“For among these winters there is one so endlessly winter that only by wintering through it will your heart survive. — Maggie Stiefvater
I like snow, but only when I am looking at it from the warmth of a cosy room preferably with an open fire and a mug of hot chocolate. It was therefore with some trepidation that I set off on a hiking trip to Stockholm in the middle of winter.
I was supposed to be joining some friends snowshoe walking, however, two days before the trip we were informed by the organisers that due to lack of snow, we would not be snowshoeing after all. They offered us ice skating as an alternative. Luckily for me, a few of my fellow snowshoers were just as afraid of falling and embarrassing themselves as I am and were not too keen on ice skating either. The organisers could not understand why we did not want to ice skate. As far as they are concerned it’s just like walking. Easy for them to say when they have been doing it since the age of two.
We compromised with on a hike in the forests on the outskirts of Stockholm instead. Despite the three layers I had on underneath my two jackets, the scarf, hat, thermal gloves, double pairs of socks and thick boots, when we first started walking I thought my fingers were going to fall off. They were heavy and painful and I could just about hold the hiking poles. Ten minutes in I was so cold I wanted to cry. I couldn’t turn back because the van that had dropped us off had left. With a heavy heart, and heavy feet, I dragged myself on.
After walking for about forty-five minutes, I began to warm up. With the circulation had finally reaching my fingers and I began to take notice of my surroundings and the beauty around me and to actually enjoy the walk. Every now and again we stopped for a short break as the guide pointed out interesting plants or tree or told us interesting facts about the area. There were no snow fights as the shiny snow was almost fine like powder and could not be made into a ball. We had snow rain instead.
Half way through we stopped by a frozen lake for lunch which was provided by the tour operators. It consisted of sausages, sandwiches, soup, marshmallows, biscuits a selection of teas, coffee, water which you could have hot or cold. There was so much food I wondered if they were planning on keeping us there for more than a day.
A fire already burning when we got to the lunch stop. It felt strange sitting in front of a fire surrounded by snow in all directions. But I was glad that I allowed myself to be convinced into coming. It’s not every day that you get to have a BBQ in snow surrounded by crazy friends dipping marshmallows into alcohol before barbecuing and then eating it.
The rest of the hike went relatively quickly. The route was flat so the only challenge was keeping preventing myself from falling. Something that seems to be quite a challenge for me. Six hours after setting off, we were done. As hikes go, this is by far the easiest one I have done, despite the chilly beginning. I am clearly getting good at these extreme challenges.