65 Degrees North forced to cut short Norway expedition due to severe weather conditions

Published Sunday, 19th March 2023
Screenshot 2023 02 12 at 16 33 39

The 65 Degrees North Team were met with very challenging conditions at the start of their six day crossing of the iconic Hardangervidda Plateau in Norway. 

High winds, poor visibility and driving snow combined to severely restrict movement on skis.

The conditions particularly hampered the team members wearing prosthetics and a tumble by another team member within a few kilometers of the first hut required helicopter extraction.

This long and energy sapping day necessitated a reevaluation of the proposed route and, with distances increasing and the safety of the group of primary concern, the decision was taken to cut short the attempt for this year.

After a rest day, the group has completed another full day of mountain skiing to get to an extraction point on the edge of the Hardangervidda. 

Once again, poor light conditions and heavy, wet snow have created difficult conditions but, despite the obvious disappointment, the group remain buoyant and have shown resilience and teamwork in hugely challenging circumstances.

Expedition leader George Matthews said: “The reality is, this wild and inspirational place can defeat even the hardiest people….that’s why we come here. 

“Sometimes it is wonderful and benign and sometimes it’s gnarly and horrible! I’ve been coming to Norway in winter for many years but that first day was one of the most challenging that I have experienced. 

“The Group showed tremendous resilience and outstanding teamwork in dealing with the potentially hazardous situation in which they found themselves.”

The group intend to stay in Norway and use the next few days to optimise this fantastic opportunity provided by 65 Degrees North to continue to gather experiences and build on the friendships made. A programme of ski touring is in place and the team are looking forward to getting a few more kilometres under their belts.

The Norwegians and others who we have met on this trip have been impressed and astonished at this undertaking.

It is not often they encounter prosthetic limbs in their mountain huts! 

This amazing group of people have been, and continue to be, an inspiration.

Their story has attracted much interest… but it is not over yet…not by a long way!

Some quotes from the group members:

Georgie Smith said: “Wind, snow conditions, poor visibility and an exceptionally challenging route made the conditions tiring and hard work. BUT, the team as expected have a tenacious spirit and support towards each other.

“So it’s unfortunate and sad we can’t complete the route as planned, however the adventure isn’t over and plan B to adapt and overcome sees the group take on sone alternative routes and experiences. I’m proud of the team and new friends I’ve made.”

Lee Spencer said: “The opening day was really challenging. It wasn’t just the weather, which was bad, the conditions under ski were awful. Deep, heavy snow, in low visibility made travel really hard. 

“It was exhausting work but as a team we worked hard for each other. Gutted that it’s really stopped us getting across the Hardangervidda, but proud to be part of a great team.”

Ray Evans said: “In ultra running terms this would be put down as a DNF "Did Not Finish" but with the team spirit, friendship, new skills, confidence and respect gained during this challenge it's a DNF "DID NOT FAIL" during the harsh conditions yesterday all I felt was a team bonding. Thank you to everyone.”

Ross Matthews said: “Hard times with the best warriors I have ever met… each one held their own and did more than could be asked of them in the face of such hardship.

“I personally couldn’t have wished for a better group of amazing people.. this challenge shall pass but as a fond memory I personally shall hold this expedition in my heart for the rest of my life. Well done team.”

Ben Clark (Doctor): “The worst winds, the worst snow conditions, low temperatures and then “The Wall”.  At one point there was a 300 metres height gain in less than 1000metres traverse. With strength and courage everyone conquered it. 

“Metres from the top I will admit I wasn’t sure I had much left in the tank. After reaching the highest point we came together as a team with the desire and motivation to finish the days journey.  

“But rightly so, the groups immediate safety and well-being took priority and the difficult decision to ‘regroup and reassess’ was taken. 

Great memories were born of that tough day and with great excitement we have planned the rest of the expedition.”

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