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.


  1. Great post! Of course we'll hike again! I hope we don't have to get up at the "ass-crack" of dawn again though :)

    1. Hehe, unless I find a snooze button on my daughter I think it's pretty inevitable. I'll try to be more quiet in the morning, maybe bring the kindle next time. :) Hopefully I won't be in a hurry next time either so that should help.

  2. Hehe! It's so good to be able to read your version of accounts. But best of all I am completely with you on the "Thomas the Slacker" bit! I'd better qualify that though; I'm a total lightweight about staying up at night whereas he's a bit of a nattugle!
    It'll be great to finally meet you and Lande too, and get a bit of hiking in. Nice job!

    1. I used to be a nattugle, but my daughter essentially reprogrammed me!

  3. Ah, I see, you managed to fit all your gear into a huckPACKchen by leaving half of it behind?! ;)

    Last time I camped I heard that 'sharp' precipitation in the night and woke up to several inches of snow.

    1. Hehe! Actually I'm really wondering what the size difference between the regular and chen version of the huckepack is. The chen actually feels quite right for a weekend trip.

      I have to say I really enjoyed waking up to a bit of snow. I wish I had a bit more insulation on top to be that little bit more toasty and if I hadn't been feeling that I was that I was moving towards a deadline I would have liked hang around longer in the hammock.

      Can't remember whether I've ever seen you posting about a hammock night btw. Do you hang or have you tried it?

    2. Tor,

      My chen seems small. A great summer weekend pack or a nice day pack. I'll let you know the size difference when my huckePACK arrives :)

      No, I don't hang. My dad does back in the UK and T has tried to convince me but beyond trying out Leif's hammock for a while on our Jotunheimstien trip last summer I haven't really considered it. I can see the appeal to anyone who struggles to sleep on the floor but I find I usually achieve really good sleep lying on my foam mat.

    3. You're going to get me to buy yet another pack arent' you! :)

      I tend to agree with you that sleeping on a mat is not really a problem. For me it's just something different and there is something unquantifiably fun about sleeping in a hammock. I think a tent gives you and enclosed "safe" feeling in shitty weather, but a hammock gives you a warm, "nest" like feeling when the down is all fluffed up.

      Besides, being a bit of a gear junkie (unapologetically) I really enjoy the customizability you get with hammocks.

  4. I've never tried a hammock but looking at this post they look great fun. Could you tell me what is the black quilt looking thing is on the last picture that is below the hammock is thanks.

    1. I think it's great fun. The fiddle factor is off the scale of gear junkies. :)

      The black quilt looking thing is a black quilt. ;) In hammocks, which aren't insulated by themselves you need some good insulation below you to stop your butt getting cold. Using a mattress kind of defeats the purpose of lying in a hammock so you sling a quilt under your hammock as any down under you inside the hammock simply gets compressed. Therefore you use two separate quilts, and under-quilt (UQ) and a top-quilt (TQ).