A snowmobile can’t swim!!

I had planned to take the family ice-fishing today, and because we have had a lot of snow recently I decided to drive the snowmobile to the lake yesterday afternoon to create a path to drive on.  Emma wanted to come with me so we headed out at about 3pm.

It was 10kms to the lake and it wasn’t so difficult driving conditions as I had anticipated.  When we arrived at the lake, I left Emma at the side of the lake and decided to drive around the lake to press down the snow.  As I drove out onto the lake it became obvious that there was quite a bit of water laying between the snow and ice.  As I tried to turn the snowmobile around it broke through the ice!!

The skis at the front of the machine were still on snow and ice, but the track that drives the machine was in a half metre of water.  I do not have any winter waterproof boots, only insulated leather boots, so when I climbed from the snowmobile into a half metre of water, my feet got very wet.

Fortunately there was double ice on the lake and the snowmobile had only broken through the top layer, but when I tried to drive the machine out, it would no move!

I walked through freezing water and up to where I had left Emma in the forest (it was now starting to get dark).   I explained what had happened and was sure she would start to cry (she is 6 years old), but instead she said “Ok, I will dig a hole in the snow and collect wood so we can make fire”.  I was so amazed and pleased with her response.

I walked back to the snowmobile and called a friend to ask advice on how to get the machine out.  He said that I would need to collect a lot of branches to put under the front of the snowmobile to drive on and then lift the back of the snowmobile up onto the ice (this I could not do).  I then called another friend and asked if he could come out and collect Emma because I was worried that she would be scared.

I returned to the forest to collect branches and help Emma make fire.   She had dug down into the snow with her hands and prepared the fire sight.    It did not take long to get a fire going.

fire in the forest

I told Emma that someone was coming to collect her, but she said she was not scared or worried, because she felt safe with me in the forest and was sure I would get the snowmobile out of the lake.

I left Emma to keep the fire going and returned to the lake with the branches.  I started the snowmobile and found that I could drive it backwards a little.  Then I laid down the branches and standing at the side of the snowmobile I tried to drive it forward.  The machine moved about a metre and then stopped because of snow collecting at the front of the machine.  I put on my snowshoes and pressed down a path in the snow where I could drive the snowmobile.  I  removed the snowshoes (by now my feet were freezing cold) reversed the snowmobile again and then drove it forwards.  It started to move and the back rose up out of the water and as I walked at the side of the machine it continued to move.  Just as my friend arrived I jumped onto the snowmobile and drove it onto the edge of the lake (I was so embarrassed that he had driven so far for nothing!!).

I picked up Emma and we drove home.  It was 6pm when we arrived home.

Due to the conditions on the lake, my family did not want to fish today, so I went there with my neighbour again.

ice fishing kevin warrington

We also made fire and cooked reindeer meat and coffee.

arctic lunch

I caught one Arctic Char and Folke caught three.  We left the snowmobiles at the edge of the lake!!

P1010393 (Medium)

Out and about skiing.

FIRSTLY……The sun is appearing above the horizon again!!!!

I have already tried walking in the forest with snowshoes, but I am still sinking in the snow up to my knees and in places up to my waist.

Because I cracked my ribs soon after I moved here last year I was not able to learn to ski properly, but now I’m starting to get out and practise on skis with some tuition from Emma.

We have been practising on the hard, compacted snow of snow scooter trails, but the other day I decided to head off into the forest on virgin snow to test out the skis.  Unfortunately my skis also sink down into the snow

and although not as deep as the snowshoes, it does mean that you have to lift up the skis out of the snow with every step.

I found a small timber building while out

On closer investigation I found that it has not windows and that the door and roof had been removed.

And next to the building I found this interesting feature

It has a thick concrete wall at the back and a metal framework in front with several pulley systems

After making some inquiries when I returned home, I found out that this was an old military shooting range and presumably the pulleys were used to raise and lower targets.

I continued on my way and later decided to stop for coffee.  I found a nice sheltered spot surrounded by trees to make a camp

I used my ski pole to excavate the snow

I gathered some materials and prepared to make fire

I have not had problems making fire for a long time but this time I had many problems.   The matches I carry with me would not ignite.  I carry my matches in a small sealed container.

and as you can see I have the heads of the matches at the top.  Possibly one reason I had problems to ignite them was that my fingers were sweating and so making the match heads wet when I removed them from the container.  So now I carry them with the heads down

It’s such a simple thing but something I had not considered before.  Another useful piece of simple advice I shall share is not to hold the end of a match between your teeth in extreme cold, while preparing your fire because as I found, your breath freezes over the working end of the match and so it will not ignite!!

There was no Birch in the area, so I could not use bark to get my fire going, but I had cotton wool with me but although the cotton wool would ignite, it went out immediately.   I carved small shavings of dead Pine and used to ignite the fire but once they had burn up, the fire went out.  I spent about an hour trying to make fire but never succeeded.  I think my audience found it entertaining though…

This experience shows that you should not become complacent and instead practise, practise, practise!!!!



5 days at the cabin in April 2010 – Part 4

I spent some time making a Reindeer horn knife sheath

and this little vice proved to be a very useful addition in my backpack.

My neighbours Anita and Gillis were at their cabin and this was a good opportunity for me to practice my Swedish.  Gillis spent a lot of time ice fishing so I went with him to try and pick up some tricks and tips

and although he had been catching fish before I joined him…he caught nothing once I was with him!!

They loaned me a pair of snowshoes Gillis had made to get around in the forest and I find them very good to use.

It was only while staying at the cabin that I realised it is already still light at 11pm light again at 3am.  And of course as the days get longer and warmer, the mosquitoes will soon appear!

The Roycroft Snowshoe

In England it is now rare for us to get sufficient snow fall to use snowshoes, but in Lapland they will prove very useful.While on a Winter Wilderness Survival Course taught by Mors Kochanski in 2006, I learned to make Roycroft Snowshoes.On the course we used young Spruce, but here I am using Willow (Hazel also works well).

Gather five sticks roughly the same length as you’re height.They should be about the same diameter as a pencil at the narrow end.Remove any side branches and then the bark.

Once all five are completed they should be tied together about two fingers width from the end (I use a constrictor knot).

Now cut a piece of wood to roughly the same dimensions as a bow-drill hearth and the span of your hands in length.Balance the snow shoe on your finger to find the mid-point of the shoe, and then place your heel at this point and the piece of wood beneath the ball of your foot.Now lash the piece of wood in this position to all five stick (I used a Jam Knot and cut notches into the piece of wood to help hold the lashings in place.

Tie the thick ends of the sticks (the back of the snowshoe) together, leaving a space the width of your finger between each (I tied four overhand knots to act as spacers). Now secure another block of wood where your heel rests on the shoe (using the same method described above), which should be about two fingers in front of the pivot point.

Now using either a piece of ribbon, cord or elastic lash around the shoe and over your toes, tying the two ends on top of your toes as shown below.

After tying the knot on top of the toes, bring the two ends around the back of the heel and tie off using a reef knot (this knot is obscured by the bottom of my trouser leg in the picture below).This will allow your foot to pivot on the shoe as you walk, but still keep the snowshoe on.

The snowshoe is easier to use if the tip of the shoe curves up at the end, so tie a cord between the tip and the block of wood and leave until the wood has dried out.

Repeat the process for the second snowshoe and hope there is sufficient snowfall to be able to test them.