September 19th 1965, 4 days before my birth, a man died during an ascent in the French Alps.
His name was Lionel Terray. He was a very talented french alpinist, and was one of my adolescence idols.
I think he was the one who first adopted the definition “conquerors of the useless", referred to some extreme outdoor men. It was true. Surf, climbing, extreme skiing, kiting etc. are all useless activities. At that time, with no money involved, no big sponsors, the reward was at the very best fame. But just for few of them.
Yvon Chouinard, another great alpinist, founder of the brand Patagonia, writes something interesting about:
“Surfing and climbing are both useless sports. You get to be conquistadors of the useless. You climb to the summit and there is nothing there. You could hike to the top from another direction. It's how you get there that is the important part.”
A kind of Zen. It's all about the process, not the goal.
I came to Norway three years ago to ski and kite from Oslo to Nordkapp, alone and by fair means. It was a long and expensive process to organize everything, looking for the most sustainable equipments, asking, buying, travelling and so on. I wanted, and still I do, to make reportages, film a documentary, post on my blog and talk about the fair way the Scandinavian people use to live in harmony with their long and white winter.
In the Alps it's a very 'dirty' game. Snow is black! People go to the ski resorts to have fun and find again a city with all its comforts. A very unfair mean in my opinion. I know something about it because I grew up and lived for many years all around the Alps, and I liked that kind of life style. Easy climbing up with a lift, and lot of fun downhill. And so again and again. And the nightlife was great too!! So fucking easy! But there is a price to pay. Not so difficult to imagine, but easy to forget.
I apologize. I am preaching.
I will go on doing what I was suppose to and reporting the situation here, I mean the one about this 'white gold' business. I think I've shot good interviews, photos, and I skied and kited already about 500 km in southern Norway, around the Hardangervidda Plateau. I met Polar guides, persons who wanted to go to South Pole, and they made it, happily frozen cross country skiers, flashy kiters, mostly wonderful persons, snow workers, patrols, lovers, families so perfectly fit, and boring, making me pray for any kind of imperfect, normal human to appear in the middle of this beautiful white paradise.
I feel good here. I am happy. Very. Should I be scared?
Sometimes skiing, in the white out (looks like floating in a white cloud) I think I'm dead and soon someone will open a big white door and gently says: "Hi, got lost?? stairs to hell are at the end of the corridor, have a nice stay".
A few days ago I red on an online magazine, the Barents Observer, an article about The refugee camp in Kirkenes, a little town in Northern Noway close to the border with Russia. In November about 900 immigrants crossed the border on bicycles. Why bicycles? Because it is forbidden to walk trough the border so the existenz minimum is a cheap bike (sold by traffickers or local shops for a crazy amount of money, up to 400 euros).
600 of them were immediately given proper clothes, a bed and food in the upcoming Artic winter. Some of them, 13, the ones with a Russian visa and permit to stay were sent back to Russia. Soon after the border was closed for immigrants. Kirkenes, 500 km north of the Artic circle is a little town, 6000 inhabitants. 160 refugees find a family offering them hospitality.
I must be there. There is something so positive to talk bout and share. Hospitality in one of the harshest place on the earth, a good camp to protect them from the winter, and a big question mark? How many will be found in spring after the snow melt?
It is important to spread the facts about this “Artic Lampedusa" because many immigrants and asylum seekers are not aware of the situation and the organized criminality is inviting them to use this longer route.
In Finland new arrivals are daily reported and xenophobic 'welcoming committees' called Soldiers of Odin are there. They won't offer them cookies and a warm chocolate I guess.
One Indian man, 33, was found dead after spending 5 days in his car, with temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius below zero. Nobody helped him because “he could not pay for service”. Source: The Barents Observer
I feel the urge to change my project, and, partially, the goal of it. I will still have the possibility to ski and kite, and meet people in the snow. I am a free man in a free country. I am one of the happy few. I can do it.
I've been many times in a storm, outside, alone, in a tent, in a snow cave, in cabin, in a bivouac, in a boat. In the Alps, and in Norway. I was well equipped and I survived, when protected I also enjoyed the situation.
What about a mother with her children, no idea about what a snowstorm in the Arctic can be, no idea about just a night at 40 below, or just a simple sunny day at 20 below, and without the proper clothes? Is she enjoying it? Is she free to do what she wants?
I go to Kirkenes.
Thanks for reading and supporting me.
P.S.: There is a very, very good new for me. I will have a companion for the next 20 days (from Feb. the 9th)
His name is Thomas Dietert. He is a very nice guy, met him with his lovely girlfriend during my rowed trip from London to Istanbul, in Golubac, Serbia,in 2012.
He will be part of this important change in Man on the Snow Project.
I let him to introduce himself.
Velkommen til Norge Thomas!
"Once in a while its more than advisible to get out of our "normal" habitats.
Get a fair distance to you surrouundings,to your society,to your "normal life".
It will give you the opportunity to focus.
Focus on things you might have forgotten by living in that "bubble",
focus on things in life you may have not experienced before, and to be aware about the beauty of the earth and life on it.
Here i am. Again.
Thomas. An interested outdoor loving ecologist from Potsdam.
My passion belongs to water and fish.
To experience "water" all over the world you need to travel.
Which is another passion. Traveling brings adventure.
Adventures should be part of our lifes.
Once we have been kayaking on the Danube. It was fascinating.
Meeting Giacomo there, was a big pleasure for us.
A man full of great ideas!
"Man on the River" became the "Man on the Snow".
Another unpredictable adventure is going to start.
Here i am again. #
More than happy to join you again, Giacomo.
*Terray, Lionel (1963). Les Conquérants de l'inutile. France: Victor Gollancz. ASIN B000HJRAVQ.
Terray, Lionel (2000). Conquistadors of the Useless. Translated by Geoffrey Sutton. Baton Wicks Publications; New ed.
Hi my friends, how are you? I am sorry for such a long period of silence.
Well, quite long. Probably you thought I got lost in the wilderness. Or dead.
It is not an easy task to write about the last weeks of my life. I had to sail trough quite stormy days.. I’ll try to make it short and simple.
I came to Norway full of expectations, I prepared the journey much better this year: new skis, the wonderful prototype Idrisskis Nordic skis, much lighter, new boots, new pulk, still built with sustainable materials, new clothes, new equipment. Thanks to all my technical partners for their support.
Everything, almost everything was perfect. Only one thing was not perfect: me. I didn’t know. Once again.
I arrived Norway in the beginning of February, and I went to Gvarv, a little village in Telemark, in the Beautiful south of Norway. I had to meet Alex, the builder of my pulk. I felt immediately in love with the pulk. The hemp canvas is so beautiful. And strong.
Then I went to Haugastøl, where I spent three months last year. I met in Haugastøl all the old friends of last year, and most of them experienced polar explorers and guides, or kiters, skiers etc. Carl Alvey, a young generous man, one of the best polar guide, was very kind offering me a lot of help and advices whose importance has been vital to me.
Paul Landry another famous polar explorer and top guide, also spent a lot of his time telling me about his experiences, trying to convince me to be lighter and lighter (every gram counts..), helping me to understand what I really wanted. And I will never thank him enough for that.
Hannah McKeand, who skied alone to the South Pole with the record time in 2006 and guide herself, she gave me a lot of motivation to go and to go with my pace, my inner feelings. I am so clumsy, inexperienced in comparison with these persons. Of course, listening to them changed many easy going ideas I had. I started nonetheless to ski north but I was full of doubts. Surprisingly more than last year. I was no more sure. Even the whole motivation of the project started to fade away.
After a few days camping and skiing around Haugastøl, I finally started to go, toward a place called Kraekkja, where there is a cabin, now closed for restoration. It was an easy 14 km ski track video Going to Kraekkia and back Vimeo, and marked already with the usual sticks.
Just before getting there I didn’t see going downhill, and fast, a packed hard snow sastrugi (a kind of snow accumulation due to wind effects) I hit it and fell on my back. Unfortunately I put my left arm behind me to protect me and the pole handle rotated in my wrist in a bad way. It was painful but I thought nothing serious. Pitched my tent, slept well. In the morning my wrist was weird. Not so much pain but it didn’t work. I could not use my thumb. It was simply not strong enough to grab a cup. Looked outside: visibility was poor, no sticks marking the track to Finse, where I was heading. I went up skiing a little but really I couldn’t see more than 10 meters. Almost white out. My gps also died. The screen was just fading away after a few minutes I faced a deep short chrisis video Changes in Vimeo. I was clearly not in condition to go further and especially alone and in an unknown terrain. It was a storm inside me. All the preparation, all my will was fading away too. I know what it means to wait. I spent weeks waiting for the right condition to cross the English Channel during my rowed trip from London to Istanbul. Life many times is a question of waiting. Waiting is truly an art.
My mother has been fighting since years with a cancer. I felt bad to be there in a beautiful place full of doubts and still in a sort of forced holyday, (not used to holydays), stranded in a mountain paradise like the Haugastøl Hotel, surrounded by caring friends. I tried to continue. I went to Finse to learn to use better the ski sail made by Wolf Beringer. The sail, an UL 12 sq. meters is working very well with winds up to 18 knots. For stronger wind it is a little too much for me. Ronny Finsås, probably the best skisailer in the world, gave me very important tips and hosted me in his house. In Finse I had the luck to be there for the Expedition Finse festival, where I met many polar explorers and the Honorable Alexandra Shakleton, and the team who successfully rebuilt and sailed a replica of the James Caird lifeboat from the Elephant Island to South Georgia in 1915.
Anyway my hand was not working well enough.
So I made a quick decision. Go back to see my mother, fix my thumb and then decide. My big friend Bruno Porto, from Brasil, who, with her wife Josephine, helped me to restart my rowed trip, send me a message from Brasil. It seems he feels when I need him. He is a real great man, one of my guides. So he told me that he could come and ski with me for some time. His wife is actually studying in Stockholm.
I changed the project. I had my thumb fixed with a short surgery (a ligament was broken) I hugged my mother and spent few weeks with her and my father who always supported me so much in this crazy and beautiful life, I went to hug Eulalia in Barcelona and see how my boat, my home, was doing in Mallorca.
I gave two talks in Italy, a few tv interviews and then I was invited to a very interesting workshop in Madrid about the meaning of walking as an ancestral form of art, with many young artist and the guidance of Eulalia Valldosera and Valerie de la Dehensa in the Matadero and then back to Norway.
I am now waiting for Bruno, who will come on the 6th of May. We will do a tour of the Hardangervidda Plateau with two pulks and skisails.
I want to see if next year we can travel together and definitely the project will be no more a one man project. I am looking for persons who would like to ski for a section of the full length of Norway. Though and motivated persons. I will pass the pulk and the cameras in a participated trip. A change from me to we economy. Be myself I’ve nothing to prove or show but kindness and attention to others and to this planet. Everyday. My ego is slowly amalgamating in a collective consciousness.
I took so many years and still I am on the way. Not easy for this old westerner.
If anybody is interested to learn more about the next Men on the Snow project please contact me at email@example.com
Thank you for the patience and for following me.
A very special thank to all the Kaupang family, running that special paradise for kiters and skiers call Haugastøl Turisenter
Last weeks have been difficult and amazing. I had to make a decision. Not easy.
This is the video resuming last weeks and, in the second part, I explain with my voice what I have decided. It is more than ten minutes long, Thanks for watching and thank you for dedicating your time.
More videos here
Not an easy beginning..like in all my project.
Some problems to my left hand and shoulder. Rethinking everything. Getting really late to go North before snow melt in May.
Quite difficult decisions to make.
The video is not short. I left all my thoughts and words.