Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Story of the White Hell

It started like a nice, easy, fun run

Just like any other run.

The sun was shining, what could possibly go wrong?

Ok, just look and enjoy the beauty and soak in the relaxed atmosphere.

Just look at the pictures. Sunshine, blue skies, dogs beautifully lined up and working smoothly. Why in the world would I wanna call this a white hell?!

We even got to try another young dog in lead - Runner. He did very well.

Scroll down a little bit more.

Ya, just till about here.

Now, see this?!

This is where the story of the white hell begins.

We climbed some steep hills.

We decided to command the teams onto them, to shorten the run a bit as it was actually getting quite warm. We´d make it really a nice, shorter, fun run...

What you actually don´t see on the pictures is what followed. The forest road we turned onto, was driven by a snomachine a few times before. But it wasn´t definitely as hard packed as the trail we´ve used the whole winter. Now we were running in some +8°C (in shade) and the snow underneath our sleds started sinking.

If you are not a musher, who lives in a land with six months of snow, I will explain what that means. It´s like running in quick sand or swimming in mud. It´s bottomless struggle to keep going forward. There is no way of turning around as there is no anchor hold to keep the team stopped. Forget about leaving the sled. You can´t go back and the only way is to try to go forward, which is a pilgrimage.

The road is longer than we thought and now we have the "easy" part behind us. We reached bottom of the downhill. It connects to a "T" crossing, where the dogs intuitively want to go left. But we know that we are supposed to go right. Rapid listens to my "gee", but Magpie is stubborn and lies down in the snow. Ok. We need a "time out".

Few dogs in the front of my team are tangled and both teams are ready to roll again, after they cought up their breath and rolled in the snow.

A quick plan had to be assembled. Believe me, it is hard to come up with a good and safe plan in a stressed head and tired body.

Two heads have higher chances of comming up with something smart, so we risked it. Jachym leaves his team, anchored as well as it can be in these conditions. If the dogs get both hooks out of the snow, they will have to pass me and my team and I will stop them. It is way safer than if I left my team.

Jachym grabs my leaders and points them the right direction.

Then he does some untangling. Hurry up, man, your team is about to take off any time!

A quick check back. Wow, all nine are barking, but Runner is laying and holding the team down, while howling. Amazing! Good dogs!

Now the dogs are recharged and head out into the battle with the white hell with new enthusiasm. It´s hot!

The white porridge opens a deep, uneven rail, when the lead dogs work their way through it. Sometimes it´s up to their necks and for a while they jump like deers, a technique I´ve seen them develop while trailbreaking. It is an exhausting work and I pray they won´t loose their determination.

I admire them. They´ve never been here before, and neither have I.

Rapid starts to systematically seek for harder packed and more shallow parts of the trail, the team ziggzags after her. Impressive!

I kick, push, pedal, walk, run and praize the dogs as much as I can.

And with a few stops to catch a breath and to cool off, we finally climb the last hill that connects us to the homebound trail!

Again, I am amazed at the dogs´ will.

Magpie and Rapid - My leaders - My pride.
Just look at the smiles of satisfaction on both their faces! :)

I am so grateful to these girls for not giving up. For swimming and pulling us through the neck deep, heavy snow. For getting us out of the white hell!

Runner sure got a real leader test today. Judging from his big smile, it wasn´t so bad after all!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great story. Isn't it awesome when they give you so much to be proud of?