"You want me to go where?
Who are these women,

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Rona and Cathy are featured in this month's GQ magazine, two of six explorers 'for whom the adventure never ends'.
Click for full article.
The Dispatches from the Trail...
A final statement from the dogs
Goodbye & happy travels

Sun 25 April: The team is finally splitting up, heading to their respective homes. The dogs are back in their kennels, taking a well-deserved rest and lots of food. They were driven home from Nordkapp in a giant dog-trailer. Rona, Cathy and Per-Thore took the luxurious way home, sailing along the Norwegian coast in a cruise-liner.
After two days of sightseeing in Tromso, Rona and Cathy are flying back to the UK this afternoon. All that remains of the expedition is a line of sled tracks stretching across 528 kms of snow, and some 4 million paw prints from the dogs, gradually melting away in the spring sunshine.
Meet the team on the evening of 13 May at the Travellers Club in London to see the pictures and hear the full story.
Goodbye and happy travels from the Nordkapp 2004 team.

There ain't no mountain high enough

A beautiful moment sledding up a deserted valley, birch forests in
front of us and mountains beyond them.


Norway's hunk of the month.

Per-Thore Hansen, our enigmatic third team member. His favourite instructions were: Rona, push! and Cathy, eat!

Rona & friend

Rona shares a moment with Shakira, one of the most affectionate of the dogs.


Route planning

Per-Thore planning the route in one of the cabins.


Lunch to go

Rona making up the daily lunch pack - flat bread with ham and cheese.


English breakfast

Per-Thore eating an instant muesli breakfast. Using dogs we could afford to be relatively generous with the catering and we ate a combination of dehydrated meals and more substantial fresh fare.


Tent time

Cathy relaxing in the tent with a cup of coffee. The expedition ran on dog food and coffee - the last coffee granules were shared out on the final morning. We couldn't afford to be out there another day!


Modelling canine booties

The long days and tough snow conditions took their toll on the dogs' paws and by the last day most had booties on. The majority hate the booties and the two dogs here, Shara and Zita, Cathy's lead dogs, were expert at removing them by opening the velcro tabs with their front teeth.

Rock dodgems

Tue 20 April: As we approached the coast (which is warmed by the Gulf stream) there was less and less snow, making for interesting navigation through the rocks and grass hummocks.


Our final camp

Tue 20 April: Our final campsite. Little red tent for the boy, big green tent for the girls, dogs sleep outside.


Thanks for all the support!

Congrats on successfully completing your venture.

Congrats - it souded awesome.
I really enjoyed (and looked forward) to reading your daily dispatches.

the website is fab

CONGRATULATIONS ! What a great achievement and wonderful adventure, and thank you so much for keeping us all entertained and informed along the way - I shall miss looking in on your daily dispatches. Have a safe journey home.


Congrats, how's the shoulder and nose?

Congratulations, proud of you.
Love Si

Support emails.

What a technological feat to post regular updates from the ice!
Wish you and Rona and Per-Thore all the best for the expedition, and safe return.
Jiri Rezac
Time to head home.

Rona turns her sled away from the ocean that lies beyond Nordkapp. It is time to head for home.


Tourist welcome

Wed 21 April: The three teams arrive at Nordkapp to be greeted by tourist cameras.



Champagne all round as the the mushers and their dogs arrive at Nordkapp.


Racing to Nordkapp

Cathy, Per-Thore and Rona, with their teams, race across the last snows before the Nordkapp.


Mission accomplished!

Wed 21 April: 71° 10' 21". At 13.50 Western European time the Nordkapp expedition reached its objective. Three tired mushers and 26 tired dogs (one so tired she was being given a lift in a sled) arrived at the northern-most point of Europe, the Nordkapp. We cracked open a bottle of champagne and celebrated the successful conclusion to 11 days of travelling.
It has to be said that the wilderness is not what it once was and we were greeted by a visitors centre and a coachload of tourists all frantically photographing the dogs.
Nevertheless we could look out over the deep blue sea, lying calm under stormy grey skies, and know that nothing lay between us and the North Pole.
Dispatches will continue for a few days while we travel down the Norwegian coast by boat and get the time to upload more expedition pictures.
April 21, Expedition completed - champagne at the arrival
First blood spilt

Tue 20th: The first expedition blood to be spilt is Rona's. The team was sledding down a slope, moving fast on hard snow. In the middle was one rock, which Rona unerringly hit. She was thrown from the sled, face-planting in the snow, cutting herslef on the bridge of her nose. She picked herself up, got back on her sled and we continued - no other choice really!

Blue ice lakes

Tue 20th: Much of the day's sledding has been through beautiful rolling highlands with lakes of blue ice in the hollows. The blue ice is a sign of surface melt in the previous warm days, which has frozen again in the current cold.


Winter woolies

Tue 20th: Cathy with hood up and goggles on for protection against the bitter cold and biting wind.


Born to run

Tue 20th: Sally and Vinga, Rona's lead dogs, making up time on the hard-packed snow.


Tuesday 20 April

Tuesday 20 April: Corfu. We covered 81 km today, with a fastest speed of 26.5 km/h, and an average of 10.2 km/h. We have done a total of 515 km.
After our soft snow nightmares of the past few days our prayers were answered in bone-chilling fashion. Clear skies and sunshine made for beautiful vistas, but low temperatures and fierce winds made it probably our coldest day yet. Hard crisp snow made for very rapid progress and in fact we have covered two day stages in one. However dogs and humans are all deeply tired and many of the dogs have bleeding paws.
The day's high was sledding through herds of reindeer, the low Rona swan-diving off her sled to face-plant in the snow.
Late in the afternoon we descended from the highlands to see the sea deep blue ahead of us and the mountains of Nordkapp in the distance.
Tomorrow we will stand on Europe's northern-most point. While it is exciting to see our goal so close, it is also sad to see the experience drawing to a close.
Read all about it...

Rona writes up her daily diary in the tent. She will be writing a book about this expedition that she hopes to have out in time for this Christmas. She makes notes while sledding by using a dictaphone and then writes up the day's account each night. You can pre-order a copy of the book by emailing Rona at 


Toasted boots

Mon 19 April: Another of the drawbacks of soft snow is how wet we get, not from the snow itself (mostly) but from the pushing and shoving and stomping reqired to shift the sleds. The sweat builds up fast and then stays with us, cold and clammy, for the rest of the day. Here the inners of Cathy's boots dry out over the stove in the tent.

Rona ramps valley of death

Mon 18 April: Having given up on our attempt to traverse out of the valley of death, we did a kamikaze run straight down to the valley flloor. Here Rona charges down the final incline. We had our feet so hard on the foot brake that our feet were nearly half a foot below the sled runners and still we ploughed down through the soft snow. We finally exited the valley via a pass at its head and found hard-packed snowmobile trails that carried us speedily northwards.


Valley of death

Mon 19 April: After our breakfast break we innocently sledded straight into the valley of death. Deep snow got deeper, soft snow got softer, and we began to climb the valley side in search of harder, shallower snow. That proved a fatal mistake. Traversing steep slopes in deep snow was asking for the sleds to tip over time and again. And when they went, they tipped well past the horizontal, leaving us pushing desperately upwards while mired in thigh-deep snow. Here Per-Thore rescues Rona's sled.


Breakfast to go

After our early start (not one of the strengths of this expedition) we felt we deserved a break for a breakfast snack and a cup of coffee. This trip runs on coffee and it is a source of much concern that we are very close to running out. However, our attempts at rationing have not met with success.
During our break, Rona entertained the Oxford commuter traffic on BBC Radio Oxford.


River riding

Mon 19 April: After slow and rough progress over the highlands, we picked up speed as we followed the Bastinjåkka river. It provided a fast and level highway north for several hours, paved in pale-green ice, although with some alarming cracks and holes. Finally it veered away from north, and we headed back into the hills, heading in all innocence into the valley of death.

Tough on equipment...

Mon 19 April: We did actually manage an early start this morning, up at 4.45, gone by 6.45, and the effort paid off with firmer snow and faster going. However, day after day of tough going is taking a toll on our equipment . Here the three teams pile up as Rona's gangline breaks.


Monday 19 April

Mon 19 April evening: 70° 26' N, 24° 30' E. Ska'di. 434 km done in total, with 54 km covered today. Our fastest speed was 21.7 km/h, with 10.1 km/h our average.
It has been a long day across varied terrain and snow conditions. Tomorrow we may catch our first glimpse of the sea. Nordkapp is slowly getting closer.
Deluxe pasta dinner.

Sun 18: Per-Thore dishes out lavish helpings of our deluxe pasta dinner. Time to replace all the energy burnt up in the day's sledding.
Rona trapezing on her sled.

Rona demonstrates the art of traversing a slope with a heavy sled. Both feet are on the uphill sled runner, and weight is pushed as far up the hill as possible, butt swinging wide, to try and stop the sled sliding downhill.

Sleds afloat

The surface ice on the lakes is beginning to melt, leaving the ice a strange pale green colour. The dogs are running through an inch of water.

The dogs cooling off.

With the warm temperatures and the hard going, the dogs take every chance they can to cool off by rolling in the snow.

Rona interviews Per-Thore

Sun 18: Rona interviews our famously shy (but very competent and rather good-looking) third team member, Per-Thore Hansen.
How do you think the expedition is going? It is going good.
How are the dogs coping? They are doing fine, they are a little bit tired after a long winter.
Do you think we will make it to Nordkapp? Sure we will one way or another.
Thanks Per-Thore, we will hear more from you please at the end of the expedition.
Soft and slow

Sun 18 April, late afternoon: We have covered just 50 kms, but we are pleased to have come even that far. Conditions today turned out to be as bad as we feared. It has been a slow-going day, floundering through soft, deep snow for hour after hour. It is equally frustrating for the lead team, which has the hard job of trail-breaking, and for the teams that follow, which are continually breaking. As the brakes don't work well in deep snow, quickly clogging and jamming, it becomes a process of continually stopping and starting again.
The dogs hate working in these conditions and we need to get them onto firmer ground. If the weather stays like this we need to travel much earlier in the day when the snow is still hard. Currently the plan is dog feeding at 4am, leaving at 6am. We just can't wait!
Soft and slow.

Sun 18 April, late afternoon: We have covered just 50 kms, but we are pleased to have come even that far. Conditions today turned out to be as bad as we feared. It has been a slow-going day, floundering through soft, deep snow for hour after hour. It is equally frustrating for the lead team, which has the hard job of trail-breaking, and for the teams that follow, which are continually breaking. As the brakes don't work well in deep snow, quickly clogging and jamming, it becomes a process of continually stopping and starting again.
The dogs hate working in these conditions and we need to get them onto firmer ground. If the weather stays like this we need to travel much earlier in the day when the snow is still hard. Currently the plan is dog feeding at 4am, leaving at 6am. We just can't wait!
Thanks Rikki!

Hi Cathy and Rona

What a journey - I have been following your web reports daily - Wow - I really do admire you both - fantastic photographs - Glad you got the tekkie stuff sorted after you near disaster in the water - Its difficult to imagine how scary that must be - in the middle of know where - its not as if you can flag down some help. Rona I'm so sorry to hear of your shoulder injury - I shall send some healing energy (I did Silva training)

Hope you have had a well deserved rest today - and everything has dried out and the pain is lessened for the second half - I look forward to the reports next week - Good luck

Arctic melt.

Sun 18 April morning: The one unexpected problem we have encountered is that temperatures are too high. It rained gently for much of last night and this morning feels damp and grey, with temperatures several degrees above freezing.
We have yet to use the arctic suits we have with us, wearing merely thermal leggings, gore-tex sallopettes and heavy jackets (which sounds like a lot but up here is practically beach wear).
High temperatures bring unexpected problems. We carry raw meat (offal) in frozen blocks to feed the dogs. When it is too warm it begins to melt and reek.
Ideally the dogs want to run in -10C to -20C. When it is warmer, they overheat and slow down.
Hard snow is easier and faster to fun on. In softer snow the dogs sink in, and the lead team battles to break a trail. The human can't help by mushing, as there is nothing solid to push against. The sleds, although wood lashed together with twine, and so very flexible, damage more easily in soft snow. Per-Thore has already broken a runner.
It is also easier to tip the sleds and jam them. Pulling 120 kgs of sled upright when floundering in thigh-deep snow, with the dogs swimming up to their bellies, is not easy.
The rivers and lakes that so often provide us with an easy line through the hills are also beginning to weaken. We find ourselves sledding through pools of slush on the lakes, and across narrow snowbridges on the rivers.
To our surprise, we are hoping for colder days ahead!
A sled-sized hole in the ice.

This is the hole into which Cathy's sled fell on Thur 15th. The teams were crossing from the riverbank campsite onto the ice of the river, and Cathy's team took the turn too tightly.

Keep left, overtake right.

We have encountered various over travellers on our trip, most commonly on snowmobiles, but also travelling on ski. Some skiers are carrying backpacks, some are pulling pulkas (small sleds), others are accompanied by a dog pulling the pulka.
But yesterday (Fri 16th) was the first time we have met other dog teams.

Any idiot can be uncomfortable.

Per-Thore and his team take a lunchtime nap on the Kautokeino river.


Rivers: roads of the north

On Thursday 15th we spent most of the day following the Kautokeino river. In the arctic the frozen rivers become the roads of winter, complete with road signs!

Support emails

As per your norm - this adventure does NOT look like a walk around the park. But we've come to expect that from you.
Pete Major

You are really amazing! One (ad)venture after another... I will follow
your adventure "in the neighbourhood" with great interest. The dog-sledding sounds so romantic, but I guess it's hard work alright?!
Anna Storbacka
A word from Rona

Sat 17 April, Rona: I hadn't realised that we would have a rest day but it is a godsend. The trail has been quite arduous, the dogs are tired, there is the equipment to dry out and my shoulder is giving me a lot of pain. I am rationing the painkillers so that they last to the end of the Expedition. The terrain we have travelled through has been incredible - how I will describe it in the book will be difficult. There will need to be lots of pictures. This has been the most fantastic experience especially as I said after last year's trail for CancerResearchUK never again. On Sunday we set off again for the second half which will be even more remote. Watch this space! Rona

Servicing sled runners

Sat April 17: A rest day is a chance to service the rest of our kit. Per-Thore smoothes off the plastic runners under the sleds with a knife. Our travels do not just take us across soft snow.
We have had to cross several roads - an interesting experience as there's no way to brake on tar, and what cars there are travel fast. The tar is not kind to the plastic.
On Tuesday we were travelling over exposed highlands, stripped clear of snow by the howling winds. Rough rock patches scar the runners, as do the large rocks and tree stumps that we sometimes can't avoid bouncing off. Even the icy patches on rivers and the hard-pack snow on snowmobile trails slowly wear the runners down.
It runs in the blood.

Dog-sledding must run in the blood of Per-Thore's family. His 2 1/2 year old son, Jomar, rides in the sled while his wife, Hegge, is taking the puppies for a training run. As she controls the speed with the brake, he yells: don't brake mummy, don't brake.

Tiny figures under vast skies.

Rona and Per-Thore in the late afternoon of Wednesday 14th, crossing the soft snow plains.

Hot to trot.

Vinga and Sally leading Rona's team of eight dogs out of the Reisa national park on Wed 14th.

Magic mountains.


Early in the morning soon after leaving the Reina cabin on Wednesday 14th. One of the joys of this trip is the wide variety of scenery that we have passed through.


Sweet dreams in snow.

Sally, one of Rona's lead dogs, settled in for a good night's sleep. The dogs sleep unprotected on the snow, curled up tightly to protect their faces and stomachs.


Friday April 16th

Friday April 16th evening:
69° 45' N, 23° 56' E at Joatkajávri.
We travelled 58km today, to a total of 332km to date. We have reached our halfway point, and are taking a well deserved rest day, for human and dog alike.
Despite our best intentions of an early start, exhaustion from yesterday's dramas left us slow and tired. Even the dogs were unusually subdued as we set out.
The morning route was beautiful, following the Lesjohka river, a narrow valley winding through low hills. Fast flowing, there was open water in many places, and several narrow snow bridges to cross. These were done with care, following yesterday's disaster.
For the first time on the trip we met other dog teams, four teams travelling light on a 2-day trip.
After lunch we crossed Iesjávri, the biggest lake in Finmark (Norway's northern-most region, which we are currently traversing). The dogs don't like big lake crossings, becoming bored and lethargic without a target to run towards. But the mountains that lay on the distant horizons were beautiful. Next week we will be passing through them.
Now we are curled up in a beautiful forestry cabin, warm and well fed, a fire blazing in the stove. We have had a sauna, and a dip in the partially frozen river. It is time to chill out and enjoy a lie-in in the morning.
The only problem remaining is the technical equipment, which was always temperamental but has become far more so since going swimming yesterday. Getting information onto the website is proving difficult. I am about to go and huddle outside in the cold to try and send this report.
The going gets tough.

Things are getting tougher out here. Rona tore something in her left shoulder yesterday, she came down a hill round a corner (probably too fast) and the sled swung out into a tree stump, and then jammed round the stump in deep snow. The arm is severely compromised and she is running on painkillers this morning. We don't yet know how she will hold out.

First thing yesterday, crossing a snow bridge from our camp on the bank onto the frozen river we were to follow, my sled swung right and broke through the edge of the bridge, with 2/3 of the sled sinking. We finally pulled it out but my still and video camera are ruined. I am still trying to resuscitate the website comms. Everything in the sled was soaked. Rona went into the river with both feet trying to pull it out. And after all that we still had to sled for 70 km to reach our next stop-point.

We are about to leave for another 50 km today, and then tomorrow is a blessed rest day! It won't come a minute too soon.

A big day.

76° 55' N 22° 36 E Addgetgekke.
Average speed 10.4 km/h. Covered 90 km in 9 hours of sledding, done 199 km in total, nearly a third of the way.
A big day, crossing a lot of ground, at times in poor conditions. Temperatures are surprisingly high (relatively), the dogs are hot and the snow is soft, with the sleds tipping and jamming frustratingly easily.
Our first encounters with wildlife, flocks of white birds and, on a distant skyline, herds of hundreds of reindeer.
550 km to go...

69° 17' N, 21° 30' E Somas Cabin. Day 3: we covered 48 km, at an average speed of 16.3 km/h. The speedometer topped out at 25 km/h. So far we have travelled 109 km - 550 to go!

Cathy: Today started out beautifully, with blue skies and smooth untracked snow glittering in the sunlight. The only sign of life was the tracks of an Arctic fox. And running behind us the single sinuous line of our sled tracks and paw prints.
However, having crossed a high plateau, we found ourselves in the teeth of the wind. A ground storm whipped up, with spindrift scudding along the snow. Hoods wrapped round our faces, we pressed on, sleds being pushed sideways by the gusts, dogs trotting with heads tucked in.
In the bitter cold fingers and noses were going numb. Rona and Per-Thore were only visible from the waist-up, their dogs vanished in the spindrift.
For a while we followed a river-course, the dogs' paws skittering on the blue ice. And finally we approached the Reisa National Park, running along a hard-packed snowmobile trail. The only breaks all day were to lift fallen sleds (today Rona's, not mine), untangle dogs from each other and once from a hidden fence, and once to gulp down luke-warm tea from thermoses while huddled down beside our sleds.
We were glad to finally reach the cabin.
Loassomuvra Cabin Day 2


Rona getting odder by the day


Groundstorm on day 3
Doggie dinner time.

The logistics of keeping the dogs on the paw: We have 26 dogs, which we feed twice a day. They are burning up around 5000 kcalories a day. To replace that we go through nearly a 20 kg pack dry food a day, and 20 kg meat. To make the food we mix hot water, chopped meat, and dry food in vacuum boxes. 2 of our 3 sleds are filled with dog food.
Each dog gets a 2l bowl of food and water in the evening, and in the morning a 1/2 bowl. For the dogs we need 45l of water each evening and 30 l each morning, plus 10l for 3 people. We simply can't melt enough snow each day to produce 85l. We need a liquid water source. We use an ice drill to drill down through a metre of snow and ice to access the water in the many lakes in the region. The dogs also eat snow as they run for water.
Hygiene is very important as we can easily contaminate our food with dog food and get sick. Human food and dog food are always kept on different sleds.
Breakfast time.

Per-Thore feeding Shara breakfast.

Apr 12 - The going gets tough.

69° 12' N, 21° 00' E Cathy: It is the end of day 2 and it has been a long tiring haul, covering 41 km. We are tucked up warmly inside a cabin next to the Finnish border, at Loassomuvra. From 500 m we pushed up over 800m, dropped down to cross the great lake of Gálggojávri at 500 m and climbed back up to 800 m. The ascents are hard work, mushing or running by the sleds. And the descents demand constant concentration and braking to stop the sleds running over the dogs.

Always the challenge is the weight of the sleds. As Per-Thore says, they are shit-heavy (this being a technical mushing term, of course). Worst are traverse descents with the sleds tipping over precariously to one side. I went over 3 times in just 50 metres. The 3rd time a cliff above was echoing the barking of my team and they were jumping about frantically in search of the ghost dogs, starting to run each time I levered the sled a few inches above the ground. At which point I would drop the sled and do a superman-style dive for the sled bar andbthe snow anchor. Hopefully, better luck tomorrow.

Except that tomorrow we lose the convenience of snowmobile trails and spend 2 days trail-breaking through soft snow. The challenge continues...

April 11 - And we're off.

I'm tucked up in my sleeping bag on a snowy plateau close to the three nations border (where Norway, Finland and Sweden meet). Outside the wind is howling and snow is drifting over the 26 dogs curlrd up in a long line outside. I can think of no other place that I'd rather be!

After a frantic final round of packing, we left Per-Thore's house this morning for the two hour drive inland from Tromso to our start point at Sygnaledan. We passed vast fjords and ever larger mountains until we came at last to the valley that would give us access to the plateau.

Sleds were unloaded and packed, dogs unloaded and harnessed, barking wildly in their excitement. The thrill of the start was soon tempered by the reality of getting 120 kilogram sleds up 600 vertical metres on a narrow track winding through trees. Dog-sledding can be far harder work than one imagines, when mushing (keeping one foot on the sled runner while pushing on the snow with the other) or worse running behind the sled to try and lighten the load.

Both Rona and I flipped our sledges onto their sides at different points (Per-Thore would never do something so unprofessional). Pushing a sled that weighs nearly twice my body weight back onto its runners is no joke, especially as the dogs start to pull as soon as they feel the sled moving.

We were accompanied on the first stretch by friends on a snowmobile, doing some filming for us. Thereafter we passed skiers sled-hauling and other snowmobile parties. But nothing beats dog-sleds for style! Roll on tomorrow, we are ready for more...
April 10 - 12 Hours and Counting...

After a morning spent shopping for food and other last minute items, and an afternoon spent packing bags and boxes, we are ready to move out first thing tomorrow.

The messiest job was packing the dog meat into containers. It comes in great frozen slabs of reindeer meat and fat that have to be cut down into managable chunks with a chainsaw.

Although it snowed for most of the afternoon where we are on the coast, reports from inland promise excellent conditions. We may face some snow and wind in the next few days, but on a long trip we can expect to meet every kind of weather.

It is time for bed, one last night with the comfort of mattress, pillow and duvet, and 10 hours to enjoy every moment of it.
April 9 - Thanks for all the e-mails!

Thanks to everyone for your emails of support. They are all much appreciated.

Good luck with it, it sounds so exciting (I'm not so sure about the -20 degrees though!). Nicola Archer.

You are truly amazing. A little weird, but I like that in a person. Doug Stevenson.

Let me know if you come
across any lost Vikings in the high North... Jeanne
April 9 - Running the dogs

Cathy: this afternoon we took the dogs out for a practise run, running empty sleds with six dogs each. It was one of the most romantic experiences of my life. We were running across crisp fresh snow, with groves of black trees standing stark under a grey-white sky. Flakes of snow were drifting past, as plump as spring blossoms. The dogs were padding silently, running hard and fast. Resisting all attempts to slow or brake. One of the joys of mushing is that the dogs are clearly enjoying it as much as the people. I can't wait to get started on the main event.
April 9 - Final logistics in Norway

Our first day in Norway and the expedition is already beginning to feel like a reality. The morning has been spent on logistical chores - final touches to the sleds (which Per-Thore made from scratch), including fitting brakes (a good idea given how energetic the dogs are), fittting the sledbags on the sleds, pitching the tents to check everything is in place, testing the Primus stoves, making insulating covers for the food boxes, and finding the 1:50 000 maps that cover our route (some 20 in all). This afternoon, if all goes well, we take the dogs for a spin. Then things really get exciting!!

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