Sunday, November 21, 2010

Onwards, on snow

Glenn and me are still on our way to Rondane, but the going is getting tougher. A month ago we were camping in typical late fall conditions with temperatures around 5 degrees celsius and rain. This time we were trodding along in 10-15 cm of fresh, wet snow. Physically demanding hiking, but also exhilirating to be on the move in such a beautiful, serene landscape, muffled by the soft snow.

This time we didn't leave early to take advantage of the light - we just accepted the fact that it would be dark most of the time anyway (the sun sets at 3:45 pm here now), so we didn't rush it and left at 5 pm, taking the train to Eidsvoll where we left the trail last time.

It was quite chilly when we got there, with a stiff breeze from the north making us quickly put on beanies and hoods to stay warm. First order of business was to get some bone dry firewood to reduce the effort of making a fire. We hoped the local gas station would have some, but they didn't. They told us to try the local Europris shop, not far away. A bag of 25 litres of birch wood was quickly secured and we were on our way to find a suitable place to camp. To get to where the trail started we had to walk several kilometres along roads that criss-crossed the landscape of fields and farms. It was dark and we made sure to have our headlamps on so we would be visible to traffic. The red blinking light on the battery pack of my Gamma headlamp worked great to make us visible also from behind (thanks for that feature Alpkit!). At some point we realized that we wouldn't reach the trail head before it got too late, so we got off the road and climbed to the top of a hill to find a suitable spot there. It was hard going to get up, especially with the added firewood, but we found a nice spot, put up the Nallo and got a fire going.

After the now obligatory-on-all-our-trips chips+beer combination, and Real Turmat, we retired to our sleeping bags, Glenn opting to sleep outside with a bivy. I slept very well that night (yay!), only waking up a few times to change my position, but then dosing off quickly. My WM Ultralite bag and Exped Downmat 7 kept me very warm and snug, even though I wasn't feeling toasty when it was about time to get up, probably because I was getting hungry.

We'd agreed to get going earlier than last time to take advantage of the daylight, so at 8:30am I got up and tried to wake Glenn.

He was deep asleep inside his warm cocoon of summer bag, winter bag and bivy, so it took some shouting and shaking to get him to react :).

A thin layer of snow had fallen during the night, covering the gear we had left outside. Glenn was happy that he had made a little tarp for his multifuel stove before retiring the previous night.

Breakfast was porridge in a bag for me, and porridge in a pot for Glenn. I wanted to try one of the homemade prepackaged meals I had left from this summer's trip with my brother. It's basically just microwave porridge mix with cinnamon, nuts, home-dehydrated apple pieces and nuts. Great stuff and so nice to just eat from the bag and not having to do any dishwashing afterwards.

After breakfast we proceeded down the trail at a good pace, happy to be on the move again. The snow slowed us down, but we were all smiles nonetheless. The first part was still close to civilization as we passed farms and houses, but soon the trail moved into the forest. Being the first people on the trail that morning, we could see the footprints of several animals on the fresh layer of snow from the previous night. We could even spot the miniscule tracks of forest mice. Amazingly we also saw insects buzzing about close to the snow, but of course at a more sedate winter pace. Still, I didn't know that any insects were active this time of year.

After hiking something like four hours, we found the hut we were planning to stay the night in, the "Lysjøhimet", a hut that is available for people hiking on the "Pilgrimsleden", the Pilgrim way to Nidaros in Trondheim. Much of the early part of Rondanestien is basically Pilgrimsleden, they share the same path

The hut is not fancy by any standards, being open to anyone all year round, and probably not having people look after it on a regular basis. It consists of a bedroom, kitchen and a living room with a fireplace and a cast iron oven. The kitchen has some plates, mugs and cutlery, but that's basically it. This used to be the main building of a farm (husmansplass) that was operated until the 1940s. The old cast iron, wood fired, stove is still there, but we didn't use it. Interesting to take a closer look at something like that though. I guess the people using it on a daily basis got their technique down, being able to regulate the heat by feeding wood to the different fuel chambers.

The house was freezing cold, so we soon started to look for some firewood. The shed outside had a nice supply (we left money for what we used) and both the oven and the fireplace were soon in afterburner mode, heating the place up so that we were able to warm up and dry our gear. It was so nice to just sit in front of the fireplace and talk and relax - not a single work related thought entered my mind. It's been pretty busy lately.

The next day we cleaned the place and brought firewood from the shed to the next visitors. We also wrote an entry in the visitor's log book. Most people seem to visit the hut in the summer months, and many of them are from other european countries, like France and Germany. One of the entries was in german - maybe Hendrik can translate it if he reads this blog entry. I think they thought the place needed to be renovated, but then they found the fireplace and that made all the difference.

Like the previous day the going was quite tough, with an extra layer of snow that had fallen during the night. Once more we were able to study tracks made by animals running around in the early morning hours. Maybe you can identify these tracks? Glenn thinks it's from a fox:

We had lunch close to a lake where people use to go swimming during the summer. I had gotten a bit sweaty during the last hour and paid the price by getting a bit chilled. It's so important not too overheat when hiking in winter conditions. The key is to continually put on and off layers and not being afraid to wear very little at times, maybe just a baselayer and a windshirt, and then putting on the puffy layers when stopping to eat or take a break.

Rested and fueled up we continued northwards, just enjoying the views.

After maybe an hour hike we reached an intersection where the Rondanestien and Pilgrimsleden parted ways, our starting point next time. The hut Lysjøhimet was 100 kilometres from Oslo, with 320 to go. I reckon we're something like 310 km from Rondance now. We both feel that this is a project that we will be able to complete, probably next year. This being such a good experience to me personally, makes me want to do more winter camping. It's a great feeling to be able to have a good time under such challenging conditions, well compared to the hiking I do the rest of the year anyway.

So what did I learn from this trip?

Temperatures around 0 degrees celsius makes for challenging conditons. Everything gets wet eventually and it will be hard to dry your stuff if you don't have a fire going for a long time, or if you don't heat your tent with the stove (be careful!). I've found that a thick transparent plastic bag used as a pack liner works best to keep things dry. Silnylon bags etc. just get wet. I've ordered some cuben drybags from MLD to try too.

Next time I will wear even less than I did this time when moving to avoid getting a sweaty back - it wasn't a big problem, but getting chilled at the lunch stop wasn't necessary.

Don't make a fire under trees laden with snow like we did. The hot air that rose made the snow melt and drip on us :)

Some gear reflections:

Woolpower long bottoms - great! very warm and surprisingly light. I think I will get hooked on their selection of warm clothing.

Glenn's samekniv, a HUGE knife traditionally used by the sami people of northern Norway. It's heavy for sure, but very versatile. It's for instance great for chopping branches and small trees. I've considered getting one myself, but have ordered a Bacho Laplander Saw instead, as well as a Mora 840MB Clipper knife. That should cover most scenarios.

GG Mariposa Plus. Like it a lot, it's the pack I use the most. Got pretty wet this time though because of the conditions we faced, but can't really fault it for that. I have a couple of other packs on the way now that I think will replace it, the Laufbursche Huckepack and the BPL Absaroka. Have to reduce my "collection" since it is getting a bit out of hand, so will be posting on gear swap forums soon :).

Dryer lint. Not really gear of course, but thought I should mention that it is very effective as tinder!

Hope you enjoyed this post, let me know if they get to long winded, or if you have other comments. Take care and have a great week!.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Text message from my friend Leif late friday evening last weekend:

"Hi, do you want to go out?"


"I'm in the woods with Glenn :)"



Yes, I guess being out in the woods on a friday evening when it's dark, cold and wet is not what most people do, but me and Glenn were still having a good time, continuing our journey on the path to Rondane.

That friday we'd left early from work and gone by train and bus to get to where we'd left the path the last time. An hour or so hike took us to an area north of Gardermoen, Oslo's main airport. It was getting late and we had to find a spot to set up the shelter and make a fire and cook dinner. It was rather difficult because of the dark and wet ground which looked uninviting. Glenn wanted us to camp in the forest, but I insisted on going further to find a more open area. After a while we found one close to a large field. We put up the large 3m x 3m tarp first and then Glenn's Helsport 3-person tent so that the entrance was sheltered.

We used the rest to sit under while cooking dinner and enjoying the warmth of the fire. We'd been carrying plenty of bone dry firewood so the fire was relatively easy to get going even though we had light rain.

Mintuu, beer and Real Turmat was had before we retired to the luxurious by UL standards double wall shelter. It was even warm and dry as Glenn had been heating it with his multifuel stove, something I've heard of people doing, but never tried myself.

I slept ok and definitely warm enough in my new down sleeping bag on top of an exped downmat, but still a bit restless and waking up several times because of a stiff shoulder or from losing sensation in my hand or arm. Have to get that pad business sorted. Maybe I should try to inflate it less. Glenn slept soundly like always.

Breakfast was had inside the tent. We sat in our sleeping bags and ate yummy porridge that Glenn made in the vestibule with his stove. That warmed the tent as well, making it even better. I have to admit - tent life has some advantages, but then again I loved getting outside afterwards, taking in the cool and fresh morning air and looking at the weather, even though it was grim with a light drizzle and fog.

After packing up our gear we hiked north-east across fields, through forested areas and along roads. This section is probably the one that passes through the most populated areas.

For some reason I wasn't feeling 100% and I don't think Glenn was either. We soon found the root of the problem - lack of caffeine (we'd forgotten to bring coffee) - a short stop at the cafe at Eidsvoldbygningen took care of that problem, leaving us both super happy :D. We continued onwards along a dam, noticing the handywork of beavers. Lots of trees had bite marks and many had been successfully taken down. Got to admire the hard work they do.

We both hoped they would be left alone and not be taken down which happens too often. All to often animals have to pay the ultimate price just because they're following their instincts and in the process irritating and disturbing people.

The last leg towards our destination, Eidsvold, was mainly on tarmac laden road, and in rain and wind. Still, I was warm, dry and comfortable - feeling great compared to the last section where I was cold most of the time. It just goes to show that great hiking can be done when in company of good friends and good gear :).

Some reflections on gear:

Western Mountaineering Ultralite - I got this a couple of days before the trip so this was the trial run. I like it a lot! the size regular is a perfect fit for me. This may replace my Sierra Sniveller quilt for 3-season use. I think the added warmth of it being completely draft free and with a hood warrants the extra weight.

Montane Halo Stretch Event jacket - I've used this on 3 trips now and I like it a lot. I've never had a jacket that breathes better than this and I like the fit and features. Highly recommended.

Footwear: I chose to use boots from Garmont on this trip, as well as high gaiters from Trekmates. This worked out nicely and kept me warm and dry.

Headlamp - I needed something more powerful than the e+LITE, so I took the Gamma from Alpkit. Great piece of kit at a very affordable price (£ 12.50).