Archive for January, 2009

Day 26. Hellevassbu to Litlos

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Distance 21km | Time 9.5hrs | Ascent 580m | Descent 560m

Day 26. All morning the sun never appearedIt was a relatively short day today so I didn’t leave until 0900. As soon as I went outside I realized it was a mistake. Although windy still there was a dense mist. The temperature had risen considerably and was only minus 10.

I set off up the hill to skirt the south and east side of Buanuten. Slowly I climbed in the dense whiteness. I was a bit lazy using the GPS and compass and got a bit disorientated. However I soon reached a pass. About 5km to my main waypoint.

The ski down the other side of the pass was slow and careful as visibility was terrible. Still at least I was making progress. I checked with the GPS to see what progress I was making. It now said 6km to my waypoint. I was confused and got out the map. I could not bring myself to believe it, but the fact was I had not gone over the pass but over a shoulder and descended again on the same side I ascended.

Such things happen, especially when one gets too confident and especially when a descent is involved. I was furious with myself for this simple lapse. I should have checked to make sure I was descending the right way. After some 2 hours of mucking about in the mist I was just 2 km from Hellevassbu cabin where I started.

Rather than retrace my steps I climbed up again and went to the east of Sandviknuten. After more peering into the whiteness and endless looks at the map I eventually descended over this small pass and intersected my planned route. The mistake had cost me a good one and a half hours though.

The ascent over the next pass was equally white. It was very trying and frustrating. I must have made endless detours to reach this pass. It was just impossible to go fast in the mist. The descent down the other side was worse still as it was the lee side and all the boulders had been covered with snow. This constant whiteness was beginning to wear my patience thin.

Day 26. Late afternoon the white mist lifted briefly by TuevatniOn reaching the second of the Tuevatni lakes the sun finally made it through the mist. My disgruntled mood suddenly vanished as a view opened up. It was marvellous to see something at last. The joy was short lived as the mist soon returned.

Crossing the lake I traversed along a wide shelf called Hardingslepa and then had the best descent yet of the trip down some 100 metres to Kvennssjoen lake. At last I knew I would make the remaining 5 km to the cabin at Litlos. The problem was it was already 1600 and getting dark. This was not a big problem as I could follow the lakes.

The trouble was the mist was so thick I could only see 10 metres and this was compounded by the approaching darkness. After a small diversion partly caused by my inability to read my compass properly due to an irritating airbuble I eventually reached the small river between Litlosvatnet and Kvennsjoen lakes. I just saw it was open and without ice for a short distance. This was disconcerting.

Soon though I was onto the solid ice of Litlosvatnet lake and just 2 km to go. I was now totally dark and I was just going bt the GPS and headtorch. It is always slower going by head torch but the metres were slowly counting down.

For the last 2 km first the unusually bright Venus shone through the mist, before the mist vanished leaving a heaven of various constellations. It was unusually clear and the stars bright. At last I reached the cabin at 1830. Much too late for comfort.

The usual task like melting water and getting the stove going were quickly done and I could at last relax. It was a very frustrating day. I must have wasted so much effort on zig-zagging about due to the mist. It was also quite tiring peering into it constantly for potential danger and it does not improve the mood. Still it was a hard day but I am now relaxing in front of a roaring stove.

Day 25. Haukeliseter to Hellevassbu

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Distance 26km | Time 9hrs | Ascent 670m | Descent 560m

Day 25. Looking south from Vesle Nup to the mist above HaukeliseterI finished an enormous and delicious buffet breakfast at Haukeliseter and was ready to go at 0830. Indeed it was at last getting lighter in the mornings and I could now plan to leave at 0800 in future. I said my goodbyes to the friendly staff who were around and set off.

The weather was very misty but the forecast was great so I was optimistic as I set off up the steep hill for a good hours climb. Haukeliseter quickly disappeared into the mist below me and above me was the familiar whiteness broken by the odd boulder or snow drift.

It was a long hot slog up the steep slope covered in shin deep snow. When I reached the first lake the sun tried to break through but didn’t really until I reached the second lake. Now Vesle Nup loomed above me and gave me my bearings. I climbed some thickly covered slopes to the west of it to finish the 400 metre climb.

Day 25. Looking north from Vesle Nup to Nups EggaAt last I was basking in the sun. The view to the south down to the valley I had just climbed was obscured by low mist. Beyond it rose some mountain tops of the previous section in the Setersheiene. To the north of me was the crystal clear undulating plateau of the Hardangervidda with the nunatak of Nups Egga directly in front. It was a wonderful view under dark blue heavens.

Although the sun was out it was bitterly cold in the shade. My eyebrows were covered in frost and my jacket hood was thick with ice crystals. It reckoned it was about minus 15. Still to have the view it was worth paying the price of having eyelashes freeze together momentarily when blinking.

The climb up had taken 3.5 hours. This was much longer than I expected. It was mostly due to ploughing up through deep snow. Still I was about to be rewarded with a wonderful 5 hour ski through sunny easy terrain. The snow was loose powder and my skis flowed over the top of it quite easily sinking only to my ankles.

Day 25. Looking back at lonely tracks across Mannevatn LakeI followed an easy line of lakes and shallow open valleys from Mannevatn lake, over Armotsvatn lake and all the way up to Simletindvatn lake. I passed numerous fox tracks and also the tracks of hare, lemming and ptarmigan. Generally lemmings stay under the snow pack in winter in a network of grassy tunnels but occasionally they venture onto the surface.

There were a few small private huts enroute owned by locals who still reserve the right to fish the lakes, mostly for Arctic Char, a trout type fish with red markings and meat.

This ski was the best ski I have had so far on the trip. The snow was great but it was the views which clinched it. With the clear skies I could also plan out a km in advance where I wanted to go to avoid knolls and deep drifts instead of the usual 50 metres.

In the morning I was worried I would not make the hut so slow was my progress, but I made up good time across these lakes in the afternoon moving at about 3 km an hour. Just as I reached Simletindvatn the mist came down again but now I knew I would make it to the cabin. I noticed the temperature was falling further and my legs covered just with a single layer of GoreTex felt cold.

The last 4 km were in the mist but they presented little problem as I was used to it. At least there was no wind. Soon out of the whiteness the cabin appeared. Luckily I did not have to dig much snow away from the door. There was a reliable thermometer outside. It read minus 24.

Inside the cabin had many rooms. Sensibly the kitchen was large enough to exist in and small enough for the stove to heat effectively. It was initially minus 13 inside but in a couple of hours it was up to plus 30 and my frostily clothes were drying beautifully. I felt very comfortable as I chose supper from the larder.

It had been a magnificent day. Perhaps the best yet. Cold and clear wins every time over mild and misty. It had been a long day also and I was relieved I had made it to the cabin to luxuriate in, rather than camping short of the cabin. Tomorrow’s ski to Litlos cabin is considerably shorter.

Day 24. Haukeliseter weather and rest day

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

Distance 0km | Time 0hrs | Ascent 0m | Descent 0m

I was breakfasted and ready to go at 0830, but it was quite windy and snowing heavily. The other 2 who might have been going were still in bed so I would be on my own ploughing the lonely furrow in about 40 cm of snow. Probably without any visibility to boot. In addition the weather forecast for tomorrow and indeed the next week was at last slightly positive.

I decided to postpone my departure for a day as it was a long day I had and needed as much visibility as possible. So I returned to bed. When I got up at 1000 it was still a force 4, bad visibility and snow everywhere. My guilt at remaining at Haukeliseter rapidly vanished.

To relieve my guilt further I spent some time looking at the blogs of a couple of other “Norge paa langs” expeditions. It looked like they were having a torrid time of it also, all of them having been stuck for a few days in Storevatn cabin which I left a good 10 days ago.

The kiters were back on the lake in the afternoon and continued to perfect jumps and tricks. There was a much bigger crowd of maybe 40 now the hardcore having been joined by some weekenders and learners.

Later in the afternoon I used the internet to further research my trip across Hardangervidda. My initial route was ineffective winding from one cabin to another. In addition cabins I thought were open were locked and i would have to camp twice. I decided on a new route of Hellevassbu to Litlos to Hadlaskar to Liseth to Kjeldebu to Finse.

This route was shorter but still 6 days. It would mean a cabin every night which was effective to keep moving. I knew I had to camp sometimes, but if I could avoid it I would. It is cramped, cold and difficult to get going the next morning.

I spent alot of the afternoon and evening socializing and reading. It seems that not only Amundsen spent some time here but Nansen visited frequently. For both of them the Hardangervidda was a training ground for their polar exploits.

With the current weather forecast I am now champing at the bit to get started across Hardangervidda myself.

Day 23. Haukeliseter weather and rest day

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

Distance 0km | Time 0hrs | Ascent 0m | Descent 0m

Day 23. Haukeliseter LodgeAfter a comfortable, clean sleep I was ready for the the typical buffet breakfast lodges like Haukeliseter offer. The huge displays include all the usual items plus many traditional dishes like goats cheese and pickled herrings in various exotic sauces. The breakfast at Haukeliseter was no dissapointment.

After that I was shown the washing machine and then settled down for a comfortable day indoors writing, reading and socializing. Haukeliseter is one of the oldest tourist lodges in Norway. It is also one of the busiest due to its location on the road. As such it is the gateway to Hardangervidda to the north and Setersheiene to the south.

Its original old buildings, now gone, were initially a seter or summer farm which also offered food and lodging for travellers and traders crossing the often inhospitable mountains between Telemark and Setersdal valley inn the east and the west coast. It serverd this purpose in the 17 and 18 centuries. In the 19 century it was expanded and by 1888 the first of the present buildings were built. It as later acquired by the Stavanger Mountain Touring Club

It of couse continued to offer hospitality to travellers, but its focus was more on mountain walkers and skiiers. Its old buildings are seeped in history and tradition. The logs in its halls have seen the likes of Amundsen who trained on Hardangervidda before his Polar exploits. Old wooden skis, wolf and bear skins and hundred year old farming utensils line its timbers.

Now an important arterial road passes its door. This road is often blocked for a day or two at at a time in the winter and frequently at night. On these occasions the lodge returns to its original purpose offering shelter to travellers.

In addition to travellers, mountain walkers and skiiers, it is also a kiters paradise now. Today up to 15 kiters were out in the strong breeze whizzing across the lake on their snowboards performing acrobatics and making 30 metre jumps. Some of kiters seemed to work here and used all their spare time being dragged along at terrific speed. It seems to be a very skillful sport as controlling these massive kites seems no easy job.

The weather forecast seems poor for the next week so I think the 6 days of the next stage, stage 3, from here to Finse, will take longer than that. The Hardangerdda is a huge plateau some 1200 metres high and when the weather is bad and the wind blows it is best to be inside. It seems there are a couple of young Norwegians going that way tomorrow so I might have company, which would be great.

Day 22. Holmavasshytta to Haukeliseter

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Distance 19km | Time 8.5hrs | Ascent 470m | Descent 570m

I looked out of the window about 0600 and for the first time since putting my skis on in Ljosland ages ago, I saw stars. At last maybe the weather was on the change. By the time I left at 0830 the weather was changing for the windy whitness I was getting used to.

Within a half km of leaving the cabin I knew I was in for a hard day and that I would be lucky to reach Haukeliseter lodge without camping. I was wading through a half metre of soft snow, it was even slow going back down to Holmavatnet lake.

Once on the lake luckily the snow was more windblown and less airy, and therefore firmer. I skiied to the north corner where there were a few private fishing and hunting cabins owned by locals. One of these cabins just had the eves and chimney poking out of the snow.

There was a problem free short climb up to the next lake and I was lucky to pick an easy route. Occasionally it brightened up enough to see a km or two. Looking back at my lonely tracks I surveyed the hills. In some 40 ski trips in Scandinavia I don’t think I have ever see so much snow.

On crossing the second lake the weather deteriorated and I could not make out where I was to go so out came the compass. I reached the north shore and picked my way from boulder to boulder up it. The descent to Ingelsvatn lake however was difficult as the visibility was about 2 metres. I shuffled along in my skis barely making progress. Occasionally I would spot a rare boulder and using it as a reference make for it. After an hour I had made the km down to the level lake.

Crossing this last lake was relatively easy as I followed the shoreline with its numerous reference points. At the north point of the lake I descended down into a wide valley with a tarn in it. Again the visibility was terrible and the wind a good force 6.

At last, once I had descended a couple of hundred metres did the visibility improve. I then had a very pleasant gentle descent down a series of soft snow-filled smaller valleys and gullies until at last I made it right down beyond the tree line and onto Kjelavatn lake. Only now was I confident I would make the lodge. But it was already 1500 and I still had 7 km to go.

It was very heavy heavy work ploughing a furrow through the deep snow, first across the lake and up a frozen inlet, and then across frozen swampy forest which was open and therefore somewhat compact.

I still had to climb a small rise to the next lake when I came across a line of twigs. These twigs or branches are stuck into the snow usually later in the ski touring season as route markers. They are about 30 metres apart. In the immeadiate vicinity around Haukeliseter they must be put out earlier to cater for the odd hardcore holiday ski tourer.

It was about dark now but it was easy to follow the twigs for the last 2 km to the lodge in the twighlight. I got to the lodge about 1700. I was tired and soaking with spindrift and sweat. My clothes stunk. I had had them on for the last 16 days. Yet within an hour I had peeled them off and was shaving in the shower.

After a hefty meal I socialized for a good few hours with a very nice group of “kiters”. Haukeliseter is a Mecca for young kiters to come up and snowboard across the frozen lake being pulled by up to 15 square metres of kite. During this my phone was charged by the very helpful reception. It had a good vibe did Haukeliseter.

It was yet another hard day, made more so possibily by the deadline of darkness. Still I had made it without camping and had a very comfortable evening for my efforts. I had decided to take tomorrow off to wash clothes, eat, and socialise a bit after 2 weeks without seeing anyone.