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…

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