Stage Two began at Aktse where the runners spent last night. Over the course of the evening, we were treated to a display of aurora borealis across the course and it was at it’s most vibrant and vivid over Aktse, as if to welcome the runners home. Few emerged from the warmth of their cabins to appreciate it and more still were asleep before they appeared, but our event photographer was on scene to capture the event for them.
Conditions at Aktse and elsewhere at ground level we mild as the day began and remained so throughout the day. This no doubt planted a false sense of security, one quickly dispelled as the runners began the long, grueling climb up through the soft snow covering the slopes of Mt Kabla, the highest point of the race. The views, however, were magnificent. Our event photographer, Mikkel Beisner, who has covered this event 6 times, was on hand to capture it. See the cover image of this blog for an example.
The winds were high enough that the tracks of the snowmobiles, which our runners follow along with the trail markers we place along the way, were swept away within minutes of their passing meaning that our Sami team had to drive ceaselessly backward and forwards to keep the path visible. It made for a mentally draining challenge as well as a physical one. As the winds reached their peak our 3rd checkpoint was forced to pack up and move to a more sheltered area 1.5km further along the course as their teepee would no longer stand.
After the summit though, each step brought them further down, further out of the wind and the biting cold which reached -26c with windchill. As they approached CP4 they were low enough to encounter their first frozen lake of the day. Unfortunately this was also their first encounter with surface water.
When snow accumulates on top of the ice which tops the lakes, it pushes the ice down, forcing water up through any gap it can find. This water forms a layer of slush. That slush is then hidden by the next snowfall creating a trap for those unlucky enough to step into it. Many runners arrived at the finish line with inches of ice crusted onto their snowshoes were they had breached the upper layer of snow and submerged their shoes in slush which had then refrozen into ice. Once this has happened there is no way to remove it or their snowshoes until they reach the next checkpoint or the finish line. A final challenge at the end of an already exceptional taxing day.
First over the line today was Lukasz Urbaniak who took a 2nd win in a row. Lukasz seems unstoppable at the moment. unphased by the conditions and unbowed by the physical toll. Behind him was Julen Urdaibai who we last saw at the Desert Ultra. He thrived today in drastically colder conditions.
Sheila Sanei was once again the first woman across the line. Sheila is indomitable and consistent and looks likely to grab the overall win.
The stage tomorrow begins at 0730 (0630 UK Time) again. Tomorrow, the runners will face no more climbs but many more and much larger frozen lakes. Hopefully, they won’t encounter too much surface water.
Results as they stand are below.
STAGE TWO TIMES
|Race #||First Name||Last Name||Stage One||Stage Two||Stage Three||Stage Four||Stage Five||TOTAL||POSITION|
|Race #||First Name||Last Name||Start Time||Finish Time||Stage Five|