During a few days in February extreme athletes challenge their limits by walking 230 kilometres through the Arctic mountain landscape, mainly through World Heritage Laponia. Ice Ultra is, without doubt, a trial of strength for the hardy, and one of the absolute toughest ultra-marathon challenges out there.
The ultimate adventure
This is one of the world’s toughest ultra races and extreme athletes from all around the world participate. They run – with and without snowshoes – through the Arctic mountain landscape, over wind-packed snowfields, frozen lakes and through mountain forests. They sleep in tents or in mountain huts they pass along the route.
The competition takes places in the World Heritage Site Laponia, in the borderland of the national parks Sarek and Stora Sjöfallet. It’s both challenging and exposed. No snowmobiles or other off-road vehicles are allowed here. Physical and mental endurance is put to a painful test, but even so, this competition is the ultimate adventure for many.
One of four Ultra Races
The participants carry their own equipment: food, sleeping bag, extra clothes, safety equipment and at least 1.5 litres of water. Along the track, there are water stations, but apart from that, it’s up to each participant to manage.
The fact that the temperature often drops down to minus 30 degrees Celsius in February makes the race the toughest trial arranged by the British organiser Beyond the Ultimate. The other three ultra races arranged by Beyond the Ultimate go through mountain massifs, jungles and deserts, but the Arctic competition is considered to be exceptionally hard, because of the cold.
Rigorous safety requirements
The participants compete individually or in teams of three, where the performance of each individual and time penalties are added. Apart from extreme athletes, male and female, there’s also a veteran class, and – if the competition managers consider it safe – a para-sport category.
The competition rules are rigorous and no compromises are made on the packing requirements. Lacking a safety kit, itemised down to the smallest tweezers, a number of plasters and sterile compresses is a reason for disqualification. Even calorie intake is regulated.
Those who eat less than the stipulated 2,000 kcal per day can count on a time penalty of up to three hours. Leaving rubbish behind or asking for assistance is directly disqualifying.
Desolate and outstandingly beautiful
For a somewhat less high-performing person Ice Ultra can be scary – but also interesting. A snow-covered Laponia is among the most beautiful and magnificent landscapes you can experience. The exposure to often ruthless nature where weather shifts rapidly raise many thoughts.
The area is mythical in its desolation, but it’s not quite the wilderness many believe it to be. The World Heritage’s large national parks – Sarek, Stora Sjöfallet and Muddus – are important reindeer pasture for the Sámi reindeer industry. They have been important for thousands of years, and they still are.
Photo courtesy of Beyond the Ultimate
To learn more about this challenge, go to beyondtheultimate.co.uk.