Trip report. MUSK-OXEN IN WINTER CONDITIONS 2017 #1
February 8, 2017
I have fallen far behind on uploading pictures on facebook and my website. My focus has been on organizing my tours and just didn't seem to find time to do something with my own pictures. To change this, I plan to write a short trip report directly after each tour I do. And here is the first one. Enjoy!
Yesterday evening I returned home from the first tour of this year's season. A 6 day tour with 3 guests who wanted to photograph musk-oxen in winter conditions. Shortly prior the start of the tour, the conditions in the mountains of Dovre were far from what they are supposed to be around this time of the year. January has been extremely warm this year and a lot of the snow has already disappeared. Normally I use dog sledges to take my guests and equipment up into the mountains. Sadly, the snow conditions are too poor and too dangerous to do this. We were fortuned enough that the husky musher still wanted to try to get our equipment up the mountains with a small number of dogs. We only had to carry our camera equipment ourselves up the mountain. And so we did. During the tour we camped for 4 days in the mountains of Dovre and hiked every day up a mountain top to the musk-oxen. Every single day we managed to photograph the musk-oxen in different conditions. Here is a short day to day description of how things went and what we saw.
DAY 1. Packing and driving.
Early morning I packed my car with all the equipment needed for the tour. Because I provide all the outdoor equipment for my guests, this is quite a pile of bags. (In a future post I will write about which equipment I use for these tours and why I use this equipment.) After having packed my car, I picked up my guests at the airport and drove to our accommodation at Dovrefjell, about 4 hours driving north from the airport.
DAY 2. The hike up and setting up the base camp.
At 8:00 in the morning we left from our accommodation and drove to where we would start the hike. Shortly before sunrise we started to hike up the mountains. During the hike we could already spot the first musk-oxen on the side of one of the mountains. To prevent overheating and sweating, we took many short breaks. In just under 2 hours walking we arrived at the spot where I had planned to set up our base camp for the coming days. With snow shuffles we created two flat surfaces for our tents. The husky musher arrived with our equipment right after we had finished shuffling and we could set up our base camp. After having set up our camp, we still had enough time to hike up the mountain to where we had seen the musk-oxen earlier. We managed to reach the animals right before the last light disappeared and could take the first pictures of the tour.
In the evening we had an amazing clear sky, full with stars. We hoped for some northern light, but sadly no show this time.
DAY 3. Early morning magic.
The alarm went at 6:00, we ate our breakfast (which we had kept warm in our sleeping bags over night) and at 7:15 we started the hike up the mountain again, in order to reach the animals before sunrise. Luckily the animals were still in the same area as the day before and we were treated with a magical morning. The valley below us was filled with clouds and when the first sun beams colored the mountains, the musk-oxen moved to the top of the mountain. Giving us the chance to photograph them with some of the most spectacular backgrounds. Sadly I missed some of the best moment because my lenses iced over. Luckily my guests managed to capture most of it!
Not too long after the sun was up, the clouds which filled the valley before, started to move up the mountains. Before we knew it the visibility dropped to between 40 and 80 meter. Because of the humidity, frost started to set on the ground, the animals, our equipment and our clothing. Changing the setting completely.
DAY 4. In the clouds
The clouds remained on the same altitude, keeping the visibility at between 40 and 80 meter throughout the day. Through the night the frost had accumulated on the landscape and animals, presenting an unique setting to photograph the musk-oxen in.
DAY 5. Frozen
This was the last day for us in the mountains and we had only the morning left for photographing. When we got out of our tents, the weather conditions had not changed. The clouds were still covering the mountains, decreasing our visibility. When we reached the top, we found out that the musk-oxen had moved during the night. After a short search we managed to find them again. Suddenly the clouds lifted up from the mountains, presenting a stunning frozen landscape. Once again we could photograph the animals in different conditions. What a way to finish the tour!
After hiking down the mountain, we found our base camp standing in a beautiful winter landscape. We quickly took some shots and packed all our gear, right in time for the husky musher to pick it up.
The last night of the tour we spent again in the accommodation which we also used the first night. After being in the mountains for 4 days with freezing temperatures, you appreciate the most simple things in life, such as a chair, food which doesn't come out of a bag, a toilet, a shower, not wearing gloves and 4 layers of clothing, etc. So we had a nice evening enjoying the simple things in life.
DAY 6. The drive back.
At 10:30 I drove my guests back to the airport and returned home. At the moment my house is filled with equipment drying and airing. On the 12th of February I will pick up the next group and will repeat this same program. ...already looking forward to it!
If you would like to join me on one of these tours too, please take a look here for more information.