Musher Lars Monsen arrived to checkpoint Kirkenes just after 8 am Tuesday morning and was first out to the melting tracks again half an hour later.(Photo: Thomas Nilsen)
Lars Monsen and his dogs had to cross in between puddles and slushy snow when approaching checkpoint Kirkenes early Tuesday morning. Europe’s longest sled dog race is about to melt away in the unseasonably warm weather.
54 mushers from seven different countries are these days crossing Finnmark county on the top of Europe from Alta to Kirkenes and returning to Alta, in total 1,000 kilometers. Another 73 mushers participate in the shorter 500 kilometer race.
Finnmarksløpet is second to Iditarot, crossing Alaska, the world’s most famous dog sled race. The two races take place simultaneously this year.
The first musher in Finnmarksløpet arrived at checkpoint Kirkenes late Monday evening. It is, however, Lars Monsen that is first out from Kirkenes after just half an hour break. Lars Monsen is one of Norway’s most famous adventurer known for his explorations and backpacking expeditions in harsh wilderness across the Barents Region and North America.
Normally, the racers have to cope with freezing cold across the inner part of Finnmark. Not so this year. Temperatures are above zero Celsius, some places up to 3 to 4 degrees Celsius, normally considered to be a good spring in early May so far north in Europe. To warm for sledge dogs some argue.
The two classes, the 8-dogs class and a 14-dogs class, have in total over 1,000 huskies that right now are running across the amazing nature wilderness from Alta in the west to the Norwegian, Finnish, Russian borderland in the east. The first racers are expected to break the finishing tape back in Alta before the weekend.
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This February the hotels of Rovaniemi, Lapland have been full to the brim with customers. Usually this many people stay in hotels in the northern city only during the Christmas season, but this year the tourist boom will continue into March at least.
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