Trip report. MUSK-OXEN IN WINTER CONDITIONS 2017 #3
At the moment I'm in the north of Norway on the island Senja for photographing landscapes and northern lights. We already had some great chances to photograph earlier today. But now the weather has changed and it really has no use to go out with the cameras at the moment. This gives me some time to write a trip report about the last "musk-oxen in winter conditions" tour of this winter season, which I guided earlier this week.
A week prior the start of this tour, it has been snowing quite a bit in Dovrefjell. This meant that finally there was enough snow for us to use the dog sledges to get into the mountains. During the previous two tours there was not enough snow for this, which resulted in us walking to our base camp instead. I had just returned from guiding 2 tours on the Lofoten islands and had not really had any time to rest between the tours. So I was quite happy that we could use the dog sledges to get up into the mountains, instead of walking!
The itinerary of this tour was similar to the two tours I described in trip report #1 and trip report #2. Only the conditions were quite different. I was fortunate to have five awesome guests from Switzerland with me, with who I had an absolute amazing 6 days! Thank you guys for making this tour such a great one! I really enjoyed every second of it!
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. 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.
Because we were with 6 persons, the husky musher couldn't take the whole group plus all our equipment up in one ride. Therefor we split the group in two. At 09:00 in the morning the first group (2 guests plus me) met up with the husky musher, packed our equipment on the sledges and lined up the dogs in front of the sledges. In approximately 1 hour we arrived at the location where we set up our base camp for the rest of the tour. Shortly after having finished setting up the tents, the second part of the group arrived too. We still had plenty of time to make the first hike to the musk-oxen en take the first shots of the tour. Just when we arrived at a group of 5 bulls, it started to snow. Not a bad way to start the tour!
At 5:30 in the morning we started our hike back up the mountain, to the area where we had photographed the 5 bulls the evening before. To my surprise, the animals had moved several kilometers during the night. We found them together with a herd of females with their calves. Before we managed to get to this herd, we came across two large bulls and witnessed something which was also a first for me. The two bulls had apparently already been fighting for quite some time and they meant business. One of them was bleeding badly from a gaping hole in the head, right underneath his horns. It looked like that the other bull had pierced one of his horns in the other bull's head. The animals were pushing each other around, trying to push each other over.
Suddenly they started to walk backwards away from each other, while swinging their heads back and forth. This they do when they challenge each other. It didn't take long before the started to run at each other and crashed with full speed, sending one of the animals almost flying into the air.
Again they backed up from and crashed again on full speed into each other. In the slideshow below you can see the full charge and crash.
After this crash, one of the bulls backed off and the animals moved down hill. They left us amazed by what we just had seen. What an experience! After going through the pictures, we continued to the rest of the herd where we photographed for the rest of the day.
After a good night of sleep, we started again at 5:30 in the morning to hike back to the herd. On our way up, I found a set of fresh tracks. The two bulls had moved during the night towards our camp and were now positioned on the other side of the mountain as the day before. After having photographed them for an hour, we hiked to the rest of the herd where we photographed the rest of the day.
In the morning I played a bit with long exposures to try to simulate a snow storm. Most of the pictures I could throw away. But there were also some keepers.
This was our last photo day of the tour. At 13:00 the husky musher would pick the first 3 guests up, so we only had the morning to photograph. The wind had picked up quite a bit, which made it quite difficult to stand up straight or hold the camera still. We found the animals on one of the tops of the mountain. We managed to get to one top which was slightly higher, which gave us the possibility to photograph the animals with the mountains of Rondane National Park in the background. A great way to finish of the tour I would say!
At 7:30 I drove my guests back to the airport and returned home.
If you would like to join me on one of these tours too, please take a look here for more information.