Archive for February, 2009

Day 54. Stugudalen to Nedalshytta

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Distance 18km | Time 5.5hrs | Ascent 410m | Descent 270m

Day 54. The forest track heading east from Stugudalen up to the mountainsI had a good breakfast with an older couple who were also staying at the hotel. They were both over 80 and made an effort to go 10 km a day. During the winter this was on skis in the summer on foot. They were fitter than many 40 year old’s I have met recently.

I left at 0830 and went first to the shop to buy chocolate. Then I put on my balaclava, pulled up my hood and started through the snow showers up the snow covered track.

This track was cleared by tractor for about 5 km so people who had leisure cabins beside it could drive to them. There was still a deep cover of compressed snow on the track.

Day 54. The view over the birch woods and southern Nesjoen lake near Nedalshytta cabinI went up past numerous cabins, their mostly turf roofs thick with snow, until they ended as the birch forest started to thin. Here the clearing of the track ended, but there was a scooter track for another 5 km to the edge of the forest. This was a godsend otherwise I would be making slow heavy progress in deep snow.

At the edge of the forest I met a young Swede dressed in white pulling a sledge with a rifle on his back-not a usual sight. We naturally got chatting. He was a fox hunter paid by the Swedish and Norwegian wildlife departments to hunt and kill red fox in the Sylan mountains.

The reason was that the Sylan mountains are one of the last bastions of the Arctic Fox. Indeed 5 were released here recently in a cross border cooperation scheme. Red foxes are somewhat bigger and better at coping in the mountains and are competing with their Arctic cousins to the latters detriment The wildlife departments employ him to keep the red foxes in check. So far this year though he had only shot 2.

He told me a bit more about the unfortunate Karoliner army I mentioned yesterday. Apparently most of the survivors of the storm also died soon after with gangrene induced by frostbite. Of the original 10,000 less than 1000 made it home.

We parted after a good half hours chat in the snow showers and I carried on to the treeline. There were frequent snow showers and some were quite heavy. The visibility was very poor but there was a line of stakes to follow. This made a huge difference as it gave me confidence I was going in the right direction and didn’t have to check the map, compass and GPS all the time.

After a couple of hours in the near white out the line of stakes veered north and dropped down into the upper birch woods again. The weather also improved and the visibility got much better. Ptarmigan which were sheltering under the snow took off as I approached.

There were two streams to cross which may have been open water so I made for the bridges marked on the map. Thereafter there was just a short climb up through birch forest to the large cabin.

This short climb however proved to be quite difficult. The terrain was knolly and the snow was deep. It took me a good half hour to complete the km up to the cabin. During this time the weather was very calm but as soon as I reached the cabin another heavy blizzard arrived

My usual cabin routine was made much easier since this cabin had electricity. There were electric heaters in addition to the wood stove. I lit the stove and put on the heaters and within a short time the cabin was warm and cosy.

After a couple of hours 3 dutch arrived. You can almost take for granted dutch are nice and these 3 reinforced that generalization. I got the blog out of the way and then we setled down to a nice evening. They had come from where I was heading tomorrow and said there was little problem but they didn’t see much.

It had been an ok day. The poor weather and lack of views took the shine off the day a bit but it was great to be back in the mountains and in cabins again after the last week of relative civilization.

Day 53. Stugudalen weather and rest day

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

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

I had fully intended to go to Nedalshytta cabin today. But by the time I got up, had breakfast, wrote the blog (which I should have done last night) it was approaching 1100. The weather was not great with intermittent snow showers and a good breeze. Apparently the ski track was erratic and there would be some deep snow.

All in all I suppose I was looking for excuses to rest my weary body. In the end I found enough and had a short siesta. When I woke I spent the afternoon sending emails, washing cloths and resting more.

The hotel was starting to grow on me more. At the buffet supper where I gorged myself again a few people came to chat to me.

One person was the owner. He was like most Norwegians justifiably proud of his heritage. One thing he told me about the hotel was that Thor Hyerdahl had spent the summer of 1948 here. He took over the upstairs lounge with the fire place and wrote Kon-Tiki here.

With the washing laid out to dry and today’s blog done there was a good opportunity for an early bed to prepare for the short but potentially difficult 18 km tomorrow to Nedalshytta cabin on the edge of the Sylan range of mountains.

From there I will probably cross the border into Sweden where the Sylan mountains are more spectacular. Then follow the Karoliner path for a couple of days to reach the town of Storlien.

The Karoliner path is so called after possibly the greatest military tragedy in Scandinavia. An army of some 10,000 Swedish soldiers was sent to attack Trondheim about 300 years ago. This poorly equipped army failed and beat a retreat through Tydal valley. By this stage the impoverished soldiers had lost a few thousand men and the remainder took to looting food and clothing to survive. In a desperate bid to return to Sweden they fled through the Sylan mountains during the approach of winter.

Midway through the mountains a storm struck and well over 3,000 Karoliner soldiers perished in it. Their corpses lay where they fell and that summer the smell on the summer farms in the area was said to be unbearable.

Hopefully my equipment will be better and any winter storm remain dormant when I cross.

Day 52. East Aursunden to Stugudal

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

Distance 53km | Time 11hrs | Ascent 500m | Descent 500m

Day 52. Storeelvavollen summer farm lies on a large and somewhat bleak plateau covered in birch woodsAfter way too little sleep I got up a bit before 0800. Lars, Robin and the girls had breakfasted and were cleaning up. I decided not to take up Lars’ offer of the Helsport Rondane 3 tent, as although bigger and also lighter than mine it needed many more anchors and was also quite exposed to any side winds.

While they packed their cars I packed my tent away and prepared my rucksack Eventually at 0900 we were all ready to go. Them to Trondheim and me towards Stugudal. I waved them off. They had been very kind.

The weather was not at all good. There was heavy snow and due to this the visibility was only 200 metres. In addition there was a good breeze towards me. I put my balaclava on pulled my hood up, half closed my eyes and set forth.

There was no chance of going over the mountain to Kjolihytta cabin due to visibility and deep snow. There was also no chance of going into the woods. It would be a km an hour in knee deep snow. The road was the only option for progress. Indeed with some 10 cm of new snow on an icy base it was good. The traffic was minimal with a car every 10 minutes.

I made fast time in these conditions at about 5 km per hour. The skis were gliding well. I moved forward in a bubble of visibility that was at times just 100 metres. The smell of wood smoke heralding a farm or cabin long before I could see it.

There were quite a few farms along this stretch. Very few were old and most seemed to have been built in the last 50 years. The buildings were quite modern with sharp edges and pragmatic doors for large modern farm implements There was also a dearth of trees around the farms and this gave them a bleak appearance.

Between the farms were birch woods. There were no pines or spruce despite it being only 700 metres. Within the woods there were many leisure cabins, and the occasional older farm which abandoned in favour of newer buildings nearby.

I skiied from hamlet to hamlet along the lake for 4 hours until I reached the hamlet of Brynildsvollen in 19 km. Here there was a junction and another very snowy road headed north for 34 km to the village of Stugudal. The weather had improved slightly but it was still snowing and breezy. This second road climbed up to 1000 metres across a windswept plateau.

It was just 1300 so I paused a bit before starting a gradual climb through birch woods to Rein lake. Here I thought I could leave the road and head onto the lake. The reality was vastly different to the map which did not show the deep snow. Again it seemed the road was the only option. It was just 1400 now and the option of following the road all the way to Stugadal where there was a simple hotel seemed possible now. It would be dark when I arrived but with the snowy road to follow it would be easy enough.

I carried on past quite a bleak landscape of thinning birch woods and occasional simple summer farms. The birch woods eventually petered out on each side into scattered copses and then bare white mountain which looked grey an uninviting in today’s poor weather.

After the collection of summer farms at Storeelvavollen the road climbed out of the thinning birch woods and past a couple of clusters of leisure cabins onto the bare mountain. It was a tough climb for my weary thighs. It was more exposed here and the wind had blow a lot of the snow from the road leaving icy gravel to skirt around.

In fading light I skied down the other side back into the birch forest again. There was a car every 5 minutes now and I was concious I would be barely visible to drivers in the spindrift and dusk. I reached a ski trail which crossed the road and went down to Stugudal I could safely follow this in the quiet of the forest.

The ski trail was poorly marked and barely visible. It seemed a snow scooter had been recently and it had sunk into the snow considerably. I had hoped for a trail similar to that from Tyset to Vingelen and was disappointed. After falling twice in the near dark in just a half km I at last came to my senses before the point of no return. It was still 10 km to go and I was way too tired to ski on a poor trail in the dark. I could camp or return to the road and walk down it for 2 hours to the hotel. I retraced my ski in the difficult snow, took of my skis and put of my weak head torch.

The occasional traffic could not see me but I could see it from a considerable distance. Each time a car came I climbed the drifts at the side of the road and waited off the road until it passed. I must have done this 20 times until I reached the village at 2000. It would have been a nice ski down the road but I could not climb the steep banks at the side with my skis on. The wind on this section was now about force 4 and there was spindrift everywhere. I at last reached the village and congratulated myself I had the sense to turn back on the ski trail and was not floundering about in deep snow in the dark forest.

My reward for taking the road was soon apparent. Vektarstua hotel had a cheap room, buffet supper, powerful showers, as close a thing as you are going to get in rural Scandinavia to a pub and even a slightly redneck country dance band playing. I had a wonderful shower which stung my chaffed areas and gorged myself at the buffet. The country band was given a wide berth as I returned to my room and tried to write. 2 paragraphs later my eyes shut and I had to crash out at 2200.

It had been a very long day. My longest yet. I am sure this record will be broken in the coming months. This day also brought to an end the awkward river Glomma section from Folldal to Stugudal which was a kind of missing link between the Langfjellene mountains of south central Norway, which I followed for the first 6 weeks, and the Kjolen mountains along the Norwegian Swedish border which I will now follow for the next 6 weeks.

While this Glomma section largely followed ski trails, country lanes and occasional roads and was bereft of the high Scandinavian mountains, it passed through some wonderful cultural landscapes in a lovely winter setting. The weather had been poor but it was barely noticable and did not hinder me or my appreciation of the farming communities.

Day 51. Dalsbygda to East Aursunden

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Distance 39km | Time 9.5hrs | Ascent 470m | Descent 440m

Day 51. Looking back down to the farms and fields of DalsbygdaAfter a somewhat sleepless night, probably due to lack of exercise yesterday, I was ready to go at 0800. It had been snowing during the night and the lanes were covered in snow.

I left the village and was about to climb up onto the top road to Os when a lady journalist stopped her Jeep. She interviewed me for a half hour and took some photos for the the local Dalsbygda paper.

I then continued up to the quieter top road where there would be no traffic really. I had a great view here back down to the farms and fields of Dalsbygda in the snow. I passed one cluster of farm buildings where the farms, but not the buildings very old as they were, dated back 1000 years.

After leaving this cluster I had a very pleasant ski along the road covered in 10 cm of new snow for another 6 km until it reached the descent to Os. Os was similar in character to Vingelen and Dalsbygda with a Lutheran church and many old farms distributed in a number of clusters.

Day 51. An old farm and barn near OrvosAfter descending to Os I turned north east and went along a very quiet snowy lane for 9 km on the west of the Glomma river to the bridge over it. If I crossed the bridge it was a few km to Roros, while I could also stay on this tranquail lane to for another 8 km to Orvos. I made a phone call to confirm all accommodation in Roros was full and decided instead of camping in this town in the middle of a festival I would continue north. It was only 1330.

The road north was much of the same quiet back lane with old farms and extensive woods. There was one large riding stables with some 40 varied horses nervously running in snowy fields. In the woods there were frequent woodpeckers.

Day 51. The country lane from Os to OrvosAt Orvos the snowy lane ended at a busy road. I had to cut back south along this main road crossing the river Glomma again. After km there was another lane which went the 8 km north again to the village of Glomas. This road proved to be a bit busier than the lane up to Orvos but I had to take it or ski in the woods.

Surprisingly quickly I reached Glomas, which was more modern than the other villages of the last 2 days. There was a shop here so I enquired about accommodation. There was none. I decided therefore to continue to the Aursunden lake and camp at its east end.

It was only 3 km to the lake, past some lovely farms and cabins. At the lake the road veered north and I followed it looking for a place to camp and envious of the cosy glow coming from the cabins. When I reached a suitable camp spot there were two young men chatting with dogs in the dusk.

We got chatting. They were very friendly and had been at the Rorosmarten all day. After a half hours chat they suggested I pitch the tent and come up for coffee. They would have let me stay but were returning to Trondheim that evening.

I pitched the tent and went up to their beautiful, warm and cosy cabin. We carried on chatting. Their wives then suggested they return to Trondheim tomorrow and I was invited to stay. What generosity and hospitality. A beer, pizza and moonshine were quickly presented while my damp clothes were hung by the fire.

Their names were Lars and Robin. We chatted until 0100 during which time Lars offered to lend me his tent which was slightly bigger and yet lighter than mine. It would mean I would not have the same condensation problems. The tent was perhaps not quite as robust though. More surprising generosity.

I eventually got to bed shattered but very comfortable at 0100. I then stayed up for another hour until 0200 to write this as I would be camping tomorrow and did not want to get too far behind.

It had been a mixed day of skiing. Some of the lanes were idyllic, while the road to Glomas and East Aursunden lake was not. However the generosity of Robin and Lars was quite astounding and I am very grateful for the warm comfortable evening and good company. I hope my tales of my trip so far went some way to repay them. Occasions like this confirm everything good about humanity.

Day 50. Vingelen to Dalsbygda

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Distance 23km | Time 4hrs | Ascent 260m | Descent 330m

Day 50. The forest track between Vingelen and DalsbygdaAfter a very nice breakfast and further chats with the very nice owners of Vingelgaard farm and guest house I finally got under way at 0930. Today was apparently an easy day.

I skied down the road and cut off to the church which I passed closely. Just beyond it was the road north north east to Roset for 6 km. It was a country lane covered in snow. Not a car passed me for the whole distance. Initially there were lots of grand old farms similar to Vingelgaard. These soon became sparse with just the occasional house.

An elghound dog joined me for a couple of km along the road before it turned back to the farm from where it came. After 6 km the lane ended and a forest track to summer farms continued. This track was recently used by horses so was easy to follow.

The horses had been pulling sleds. Every year Roros has a regional winter market called Rorosmarten. It has been going for 150 years. It is tradition for traders and merchants to arrive by horse and sled. I suspect the goods arrive by van however. Some of these traders take days to reach Roros in convoys of horses and sleds. There was a group of some 30 sleds which assembled and passed through Vingelen to the west. Other convoys arrived from the south, north, east and even Sweden for this annual market in Roros. The convoy which passed through Vingelen used this same track I was on just a few days previously so it was well compressed and easy to ski.

Day 50. A grand old summer farm between Vingelen and DalsbygdaAlong this track there were numerous summer farms. Most were very idyllic and quite substantial. Of the 56 farms in Vingelen, 30 still used there summer farms. This is a huge proportion in today’s Norway. Whether this was economic necessity or a proud preservation of culture is arguable for the people of Vingelen seemed quite affluent, well educated and upstanding.

The track went past some 20 summer farms and various forests including birch, pine and spruce. It was a superb cultural landscape. I made a note to return here some summer in the near future. The skiing along this track was also very easy as there was sufficient new snow to lubricate a long glide.

Eventually the track ended at Aasheim where the country lane started again. The 9 km route along this lane was also very quiet and was also the route the horses took. I caught up with Andre and Morten here as they had sledges and were a bit slower.

We went past farms, both old and mostly recent, as we quickly descended Dalsbygda. It was nice to have company and chat as we skiied along 3 abreast down the middle of the lane.

Day 50. Morten and Andre with 50kg sledges and small rucksacks approaching DalsbygdaTheir sledges or pulks were about 45 kg each. They had masses of equipment including a large tent and plenty of petrol for the stove come heater. It was a diffierent philosophy. They had comfort and could be self sufficient for a fortnight, but were slow. I had the bare minimum and could only be sufficient for a few days before my sleeping bag was damp and food was running out, but I had speed and flexibility.

Day 50. Approaching Dalsbygda in heavy snowWe soon reached Dalsbygda where Morten knew someone who had a cabin in another 8 km, which was part of a summer farm. I had already arranged to stay in Dalsbygda so found my very cheap lodging and said goodbye.

It was still early and I spent the afternoon making phone calls to try a retrive my new rucksack which had been in customs now for a fortnight, held by some very jobs-worthy officials. Poor Ovind had also got roped into the extraction process and was sharing the stress.

In the evening I cooked steak in the lodging, wrote the blog and planned a route, so far unsuccessfully, through Sylan, which was the mountain region north of Roros and would take a good week to cross.

It had been yet another great day despite the constant snow and limited views. The skiing was easy and fast and the lack of views were more than compensated for by the rich cultural landscape. Indeed at times, especially at the Vingelen end of today, I felt as if I was skiing through a living museum Tomorrow I would probably go to Roros.