Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Krokskogen loop with Joe

A weekend of bog hopping in my neighbourhood with my hiking buddy Joe Newton? After experiencing terrible weather and bug conditions in Vassfaret, hiking with Beni and Marco, I think Joe was looking forward to some sunny days in the forests and hills around Oslo.

My original intent was to take Joe to Østmarka so he could packraft and summit "Pølseberget" (Sausage mountain) which can only be done when the conditions are right and after years and years of study and mental preparation. Sausage mountain will always be there though, and I found I wanted to see if we could hike at higher altitude than we´ve done previously. The highest hills in Oslo reach up to 7-800 metres and they´re to be found in the northern area.

The book "Markas 150 beste sommerturer" described a loop of Krokskogen of 38 km which I thought looked suitable for us. Krokskogen is in the western part of Marka, an area I´d never hiked in before. From the pictures it looked interesting, offering some amazing views from the area around the hill "Gyrihaugen" (682 metres). So that´s what we ended up doing.

Joe arrived with the overnight train, trying desparately to catch some sleep while having two talkative and constantly moving italian women in the seat behind him. It didn´t help much then that NSB (national railway service) had graciously given him a luxurious kit consisting of a fleece blanket, ear plugs, eye mask and inflatable pillow. After my attempt at a fry-up at me and Helen´s place we headed downtown to find the bus to "Sollihøgda" ("T4 buss mot Hønefoss") where the trail starts. Didn´t find the bus stop in time so we had time for coffee and gear sightseeing before the next one. We almost lost the bus once more when it just drove by, the driver pointing at the other side of the street. Bolting through the heavy rain we got on the bus and we were off to a new hiking adventure. When we got off the bus at Sollihøgda we were dry again and eager to go.

It was great being on the trail again in the warm and sunny weather. A gentle breeze brought smells of flowers, grass, pine and heather to our noses. We weren´t in a big hurry so we took time to take pictures and shoot some video (I think Joe is putting one together later).

When we´re not shooting photos, we were catching up on recent events. It was very interesting to hear about the recent trip to Vassfaret. It sounded like they´d faced some really challenging conditions with awful weather and masses of bugs. I hope Beni and Marco will return to Norway at some point to have a nicer experience.

After a while we entered a lush area which reminded us both of the scenes from Endor. Joe did a Chewbacca impression which made made me laugh.

The trail is very varied, but it´s not the most maintained. Trees had fallen over it at places, some trail markings were in need of refreshing and so did some of the signs. We were now climbing steadily, closing in on Gyrihaugen and our planned camp close to a small lake.

The trail was at times muddy and boggy, but never as bad as last year when we hiked Jotunheimstien, after an especially wet summer, which also meant that the bugs had a lot of catching up to do - yes, that meant sucking blood form as many humans as possible in the shortest time possible. Believe me, we noticed. On this hike we didn´t see many mosquitoes, but the noseuums were out at times and were having a field day until we got out our headnets.

After a while we realized that we´d chosen the wrong trail at a junction, but that was a lucky coincidence as the trail went parallell with the cliff to the west of the hill. We were 5-10 meters from it but in a strange way I could feel the dropoff beyond the edge. The views were beautiful though with a sense of looking down at the landscape, like from an airplane.

It was great getting to camp, having some dinner and relaxing after a long day hiking.

View from camp.

I used my Tarptent Moment, Joe his SpinnTwinn and Yama 1.25 bug shelter.

Joe cooking dinner with his Ti-Tri. He did a good job, especially since he wasn´t using the Inferno insert with it.

We were both surprised to see the temperature drop to 4-5 C during the night, making it quite chilly. My "new second hand" Neoair short surprised me by leaking, even after I had repaired it the night before the hike and tested it. I ended up having to reinflate it 2-3 times during the night, not exactly helping warmth and sleep. Luckily I had brought a section of CCF to sit on that I could place under my torso for some extra insulation.

The next day was as beautiful weatherwise as the first. Joe even made me a steam baked muffin which combined with some nice coffee gave me a great start to the day!

Mmmmm, steamed baked chocolate muffin, gooey inside.

Close to camp there is a geographical feature that has been given the name "Mørkegangen", a spectacular crack in the hillside with a very steep path leading through it. A ferrata style metal hand rail has been placed on one side so that hikers have some support while going up. It´s not dangerous to walk up, but quite physically demanding since so much height has to be gained in such a short distance. After breakfast we decided to take a look it. We hiked maybe 500m and then arrived at the very top of it.  We´d talked to some locals the day before that said it´s not recommended to descend it, so we just watched the views and took some pictures. The drop down to the forest floor below is huge and it felt pretty exposed. I wouldn´t have brought kids up there for sure, or any person that isn´t predictable. For us two though it was a great experience. Fantastic views. I would never have guessed we have something like this near Oslo.

A scary place to stand.

All smiles, we continued on the trail, climbing up to the vantage point, Gyrihaugen, which provided views in all directions.

Tough going.
But well worth it for the views. Strange to see a lake/pond so close to the drop off beyond it.

The rest of the day was spent walking trails through the forest, now turning south towards our destination, Skansebakken. We saw very few people on the trail, in fact we only met 2 persons on the trail during the first day.

Lunch was had at Løvlia, a place that we hoped would provide waffels, cinnamon buns, soda and the like, but turned out to be closed for the summer and being taken over by sheep who had pooed all over the place. Still we found a bench and table where we could sit down and enjoy the sun and more of the savory, fatty raindeer sausage that Joe had brought. After a while a bird photographer turned up and joined us. He was just out for a day walk and had also believed the place to be open.

After lunch we studied the map and saw the blue fork and knife icon next to a place called Heggelia. Burgers and fries and other naughty food was on our mind as we closed in on that place some hours later, only to find out that they too only served food during winter. We could get some limonade the old lady said, but we passed on that offer, instead moving on to find camp. Turned out it was a long road walk to the place we had planned to camp, and then it started raining. After maybe half an hour the old lady came driving in her red car and gave us a lift to the lake "Søndre Heggelivann" where she said people use to camp. She had the heater on full and sitting in the front seat, close to the heater, I immediately started drying, steaming up part of the front window. We probably didn´t smell that great either :). After she dropped us off we spent quite a while finding a place to camp, ending up pitching in the forest and eating our dinner close to the lake.

Taste this! (Dates and apricot couscous with raindeer sausage, it was nice actually)

As I lay in my tent with the sun going down I had a great display of color and shapes on the tent fly.

The view wasn´t as nice the next morning when I had heaps of condensation, some of it dripping on me. No surprise really since the ground was damp from the rain shower the previous evening and since it was chilly and no wind. Going to get the liner for the Moment for these conditions.

Joe had condensation on his tarp too, which goes to show that ventilation isn´t enough under certain conditions.

We now only had 8 km to the finish line, so we again took time to shoot video and take pictures.

Joe setting up a video shot.
And so ends another great hike with Joe. I hope we get to hike again next summer.

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