A fat summit attempt

 

We have been waiting for it for a long time. Snow crust. And when it finally arrives, we are stuck with everyday life, stuck until the sun starts melting it away and all seems lost. Or is it? A forecast promising a few cold nights fuels our optimism. A few days after, we’re on our way, Håkon and I, on a winter summit attempt. By bike.

It’s late before we manage to get above the tree line and to the foot of the mountain. The snow is not very cooperative, to say the least. The crust gives way more or less nonstop and we have to push our bikes. All. The. Time.

Worn out after riding from the springlike conditions down in town and up to the receding winter landscape 750 meters higher up, the last kilometers on rotten snow fills us with doubt regarding whether it is possible to scale the mountain or not. The thought of another 450 meters of vertical climbing to the summit stops us in our tracks. Instead, we settle for camp, hoping to wake up to a fresh crust in the morning.

And indeed, early morning does reveal a thin snow crust. The summit attempt is on. Barely. At this point, the percentage that we actually have been riding our bikes in the mountain range is probably less than three percent. No wonder Håkon sports a broad smile when we finally can ride our fatbikes. But it is to no avail. The crust is melting in front of our eyes.

It’s a shame to turn around, but it would be the pinnacle of stupidity to continue. At least, that’s what we thought.

Iron horses on display. A Vision LTD as well as a trusty Surly Pugsley. At this very moment, we have aborted the summit attempt.
Iron horses on display. A Vision LTD as well as a trusty Surly Pugsley. At this very moment, we have aborted the summit attempt.

Even if we have to walk most of the way down the mountain, we manage to increase the percentage distance cycled to at least 5 percent. Oh, joy.

We decide to camp at the edge of the mountain range to recover from our failure. After a long evening around the campfire, Håkon chooses to spend the night alongside the fire, while I enjoy the comfort of my brand new Hilleberg Soulo tent.

 

We awake next morning to a crust thick enough to carry an elephant and can’t help feeling slightly disappointed about our decision to turn back the day before.

This is where this little blog post easily could have ended, if it wasn’t for the very fact that the cold comes back the week after. Whether its due to bad memory or shortsighted naivety is hard to tell, but I can’t help giving it another go, perhaps fueled by the thought of having to wait another year.

I start early in the morning and hope the crust won’t melt away before I have cycled the fifty kilometers up to the mountain range. Unfortunately, I’m on my own. Håkon couldn’t make it this time.

Arms and legs aching after the brutal climb up to the edge of the mountain range, I enjoy catching a few rides on the crust before it indefinitely melts before my eyes. It’s back to pushing again.

 

I summit many hours and 400 vertical meters later in the last remnants of daylight.

Then, next morning: A virgin crust fresh from the nights freezing cold. And instead of 5 percent riding and 95 percent pushing, it’s the other way round.

That’s one fat summit attempt.

Barely legal bikerafting

I try to tell my daughters to be aware of strangers on the internet. They kindly reminded me of that when I was heading out the door with my fatbike, the bare necessities of gear topped with that DSLR I never can make myself to leave behind. And they were absolutely right: I had never met Mr. Joe before. The writing and the photos on his blog as well as the occasional communication on Twitter indicated that he was a nice guy, though. I was wrong.

He turned out to be an extremely nice guy.

We fought it out with the holiday traffic on the tarmac for a while after we met at Haugastøl, climbed above the tree line, then turned our wheels south onto gravel and dirt. An old dream was about to be fulfilled: Crossing Europe’s largest mountain plateau by bike. Being a national park with Europe’s largest population of wild reindeers, we were only allowed to cycle on the tractor roads on the plateau. Two of them crossed from north to east almost completely. That is, if it wasn’t for those five–six kilometers in the center devoid of any path or track near the shores of one of Hardangerviddas larger lakes. No tractor roads meant no biking. That’s where the packrafts we were carrying on our bikes came into play.

The second day we inflated our packrafts, took to the water and linked the two northern and eastern tractor roads, this way possibly becoming the first to legally bike across Hardangervidda a couple of days later. It all turned out to be a stunning trip made even better by sharing it with Mr. Joe. That’s what you get from being utterly irresponsible on the internet.

On Hardangervidda.
On Hardangervidda.
Riding the last bit of gravel road before the tractor roads start.
Riding the last bit of gravel road before the tractor roads start.
The tractor roads varied from sopping wet …
The tractor roads varied from sopping wet …
… rocky …
… to rocky …
Mr. Joe was sporting a cool looking Salsa Mukluk fatbike in shiny black.
Mr. Joe was sporting a cool looking Salsa Mukluk fatbike in shiny black.
A yellow Surly Pugsley did the duties for yours truly. Please note the matching packraft and paddle.
A yellow Surly Pugsley did the duties for yours truly. Please note the matching packraft and paddle.
2014.08.06–09 Over Hardangervidda med sykkel og packraft0676b
Grit.
Dwarfed.
Dwarfed.
Late summer meant misty nights.
Late summer meant misty nights.
Linking the tractor roads with packrafts.
Linking the tractor roads with packrafts.
Descending.
Descending.
After the worst midge season in years, it was relaxing to share the company with only a handfull of mozzies.
After the worst midge season in years, it was relaxing to share the company with only a handfull of mozzies.
Cool gear: Revelate Designs Handle Bar Harness.
Cool gear: Revelate Designs Handle Bar Harness.
I had 147 km home from our final camp the last day …
I had 147 km home from our final camp the last day …
… and was lucky to draft behind a couple of German cycle tourists for a few kilometres. Thanks, guys!
… and was lucky to draft behind a couple of German cycle tourists for a few kilometres. Thanks, guys!

Stay tuned for ramblings on gear. And do drop by Mr. Joe and his great site Thunder in the night for another take on the trip.

On snowshoes, fatbikes and unexpected expenses

It’s impossible not to notice: The premature feeling of spring in the air.

With a temperature above freezing, the powdery snow has finally settled. We walk a couple of hundred meters on foot from our house, Siri and I, put on our snowshoes and leave the road behind us. We follow a snowmobile track covered in yesterdays snow, meandering our way between the pines. Outside the residential area, inside the forest, we trample a small loop on top of the track. Only a few hundred meters. Not much. But enough.

We trample a small loop on top of the snowmobile track with our snowshoes.
We trample a small loop on top of the snowmobile track with our snowshoes.

We hurry home, stuff ourselves quickly with a few slices of bread before heading out the door again. This time along with mum. And two fatbikes. It’s easy for all to see out on the track: Fatbikes make you smile. Period. And when it turns out that our youngest daughter actually is able to ride mums XS Surly Pugsley, and we see the huge grin across her face and hear her giggling between the trees, it’s equally evident that this could get expensive.

The Dillinger tires were not handling the loose snow quite as well as the Surly Nates. But they did well enough to put a big smile on dads face too. And the studs are great for icy roads and singletrack.
The Dillinger tires were not handling the loose snow quite as well as the Surly Nates. But they did well enough to put a big smile on dads face too. And the studs are great for icy roads and singletrack.

Across Norway four times – with the kids

It’s probably not a secret: We love outdoor life. A lot. During our former book project (sorry, it’s in Norwegian), we wanted to try a variety of different forms of outdoor activities. This resulted in many magical trips with the children, where the best are collected in our new book. Now the project is finished, and a growing restlessness has knocked on the door.

Now what?

We are clearly still hungry for the outdoors. Very hungry. And perhaps especially hungry for longer trips. To enjoy the feeling of being on the way. For a long time. Reading about others traveling across Norway in all directions fuels our own longing for long trips. But why don’t we simply just go ourselves?

Fair enough, the length of Norway is a bit too long on our part with the kids. For now at least. But crossing Norway? On foot? By bike or on skis? Or how about a canoe?

Or even better: How about crossing both on foot, by bike, on skis and in a canoe?

In recent months, television viewing has had to give way to the close inspection of maps and aerial photographs in the evenings, as so many times before. Slowly routes have shaped up and are now mostly settled. We have chosen four different starting points: two from fjord to fjord and two from the Swedish border to the coast.

The first step is often the longest. But now we have said it: We’re going. We’re going to cross Norway. Then the rest will take care of itself.

Below is a small potpourri from our crossing of Norway by bike from Trysil in the east to Årdal in the west this summer. In slightly random order, by the way.


Out of hibernation

It’s been quiet here on the site for a while. Very quiet. And there’s a good reason for that: Last winter was spent as a teacher, freelance journalist, author and father (and probably part-time nutcase), all while I was maintaining my primary blog in Norwegian as well as this space. It became very clear at one point that something had to go. At least temporarily. And that something ended up being this very space.

In August 2013 two important things changed: Firstly, our new book about outdoor life with kids finally hit the bookstores (I’m afraid it’s in Norwegian, but the photos are nice, if I dare say). And secondly, I reduced my position even more at school. And that last move makes it possible to write a word or two and drop a photo here now and then, which is exactly what I plan to do.

And though I haven’t written a word on the blog, this is by no way indicative of our outdoor life this year, highlights being a two-time crossing of Norway with the kids this summer, first by mountain bike and later by packraft. Don’t be surprised if a photo-potpourri hits the blog in the near future.

Crossing Norway by bike with the kids.
Crossing Norway by bike with the kids.

Farewell to freeze dried food

We only walked a couple of kilometres from our house and into the woods. The camp was set at dusk just far enough away that we disappeared into our own world as darkness spread through the pine trunks.

It was on this trip that Sif grew into her role as the family’s wilderness chef. Whether it was because she was tired of freeze-dried food, couscous, rice, sausages, oatmeal or other basic outdoor food I’m not sure of. What I do know is that she spent most of the afternoon at home frying minced meat, caramelising onions, grating cheese, cutting vegetables, making damper and much more, before she packed all of it into small boxes and bags. With a determined look on her face she raised the bar for our family’s future gastronomic ventures in the outdoors and served us wilderness pizza warmed on the fire later in the evening. The English style breakfast next morning with eggs, bacon, baked beans and damper heralded perhaps a new era – farewell to freeze dried food.

Wilderness pizza on campfire.
Wilderness pizza over a campfire.
Sif preparing a new wilderness pizza for the campfire.
Sif prepares a new wilderness pizza for the campfire.
Good times around the campfire.
Good times around the campfire.
Baking bread on the campfire.
Baking bread on the campfire.
Outdoor ukulele fun in the morning.
Outdoor ukulele fun in the morning.
Autumn joy in the outdoors.
Autumn joy in the outdoors.