The Start Of An Epic Finnish Challenge - 5 days in the Lapland Wilderness
The first edition of the Lapland Wilderness Challenge kicked off at midday today, in northern Finland, in the Kaldoaivi and Vätsäri areas. Normally a region associated with families living out their reindeer fantasies at Christmas, this event is fortunately taking place in kinder conditions, and features a host of mostly Scandinavian teams. 104 people spread across 42 teams registered for the race, but only 81 people from 33 teams have managed to cross the start line (Finnish and 1 Latvian), thanks to the global pandemic. The few Russian and single British teams are going to have to wait for the next edition.
There are 3 categories of team, male, female and mixed, ranging from 2 to 5 people each, off on a serious adventure, spending up to 5 days in total wilderness, navigating open fells, sparse forests and wet swamps. They have 120 hours to clear the 500km linear course, with slower teams only expected to get halfway by the time the fastest teams finish. Note that there is an extra 6hrs leeway, but any team finishing within that period will be penalised. Anything later is a DQ.
There's a single store to replenish supplies at roughly halfway, requiring a healthy 10km detour, so presumably most teams will be avoiding that hiccup. There is no transition area, as this is a single discipline. The longest distance between CPs is 66km, as the crow flies...
There are curious rules due to the remoteness of the course. For example, nothing is permitted to be dropped or cached on the course prior to the race, but during the event, if teams intend to return to the same location at a later point in the race, teams may cache items at their own risk, providing they retrieve all items before completion of the race and nothing is left on the course.
Packrafts look like an obvious option considering all the water, but the RD said they weren't useful, as there aren't many rivers, though many lakes. Would you take the weight hit to try get an advantage? The Näätämönjoki and the Kallojoki rivers may only be crossed via bridges, while all other rivers are freely crossable.
Strong team 36 Marsut reckon swimming a shortcut, regardless of day or night, will be worthwhile suffering, even if it only saves them 20 minutes. They've already taken a dip, one of only 2 teams to do so en route from CP3 to CP4, and are currently in 3rd place. They aim to be on the move for 19hrs a day, saying stopping for anything longer than 4hrs is a waste of time.
Brown bears and mosquitos seem to the main fauna to be prepared for, but apparently them bears are of the shy type. Mosquitos should not be underestimated, nor the local gadfly.
Tracking is excellent as usual for a Scandinavian race, though a little complicated thanks to the remote region. The eastern areas are visible at the link shown here: https://sportrec.eu/ui/#1fht189 and the western part can be tracked via: https://sportrec.eu/ui/#1fi3arh
The race website can be found at https://laplandchallenge.net/