Europe’s longest and and one of the world’s hardest dog sledge races, Finnmarksløpet, takes place this week. The winner becomes the world champion for 2015.
The race started in Alta last Saturday. As the mushers arrive in Kirkenes they have finished half of the race. Almost 500 kilometers have passed, but there is another 600 to go before they reach the finish line i Alta.
1100 kilometers is the equivalent of the driving distance between Paris and Berlin. However, there are no highways in Finnmark. The mushers and their dogs follow snowmobile tracks in the arctic wilderness of Northern-Norway, passing through 14 checkpoints where the dogs and the mushers get food and rest.
The race goes over open mountain plateaus, through valleys and across lakes and rivers. The temperature will some years drop to below minus 30 degrees. However, this year it is not the cold but the heavy winds which have caused most problems. But as almost all teams have past half way in Kirkenes, only one out of the 47 mushers who started in Alta have stopped the race.
Thus there are 46 participants left in the competition for the world champion title in the 1100 kilometers race, while 67 have been competing for the world champion title of the 500 km race. The shortest race is already finished and was won by Elisabeth Edland from Norway. The winner of the longest race will probably arrive at the finishing line in Alta by Thursday or Friday, after having spent between five or six days on the sledge behind the almost unstoppable running huskies.
Follow the battle for the title in the last days of Finnmarksløpet on their website:finnmarkslopet.no.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Warmth, lack of snow in Yukon threatens winter events, Radio Canada International
Norway: Norwegian contingent prepared for Iditarod challenge, Alaska Public Radio Network
United States: Alaska – Fairbanks snowstorm a blessing for snow-starved Iditarod, Alaska Dispatch News