Friday, August 19, 2011

Trip report: Rondane - Day 2

Bagging Storronden

View Rondane 2011 - Day 2 in a larger map

Distance: 8.43 km
Ascent: 932 m
Shortest time between lightning and thunder: 1 second

We woke up to a light patter of rain on the fly and promptly went back to sleep. Half an hour later we woke up again to the quiet of a clearing sky. After going through the rituals of the morning, we had a breakfast of Real Turmat Frokostblanding for me and Solgryn frokost for Lande. We had one of each for each of us and after having tasted Lande's breakfast I wasn't looking forward to that. The Frokostblanding was actually very nice and I'd definitely order that again.

(On the subject of morning ablutions I find it an entertaining concept. Because there's virtually no soil to dig in you can't really make a cat hole. What you do instead is to look for an undisturbed stone (very important as you'll know or find out), then lift it away which should leave a nice cavity to do your business in. Afterwards you put the stone back on top of your mess, making sure that the stone appears "disturbed".)

After sorting ourselves out and packing Lande's pack with all our warm clothing and a small lunch we started heading up the slope towards Storronden.

Looking north towards Svartnuten from the lower slope of Storronden

The climb was mostly rather uneventful. As we were walking up the slope, stepping from stone to stone, the peak kept being veiled in low clouds, but as we kept getting closer it seemed as if the fog rolled back before us. Lande kept being frustrated by false tops, probably not helped by me lying through my teeth to her that, "this is the one for sure!"

Looking south along Storula stream from the middle of the slope of Storronden

As we gained the top there were only three Polish guys there before us, and the last remains of clouds obscuring the top went away to bother some other peaks. The back side of the peak falls deliciously, stomach twisting, away in front of you as you step up to the edge.

That's a pretty big cairn in the background
Looking down the east side of Storronden

As there was a bit of a breeze blowing over the bare skull of the peak we wrapped ourselves in all our warm clothing, hunkered down behind a small outcrop and tucked into our meager lunch of 1 Snickers bar, some GORP, a bit of beef jerky and water. Not exactly a celebratory meal but it filled a hole.

A short rest on the top

We chose not to hang around too long and as the clouds were moving back in we started heading down the slope again. As we noticed a few drops of rain we stowed the Rab Microlight vests and pulled out our rain pants, wise from last nights downpour. We were glad we did as within a few minutes it was coming down in buckets, then switching to hail, before going back to a drenching combined with lightning and thunder. The lightning was pretty close, I believe it was only a second between lightning and thunder at one point making it only about 300 meters away!

On our way down we passed several groups of people going up. One very fit looking couple in shorts, I imagine they didn't hang around up there... We passed one guy hunkering down behind an outcropping while the lightning was going on, he did not look very happy.

The trip down was amazingly quick and I quite enjoyed it despite the miserable weather. I had amazing grip with my Trail Gloves, they were like glue on the stone. I can't actually imagine having better grip and they really allowed me to bounce from stone to stone like I was born with a lot more balance than I seem to exhibit in my daily life. The LT4 poles also dug in, slipping only occasionally as I guess will happen with steel (tungsten carbide) on stone.

We were back at the tent pretty early and had an absolutely lovely meal of Fuizion Chicken Jalfrezi  for me and Beef and Ale stew for Lande. The meals were really packed with flavor, however I do think the meals could have re-hydrated better despite probably leaving them for longer than it says on the pack and stirring several times. We were also using pouch cozies from AntiGravityGear which I think were brilliant and fit both the RT and Fuizion pouches just fine. I cooked in the porch of the Scarp as it was still raining, still a bit nervous about burning down the tent as i was using meths stove (Caldera Sidewinder) and this was the first time I was cooking in the tent. I used a tent peg to peg back the floor to give myself more room and it actually went very well. Unfortunately I had to let the water boil for a while as I couldn't take the pot of the stove without getting a long intimidating flame coming off the stove...

Cooking in the porch

After emptying the last of the battery on my phone playing solitaire and watching it turn itself on and off, I started playing with the tension of the tent, turning it a bit into a trampoline and finally figuring out how to set the ventilation on the end panels. I have to say that with the amount of tension I can get on this tent if the ground is good enough to hold the pegs properly I wouldn't take the crossing poles unless I knew it was going to get very stormy, or the ground would be very loose. Snow and sand comes to mind.

We ended up going to sleep quite early as we got fed up with fighting over our one book. Note to self; bring two books and a game next time. Sleep did not find us so easily this night however as the heavy rain exposed a seam that was not sealed properly in the middle crossing pole hook-in right above Lande's head. It was only when it was coming down the heaviest a drop would be forced through, but it got me nervous as the drops would come down on her down sleeping bag right around her head. Visions of collapsed down and torn fly haunted my dreams. Lande only shrugged saying; "It's not so bad", and shunted over to my side.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Trip report: Rondane - Day 1

Up Glitterdalen (Glitra valley) and over Flatfjellet (Flat mountain)

View Rondane 2011 - Day 1 in a larger map

Distance: 13.0 km
Ascent: 581 m
Shoes wet: 2 pairs

This day was a transport day more than anything. My father ferried us across Furusjøen to our starting point in Luseby. As soon as we were across and had left the quay behind we looked at each other thinking, "This is it, we're without our baby for 4 days..."

Ready to take to the trail
It was a very auspicious start, the sun was out, people were greeting us on the trail and the path was fairly good. Unfortunately the excellent path and the sunny weather did not last. Halfway up the valley the path started to get wetter and wetter. I was prancing around like a mountain goat, getting used to my new Gossamer Gear LT4's, trying not to get wet feet.  We'd hardly been walking an hour before I realized wet feet was something to get accustomed to as I knew I would. I was simply not used to it and for the entire trip I think I unnecessarily tried to avoid getting wet.

Halfway up the valley we stopped for lunch at Tverrhaugen (Cross hill), I refilled our water using my Aquaguard Eliminator water filter, which I've had for a while but not used in anger yet. The reason we chose to filter our water was because this year turned out to be a lemming year, with dead lemmings and droppings everywhere.

Not long after leaving Tverrhaugen we were approaching the tree line and the first drops of rain were streaking towards us. We stopped to answer the call of nature, put the pack covers on and get our matching Haglöfs Ozo's on. Not long after we get passed by a Norwegian couple in shorts. We'd started the day in trousers and as we got out of the valley and onto Flatfjellet we were glad we had. In the valley there was the low shrub that we wanted to avoid, while up on the moor there was a cold wind that was kept off our thighs.

Above the tree line

In my mind there was a vague recollection from when I was 15 of Flatfjellet being quite wet, and we soon found out how wet. The area is quite flat and the water drains quite slowly towards the valleys causing the occasional morass of knee deep (or on one occasion deeeper) mossy bog. At one point Lande cries for help as she's slowly sinking past her knee and I wade over as fast as I can to help her get out. At this stage her boots were as wet as mine and I figure that on the whole trip her feet were probably as wet as mine. Her boots kept her dry longer being Gore-Tex, however mine dried faster being just mesh.

Heading towards the peaks

The last part of the path towards Rondvassbu is a supply road, and just as we got on it the weather started taking a turn for the worse. Unfortunately we weren't clever enough to see which way this was going and failed to put on our water proofs in time. As we were trudging along the road, greeting families of bikers coming the other way against the wind and with rain bucketing down, we got in view of Rondvassbu. We went  started heading straight towards our camp for the evening, but quickly realized that we were on the wrong side of a stream and that the rain was making it a bit swollen. To top this of Lande really doesn't like fording waters so we backed up and crossed a bridge further down. The water was still dropping out of the sky as out of a bucket and Lande was starting to get cold. We decided to cut our day short, an easy decision seeing as we'd be passing our approach to the mountain we'd be climbing the next day.

As we approached Fremre Illmanstjønne we started casting around for a good camp site, however there were no perfect spots and we settled for a previously used site on a very slight slope. I guess the rocks helped keep us in place to some degree, however we still had a tendency to slide to the bottom of the tent. As we finished setting up the excellent Scarp 2 the skies cleared and we got a bit of sun. This is the one and only time I dug out the heavy boots out of my pack, so that I could take the laces and set them up as a clothes line.

Dinner was Real Turmat, Cod pot for me (too much water) and Game pot for Lande (not enough water). We were both quite unimpressed by the flavours, I don't think we'll have either of those again... The lesson I learned was always measure the water. You just can't depend on the measuring line on the outside of the bag.

One major issue cropped up on this first night. I had planned to use my iPhone to stay in touch however keeping it in my breast pocket on the Ozo had been a bad idea. One of two things had happened. Either the membrane had been overwhelmed by the rain, or it had worked fine on the inside, pushing my sweat into the pocket. Bad design for a breast pocket. It seems like some dampness had hit the power switch and the phone kept trying to turn itself on and off constantly. Added to this was an issue with poor reception which caused the phone to switch between two providers, every time lighting up the screen and probably maximizing antenna usage. Only later did I realize I should have enabled flight mode...

Trip report: Rondane - Preface

View from the cabin towards Rondane

Obsessively checking seems to be a requirement for northern European walkers and the reports left me a little nervous. Luckily I didn't read Thomas' horrible experiences with yr until I came home. My father had been reporting good weather that didn't quite match up with what I saw however the week leading up to our walk my sister who was spending a week in Rondane were reported walking around in shorts and getting a tan.

The journey from Amsterdam to our cabin in Rondane was rather uneventful, we chose to drive and take the ferry from Kiel to Oslo. The only amusing incident was the Norwegian toll officer talking to me in English (I'm guessing because of the Dutch number plates) and me instinctively answering in English...

After a couple of days re-acquainting our daughter with my parents we were almost ready to go, but on the last night before we were off my lightweight ambitions were scuppered by a joint assault on my plans to completely ditch heavy walking boots for my Merrel Trail Gloves. Under multi-pronged pressure I was convinced to add my heavy (1.4kg) shoes to my pack, "just in case"... So much for a pack under 10kg.

Here is our final gear list. (There might be some inaccuracies for my wife as there were some last minute changes unknown to me.)

This was the first time out for most of the gear and I was quite looking forward to see how it all stood up to the experience. We had luck in that the weather looked like it was going to fairly warm and calm, if not dry. In the round-up post I'll do a general description of how the gear performed, what worked and what didn't. For the gear that deserve it the most and the gear I was most excited about, I'll do a full review.

In the end I don't think we brought anything we didn't use, and there was nothing I wish I'd brought which I didn't have. (Not true, we only brought one book and my wife had dibs on it.) I brought way too much fuel, I only used just below 300ml and I had brought almost 500ml.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Question: How do you measure ascent?

The last two weekends we've been out for a walk and each time I've recorded the route with my Garmin GPSMAP 60Cx. On average it seems fairly accurate, however it's sometime a bit hard to tell. Now let me segue into today's topic. There are really only two ways I'm aware of for measuring ascent.
The first is counting contour lines on a map, which is certainly the traditional way of doing it, but can either be very time consuming or very inaccurate.
The other is using a GPS to record the height data, but unfortunately that appears to be wildly inaccurate.

On my first trip my ascent is recorded as 128m, which I know is absolutely ridiculous, as I don't think the track could have been much flatter. At one point I see an altitude change of 19 meters in a distance of 12 meters. I can only hope that this might be a bit more accurate in the mountains with nothing to impede the GPS signal, but I'm really doubting the usefulness of this.

Do you have another way of measuring ascent during a trip?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Trip report: Kennemerduinen I

Date: 2011/01/16
Distance: 7.3 km
Time: 2h
Temperature: 12'C
Weather: Partially overcast with strong gusts of wind.

Vis Kennemerduinen I i et større kart

As I mentioned in my last post we're building up towards the Pieterpad come spring so this week we had a 8km walk planned. Thanks to Dave's excellent suggestion that I try Kennemerduinen I drew up an apparently nice 8km walk around the dunes and to me rather odd terrain. According to my Garmin maps the area was swarming with tracks to it was fairly easy to draw up an interesting route. As I was to learn, what you see on a map is not always the best route.

We managed to get off away from the house earlier this time, though as we're still getting used to get our daughter and ourselves out of the house in a timely manner... So we were in the car, ready to go, at about 11:30. The drive out there took another 30 minutes, which considering the return time, was very good. When we arrived, Ingrid was hungry again so we gave her a quick feed before we bundled her into the pram. I then discovered that while I had uploaded the route to my Garmin, I had forgotten to include the relevant map tile. Bugger! The Garmin was now not able to nicely map our route and the whole area was just one big flat beige area... With some fiddling the track was at least able to show our route so I figured out we'd be ok.

The sun was at our backs as we wandered away from the parking lot which led to some panicked fiddling with the pram's umbrella as Ingrid started wailing every time she got the sun in her eyes. On the good side this meant that I finally had the go-ahead to buy her some sunglasses! (Am I sad that I think baby sunglasses are unbearably cute?) The faffing with the umbrella was shortly followed by a new panic when when we turned off the nicely paved onto a sandy track and and the gusty wind started blowing sand onto the pram. We took down the umbrella and pulled the rain cower over the pram. Crisis over. Or so I thought.

Only a few minutes later the pram started getting bogged down in the loose sand. Temper were fraying and fingers started twitching. I chose to see this more of a challenge while Lande was getting worried that we were too far from the paved track. At this point I noticed the huge drawback with not having the map on the Garmin. I could not see where we would meet up with the paved path again and we were heading right for some stairs. Turn around or press on? I vaguely remembered that the route I had drawn was going on and off the bike path so I figured we would be ok, so we chose to press on. Fortunately it wasn't long before we were back on the paved path and we decided to try to follow this as much as possible. So much for my elegant route...

As our speed picked up again on the bike path as we were no longer bogging down out tempers smoothed out and we started enjoying the walk. Despite the rather sharp wind we were warming up again and I realized that maybe the Silkbody Pilot top (xmas present from parents, and trekmates microflece (xmas present from wife) might have been a bit of an overkill. Luckily my Norrøna jacket has very good venting. Lande took off her Rab Microlight vest, and we discovered that the Quechua jacket that she bought at Decathlon yesterday has no vents...

After a while we were feeling quite good and when my route led off onto a sand track again we chanced it, being mentally prepared for what we might face. As it turned out the first sandy track might have been the worst in all of Kennemerduinen as we had practically no issues this time. We did modify the track when there was a split in the track and we scouted it out to see what we were facing.

A little past half way we discussed whether to stop for a little lunch break, but decided to take it on the go, as we didn't want Ingrid who was snoozing happily to wake up if we stopped (as she tends to do). A little not-quite-sweet-enough tea and some chocolate brownie later we felt much energized and even more upbeat, or maybe it was simply the joy of being outdoors in a new and different environment for both of us?

While we were out there we I kept my eyes open for interesting camping spots, but I think we were a bit too close to the parking spot and it's restaurant and it all felt rather busy. I'd like to do a camp on the dunes like Nibe did in December.

As we got back to the car we agreed that it had been a nice walk. Because of the route changes we were not quite 8km, however it had been more tiring than last weekends walk as pushing the pram through sand was quite exhausting. I think that the only way to make this a bit easier is to switch to a carry frame for Ingrid. I'm not sure she's ready for that yet though as she's only 4 1/2 months old, and with the wind driven sand it might not be very nice for her. I'll definitely get a frame as soon as I get my pay though so we can begin practising.

Anyway, this is where things really started slowing down. We had a second lunch in the car as Ingrid was now fretting and a bit hungry. We probably didn't get away for another hour! Then on the way back the road was packed and 25 minutes in we discovered that Ingrid was actually not a little but a lot hungry! We had to pull off the road and give her a second feed before she would settle down enough to deign to sit back in her chair.

In the end we didn't get home until 17:00...

All in all it was actually a very nice day. We felt very good walking and are planning to add another 4km for next weekend. This will probably mean a feeding on the track, and I'm considering getting a pop up shelter from Dechathlon for this. They're heavy and bulky, but as it's only for day trips I don't think it's going to be an issue.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Trip report: Around the pool

Date: 2011/01/09
Distance: 4.1 km
Time: 1h 2m
Temperature: 4'C
Weather: Some light wind and some light drizzle

Vis Around the pool i et større kart

As part of our preparation for the Pieterpad we have to work out what we can expect to achieve in a day, but also to build up our stamina. While waiting for our daughter to be born and since then, we've more or less turned into couch potatoes.

We've tried to be good at getting out of the house when we've been at home, walking around the local park, Vondelpark, and trying to keep a good pace. Our little jaunt this weekend seems to indicate we're not in as bad a form as we thought, but we need to push ourselves further next weekend.

The satnav (clever as it is) took us the long way around to the south side of Amsterdamse Bos, into Amstelveen to a little, apparently unnamed, pond (or pool as it appears to be called). As you can see from the map it's a fairly round little lake that lets the cold, damp wind get a good run-up before it tries to force it's way through your clothes. It's been raining a lot lately and it showed on the track as we stepped on to the track from the pavement. As we were pushing Ingrid in a pram we risked the wrath of the cyclists by walking on the bike path as it had not turned into a mud bath.

The sky was an uninspiring grey, but fortunately it was not raining and we'd dressed sensibly to keep the cold wind out. Ingrid was happy as Larry, and after a short bout of babbling promptly fell asleep. I'm really wondering how she's going to take to a carry frame as she's not been too keen on being carried in the Baby-Bjorn, though that might have changed now that she can be pointed forward instead of towards my chest.

We tried to keep off the bike path as much as we could, though it was a bit challenging at times with the pram. At one point the path took us onto a road and past some houses that were sitting right on the pond. Quite a few people were out walking and we were seldom out of sight of people.

Though the walk was nice I just don't feel like I'm out in the wilderness here. I guess that's because I'm not, but I always feel that everything is too neat, too prepped. What I'm still longing for the wildness of the Norwegian mountains, but anything that would give me the sense of wildness would do. If you can suggest somewhere I should go please leave a comment.

One important thing that came out of this walk was that we're clearly fast enough and in good enough form to do a longer walk. Next weekend we'll be doing a 9-12km walk.