The husky’s steely blue eyes are trained on mine. Each bark turns the frozen air to steam. He strains forward on his chains, snarling. I hold a harness limply in my hands. We both know I’m not the one in charge here.
On the drive to the husky dog yard, I’d stared out at the snow-covered mountains and deep-cut valleys of Norway’s Rondane National Park. My imagination wandered to the day ahead: reclining in a sled, pulled by a band of friendly huskies.
I arrive to a reality check. You don’t recline in the sled; you stand. The huskies don’t steer; you do. The dogs aren’t friendly; they’re manic. Most terrifying of all for any dog-fearing individual, you have to harness the pack of four dogs yourself. And mine’s led by Sinatra, the blue-eyed scoundrel of the bunch.
Harnessed up and on the way, fear ebbs and adrenaline pumps. The dogs and I plunge through a snowy forest and tear round hairpin bends. I shout encouraging words at my excited pack in an attempt to forge a bond, so that they won’t leave me stranded in a snowdrift. Shortly afterwards, I am stranded in a snowdrift.
Dogs retrieved, everything falls into perfect sync when we catapult out of the forest onto a mountain plateau.
Sunlight bounces off the crystalline snow, illuminating a dazzling plain, surrounded by pine trees blanketed in white, with ice-steeped peaks beyond. The sled skims across the terrain, as an ice skater flies across a frozen rink. This is an untouched place, inaccessible on foot, which only enters my consciousness because of the huskies.
Out of nowhere, a freak blizzard obliterates the blue; the world is driven white and the temperature plummets to -250C. As the dogs sprint on, my eyelashes freeze together, blurring my vision. I am rigid with fear. If I fall off now, the driver of the sled behind won’t see me. I’ll be run over by huskies.
The dogs don’t fail me though; they keep on going. Apparently unhindered by the deepening snow, they relentlessly, tirelessly race back home. When we get there my whole body is trembling with exhaustion; the dogs, on the other hand, jump around in jubilation.
I stand in the snow-covered dog yard, watching them. My fingers ache from gripping the sled; my face aches from smiling.