Monday, April 30, 2012

Trip report: The Dark Twin

As mentioned in the previous post Thomas has written a light and cheerful post on the trip we had in Nordmarka. Therefore it has been left to me to expose the frightening reality of a trip that got cold, the Dark Twin!

A cozy, warming campfire or a pyromaniac's dream? - Photo courtesy of Thomas
I met up with Thomas after finishing a day-long interview at his work. After redistributing some smuggled methanol we headed for the metro, with just a short stop being seduced by a Deli de Luca and it's tempting wares. I made sure I remembered to buy a lighter for this trip so that I could set fire to things. Something I forgot on my so far unreported disaster of a previous trip...

As the metro deposited us on the doorstep of the local "wilderness" area we strode forward to a light drizzle and a darkening sky. A foreboding scent of frost wafted through the air...

After only a couple of hours we decided that we'd been doing enough walking this day and our rather late start meant that the sun was slipping down towards the horizon, about to leave us in the dark. As we cast around for the perfect trees to hang our downy nests from we started to notice that something was not quite right. Trees had been viciously stripped of their dry lower branches as far as the eye could see, whole trees had been chopped down to make crude branch covered shelters, several large tarpaulins had been left lying around, and an untold number fire pits littered the ground. Someone had been here before!

After much faffing we located three trees that suited our needs in terms of shelter and distance apart. We then spent even longer trying to hang our hammocks and tarps while realizing it had been some time since we last did this. Thomas hinted that my trail name should should be something like "forgoddaboutit" as I discovered that I'd forgotten to bring my dutch-clips (and it was not the first thing that I seemed to have left behind. No biggie though.

Some time later, after finishing admiring each others amazing set-ups and making a little effort to get whatever burnable material was left in the area to, um... burn, we sat down to a rather late dinner. I tucked into some dead sheep (not to my liking) while Thomas was digging into some home made, potato mash based creation. A few cups of coffee (ok, I admit it, Via is good) and Solbærtoddy, we were ready to admit defeat on the fire and retire to our respective hammocks. A light pattering on the tarp lulled me to sleep while my brain was wondering why the pattering sounded so "sharp"...

Much to Thomas' chagrin and thanks to the amazing conditioning performed by my 20 month old daughter my eyes sprung open at 06:30. If Thomas had known me better he'd probably have shouted at me to "get back to sleep you bloody moron", as I started bouncing around in my hammock trying to get the water boiling for some coffee and hot muesli from the hammock. As we discovered the night before, sharing an anchoring tree meant that one person moving in the hammock meant the other person swaying along. Not long after he started swaying Thomas did an amazing impersonation of a person who's not at all bothered by being woken up at the ass-crack of dawn.

"Sharp rain" - Photo courtesy of Thomas

The ground and our tarps now had a light dusting of snow on it, and despite having only brought a summer weight top quilt I had been quite warm and cozy throughout the night. Thomas on the other hand had apparently been a little chilly, apparently from either fiddling too much or not enough with his under quilt the previous evening. Strangely this was a situation that was reversed the next night.

This days walk was a walk of mixed emotions, weather and and track conditions. Our chats varied from total gear nerding, to discussions on the ongoing case of Anders Breivik. The weather gave us everything from ice cold rain to tepidly warming sunshine, and the track... the track! We had; hard frozen track over boggy ground, soggy freshly cut ski track, under and over wind-felled trees and at one point sliding on my belly over deep rotten snow. This last event is worth mentioning because it was so spectacularly stupid...

Not long after we'd passed the highest point of our walk we were heading back down on the northern slopes of the hill. Being north-facing it had retained more snow which was now thoroughly rotten leading to constant post-holing. Eventually we came down to an open area that had clearly seen more snow that the forresty bits that we'd just walked through and Thomas, walking in front sank down to his thighs... I thought I'd look for a better place to join the harder surface of the prepared ski track that was still lingering, but eventually had to admit defeat and head out into the snow field. Rather than have snow forcibly pushed up under my gaiters I thought I'd be clever and slide on my belly over to the track. This was a brilliant idea where I was covered by my jacket, but a potentially disaster where I was covered by my non-waterproofed trousers. My legs were soaked through on the front, and if it hadn't been for our most excellent stop at Bjørnholt with it's roasting wood fired oven, I would have had a thoroughly miserable rest of the day. Luckily we got to stuff ourselves with all things nice while drying out from top to toe.

All good thing come to an end however, so we set out under the steel grey skies again, now heading back towards the metro again and our camp for the night. Some more faffing was produced trying to find the spot we had decided on for this nights hang and a little bit of backtracking was performed. Though this spot was also somewhat marred by previous occupants, they had left some dry branches for us to harvest for our evening fire. This night we decided not to share a tree, and our different camping preferences came to the fore as I went for the more sheltered spot, and Thomas chose the more exposed cold spot by the ice covered pond. Ironically I was a bit chilly this night why Thomas was warm and toasty.

 Something is not right with this hang... - Photo courtesy of Thomas

Having a nice fire and no precipitation this evening made a very memorable evening as we took off shoes and socks for a bit of drying by the fire and wiggling our pasty white toes as near to the fire as we dared. This evening I was tucking into an amazingly good bird which was beefed up with a polarbrød that I tore into smallish chunks and bunged into the bag to soak up any extraneous liquid (I rather go for a bit of extra liquid to ensure good rehydration). It was heaven in a bag, nice and spicy. I forget what Thomas was eating at this point, but I'm pretty sure he was a bit jealous of my meal, maybe encouraged by my constant exclamations of "This shit is so good!" (Or something like that.) I seem to recall Thomas saying that he'd never had a Fuizion meal, but I cannot believe that's true, but I'll make sure to bring him some if he ever dares go on a walk with me again. I'm not below bribery.

Drying socks added to the aroma of our meals. - Photo courtesy of Thomas
As the camp fire was winding down, we decided to do the same and retired to our respective hammocks. It was still fairly early and I was now somewhat regretting not packing my kindle which I had left behind in my suitcase in Oslo as I realized that I had forgotten my reading light (forgetting that I did bring my headlight). Luckily I did have the kindle app on my iPhone, but as the battery was running low I decided to just call it an early night.

Next morning we were up and cheerful again and I discovered that warm muesli is not the best breakfast every morning and I can easily see how variety becomes very important on long treks. We enjoyed some more coffee, packed up camp and headed back towards the metro and the end of a fun little mini-adventure.

Thomas the Slacker has not been conditioned for early morning diapers yet. - Photo courtesy of Thomas
As I sit here writing this I can still feel the warm glow of the fire, the soft smoshyness of the down and the sharp spring smells of the forest. Having Thomas for company on this walk was absolutely excellent as I my impressions of him from his blog and the mails we'd exchanged last summer were born out. Can't wait to get out there again. Rain and all.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Back from Nordmarka

This weekend was spent hanging out in Nordmarka with Thomas. He'd gratiously agreed to air me out before the cobwebs on my gear got their own cobwebs.

So a big Thank You! to Thomas and watch out for a post on his blog and I'm sure I'll eventually manage to write a proper report myself. :)
Blurry picture courtesy  of Apple Iphone

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Trip report: Rondane - Day 4

Running out of road

View Rondane 2011 - Day 4 in a larger map

Distance: 20.39
Ascent: 509
Hardness of road surface: VERY

Finally a nice and warm day! The morning started chilly with frost on the fly sheet. We'd camped in the shade of the hills and did not get the benefit of the lovely morning sunshine, but as soon as we were packed up and had moved out towards Fremre Vulutjønn the sun started warming us up.

Looking back at FremreVulutjønn and where we camped
Before we knew it we were starting to work up a sweat and shell layers were coming off. There was a light breeze that kept us from getting too hot, and for a while the ground was nice and dry.

Weather was nice and toasty
 Unfortunately I have no pictures of the 4 kilometres of morass that we walked through, but flat in the mountains means bog. Especially after a fairly wet summer. Mostly we made good speed and as this was the last day my wife was chomping at the bit, wanting to get back to our daughter. Towards the end of the plateau I was resorting to "That's definitely the last crest we're seeing there."
The saturation of this picture shows how sunny it really was
As we summited the (actual) last crest we were coming upon quite a few day walkers in various states of undress. On the mountain nobody looks I guess.

Looking down towards the cabin and the end of the journey
 We were finally powering downhill with the cabin (almost) in sight and hit the tarmac with feet that had taken a bit of a pounding coming down off of the plateau. We decided that instead of calling my father to come and pick us up we'd go it alone and proceeded to eat up kilometers on the road. This was maybe not the best idea as the dirt road had turned into something akin to concrete. After half an hour on this my feet were feeling rather sore and as we could finally get off this surface into the last bit of the walk to the cabin I couldn't have been happier.

Fairly accurate final kit list.

Trip report: Rondane - Day 3

The long way home

View Rondane 2011 - Day 3 in a larger map

Distance: 20.08 km
Ascent: 778 m
Rocks stumbled over: 1 million and one

Sorry about the very late posting. I realise I'm not a natural writer and sometimes writing these posts are more about squeezing a stone than letting juices flow.

We started this day fairly relaxed. Took our time packing up the tent and doing the morning rituals. Weather outlook was fairly good, not warm, but not raining either. Or so we thought. After a short while a cold blustering wind started picking up which made us happy every time we passed behind a fold in the landscape. A (what turned out to be premature) lunch was had sitting among some rocks and heating up some water to make a warm drink. At this point we spotted the heaviest walker we saw on the trip. This was a well built guy, not fat, with the largest pack I ever saw. I think it might have been the biggest pack he'd ever seen as well because he was really struggling under the weight of the thing.

After a couple of hours walking I realised that today would really be challenging. My father had suggested a bit route that went off the track and over very rocky terrain. For me this wasn't a massive issue, but my wife was not brought up in the mountains and is quite a careful walker. As we got to the point where it made sense to leave the well marked path and make our way over a stream we chose a boulder field to avoid having to get our feet wet. At this point I should have realised what issues lay in front of us at it took us at least 20 minutes to cross.

Looks easy but those pebbles down there are actually the size of small cars.
What we should have done at this point is to walk right up the side of the hill, but as this was a bit intimidating to some we walked along the hill looking for an easier ascent. It never turned up but repeated slippery stone fields that slowed us to a crawl turned up instead. Eventually I made the decision that we should go back to the track and do the long walk around instead. Except now we were on the wrong side of the stream... We walked along the side of the stream looking for a good place to cross, but eventually ran out of stream as it dove away into a gorge. We decided that any place was as good as another, took our shoes off and splashed in. Well that was a mistake. My Merrel TrailGloves dry fast and have a much better grip than the soles of my feet. Halfway through I slipped on some rocks and twisted my ankle slightly. The cold water and the slightness of the twist meant that I didn't realize what had happened until the ache started setting in about an hour later.

Looking down towards Bjørnholia

Now that we were back on the track we knew we had a long walk ahead of us. We tried to push the pace a bit, but Landes unfamiliarity with the terrain meant that we still weren't exactly racing. Halfway through it even seemed quite easy as we descended down to Bjørnholia, but as we walked up again on the other side, now a bit short on energy the walk was turning long.

As we approached the Vulu lakes the landscape really changed into vegetation covered sand dunes, streams and grasses. This was starting to look like we might have a brilliant camping spot. The crossing of these streams was a bit interesting as  the water was freezing cold, and the planks and stones placed to cross were largely washed away.

Indre Vulutjønn in sight
In the end we camped on a little island among the streams. A bit noisy and somewhat damp, but the grass was lovely and soft. During the night we must have crossed under 0'C as we had frost on the tent in the morning.