Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Red team, blue team

Getting to know and meet another lightweight (ultralightweight?) enhtusiast is a chance not to be missed, so when Tor Magnus asked if I wanted to hike with him in Nordmarka last weekend I jumped at the opportunity. We´d already been in contact through where Tor Magnus eagerly spreads the message of small packs and big smiles.

Tor Magnus met me at work in downtown Oslo. Before heading out on the trail we filled some meths into our bottles, getting curious glances from my colleagues wondering why I was dressed for outdoorsy pursuits and refilling pink liquid :). I was quite impressed that Tor Magnus had been able to pack everything he needed into his huckePACKchen. Myself I´d reached for my red Golite Pinnacle the previous night, quickly filling it with what I needed for some proper glamping.

Since Tor Magnus needed to catch a flight back to the Netherlands on sunday we decided to start at Sognsvann and do a loop from there. Sognsvann and the area around it is maybe the place with the most foot traffic in the whole of Nordmarka, but since he hadn´t been there before I thought it made for a sensible choice for a weekend of hiking. The subway got us there quickly. Out the windows we saw the suburbs of Oslo pass by under a grey sky, just like the forecast had said. The forecast also said something about snow, but at the time I wasn´t completely convinced it would happen. I think it was more on Tor Magnus´ mind since he´d only brought a summer top quilt.

We got off the T-bane at the Sognsvann stop, put on an extra layer and hit the trail. Light, soft rain was in the air as we moved along the well-trodden trail. Since it was already quite late we aimed to camp next to the pond called Lille Åklungen, only a couple of miles from the station but still well into the forest. I had images in my mind from being there last summer and hoped to see no ice on the water, but it was still there.

This didn´t detract too much from our eagerness to pick the ideal campsite for our two hammock setups. One of the big attractions about hammocking is the almost limitless possibilities when enough trees are present. Put two slightly geeky outdoor people there with too much time on their hands and it´ll take quite some time to find the right trees and that feel good pitch.

Tor Magnus´ rig in front: a modified Hennesy Backpacker hammock, Hennessy hex tarp (nice). My rig in the back:  Warbonnet Blackbird hammock and OES Maccat Deluxe tarp.
After geeking out we went over to the lean-to that some previous visitors had set up, complete with a small fire ring Since it was cold and raining we decided to drape a tarp we found over it. Tor Magnus proceeded to build a small fire, displaying solid skills from his time as a scout (why wasn´t I one, dad?). Even though it was small it provided some much needed warmth and cheer. We had dinner and hot drinks while discussing gear (he´s even more into gear than me) and life in general.

Both tired from the week that had been we retired to our hammocks. In cold and wet weather like we had it always feels plain wrong to take of shoes and warm clothing, but it sure felt good to step into a world of down. I moved around quite a bit to find a nice position and after a while Tor Magnus let me know that he could feel everything I did since we were both anchored to the same tree :).

It took me a while to go to sleep and I woke several times during the night, sometimes a bit cold and sometimes to change my sleeping position. Didn´t get as much sleep as I wanted but what I got was good quality. A lie-in would have been nice, but around 0630 Tor Magnus started his day, quite evident to me because of the movement of the tree connecting our two hammocks. He proceeded to have breakfast from the hammock while still covered with down.

I spent some time looking at the surroundings which was now covered with a blanket of snow and snow was still in the air.

After having had breakfast and lots of hot drinks we proceeded to Store Åklungen and on to Ullevålsseter where *everyone* goes on sundays to have a coffee and a pastry.

We bought some coffee there from two older ladies who didn´t seem to be expecting guests that early, and then went out again to enjoy the sun. I laid my hammock out to dry since one of the ends had gotten a bit damp. My Pinnacle was a bit wet too since during the night snow flakes had slowly drifted sideways through the air, cheekily ignoring tight pitched catenary curves and landed on top of it where it was laying beneath my bum - the underside of my hammock that is.

Small birds, tame from all the encounters with people, darted to and from, trying to grab small crumbs where they could. It almost felt like cheating to be able to study them up close, being used to studying them from my living room window through binoculars.

We proceed northwards, aiming for Bjørnholt at the south end of the lake Bjørnsjøen. On the map Bjørnholt was shown with a blue cup icon so we hoped to see it staffed and offering hot coffee and a place to have lunch. The first leg was marked trail, but since it was quite slow going because of a thick snow layer, we opted to follow the forest road for a while.

After a while the forest road ended amidst a cluster of old buildings. My GPS told us that we could follow an unmarked trail to hook up with the blue trail to the north. We decided to trust electronics and satellites and was soon on the marked trail as promised. The first part was quite slow going though because of lots of trees that had succumbed to high winds and crashed down to block the trail. Nobody seemed to have bothered clearing the trail from all the debris which probably is because it isn´t the most travelled.

The northbound trail took us over a hill which sapped a lot of strength from us since we were postholing here and there and having to navigate some slippery bits.

Bjørnholt was finally in sight and we quickly located the cafe, finding it filled with all sorts of goodies but deserted. A nice fire was going in the big cast iron oven in the middle of the room. Nobody showed up so I went to the next house to locate the owner. She smiled and apologized for not being around. Lots of goodies were quickly bought and we enjoyed ourselves immensely lounging in front of the oven. A cat was there too, one of those cats with an extra toe which always makes me think of sail ships. It was white with speckles of black and with superbly soft fur. I enjoyed running my hand along its coat, thinking of my own cat which died a year ago. Soon after he was moving over to one of the other guests, making sure he felt at home too and at the end retired on a big pillow close to one of the walls.

Full and content we moved south, following the forest road again to be able to be at our camp close to Sognsvann in time. The weather was improving and we both enjoyed being out, but we were also mindful not be run down by the many mountain bikers which  were out too, speeding along the forest roads that criss-cross Nordmarka. We left the road and got onto to the trail again, following an unmarked trail that my GPS confidently said would take us where we wanted to be. A steep climb and descent took us to the pond where we had planned to camp, a nice nice place with few people passing by on the trail next to it, and with lots of dry wood to be found.

We had dinner and hot drinks and discussed the day that had been, both being quite content. I was pleased to hear Tor Magnus saying he´d had an excellent time on our first hike together.

The night was uneventful. I slept toasty warm after having adjusted my setup since the last night. Tor Magnus reported the next morning that he´d being a bit cold which was strange since he had been very comfortable the first night. A warmer top quilt is about to be ordered he said. I had some thoughts about gear too, but most of all I thought about giving my girlfriend a big hug when I got home. Ok, I have to admit that I thought about a warm shower, beer and crisps too.

A new layer of nice had started forming during the night.
So that´s how this little report ends. Wait a minute, you might wonder why the post is called red team and blue team? I think you´ll figure it out ;).

Have a great week!