31 March 2016

Good Friday walk

The university would be closed for six days. Not just the usual Easter stuff, but also the day before and the one after. I had plenty of chores to do but all chores and no play makes Margot a dull girl, so when the forecast for Friday was nice I decided a small walk was in order. A good choice! It was a great spring day. I chose a mountain I had driven by a lot but had never been on top of: Mynydd Mawr (translation: big mountain; how imaginative. And it's only 700m!). It was about time!

Scenic start of the path

The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways sometimes trundle past

Llyn Cwellyn and Mynydd Mawr on the right
Out of the woods, into the fields

It's windy here sometimes; the path had suffered a bit

View from the windy top

29 March 2016

New underground terrain

Some mines just keep surprising you. I thought I knew Parc after many trips. But I didn't! There is a go-to part of the mine with nice industrial relics, and from there you can squeeze into a level leading onward. I had done that once, but I didn't like the air, so I had turned back. Rumour had it, though, that someone else had been exploring there, and had clearly not suffocated. We wanted to have a look for ourselves!

We went straight up. Some of us hadn't seen the industrial bits yet, so I sat down for a sip of water while other had a look. Paul then vanished into the squeeze. I still wasn't sure about the air, so I soon followed. I found him in excellent health at the bottom of a rope. Good! I first tried the rope just hoilding on to it, but it was the slipperiest of slopes and I decided a harness would be a good idea after all. I went back for it and put in on. In the meantime, more people appeared.

What not to do in a mine

I got up, and out of the rope. I was in an interesting looking stope! Not a very nice one; it was full with lots of loose rubble. I followed it to another stope I couldn't get into as the floor was gone, and took some pics. I figured I'd better report back! I yelled down it was well worth coming up for a look. I could hear David was coming up. While he was doing that I jumped into a level on the side. It looked like a dead end, but I thought I would check anyway. And it wasn't dead! It split, and split again, and went up, and god knows where. I went back to tell David. Then I went back to explore some more.

A mysterious tripod

 The floorless stope

It just went and went. I found winzes and shafts and whatnot. I didn't want to go endlessly far; David would have no idea where I had gone! When I was on my way back I could even hear him yell; he clearly wished to find out in what direction I had disappeared. I yelled back and soon was with him again. We decided to go back; Andy was coming up too, and wouldn't know where we had vanished to.
 Disconcerting: a flooded winze in a high level. What is keeping that water there?

He was close to the top when we got back; soon he was with us in the level. We went to where you could climb up; there had been rumours of being able to come out this way. And out often means up! I clambered up. Nothing to the right, a blockage ahead... I clambered, a bit awkwardly, to the left; that went to another stope. Would be nice to go back and drill that, and drop that too! I yelled into it but the men didn't hear my voice from that direction, so it wasn't connected on the level below.

I managed to clamber back. We then went to the right. I had walked onver a very soggy plank over a flooded winze; that had worked, but that plank wouldn't last forever. Both David and Andy are noticably heavier than me; maybe best for them not to cross. We went back and went ahead instead. That lead to more stoping and another shaft. So much to see! But there were people waiting for us so we left it at that.

We went back, and told the others to start making their way out. There was a ladderway with a crawl ahead; that would take long enough. And indeed, we caught up with them in no time. Without too much delay we came to the entrance adit; there I decided to do something about my lack of hygiene. The roped pitch was as dirty as they come, and I was entirely orange. Time to rinse at least some gunk off!

 It was one of those days.

 Andy also blended nicely into the background

It was nice to get back to the cars and have some ginger cake, knowing the next day would be a day off. It's more relaxed being home at midnight under such circumstances! And we have another adventure ahead: fully explore that level...

27 March 2016

Are things getting better or worse?

Doesn't the world outside exist? Well sure it does. You wouldn't say so after all these tales of going underground or overground or some staring at dead calcifying life forms. This is, after all, a personal blog. But I am aware of, and influenced by, what happens on the world stage. Who isn't.

The Middle East is on fire, desperate people flow across borders to be treated like vermin, we have had four terrorist attacks in as barely more months in Europe, Putin is up to no good, the USA is at risk of electing a bully as a president. Enough to worry about. But I wanted to focus on the UK.

Here in the UK we're still reeling from the budget announced by George Osborne. It's a Tory budget, so one would expect it to involve a lot of cuts hurting the poor and money flowing towards the rich. Everyone who does not like that sort of thing and votes Tory anyway makes decisions I don't understand. I still don't understand at all why there are so many more Tory voters than ex-Eton millionaires. Anyway. This time the taking from the poor and giving to the rich was so blatant it backfired; Osborne wanted to squeeze £4Bn out of disabled people, especially those who are so disabled they can't get dressed or go to the toilet without help. This saving was compensated by tax cuts for the rich. This was so shameless the protests were so loud, especially with Iain Duncan Smith resigning, that Osborne had to retract it.

Another item that attracted a lot of attention was the intention of the Tories to turn all schools into academies. That sounds like just a different name but it's relevant; it opens the door for them being commercialized, and given that this is a Tory plan it probably is exactly what this is all about. A lot of protest is heard about this too but the Tories haven't backed down.

I am wondering a bit whether this turmoil is a good or a bad sign. The Tories were confident enough in their pursuit of societal inequality they proposed this shameful budget. That is a sure sign of the times. That it backfired is a good sign, but is it good enough? Many voices say IDS only resigned to make Osborne look bad, as they are on opposing sides of the EU referendum debate. Maybe this has less to do with a thread of morality still left in the Tory party and more with smoke and mirrors in the Europe discussion. What's also disappointing is that Labour, which since it has been lead by Corbyn has become a party that deserves the benefit of the doubt, has not managed to call them out on this mess. If they don't manage that then what will they manage?

So is the UK going to hell in a handcart at modest or high speed? I'm not sure. Time will have to tell. And it will tell many things; this will be an interesting year, with a score of elections in May (amongst others, Welsh and Scottish elections) and the EU referendum in June. I will cast my modest vote and hope for the best...

26 March 2016

The roof hasn't come down

A year ago we visited a lovely little mine, a bit off the grid, as it might be untopped in the near future. Nothing had happened, though, so we just went again, to have a bit more time and take some more pics. It promised to be a beautiful evening so one that had a big walk to the entrance but not too much underground sounded excellent!

We walked to it in the dark blue evening light. By the time we found the pit it was proper dark. We descended; it's not the easiest place to get into and out of. But we now had time to have a proper look! We even did a bit of climbing in the various chains that were still in place. It was fun!

Some fuse wrapped around a peg

Some more chains that I deemed too rusty to descend on

Group picture by David, with the rarely seen faces of Corin (far left) and Phil (centre)

Lovely ladder

When we clambered out I had a small accident. It was a lot of scree climbing, and at some point I encountered a rock perched on top of another one; me touching it made it almost fall doen, a bit too much in my direction to my liking., I tried to deflect it but it was big and moving faster than I had anticipated. It ralled over my thumb, forcing the joint in the wrong direction. Oww! That hurts.

When I got to the top of the hole I lay down to enjoy the evening. The moon was out! A bit further down the route back, when we walked past some ruined mine buildings, David took his camera out again and took some amazing nighttime pictures. Even just these would be enough to make the trip worthwhile! 

Nighttime ruins

The valley

Ruins in moonlight only

25 March 2016

New gas pipes

I had noticed lots of roadworks in my village last year. Yellow fences around holes in the tarmac everywhere! It seemed to be moving through town. And then I received a letter; the gas pipes would be replaced in the area, and that meant disruption. So that was what the works were about! They expected my house would be connected to the new system by mid January. But the yellow fences (which did a lot of falling over in the wind) edged closer only slowly. January came and went. February too. Then I went for my winter hike without any further news from the gas company. But when I got back the fences were in my street. The first morning I left the house to get to work one of the men addressed me. They had been knocking on my door to discuss the work with me! Well that's what you get if you don't announce the work in advance. They asked me to take my car off the driveway as they had to open it, and they said that on Thursday they would do the actual move over. I would have to let them into my house for the purpose.

The next day I spoke with them again. Thursday had turned into Monday; typical. But at least it should be done in one day. Whether it had anything to do with the gas work or not; my boiler was having hiccups, so I already had disruptions. I had had to ask the landlord to hold back with dealing with this; the change-over would have to be done first.

So that Monday I awaited the call; I had given the men my number and they'd call me when they needed to get in. No call came. When I got home, I had a "we missed you" card on the doormat. Typical.

I phoned the number. The chap that answered offered to send a person right away, but I was about to go climbing, so I asked for an appointment the next morning instead. When I got home, what did I find? Another "we missed you" card on the doormat. Typical. I decided to talk to the men working on the street again the next morning. They reiterated they would phone me when they needed access. Yes that's what you said yesterday... and every day that passed was another day before easter durring which the boilder issue wouldn't be solved. I was getting impatient! I didn't feel like a 5 day bank holiday in the cold.

I waited until 2PM and then I phoned the utilities company again. That helped! A while later I was phone by a gas fitter who was 10 minutes away from my home. I jumped on my bike, and arrived at the same time. He reconnected my gas meter and checked my appliances. One look told him my boiler struggled with the economy mode it was in; boosting it up a bit immediately solved the problem. Not ideal, but at least I had heating (and a hot shower) again. Bring on Easter!

The unconnected meter

23 March 2016

Snow hike on skis; the second half

It was time again to get up early. Today we would head off from the Kraekkja hytte and head for Finsnes. We had three days for it; it was only 25 km, and it sounds silly to schedule 3 days for it, but we were slow travellers. If you are on skis with a pulk behind you, and you’re not very good at it, you are fine on the flat, but slow on the ascent, and slow on the descent due to falling over a lot. And if it would take us less than three days that was fine; we’d just leave our luggage and ski around unencumbered until it was time to take the train back to Geilo.

The view from the lady's bathroom on the day we left the hut: Thomas making breakfast in the cold

 The skis and poles had acquired decoration overnight
The previous day had been cloudy; today we woke up to clear skies. It was still hazy, but sunny. A good day! We had breakfast, packed, and were ready to go fairly early. I was very happy to notice my foam ankle adjustments had led to me now being able to close my shoes without pain. Very good! Optimistically we headed into the otherworldly light.
We were in a good mood. The weather was fine, the views amazing, and we were all revived by the day off we’d had had. There was a lot of stopping for pictures. After a while we got to a big slope, and I thought I saw trees on its crest. Then the trees started to make their way down. Other skiers! A while Norwegian school class, by the looks of it. That’s how you do it: start young! And it would get even busier.

Into the milky light; notice half an icebow on the left

 The sticks leading the way were veritable works of art

Looking back at the sun the light seemed even eerier
Lunch with a view 
We moved fast and soon we were at our originally intended camping place. We decided to move a bit further. One of us wasn’t feeling too well; a modest stomach bug, probably, but we all made it without problems. It was yet another one of these evenings when you pitch early and in beautiful weather. It’s so nice to just potter around a bit, take some pictures, have a shower (this time with a running commentary, as you do) and enjoy the views. Jytte even did a small topptur nearby. Later we got amazing food again; gado gado by Jytte and Thias. A good evening!

Our camp dwarfed by the landscape

Inside the kitchen tipi

That night I took my shoes into my sleeping bag. The next morning it was my turn to do the early shift at the stoves again; I woke up, sneaked out of the back exit of the tent, put on my boots while they were still warm, went to the loo (a designated rock, to keep the visual pollution limited) and started melting snow. When I got relieved by the next person to appear I rushed back to my tent to pack up my sleeping bag; I knew people were boiling water in my tent too and I didn’t want it to get too wet, but when I got to my tent I found it packed already. Marijn had looked after it! So nice.

The view at dawn
We decided we would do Jytte’s trip to an adjacent hilltop. Without luggage. It was really nice! We had made such progress the previous day we could afford it.Slightly worse newswas that the next person was now feeling the stomach bug. It was spreading! Oh dear.But worry when worry is due. After the jolly we set off again, Finse-wards. Moving fairly fast, once again, and this time with lots and lots of people coming the other way. They probably all came out of the early train to Finse! 

Group pic on the hilltop 

Given our good progress Jitske had suggested doing a detour past an emergency hut near the local glacier. When we got close I suggested again we leave the pulks. By that time I was a bit frustrated about the lugging around of these burdens; I was on skis now for days and I was still on skins. I know that morning I could have taken the skins off, but on one of the first days one skin had almost come off and I was a bit afraid once off they wouldn’t stick back on properly. Once we could ditch the pulks we could take them off without issues; then you don’t need the purchase anymore. If we would have gone straight to our camp site at Finse and dump the pulks there we would be free to have some fun with these skis! And the decision to go to Appelsinhytta seemed to not have been taken together. Leaving the pulks behind but leaving the skins on was better than having both.
People agreed. We climbed up to the hut, and met a 7 month old terrier there. Cute! We then couldn’t resist climbing a bit further for a view onto a extremity of the glacier. It was nice! Then we went down, got the pulks back, and soon reached our final camping place. It was, once again, still early, so we had yet another nice calm beautiful evening. We could see Finse in the mid distance but it did not disturb me.

 Halo seen from the ridge above Appelsinhytta
That night we decided to boil extra water so we would be extra quick the next day. The plan for that day was to pack up early, go to Finse, drop the pulks at the railway station, ski up to a waffle hut behind the town, and then finally get our skins off and ski down again. We wanted to be back at the railway station at 2PM, so we would be back in Geilo in time to bring our skis back to the rental place. And so it worked! 

Evening over Finse

Morning pink over out last camp 

When I got up I realised the stomach bug had got to me. Oh dear! But it was the last day. Could be much worse. I got me some norit and hoped for the best. We dropped the pulks and up we went. It wasn’t too busy, which was good, as I needed a moment of privacy due to my new medical status.

The weather was great again! I wasn’t going so fast as I was feeling increasingly woozy, but I did enjoy it. And finally seeing the very cute hut was nice. Coming in and smelling the waffles was even better! We had a very snug break. We also discussed how to go back down; we had our skis but our guides had forgot to give us the accompanying wax. Without was you have no purchase whatsoever; going uphill is a very big pain that way. We initially would go around the other way (the route was a loop) but that way had more up and down. I didn’t fancy that without skins or wax! Some didn’t fancy taking their skins off altogether. Some we just going to go for sticking the skins back on when needed. In the end Thomas, Remco and me would take our skins off and go down the way we had come, and the others, mixed skinned and skinless, would go around the other way.

 Signs in Finse

Other skiers in the valley behind Finse


I'm reaching the hut

It was nice to get some glide! A bit daft as I don’t like speed, but at least now I could choose my velocity. I like it calm so I would make big zigzags around the route. Remco just bombed down, but Thomas was more liking my style and followed my path. Down was nice but the small uphill bits were indeed a pain. Remco did wait for us a few times, but he got tired of it in the end and went back to the station. It was nice to swish down! But I clearly had lost my skiing muscles and I was glad to reach the station after an hour. The trip was effectively over!

 It was a well-travelled winter route
I started to empty rented pulks; they would go back later that day. Soon the people coming the other way started to appear as well. Together we put all pulks in a pile and got ready to get into the train. From it it was nice to recognise some of the route from the comfort of our train seats. In Geilo we were picked up again by the same small bus, who first took us to the ski rental and then back to the youth hostel. I gladly greeted my shoes again; my foam ankles had done their job but still it was nice to get my own shoes back. And then I started to repack. I wanted to be travelling as lightly as I could on the way back!
We showered and got ready to go out for pizza. I had still kept on feeling increasingly bad and wasn’t very hungry, but I went along. I managed two slices! Not quite how I wanted to celebrate the end of the trip but what can one do. At the end of the evening I went back earlier with Marijn, who was so kind as to chaperone me. I had another dose of norit and rennies and went to bed…

Attacking a pizza with scissors

The next morning I wasn’t much better. I breakfasted on bread with butter, an egg and some yoghurt. Then we left for the station. There we went for some last minute shopping; I bought some solbaertoddy (instant lemonade; spiffing for hikes!) and some fruit for the trip. Fruit! One of these things you miss on hikes.

The last Norwegian breakfast. Notice as well the birthday cake thing Jytte made for Jistke who had her birthday 

During the train trip back I was surprised I couldn’t sleep. Our trip had one change, in Oslo Central. That almost went wrong; we got to it with 45 seconds to load all our luggage. Oh dear! No problem for the others who flew at 7, but I flew at 5 and couldn’t lose much time. But we made it! In that train I kissed everyone (except Marijn) goodbye. He would help me make a dash for check-in as soon as we’d get to Gardermoen. And I made it! And the rest of the rather tightly scheduled trip home worked well as well. By half past midnight I was home. The next day I was back in the office!
So altogether, what was the verdict? The Hardangervidda is beautiful, and we’d been extremely lucky with the weather. The skis were a good choice; all agreed that for not too steep or forested terrain they were the better option. Downhill is just more fun, and once you stop falling over all the time it is also quicker. And it was nice to reacquaint myself again with this group. It’s nice to get to know the new people, and to get to know the older hands better. I may not have got to know the real old hands better but these are special on account of having been in my life for so long. I think that holds for everyone, but maybe especially so for those who live abroad and only have new friends nearby. I have no idea what my life is like the next time this group ventures forth again, but I do hope I’ll join again if not then, then the year after! And maybe some will come to Wales in autumn…

21 March 2016

Snow hike on skis: the first half

We got onto our skis, and off into the whiteness of the northwestern edge of the Hardangervidda we went. The start of the adventure proper! It was one of those days with heavy clouds and some snow; you couldn’t see the horizon, you could barely see where you put your skis as everything was featurelessly white. Not a good day to enjoy the landscape! But well, at least we were on our way, and the skiing went well. Today would be easy; the only way, pretty much, was up. No issues with pulks overtaking skiers and either cutting them off or bowling them off their feet. But pretty soon I noticed something that wasn’t there the day before; my skiing boots were pressing on the tendons on the outside of my ankles. I have a healthy respect for tendons; during an earlier episode of the winter hike I had developed tendonitis in my right arm and it had been painful as hell. I didn’t want to get something similar in my legs this time! That would be a show-stopper. I knew Thomas had brought a camping mattress specifically for repairs and such; I got some, and tried to stuff some in my sok for extra padding. That didn’t work. Then I tried to use it for raising my foot in the ski boot. Maybe that would lift the the painful bit above the boot. The idea was good, but the foam was too squishy.

 Me in the whiteness that only seems to contain sticks and a nice wooden structure

In the afternoon we reached a waffle hut. In there I discussed with Carl and Hannah; the latter had the brilliant idea to stuff empty boxes of Compeed in my show. These aren’t squishy! That made a big difference and though it didn’t entirely solve the problem, it became manageable. I left the hut happier than I had entered it; and not just due to the hot chocolate and waffle!

A while later the wind suddenly picked up. Interesting timing! Wind isn’t so bad, generally, while you’re moving, but doing faffy things that require gloveless hands, or sitting still, are not so nice in a stiff breeze. I also like washing at the end of a hiking day; in wind, though, that’s not so pleasant. This time I quickly washed only the upper half before we pitched the tents; that isn’t made any easier by wind  either. But we had two experts with us; both guides had gone to the South Pole more often than most of us go to the supermarket, so they knew exactly how to pitch a tent in high winds. Theirs stood in seconds. They had the same as I would sleep in, although we were with four, to Carl’s amusement.

 Pitching tents in the wind

We managed to pitch all tents; on Carl’s advice, in a line, perpendicular to the wind. Wind on snow with obstacles leads to snow scoured out one place and deposited elsewhere; your tents and pulks are such obstacles, and you most certainly don’t want them to be the place where the scoured away snow deposits again. The previous trip, the groups had pitched in the protection of a cliff; that was a mistake; the wind dropped all available snow on their tents and luggage, and one tent didn’t survive, and they needed an entire day to dig out the rest from the 2m thick snow pack. This time something like that wouldn’t happen to us.

 What tents and pulks looked like the next day

When they stood I took some pics; a camp in windy snow makes for good images! And there was a group cooking in our tent; we had chosen to not align the cooking groups with the sleeping groups, as that would mean hanging out with the same two or three people too much. We want to see everybody! This was a slightly weird mix of people I had known for over 20 years, people I had hiked with before and people I had met only once, but generally, this sort of hike attracts a rather specific type of people, and it tends to be extremely easy to get along swimmingly with everyone. It’s quite nice to be completely at ease with such a big group! But in the evenings it’s not so easy to socialise; we had decided it was generally best to cook inside a tent; temperatures in the evening would often hover near -20°C, which makes cooking very slow. Cooking inside a tent is quicker, and also more efficient. It doesn’t come very much view but one can’t have it all. Anyway; we had two groups cooking in the tipi and one in my tent; that sort of meant the tipi was full and my tent too. Where to go? Fortunately Hannah invited me to come pop by in her tent. Plenty of room there! And she and Carl had many tales to tell. 

After dinner I lingered outside a bit. It was windy but not very cold. There even was a bit of northern light to be seen! But then it was bedtime. It’s nice to make these long nights on a winter hike…
We woke up to lighter skies. The big escarpment behind us came into view. The wind was still strong but it was nice to see what landscape we were in. I also tried another method of dealing with my still tormented ankles; a band of foam around the ankles, with a slot for the tendon. The idea was good but this way I couldn’t close my boots. And with open boots you have little control over your skis. Oh well! Work in progress. 

We had breakfast, packed up, and got ready to leave. This always takes hours; we need to melt snow and boil the resulting water for breakfast (porridge, for us) and coffee, and also for lunch including hot drinks; everyone brings at least a litre of hot water with him or her. And even with powerful stoves as dragonflies and XGK’s that just takes a while. It’s worth it, though; I love the hot meals. In the evening we start again with water for dinner and drinks. It’s a lot of sitting still!

The escarpment appears from the clouds!

A slightly cold morning when we set off!

Skiers along the escarpment

Now we could see where we went things got better. And more exciting, too; today we would have some downhill fun. Not trivial on fjellski and a pulk, be it drawn with a rope or a frame. Luckily, you can apply a brake to a pulk if you want to, if you don’t want to be pushed along (frame) or overtaken by your pulk (rope). Just undo one of the straps, and strap it along the bottom of the pulk. Done! Easier if it’s on a rope, though; if you’re in a frame you can’t get to your pulk without getting out of the harness. 

The first slope that was serious by our standards was hilarious. It swiftly turned into a battlefield with bodies strewn across the landscape! But nobody was hurt; not even some hurt pride, as we are all too old to be embarrassed about not being good at something like this. It was fun! And something new. I was starting to catch on to this using a rope to pull a pulk. It quite works, although you have to be aware it can go its own way and you sometimes have to give people wide berths as your pulk might take a lower route than you do yourself. 

 The first proper slope down, causing many interventions of gravity

At the end of the day, Hannah and Carl would leave us. They would be heading for the hotel Carl lived in (his wife is the chef) and leave us to ourselves. We did some last groups pics and waved them goodbye. We then decided to pitch our tents not too far away. That meant pitching in the sun! I started digging kitchens with Thomas. They are in less use than before, given the efficiency of cooking in a tent, but it was such a nice evening it seemed a waste not to. After that I had a full shower in the calm conditions. Very relaxed!

 Group pic with guides (on the right)

As the night was so nice the cooking of our group happened in the pit after all; Jitske made red cabbage mash. With luxurious dessert! We were living the high life. After dinner and tea I sat in the pit a bit more, enjoying the quiet night and talking about life. But then it was bedtime after all!
The next morning it was my turn to get up early and start melting snow. I went back to the pit. It was a beautiful morning! We did the usual morning routine, which involved, again, me trying to improve the foam construction on my ankles. I cut out some excess foam but still couldn’t close my shoes. Oh well. For a while my biggest concern was the cold shoes anyway; putting on your shoes if they have been standing outside in -24°C really hurts!

 Me in cold weather gear in a lovely sunset 

We set off, through the nearby village, over the nearby lake, and then up the hill on the other side. It was such a nice day I soon put on my glacier glasses; they wouldn’t come off again until the sun set. And it was so sunny it got warm; I even considered walking in a shirt only. We also came to a hill that provided a challenge; up was very tiring, and down was so steep many of us took our skis off and walked down. All good fun!

Ready to go again!

 Walking the pulk dog; having to do a small stretch on the public road

View from the bridge over the lake

Later the fun turned. Suddenly the wind picked up. I immediately zipped up my jacket and put on hat and gloves. But that wasn’t enough; I was still cold. And I was doing the stupid thing of not wanting to stop and take off my jacket and put on some extra layers. I was hoping for a protected spot to appear to do that in, but it didn’t come. We were climbing up a beautiful little valley, but I wasn’t enjoying it. Then I saw the kites. There were kite skiers ahead! I hoped someone else would take pictures and battled on. When we had to cross a road I put on two jumpers. I was still cold. A bit further I found the others, sitting down for lunch; I put on my down jacket, was still cold, and was a bit miserable. We didn’t linger there. But when we went on again we got out of that valley, and pretty much immediately the wind died down. That made things much better! I was tired and my feet were feeling the strain, but I was warm again, and enjoying the landscape. 

The only pic I took of the windy valley 

The kite boarders

We crossed a lake and some more flattish terrain. At about 4PM we stopped at some signs; what would we do? Jitske decided we were travelling too slowly to reach the originally intended unmanned hut; we would go to a manned specimen some 3.5 km ahead, and have our day of rest there. We tend to have one such day in the middle of such a hike, both to recover, to do repairs in the warmth, and to be able to dry stuff. With four people breathing in a tent, and people even cooking in it, you get water in your sleeping bag! It’s nice to get it out as well.

I was tired and ended up in the back of the group. At some point I saw a white thingy; I figured it was some steam. This wasn’t Iceland, so it had to be the chimney of the hut. There it was! It would take me a while to get there. The sun was already behind the horizon. I was tired. 

 The hut looming in the distance while the sun sets

 Me arriving zonked and white-haired (it was a cold day) at the hut

When I arrived I took off the pulk and went in. I was glad to sit down! I didn’t very long, as Thias asked me to help him get out of his boots. No small challenge! And soon Jitske’s negotiations with the hut warden were completed; we would stay in the dormitory, and we were welcome to cook our own food as long as we did that outside; he feared gas stoves in a wood building. The toilets were in a separate building (which made the standard hole-in-the-ground with a seat above it look slightly less unglamorous) and we could shower in our own building. Spiffing!  

The handsome hut dog

Our dorm

We lugged all our luggage inside, left the pulks and skis outside, and settled in. There was a big drying space which was quickly filled with dubiously smelling socks, shoes, sleeping bags and whatnot.  I was knackered! I was glad Jytte had energy left; she volunteered to cook. It was already -18°C when we arrived; it would get down to -28°C, but she seemed not to care. I struggled not to fall asleep. After dinner I had a shower and not much later I was in bed. Quite where I wanted to be!

The next morning I was feeling better; I volunteered for going outside and boiling water for breakfast. It was faster here, as we could use tap water to start with, instead of snow! We had breakfast outside, where it had gone overcast and was only -10°C. That was so warm we even had breakfast outside. After that I took the opportunity to write some notes on my phone. One forgets! But after that I was pretty much back to bed. Jitske read some stories to whoever wanted to listen; it was bliss to just lie in bed, eyes closed, and just listen to her voice. I really needed this break! 

Later that afternoon we retired to the lounge of the hut for a very expensive Norwegian beer. I also readjusted my foam ankles once again. There was still room for improvement! After that we went back to cook, and we stumbled upon three Frenchmen who had arrived too, and would join us in our dorm. We were spread out rather widely, so we condensed a bit; so far we had one side of the room for the snorers, and the other side for the snore-haters. We had to abandon that and give Snore Corner to the French. I moved bunk.

 My custom-made foam ankle; this should do the job of protecting my tendons from my skiing boots!

Jitske cooked one of her famous over-copious meals (we gave the leftovers to the French) and after that we had a meeting. We had to decide whether we would head north to complete our original route, or head south for a shorter version. So far we had been slower than expected, and if we headed north we would be committed. We decided to go for it! I was a bit apprehensive; I didn’t know if my ankle solution would now work as desired, and I also had massive blisters. I wasn’t looking forward to having to forcibly keep skiing to make it! But who knows, maybe all would go smoothly.

After the meeting it again was soon time for bed. Another serious day tomorrow! Then we would head off for the second part of the hike. How would it go?