January is the Sunday of months, it is in between. The remnants of the old year still linger, warding off the promises of things to come in the new year.
A sense of ennui has kept me from being interested in doing much of anything other than the strict necessities: sleep, work, eat and browse the internet. That last one is vital, it helps the passing of time when that is all you seem to have the energy for.
Now as January is drawing to a close, so it seems is the feeling of ennui that has encompassed the month. I am once again filled with wanderlust and thirst for new adventures big and small.
So, here is to all the adventures of 2017. Small, big, planned, and perhaps the best kind, the spontaneous ones.
It was an impulse decision, my brother had been out doing some shopping, and I had asked if he could pick up a pack of Real Field Meal (freeze dried/dehydrated dinner) and 5kg of potatoes. I wanted it, the instant meal, for a day hike I had planned. However, my brother, for whatever reason, had read the message as five packs of real field meals. They keep forever, so it was not a big deal, but as it happened my weekend off was coming up. So I decided I would do a late autumn hike.
Plans formed, destinations set. I would hike to two of the DNT (Norwegian hiking association) cabins. The trail blazes inevitably lead to them, and they are usually a day’s hike apart. I planned it so I would hike two days out then return on the same route since it almost stops right at my front door. I also planned a shorter alternate route out from the second cabin with a different exit point in case I wanted a shorter hike, or the weather turned, etc.
So the hike was planned, supplies acquired and gear checked. Now I just had to wait until the weekend arrived.
So the details:
The hike began at the trailhead that is about an hours walk from my front door. However, I got a ride up as it also is about 300 meters of elevation on asphalt, and saved the energy for the hike up the rest of the mountain. My pack weighed in at about 25-ish kgs (55-ish pounds) mainly because I intended on camping every night and thus required a tent, a 3 season sleeping bag and a sleeping mat. Everything fit nicely into my backpack, and after a few minutes I stopped and adjusted the pack a bit and changed some clothing as the sun was out in force and I was not high enough up for the wind to have an effect.
That changed quickly however as I started to get to the crossroads where I would turn away from the trail to the peak and instead head down the side of a ridge before coming up on the other end of it and onto a plateau. Going along the ridge the wind and cold air had combined forces to freeze many of the small streams and also coat the trail in a thin layer of ice. Nothing too bad as I could always find a spot where I got a grip with my boots.
Up and over to the other side, I pass the place where I usually make camp. I typically start much later in the day (I am not a morning person) and only get to about here before daylight starts vanishing.
This time however I had plenty of time, this is also the last spot with guaranteed coverage for my mobile. So text messages and Instagram-posts etc. was made here combined which gave me an excuse for a short break.
As I got up to the plateau the wind picked up quite a bit which would last until had crossed it gone down into a shallow valley that would protect me from it, but before that, I would have to traverse the plateau, and it was snowy and icy. The snow was old, the last remnants of last years snowfall. Making easy to walk on when it was flat, less so when there was an incline or decline. Some places it was also not hard enough to support me and thus my feet punched through. Instantly making me wish I had brought a pair of gaiters with me. But no, I did not, my trousers did, however, have a gaiter function.. a buckle to hook on the boot laces and grommets to secure them with a loop under the soles of my shoes. I did this, and it helped, but not quite enough. Snow got into my boots..but not too much and not enough threaten to make my feet wet.
After crossing the plateau, the lack of wind combined with the sun made it so hot that I unzipped my trousers converting them into shorts and packed away my jacket too. I was now hiking in shorts and a short-armed t-shirt, in October, in Norway!
That was my attire for the remainder of the day, and the cabin was close now, only about an hour and a half left before I got there.
Once I got there I pitched my tent and made camp.. and sat down enjoying the sun and chatted with the two others that arrived shortly after me.
Soon the sunset came along, and I broke out my kitchen (Primus) and started boiling some water to re-hydrate my dinner and make a cup of instant hot chocolate… and then I ate my dinner as the sun set…
Dinner and dessert had. I snuggled up in my sleeping bag and settled in for the night. It was now about 21:00, which is ridiculously early for me. However, no sunlight and complete dark made me sleepy, and I also wanted to get an early start the next day. So early to bed, it was.
I woke up early the next day, and after hopping out of my sleeping bag, I got into my clothes quickly. It was decidedly chilly outside, and my tent was only moderately warmer. Making the shock of exiting a toasty sleeping bag that much more potent.
Fully clothed and after a quick trip to the toilet, I made a hearty breakfast consisting of an oatmeal porridge and hot chocolate. After which I had devoured I started breaking camp and packing my backpack, and after taking a last look around making sure, nothing was left behind as I set out on the trail. I had to backtrack a bit to get on the trail that would lead me towards today’s goal of another cabin.
A brief intermission in the retelling of this adventure as I explain why I carry a tent when I could stay in the hiking cabins and have a lighter pack:
Well, because they have toilets (outhouses) which are a nice luxury to have when out in nature, and stocked pantries if I should fancy something other than the stuff I brought with me. Also at times there are other people there making it a bit more social, which is an excellent option to have.
This day’s hike was on a trail I’d not hiked before so with map and GPS (yes, I also pack a compass) I made my way after doing some sidetracking and taking some not-so-short-cuts. The hike was pleasant, but there were snow, ice and hard packed old snow as well. Which made it a bit of a challenge since I had to try and find a route that provided me with secure footing and at the same time little risk of falling through the snow.
I did not have crampons with me so in hindsight that was a bit silly. The snow was usually packed hard enough to allow me to walk on it without “punching through” for the most part. However, I was very glad for the built in gaiters in my trousers. But eventually I did get snow in my boots, and at the halfway point I stopped to change sock to keep me dry for the rest of the day.
Having navigated the range it was now time for a decent fortunately it was completely clear of snow and ice and I quickly picked up the pace. I found a comfortable spot that was facing the sun and provided the perfect for napping or just a short break. I resisted the temptation of napping but did stop to take a break there. As I got down, the temperatures rose, and I again did a wardrobe change and was back in t-shirt and shorts for the final few hours of hiking that would take me to a beautiful.
Old cars can still “off road”
Norwegian traffic sign
Over the ridge and beyond
View the valley below
Up on the plateu
Snow and water and me
No wind and sunny = no hat
ledge drops 20m into lake
Volahytta in sight
After a nap and last check-in on the phone since I would once again be out of cell reception until I either returned to this spot or used the alternate exit. I continued over some rocky bridges that would put the wobbly bridge in London to shame, even at its shakiest, and eventually I had the next cabin in sight. It had been a bit further than I imagined since the trail snaked quite a bit and there were quite a few switchbacks. The cabin got closer as I walked and suddenly and annoyingly I found myself at a dead end.
I had taken a wrong turn and headed to a fishing spot, but it was only 15 minutes back… however, at the time that was enough for me to curse myself for not double checking. I had words with myself as I continued back and across the old riverbed that now was dry due to the dam looming above me.
I made it to the cabin and made my camp, happy that I’d arrived. A few hikers had already checked into the cabin and sitting outside chatting with each other, and I joined in.
I chatted, and more and more people arrived, as daylight disappeared a group of 15 came among them quite a few children. One of the hikers tells me that they suddenly envied me my tent since I could seek refuge and quiet in it. I did not disagree and did so shortly after.
As the sun was about to set, I pulled out my snack and luxury item for this hike which was a bottle of ginger beer and a chocolate bar. A small celebration as I had now gotten to my destination, all that remained was getting back home.
I was contemplating taking the alternate route exit already before settling in for the night. Partly because of the snow and ice on the trail leading down to my current location, and partly because I did not relish the thought of going back up the steep incline. I did not make my mind up and snuggled into my sleeping bag still undecided on the subject.
The sun rose, I woke up, still debating if I should take the alternate exit or do as planned and head back the way I came. Still arguing with myself, the lazy me vs. the completionist me in vigorous debate. It ended abruptly the moment I put my feet back in my boots; they were frozen solid. They had been left out in the vestibule of the tent, and the temperature had dropped below freezing. It was a sign; I immediately decided to check into the cabin thus also reserving me a bed for the upcoming night. My reasoning for this was that I needed to dry out my shoes. Now since I was already going to pay for a day visit, further thinking lead me to pay for a full day visit. The temptation of a proper bed proved too great so suddenly I was spending the day here. I could take my time, no need to break camp immediately.
I spent the day strolling around the surrounding area enjoying the weather, now that the sun had come up warm, especially for this time of year.
The day was somewhat uneventful, after dinner, I packed my tent and everything else that I could. Leaving only the things, I needed for the rest this day and the following one out of it in preparation for leaving the next morning.
I walked around some more, talked with some of the new people that started to show up in the afternoon. Some were on a day-hike, others on multi-day hikes. After a bit of small talk, I excused myself and found a quiet and secluded spot perfect for sitting down and listening to an audiobook I was in the middle of. Caitlin Moran’s Moranifesto is recommended. Before I knew it it was getting dark, and sensibly enough I decided to go to bed, it was 9:30 pm so I’d be ready for a somewhat early start.
Slightly perilous path
Rickety bridge no. 2
Mud, what mud
The morning arrived and thanks to my planning the evening before I was ready to go as soon as I had had my breakfast and cleaned the cabin.
The last day of hiking took me past another rickety bridge, and I missed a few trail markers here and there because the sun had come out in force and was shining right in my face making spotting anything ahead of me somewhat complicated.
The frost that had settled overnight was disappearing, but the air remained crisp and smelled of winter. As I walked, I passed one of the mountain peaks in the area (one of the taller ones,) and it was covered in snow with the wind raging around it causing a haze of white surrounding it. I took a moment to take in the view and remind myself that all this was practically in my backyard.
I continued, and suddenly I saw the beginnings of civilisation and as I did that my phone quickly followed suit and started chirping out one alert after another in quick succession. More than a few of said alerts was due to my mother, I had been out of reach for two days so in her mind I must have met one grizzly fate or another. Never mind the fact that I told her that I would be out of reach for two days, that had apparently not registered.
The end result of this particular issue was that I got a SPOT GPS tracker and emergency beacon from her as a birthday gift, it had been on my shopping list for some time.
I got closer to the end of the of my hike and started headed down from the mountains as I did the temperature rose, snow and ice giving way to slippery and wet mud.
Mud, what mud
I descended, and so reached the end. However, this was the alternate exit for me so I would either need to walk home along one of the main roads which would not be fun with a heavy backpack. So I called my parents and asked if they would be willing to give me a lift. Which they were, but I walked to meet them so they could avoid the toll road that leads all the way up to the trailhead.
In preparation for the final few meters, I changed clothes since it now was a lot warmer, uncomfortably so…
Then I put my ear buds in and started listening to some music while I walked the final few minutes of my 4-day autumn adventure.