2024 Review: Montane Lapland Arctic Ultra

Find out how the action on the third edition of the Montane Lapland Arctic Ultra unfolded. Participant Jenny Tough shares her race experience.

Montane’s latest cold ultra has wrapped for another year! The Montane Lapland Arctic Ultra 2024 got off to a difficult start with challenging warmer-than-expected temperatures on the Lapland trail. Hear from the race founder and director Robert Pollhammer to find out about the overall winners, as well as race participant and #TeamMontane athlete Jenny Tough

Lapland Arctic Ultra 2024 Overview

The third edition of the Montane Lapland Arctic Ultra started with tough conditions. It was warm which meant the trail we used became soft. Almost all athletes on foot had to wear snowshoes and our bikers were pushing their bikes more than they were riding them. The only ones who were not affected as much were our skiers.

Montane Lapland Arctic Ultra 2024

This year also saw the inauguration of our 20 and 50 km distance races and the “Lapland Arena”, an initiative of events and fun activities surrounding our start line right next to the Grand Arctic Resort in Överkalix. Including a fun race for kids. Many locals came out to enjoy this event and to witness our start at the same time.

Luckily, after two days temperatures dropped and the trails froze to a point where our participants were able to speed up considerably. For some athletes, this was too late. Eva zu Beck, Vedangi Kulkarni, Thomas Werner, Mal Smith, Jenny Tough, Daniel Gruber, and Stefan Zahlten had to scratch out of the races they signed up for, because the soft snow had taken a toll on them, and in Eva’s case, on her dog, Vilk.

On Loop #1 of the MLAU we also had to alter the race course. Overflow and holes in some of the lakes made us change onto a different path. Luckily, the overall distance was not affected by much. By then, some of the athletes started their turbos. Guy Belcher (England) placed 1st in the 185km distance. 2nd in was Steve Bentley (England) and third place went to Marc Franzten (Germany). All on foot.

Meanwhile, Florian Reiterberger (Germany), who had won the MLAU 2022, pulled away from the rest of the field in the 500km distance. He seemingly flew to the Överkalix finish line and won the MLAU 2024 on his fat bike. Even though he did not feel 100% and the trails were less than ideal for the initial couple of days, he beat his time from 2022, arriving on the 8th  March at 11.47am, 5 days, 2 hours and 5 minutes after our start. The friends and fellow countrymen (France), Mathieu Bonnier (on ski) and Thierry Corbarieu (on foot), both placed 2nd, reaching Överkalix on the 9th at 8:17am.

Once again, our athletes were able to enjoy a great adventure. We have seen a lot of happy faces – both at checkpoints and of course at the finish line. Our crew made sure everyone was taken care of and created an atmosphere that I always like to describe as “family like”. We get to know our athletes really well and they get to know us. There was of course also plenty of suffering as one would expect from a winter ultra – no matter what the temperatures and trails are like. That’s when mental strength kicks in.

I admire how strong our athlete’s will to finish was this year. Having 15 out ot 19 athletes achieve their goal in a 500km race like this one is a really good result. From the fastest to the slowest, they all worked extremely hard and they overcame all problems, be it chafing, blisters, sore back, stomach problems, bike issues and the many other aches and pains. Congratulations to all finishers of all distances!

Jenny Tough’s Race Review

I went into the MLAU with an objective first to improve my extreme winter skills, and second to compete for a top spot on the 500km race. Sadly, the conditions were too warm for the first objective, and the slushy trails on the first day meant I walked my bike over 70km, often post-holing or falling through the snow completely! 

Montane Lapland Arctic Ultra 2024 | Jenny Tough

It was good fun and I met a lot of other competitors, but despite signing up for the lengthier route, owing to the conditions, part way through the race I downgraded myself to the shorter course. I went through the night to make up for the slower movement, arriving at the halfway point just after sunrise. After a one-hour nap and a kit faff, I was off again and thankfully the second half of the course was a little more rideable. My long night meant that I had worked my way up to a Top 5 spot, where I was determined to stay. 

The snowy trail through the trees was really beautiful, although the lake and river crossings over melting ice felt a little dodgy, with my tyres sinking in and ice-cold water pooling around them (or my feet, when the slush forced me off!). I stopped in the middle of the night for a one-hour bivvy by the side of the trail, making us of the extra winter gear essentials I needed to carry along the way.

Montane Lapland Arctic Ultra 2024 | Jenny Tough

Refreshed after a nap, I made it back to Overkalix at a good pace. I was pleased to be the first woman back and unofficial second place on the 185km race, having overtaken several racers who passed me as I slept. Although my result won't be recorded officially given the fact I was signed up to the lengthier race, I am really happy with how I managed the course. I'm happy with my decision and the extra time (and not being too wrecked!) meant I could go for an overnight hiking trip with my friends who had come to shoot the race. We had the best time in the winter wonderland of Swedish Lapland.

I have a lot of random bruises from the never-ending crashes through wet snow, but I left with renewed confidence in my winter expedition skills. Next year will be back on my own terms for some snowy adventures!

So, what’s next?

We have one more sub-zero challenge for the season! Get ready for the epic Grand Traverse Ski, based over in the snowy Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA. 

Montane Lapland Arctic Ultra