Day 12: Into Sweden

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It’s not a good feeling to wake up and to have your head filled immediately with the knowledge that the next hour or so of your life is going to be miserable, frustrating and clumsy and that there’s no-one there to help, provide moral support or simply to take it out on. But this morning is all of that.

A better ice-beard

Wedged into a hollow of snow, my wind-battered tent has become encrusted with ice on the inside. It’s impossible to avoid brushing it all over my clothes, sleeping bag and mattress whilst struggling out of the warmth and into my down jacket. 

I unzip the door — more ice crystals — and discover that the wind has filled the porch with fresh snow. My stove and pans have vanished. I dig them out, getting my gloves covered in snow in the process. I need to keep everything as dry as possible for it to keep me warm. But I can’t.

The wind is still gusting, as it has been doing all night. Every gust is accompanied by a cloud of flying ice shards. Everything is covered in snow and ice as I stumble about, trying to work out how to pack my stuff into the panniers that are the only things preventing the tent from blowing away.

I open my kilogram packet of cheese and cut into it while my porridge is cooking. It’s frozen solid. I might as well carry a brick around in my pannier. The porridge freezes to the side of the pan before I’ve finished eating it. My moustache gets full of the stuff. Instinctively I wipe my mouth with my hand and I now have a glove covered in porridge. I fume and try to wipe it on my trousers. Now I have a moustache, a glove and a trouser-leg all covered in frozen porridge. At about this point I begin to consider throwing myself in front of the next passing vehicle.

Thankfully, the day gets better once I’m on the road again. It’s a headwind, of course, and a long climb towards the border, but just before I arrive I come across a historical happening — a troop of horse-drawn sledges heading for the annual winter market in nearby Roros. I pull up on my bike and unintentionally steal the show. Suddenly two bus-loads of tourists forget about the sleigh-riders and start taking my picture and enquiring as to what substance I’m made from to be doing such a trip. 

Then I find a cafe which sells hot-chocolate for 50p. The wind drops. I receive a message telling me my grandmother has sent me some money to sleep under a roof for the night. The pendulum swings the other way; suddenly it’s all good.

Due to the dismal progress made over the previous few days I set a target for Funäsdalen, about 70km from my camp, which I will reach at all costs before the day’s ride is over. The terrain is unforgiving and it’s well past dark when I arrive in the first of many Swedish towns I’ll come to on this leg of the trip.

Road to Sweden

Winter horse

Sleigh riders

Border crossing

Ice Spiker Pro

Arriving in Sweden

Nearing Funäsdalen

Schwalbe bicycle tyres, Extrawheel single-wheel trailers


Comments (skip to respond)

14 responses to “Day 12: Into Sweden”

  1. Granny was likely to come to the rescue… She must think you’re a loon! You are an inspiration though, despite the lunacy…xx

  2. This is absolutly outstanding, difficult to really take in the full pain and effort, being that i got nothing to compare it with (not good with pain) — BUT what i do take in and do not understand is how do the electronics (netbook and camera?) survive those many degrees below freezing, and batteries must go out fast?!

    1. I keep the camera battery in a handy pocket in my leggings, and the laptop battery goes down my pants while I’m cooking dinner. Strange but true.

      1. I should point out that this is purely to warm up said batteries…

  3. Cheers. I am absolutely enjoying reading about your expedition. I decided in september to bike to work for an entire year and the last few weeks has been miserably cold. (I am in Northern Colorado). However, it keeps me warm reading about your trip! Keep up the good work!

  4. andy welch avatar

    Hi mate, are you doing any post processing on those photos? How does the ice beard form so well — were you cultivating it for the photo?

    1. In recent months I started shooting photos with post-development in mind — hopefully the resulting images are overall improved!

      The ice beard just happens…

  5. Tom

    I don’t know how you’ve managed to do it, but in amongst the relative plethora of cycle touring/expedition blogs out there, yours has managed to catch my attention and sees me riveted to the screen absorbing each successive post like culinary sustenance or life-giving sunlight. Your stripped-down, clean and yet highly emotive site design and your brief, yet descriptive prose, pairs nicely with a northern winter and all of its sparse imagery and the bleak existence it represents. 

    Beautiful work!

    1. Thank you Kai, I am really flattered!

  6. Tom Greenwood avatar
    Tom Greenwood

    Really enjoying your daily postings. Your trip is inspiring.
    Im amazed how you have the effort to blog about it after what sounds like such a hard slog of a cycle.

    1. Believe me it’s often a struggle!

  7. James Newton avatar
    James Newton

    Thank goodness for grandmothers.
    It’s unremarkably drizzly in Kent, no freezing porridge just dampness all round.
    I can’t believe your laptop is still working in those temperatures, or your fingers!

  8. “taking ice-beards to their inevitable conclusion”

  9. Hi Tom,

    Just wanted to say I’m really enjoying your daily postings — absolutely love the photos as well as the words. Stay safe, I admire your grit and ambition.

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