Who says you have to travel to the polar regions in order to embark on a great winter expedition? Certainly not Rachel Frei Bandieri, a Swiss adventure athlete who set off on what promises to be quite the expedition this morning. Bandieri will now attempt to make a solo journey through Finnish Lapland in the middle of winter, covering approximately 1000 km (621 miles) in the process.
Rachel’s route follows the same course as a long-distance winter endurance event that use to be held in Lapland, but is no longer in operation. That event, which was known as the Lapland Extreme Challenge, started in 2013 and ran for several years, but now appears to have shut down. That challenge involved completing the long-distance course in less than 30 days, something that only three people ever managed to do. Bandieri hopes to become the fourth as she undertakes her challenge completely alone.
The route is a loop trail, which begins at Rovaniemi in the south and runs north to Lake Inari, before turning back south once again. Over the past couple of years, the Swiss ultrarunner has surveyed various parts of the trail in winter to get a sense of what she is getting herself into. She knows that many areas include very deep snow, frigid conditions, and high winds. She also knows that winter in Lapland can be harsh and demanding at any time, but she is prepared for the challenges ahead.
In preparation for the ski expedition, Bandieri has been in Rovaniemi since December, training for the conditions and competing in a 300 km (186 miles) long-distance event. Now, she feels rested and ready to hit the trail. As she sets off today, she’ll be hauling a 45kg (100 pound) sled behind her as she goes. That will include all of the fuel, gear, and supplies she’ll need to reach Lake Inari, where she’ll get a supply drop to keep her going for the return trip back to her starting position in Rovaniemi, which she hopes will take just 30 days. Rachel says her main goal is to finish however, and the 30 days deadline is not a hard and fast rule.
You can follow Bandieri’s progress on her Facebook page.