A new trip begins, so it's time to take that first step: buy a bunch of crappy food! Enough cheap & light calories to get me through 5 days in the snow.
written Apr 17, 2019 @ 08:22 AM after hiking 4.50 miles
Once that was packed in with the rest of my gear (the weather is looking favorable, so I was able to leave my hardcore gear at home), it was time to head to the train station.
Once there, I met up with Krissy & Johannes, right on time for our train.
... only to find out the train was delayed by more than an hour. So we did the rational thing and picked up some beers and went to go hang out in the sun.
It was also good to get used to these boots since I'm gonna be wearing them nonstop for the next five days, climbing around mountains and whatnot.
The train finally showed up so it was time to awkwardly pile on the crowded train with my backpack, skis, and poles .. along with everyone else doing the same thing.
But still, four and a half hours later, we arrived in Ustaoset, where we were going to begin our trek. Half of the group had arrived earlier in the day and set up camp, and met us back at the station to show us how to get there. So off we went, across the frozen lake!
It was super pretty .. and pretty cold. Brr.
After struggling with the skins on my skis, we got to camp which was freezing cold. I brushed my teeth and then went straight to bed.
I felt some big blisters forming on my heels so I put some moleskin on -- let's see how this works out.
written Apr 18, 2019 @ 07:00 PM after hiking 27.00 miles
I'm not sure why, but I was surprised to find that the sun was up at 5:45am. It's the end of a long dark Norwegian winter, but the change back to summer hours seemed to take, like, a day.
The trouble is that the sun crossed the horizon around 6am, but that doesn't mean it got warm. Brrrrr.
So I stayed in my wonderful cozy sleeping bag until 7:30 or so, when I finally decided to get a move on. Not only was I impatient to get hiking, but I hate being the last one ready and wanted to start packing.
So up I got, into a still-slumbering camp. Like my friend Krissy, who slept out in her bivvy last night.
I walked around and investigated the surroundings (read: peed), and returned to camp, and at least one person was getting up.
Everyone else followed shortly, and a packing/breakfasting/hydrating party got underway.
I just tried to stay out of the way.
Eventually, we got underway. I had spent a bit of time trying out the skis with their skins, and let me tell you: this is going to be a long trip.
The problem is that the skis that I borrowed are incompatible with the new racing-style skins, which just go under the boot. Instead, the skins I picked up go the full length of the skis. This is absolutely wonderful for climbing up steep icy slopes, but just miserable on the flats. And downhills.
Oh well, it'll be a good workout I guess.
The sun came up, with a vengeance. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and I was thanking my stars that I'd remembered both sunglasses and sunscreen.
The day continued on like this:
- We get to a rise
- I'm first up because my skins are amazing at climbing
- I start on the flat or down or whatever is next
- Everyone blows past me
- Everyone waits for me at the next hill
- GOTO 1
We didn't see many people out there, but a few dog teams passed us, which looked awesome. I was really hoping they'd stop so I could befriend them (the dogs) but no such luck. The dogs were just loving it, and in no mood to stop.
Remember when I said the sun was up with a vengeance? It was so hot. Before this trip, I had joked with my friend Alex (seen pulling her homemade pulk) that I was going to wear my normal hiking attire: button-down and my shorts. I wore the button-down, but chickened out on the shorts.
In the later afternoon, we had a ridiculously long hard long slog to reach a cabin. We weren't staying there, but we wanted a beer and some new wax. The wax we had brought was better than nothing, but it was way too hot for it. So I picked up a tube of the stickiest wax I've only heard rumors about.
After our siesta, we headed back out for a last two-hour slog across a frozen lake to set up camp.
We still had a few daylight hours left, so we settled in and hung out a bit before bed.
The sun set at 8:30 and the took the heat with it. However, this time we didn't wait for it to get cold -- off to bed we went!
written Apr 19, 2019 @ 07:02 PM after hiking 28.00 miles
7:30 -- time to make the donuts! And by that I mean it's time to get out of my warm sleeping bag and eat some garbage food.
After scarfing some trail mix and cheese, I packed up my gear and we all hit the trail.
From the map, it looked like today's theme was going to be "lakes." It's interesting: one of the cabins had the distances posted, and the summer time trail distance was substantially longer than the winter one because you had to go around all of the lakes instead of across them.
Thankfully, it was still plenty cold so over the lakes we went!
One problem is that we accidentally burst the tube of wax (called klister) and made a huge mess. Of ridiculously sticky proportions.
Oh well, it was still better than skins!
Eventually we reached another serviced cabin, so we picked up some refreshments and waited out the heat of the day. It's uncanny how much this reminded me of my desert routine.
Once we headed back out, we had several very long lakes to traverse. They were easy, but monotonous. Looking at the mountains right next to the lakes, I couldn't help but think how fun it would be to come do some backcountry powder skiing next winter!
Eventually, we reached a good spot where we set up camp and called it a day.
This camp even had a small exposed area where we could comfortably sit and have dinner and chitchat.
We stuck around until sundown (~8:30), and then one again called it a night before it got too cold.
written Apr 20, 2019 @ 07:11 PM after hiking 25.00 miles
After a surprisingly-chilly night (which included some snowmobilers doing a race on the lake at midnight), we got up when the sun was up.
There wasn't a cloud in the sky when we started the day -- gotta lather up on sunscreen! It's going to be another scorcher. Even worse, the map indicates that we'll have a fair amount of climbing to do today.
Right out of camp, we had a big climb ahead of us. I didn't want to put on my skins (never again), and it was too cold for the wax (the tube was still frozen), so I figured I'd just power through it.
It worked, but man oh man was it tiring!
At the top, we decided it was time to apply some new wax, now that it was thawed and fluid enough to be applied without making a gigantic mess again (we'd bought a new tube yesterday).
And with that, off we went!
It was a long traverse across some flats (well, up/down/flat/up/down/flat, but nothing major). We eventually arrived at our next big descent. This would take us down to another cabin, and then we'd have to climb right back up immediately afterwards.
So down we went!
I'm not too proud to admit that I totally biffed it four times on the descent. Fjellski have metal edges (as opposed to normal cross-country skis) but your heels still aren't attached. This means that while you can have some steering abilities, it's easy to get totally out of control.
Nevertheless, we arrived at the cabin in one piece. There was an Easter shindig happening and we got ourselves a free hotdog (and a non-free beer) before heading on our way.
As I mentioned, that big descent was followed by an equally-large ascent. So we got to climbing, with the understanding that we'd have lunch at the top.
At the top, the sun was out and there was an exposed rocky section which gave me a chance to stretch out my sleeping bag and microwave it in the sun. This quickly dried out the condensation that had built up over the night and made the feathers nice and happy again. It also gave us a good chance to melt some snow because we'd forgotten to refill on water at the cabin.
After our lunch break, we packed up and continued the trek. At this point, a thin layer of clouds set in, which gave us a much-needed break from the sun. It didn't really do much for the heat, but I suspect our skin was happier for it.
We eventually came to a section that was indicative of just how late in the season Easter was this year:
No snow! Ugh. Oh well, it wasn't a long stretch, so we just hiked it, trying to not get our hands too sticky from the wax.
After that, it was another few kilometers to camp. We stopped not just because of energy, but also because of distance -- we only had 11km or so left! If we pushed on, we'd find ourselves in civilization a day early, and no one wanted that.
We chose a decent site, stopped, and set up camp with lots of time left.
And what a camp that was.
We had some pent-up energy, so we got to digging with the snow shovels and made an awesome table for us all to eat dinner together. We even played some card games!
What a life.
Then we still had hours until the sun went down, so we got to digging Krissy an awesome sleeping-out pit: recessed to shelter her from the wind, with even deeper areas to prevent the cold air from pooling around her, and a wall to provide further wind protection.
It was amazing.
written Apr 21, 2019 @ 01:50 PM after hiking 10.00 miles
As mentioned, we only had a few kilometers left until the trip was over, which meant we were allowed to sleep in a bit.
However, that's not really how things work (at least for me), so I was still up, exploring the world. It looked like it would be our first cloudy day -- perfect, since it was our last.
After breaking down camp (including filling in both the table and Krissy's grave), we packed up, shouldered our packs one last time, and started the next climb.
Eventually, we could see our landmark on the horizon: Gaustatoppen! The domineering mountain provided a convenient guiding star for us (not that we didn't have GPS and maps and 4G cell service ...)
As we got closer, we saw more and more signs of civilization, like trail markers and signposts.
Eventually, we were there! The start of the final descent, which would take us to the gondola (which would take us all the way back to town).
After another scary edge-of-control descent, we reached the gondola .. and just missed one. Oh well, let's grab some beers and some burgers and enjoy the view.
Eventually the gondola showed up, and we got another great view of the valley on our way down to Rjukan.
And just like that, my first fjellski tur ended. I'm definitely a fan, and really look forward to going on more of these in the winters to come.