these 14 mushers was only separated with 34 minutes. The difference of quality in the dog teams are however bigger than the run time suggests. Some struggled with wrists and shoulders, a result of trails that has softened, which means that the dogs step through the snow and get all their weight on their front legs.  

Many dogs did not eat properly. The warm weather makes fat foods less attractive, as well as increases the need to hydrate.        

Some rested well in Skoganvarre. Early rest is money in the bank with good interest. While the old fellows quietly snuck around their teams, Thomas Werner’s energetic voice optimistically rang over the checkpoint. He is one to watch! Inger Marie’s team looked good. Musher and dogs alike. Robert’s dogs also looked very strong. They are experienced dogs that do what is expected: run, eat, sleep. I’ve also seen some teams that are bound to be overtaken due to injuries and bad appetite. Nina Skramstad is using canicure preventatively. (medication against diarrhea) To answer my question on how it was working she said: I’m squeezing the tube between my knees.

I spoke to my old friend “Putte” Andresen, who prepares tracks from Tana to Levajok. The next leg has long snowless stretches; there is no reason to change the base on the sleds. There is no track because there is no snow to make tracks in. The mushers will have to follow sticks that were put up in the frozen ground with the help of “good will and cursing”.         

From Skoganvarre to here the mushers go through a pine covered valley, hilly terrain interrupted by a number of lakes before the climb to the mountain. The mountain birch replaces the pine. After a while the birch also disappears and we are up on the mountain. Up here, around Rastegaisa, the last wild reindeer herd in Finnmark wandered about before they were herded together with husbandry reindeer in the early 1900s. We reach the highest point of the entire race and can on a clear day see the Lavajok-valley. Now the daylight also returns. We reach the Lavajok-valley, about 20 km long, and follow it down to the mighty Tana river. We turn right on the river and a couple of kilometers ahead is Levajok Mountain Lodge. The dog teams park on the riverbank. The ground is a little slanting for the dogs to lie on, without protection from the wind that follows the valley from the inland towards the coast. On the other side of the river is Finland. Inaccessible for dogs without papers from a veterinarian and the Norwegian food safety authority, but fully accessible for hare and fox without passports and papers.         

Quote of the day: “It doesn’t look esthetically good to stand behind kicking when you are running a team of 14 dogs”. Sven Engholm

I used to be a musher. Now I hitchhike around Finnmark writing essays.

Stein Håvard Fjestad      

Picture: The boys, Putte Andreassen and Tom Hardy and myself. 

Picture: Inger Marie Haalands dog team at checkpoint Levajok 1