I was 20 years old.
By Jörgen Johansson
Falling when on skis is not unheard of, for me it is more or less par for the course. This time however, it did not take me long to realise that I was in serious trouble. My feet and legs were lodged and could not be shifted more than minutely. My head and torso were firmly held in place by the full weight of my pack, which was not so light in those days.
All of this would of course have been no problem if it had not been for the fact that no purchase was to be gotten for my hands in the deep, rotten-to-the-core snow. But my increasingly frenzied grappling found nothing but infinitely yielding snow, which I suspected was at least two meters deep in this slight hollow high in the mountains and two days travel from the last seen habitat of man; a small hut on Lake Katterjaure.
I was on some compensatory leave from the army; combined with a long weekend it would give me a good number of days in the high hills. My army buddies had preferred going home or going partying (not really mutually exclusive) so I was here on my own. I had borrowed some heavy wooden skis with steel edges and a surprisingly modern and lightweight tent at my regiment. The rucksack had been stacked with some freeze dried food, also courtesy of His Majesty, and taking the night train to the border between Sweden and Norway in those days was dirt cheap for anyone doing national service.
The railway from the mines in Kiruna and Gällivare in Sweden had been built in the early 1900s to haul ore to the year around ice free shipping port of Narvik in northern Norway. I had stepped off the night train in the morning two days ago at the Riksgränsen (literally the "National Border"). I took every advantage that a 20 year old soldier could take of the breakfast buffet at the only hotel, Lapplandia, which was mostly catering to the downhill skiers. I think it took the hotel a while to recuperatere from the impact I made among the rich diversity of calories on offer.
Luckily I came upon a snow-mobile track, skiing on which gave me floatation, if not glide, for the last 10 kilometers to Abisko East. I made it just in time to catch my train and was back at the regiment early the following morning.