Report : BETWEEN SNOW & SKY
Ivan Guidobaldi (freeairadventure.com)
Sebastien Nestolat (flymountainsnowkite.com)
HQ Powerkites (powerkites.de)
Bergans of Norway (bergans.no)
Gin Glider Scandinavia (skyadventures.se)
The name of the short expedition already explain our meaning or feelings and
We planned to cross a huge plateau in the swedish wilderness in HÄRJEDALEN region… on the norwegian border.
The program is to snowkite trough the plateau, reaching Helags which is the 4°highest mountain of Sweden and the first glacier just below the polar arctic circle too. Wild camping in our tent fixing a base camp just to the feet of the massif and touring ski to climb up the mountain. To Fly down by speedflyer Bobcat 18 and speedrider Nano 12… an adventure never done before in this area.
The first day sew us pulling up to the plateau 2 heavy sleds each one. With touring ski
and skins, we climb a nice way through a beautiful birch forest with a lot of snow, but the 35kg on the back didn’t help.
We started already late cause we needed to buy some red wine to kill the time… ‘cause the forecast in the morning annonced “extreme weather” coming form Norway. A storm was on our way.
We could not give up having already delayed of 1 day our start.
So, better to be ready, and red wine, for an italian and a french, is the best training.
Arriving on the top the forest disappears leaving the place to the SPACE. A huge white space with mountains in the surrounding, in particular one, bigger, nicer and closer. It’s sunny and warm. No wind for us.
We just relax few minutes, making a first “brindisi” for the effort we did.
I start to open my HQ Montana 6 9.5m, hoping the wind will set up soon. Some small gusts were coming.
It works… I can leave in downwind, but after 3-4km the wind dies again and it’s no chance to go further. Sebastien join me at the same spot.
We start to install the tent and the snow bunker for the upcoming stormy night.
Nice colors, nice feelings. A friendly dinner laughing and dreaming.
But deep inside we are scared of the weather. The forecast is sure… winds above 40knots and rain/snow.
In the evening the temperature was much below 0° because water freeze instantly.
A last look to the sky before we went to sleep… something was at the horizon and it’s not friendly.
During the night I woke up by the noise of the tent… I could not understand if was snow or rain, but it was strong. Not as much wind yet.
In the morning as first thing we realize there is a strong good wind for kiting… we optimize our time doing heavy breakfast and melting snow for the daily water.
Wind was around 20-25knots from south.
First we made about 8km in west direction and than… north direction perfectly downwind. I was under my Montana6 7m and Sebastien with his Apex3 7.5m
After some km north direction, we reach the top of a hill and there, our eyes sew what we would not have liked to see. Our mountain target was far, was big, was hard. Low clouds forming rotors, everywhere stones out from the snow, the wind pushed us in the mouth of the lion… and to come back upwind would have been super difficult.
It was so a tough feeling. I felt so small, impotent, in a such hostile weather and ground. I was scared, so I spoke with Sebastien… and he had the same feeling.
But ok, we try it, we go on.
Burning many kilometers I realize more and more how hard it will be to come back if the wind will not change direction. I try to silence my mind and to push further my emotions. Beautiful and strong.
We approach the huge massif with a big cloud hat.
Respect is high.
By the way some under wind situations make us stop in small valleys or back to some hills, waiting for a better gust or starting to walk towing the sled till a wind clear point. The way we should have take after 20km went to west and should have been easier but a long hill made the wind really turbulent and violent …and in the middle of stones we didn’t like that… at the point that we decided to go on in north east direction making a change of the plans.
We pass around the big massif and I could not stop to prove my admiration for it.
In 10km we should turn left to reach a Fjällstation (refuge).
Always passing around Helags, on its feet, we reached the back side valley.
Same story: hard environment, clouds, spread stones. We were near to the target.
In few minutes we came into a small group of wood houses and in the back it was a fencing with some siberian husky… I passed just there to salut them. We kited in the middle of the houses and set down our wings.
The wind was good to go on to Sylarna direction, but the forecast announced storm for the next night and day, so we just set our tent there close to the station.
Waiting for the new storm.
Good dinner with swedish soldier soup. full energy for tomorrow.
In the night I woke up by the tent that was crashed on my head… than silence.
Than another violent crash on the tissue that once more reached my face. Strong noise… wind noise, snow noise and tissue noise. The snowstorm was setting up. My sleep was ended. Gusts came more and more violent, interposed by some alarming moment of quiet and silence. It was 108km/h wind speed.
I had to go out to add some more snow on the entrance of our small house.
Nice memories. No worries.
The morning came with a strong light. Good sign.
I opened the zip that separate us form the outdoor reality… and out… wooooow
a beautiful blue sky with in the middle the top of Helags… a super black pyramidal rock full of ice and snow. Stunning.
Ok, the plans we had to start to come back were absolutely deleted. We got out, closed the base camp and we left with our kites M6 9.5m and our speedfly/speedride GIN gliders on our shoulders. I could see from the clouds that wind was coming from the back side of the mountain and it was very strong, but there in the valley it was weak. In fact, we did neither one km and once approached the base of the massif, the wind died. We went on with our touring ski and skins. The rucksack on our back was quite heavy for the fun equipment.
We climbed up pretty fast, in the middle of icy snow and emerging stones.
The view was fantastic. The black pyramid was really imposing. At the horizon… only mountains and wilderness, nothing else. Snow and stones.
We reached the crest in east side of the top and we started to search for a safe take off.
The wind was 10.5m/s and is unfortunately sideways to the cliff.
Moving a little more down and north east the wind is little less sideway and I feel I want to try to take off with my Bobcat 18. Wind speed was really at the limit. Sebastien had to push me hardly in the wind to finally take off… it’s gone, I was flying from Helags. so beautiful. I got some shaking but I lost my scariness. Coming gently down the wind was much less strong and I could also turn some small thermals.
When I landed down… it was another world. Silence, no wind, warm. Like to be in another day. My satisfaction was even higher and stronger than the mountains.
I heard a strange noise. Sebastien was elegantly skiing down with a nice style and leaving nice treks on the snow. Like an arctic snake. He’s super satisfied too.
We packed everything and we started to ski up again, because actually we were in the opposite side of the mountain and we needed to come back. Being no wind down, we could not think to make all the tour of the massif. So we skied up looking for the wind help.
After a hard warm half hour, Mr. wind came to visit us… just to open our kites and pull us up till the previous crest. Incredibly nice. We played some while in a high plateau just below the crest. Wind was perfect now. THANKS
After have eaten 1 small chocolate (the only food of all the day) and had drunk 0.7L per person, we start to ski back down to our sleds. Snow was icy and stony but we where really full of feeling for the day. Nice to ski back. Need to eat. Need to drink.
Arrived to the sleds we fixed some fast food, the wind was so good that we decide to star our way back right now. Also if we were super tired, we wanted to profit of the wind presence. Ok, we go.
The plan was to kite in direction of a village 20km far. To sleep in the tent and next day hitchhiking back to the car. But once on the way we changed mind and we tried to make all the way back to our car in south direction.
After some km of upwind, the way went down into a depression and there... definitely
it stopped to power us. Perfect anyway. We were in a beautiful place and “only” 25-30km far form the car. We set our base camp. Temperature flow down till −15°C
and the sky offered a stunning sunset followed by shining stars. We had a long and good dinner with wine to celebrate the incredible good day and Sebastien’s birthday at midnight. We finish our wine escort. We are really happy.
In the morning it was no wind the we could hear out of the tent, but when Sebastian went out… big surprise… perfect wind speed and blue sky. The only problem was the direction… our way was all upwind. We started as soon as possible to grab the wind passage.
The trip was ok, also if in some spots the wind became little weaker and in other little stronger. Only one time we had to walk up a steep hill to exit form the wind shadow. At the horizon it was easy to see an upcoming storm. Many low clouds were making the hat to the mountains. Wind increased a lot, but our kites 9.5 were perfect to handle this hard upwind. In few hours we were at the first snow bunker we did… we were safe. The slop down was not too far… now also by ski would have been easy to burn the last few kms, so we took a rest and some food, while the sky was getting all gray and white.
Before to burn the easy last kms we had a freestyle session, leaving our sleds into the bunker and doing big jumps and playing into the wind. Than we were so tired that we fast took the way back. Wind was perfectly crossing our line so we were super fast and relaxed.
Reached the forest and closed our gear, we started the funny part of ski down into the slope with the heavy sleds. Last effort. Nice.
We got the car. It’s done.
Fast into a supermarket to buy chocolate and salt licorice and than into a pub for a fresh final beer.
We did it. It was amazing. Amazing weather. Amazing sports. Amazing spot. Amazing friendship. Amazing feelings.
Next year we will do it again.
Thanks to all our supporters and sponsor
and a special thanks to my love and my children.