Winter hiking on Hallandsleden – part 1

Day 1 – Passport controls and a very late arrival on trail

Now I’m not saying that I’m the most organised person in the world. In fact I think I’m what is commonly known as a time optimist, meaning I always think that everything is going to take far less time than it actually does. So packing did not go as smoothly as it could have. For one I was working on a new pack that I desperately wanted to take with me on trail, to the point where I’m still sat at the sewing machine an hour and a half before my bus departs. Having been brought back to reality by my better half, who is much better at time keeping than I am, I abandoned the new pack and went for my old reliable 32L pack. Fortunately I had a detailed packing list ready for the trip. But even with an excel sheet to go by, I still managed to leave for the station without my gloves, run back and get the gloves, run back to the station and get on a train, realise that I haven’t got my poles with me, get off at the next station take a train back, run back to the apartment to get my poles… well you get the picture. In the end I made to the bus stop with 15 minutes to spare. So I’m all riled up for no reason and then the f…ing bus isn’t even on time. I end up waiting 45 minutes for the bus to come. Apparently there’s been extra passport checks at the German/Danish border and that has delayed the bus. Little did I know this would not be the last delay of the evening.

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Oh well at least I wasn’t going to the airport like the group of, by now slightly panicking, Estonian tourists who were calling the bus company to enquire about the whereabouts of the bus during our wait. I sat quite a bit further down the bus and consequently didn’t see their faces when the bus was stopped yet again at the Danish/Swedish border for both toll and passport controls. But I can imagine their distress.

In the end we’re more than an hour late on arrival in Gothenburg and of course I was still a train ride and a road walk out town away from the actual trail head. In my rush to get everything ready and get out of the door back home, I’d neglected to eat both lunch and pack something for the four and a half hour bus ride. So I was really counting on having time to get something – anything! – at the Gothenburg train/bus terminal. In the end there wasn’t even time to stop in at Burger King. The train ride from Gothenburg to Lindome is really very short, so all I had time for was a short nervous pondering of my choice of layers and sleeping bag. The shock of cold that had hit me when I stepped out of the bus and into the night at Gothenburg station had me a bit worried. I really wasn’t expecting it to be quite this cold. I tend to forget how much difference even a short travel north makes in winter. It seemed a cold front had moved in since I’d last checked the weather forecast. I reminded myself that I’d hiked in winter before, that I’d arrived late and that temperatures would not be this low during the day. I opted to break out the extra long johns I was saving for sleeping in at night and put them on for the night hike to the first shelter on trail. I figured temperatures would drop even more before I could make it out of town and into the warmth of the forest. And I didn’t fancy walking through town and across open land in the wind getting chilled to the bone, before I could get a chance to walk myself warm. I scolded myself a little for not having taken the time to eat remembering how much of a difference food makes for keeping warm.

In the end it didn’t take long for me to get warmed up. I left my poles stowed away on the side of my pack, tucked my hands into my sleeves and got myself settled into a good fast stride out of town. At eleven o’clock you certainly feel slightly out of place hiking through suburbia. I always feel painfully aware that I’m out of place going to and from trail. I’ve got to say doing this at night in the freezing cold also made me worry someone was going to think I was in need of help ūüôā “Are you alright miss? You seem to be out hiking, alone, at night, it’s -10 degrees celsius and you’re wearing long johns and running shorts… Does your mother know where you are?”. Now I don’t actually think that what I’m doing is silly, but I’m aware that other people do and it does make me feel awkward. Also I’m 28! why people feel the need to enquire whether I’ve double checked with my parents that it’s all right, is really quite beyond me. And I have actually been asked that more than once.

 

I hit trail a quarter past eleven. To my surprise the first part of trail is lit by street lamps, it must be a part of a local park. While the street lamps and the wide gravely trail make for fast and easy progress it also creates an eerie feel to the forest. The darkness seems to deepen and loom just out of sight. It must be a base human emotion, fear of the dark, of what might lurk just out of sight. Certainly I’m so far south-east that the only predators around are humans and as previously stated I’m alone out here. I follow Hallandsleden off the well maintained and lighted park trail and into the forest where I turn on my headlamp. Now, the darkness is all around and shadows move in the light of my headlamp. Yet somehow it’s less like looking out at a dark window, a dark eye in a lighted room. It feels less alien and more like I’m in the darkness. Moving through it, with it and not waiting for it to pounce on me from beyond a lighted safe haven. You can have the weirdest thoughts when you’re alone on trail. Bereft of the safety in numbers, that even being alone in the city affords, you feels so much more fragile and at the mercy of nature. I even feel more inclined to superstitions, I’ll hear a rustle in the undergrowth and I imagine someone or something moving through the forest towards me. My monkey brain filling in the unknown void with fear of being eaten. Alone in the darkness I understand my ancestors fear of elves and lantern men, fear of being lured out into the dark and lost there. It must have seemed so very real to them.

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I bypass the first shelter not wanting to go off trail when there’s another shelter so close by that offers the same access to water and isn’t a whole lot further along the trail. By this time I’ve settled into a good stride and the strangeness of being alone and on trail have receded. I’ve acclimatised, I’m neither cold nor hungry enough to stop short of my planned target. I arrive half past midnight and roll out my sleeping gear so my sleeping bag has time to fluff up properly. The lake is frozen over and it’s so dark that at first I have no idea that the shelter is facing directly onto the lake. I use the shelters saw to slash, stab and saw a hole in the ice. The water I brought with me has frozen solid in the short time since I got of the train at Lindome. So I boil lake water for a late night dinner and hot drink. My latest craze is rice noodles with powdered coconut milk, dehydrated peas and a squeeze of soy and siracha sauce. I find rice noodles much superior in texture and taste to ordinary noodles especially when cooked on trail. The coconut milk adds a nice fatty round feel and taste. And who doesn’t like salty soy and spicy siracha sauce. I add the spice packet from the noodles, but not the oil and garlic pack since it always taste a little rancid to me.

 

Day 2 – Winter wonderland

I sleep in this morning. For one I got to bed quite late last night, but more importantly it’s winter in Scandinavia so the sun doesn’t really grace us with its presence until late morning. Unlike in summer where you can really get in the kilometers, hiking from early morning till late at night. This time of year, late fall edge of winter, I only have 6 good hours of sunlight. I really felt the short days on this trip, constantly feeling that I was running out of sunlight.

 

Once out of my warm cocoon I quickly pack up, snap a few pictures and fill my water bottles in the lake. I opted to skip a stationary breakfast wanting to get my body moving in the cold. Even in summer I mostly prefer snacking on dates and homemade trailmix in the morning or at least get moving first and eat later when I find a good spot. Either way it just feels good to get moving, but then I’ve never been a I-need-breakfast-first-thing-my-body-is-screaming-for-sustenance kind of person.

 

Temps were below freezing this morning and out in the open the winds were quite brisk. In exchange for the freezing cold you get beautiful views, crisp winter air and a wonderful pervasive quiet.

 

In order to keep warm I keep moving all through morning and early afternoon occasionally snacking on dates and trying to tease water out of the slush ice like contents of my water bottles.
I’m not forcing the pace, preferring this time to just let the ground move along beneath me not really thinking about pace. It’s been a while since I was last on a proper hike, the ground is covered in snow and ice and it’s not like I’m going to win at the mileage awards with the sun setting a little after three o’clock.
I purposefully planned this trip with town stops in mind, a first for me. But I’ve got to say, stopping in at the local cafe/bakery for coffee and cake after 16km(10miles) of snow, ice and freezing temps, definitely not a bad idea. I arranged myself in a cozy spot next to a radiator, ordered hot black coffee with¬†p√•t√•r(refill) and first one and then later another piece of pastry. I felt cheeky enough to dry out my gloves and buff on the radiator and then just hoped for some rapid defrosting in the foot department. It might be worth looking into some sort of gaiter solution for winter hiking, because I really did get very wet this trip from wading through snow.

When I finally managed to heave myself out of there it was already far to late in the day for my liking. Having had a slight surprise and a quiet curse in the bakery restroom, I quickly stopped in at the local shop before heading out of town.

 

As the trail leaves¬†Fj√§r√•s Kyrkby, it heads up and over some very exposed hills where I quickly lost most of the heat I had regained in town. Even so I did stop briefly to admire the view of the sun setting before tucking my hands into my sleeves and powering on into dusk. I did not get far though before I had to get out the headlamp and resign myself to what can best be described as night hiking. Although calling 4 o’clock in the afternoon night feels a bit grandma-ish to me. If pressed to describe the 10km(6miles) from¬†Fj√§r√•s Kyrkby to the next shelter I would say: crunchy, cold and slippery. Nothing says – I really should’ve hurried more in town rather than taking my time eating that kanelsnurre¬† – like having to navigate iced over rock slopes in the dark. Also even with a map and GPS I was walking around for a good while in the dark looking for a shelter that I knew should be right f…ing there.

 

 

When I do finally find the shelter on top of a slight rise it is fully stocked with fire wood. Turns out there is a light at the end of this tunnel and that light is a heart warming fire. I usually bring a small amount of fire starters, two or three blocks just in case, this time I haven’t. But no worries because luckily I’ve just purchased a pack of tampons and they are highly flammable. Just unwrap and unfold a little, I promise you they burn like there’s no tomorrow.

After getting a good fire going and stacking up a little wood in the shelter for later use. I unpack my sleeping bag and mat and get started on dinner. I opt to save on fuel and use the fire to cook my dinner. Tonights special is instant rice with homemade dehydrated tomato, cashew and chickpea sauce. After dinner I dry out my shoes and socks over the embers before adding more wood to the fire and going to bed. I wake up halfway through the night freezing and covered in a thin layer of snow. It has started snowing quite heavily and the wind is blowing snow in through the opening of the shelter. I shift my sleeping gear to the other side of the shelter and get out to pee, I’m awake so I might as well. Before going to sleep again I wrap the end of my space blanket ground sheet around the foot end of my sleeping bag and cover that with my rain jacket. It will help keep me warm and make it easier to sleep through the rest of the night. I really should have brought warmer sleeping gear if I wanted to be comfortable.

…To be continued.

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Planning a hike instead of actually going on a hike

…Or how I’m trying to stave off a spiritual death by thesis

My father will on occasion refer to a quirky aunt of his who would¬†plan out amazing¬†trips¬†in great detail only never to actually go anywhere. She would allegedly research everything about her chosen destination, the history of the place, how to get there, what to see, where to stay… where and what to eat. – If he remembers my father will at some point during the retelling of this story highlight the fact that this was all done without access to¬†the Internet. Insert wink and knowing look here. If somehow you‚Äôve escaped experiences like this I‚Äôll just quickly explain that this is done to let ones child know that things were more difficult when dad was young, also known as ‚Äúyou kids have it so easy now a days‚ÄĚ ‚Äď I guess in this context you could argue that it serves to highlight the amount of work she put into planning these trips. But really it does nothing to further the point of the story. Which is that she enjoyed planning amazing adventures, not as a means to an end, but just because she enjoyed the planning‚Ķ and also that she was a little quirky.

I am not that quirky, I enjoy the adventure as much as the planning. But since I can’t have the adventure right now… I’ll settle for the planning.

Basically I wish I was here:

Instead of here:

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And so I’m using the planning¬†as a means to an end, which is surviving the living death that is my THESIS.¬†Incidentally I keep coming across these articles that argue that sitting down all day is literally killing us, so maybe my experience is not that far of target.

What to do and where to do it

I’ve been hiking for years, I’ve been running for years… And for years I never thought to put the two together.¬†But apparently it‚Äôs a thing and it‚Äôs called fastpacking. Now I know I‚Äôm late to the party and this thing has been around for years and years. But I‚Äôm quite excited at the prospects. Going fast, light and far seems like just the kind of thing I‚Äôve been trying to do for years. I guess it took me getting into trail running for it to dawn on me that there was a crossover between the two.

A couple of years ago I had this plan to thru hike two Swedish hiking trails, Bohusleden(370km/230miles) and Hallandsleden(270km/167miles). The two are connected and if you hike them in continuation of one another you can follow the west coast of Sweden from the Norwegian border and almost all the way down to the ferry crossing between Denmark and Sweden. At the time I was watching all of these youtube videos of people thru hiking the PCT and I was super keen on doing any form of long trail. Long story short it rained… a lot… so much in fact that when I eventually wanted to bail I couldn’t catch a train home because the train tracks had washed away. So naturally I want a rematch.

I’ll most likely only have a week free so I can only do one of the trails. Right now the plan is to fastpack Hallandsleden. It’s further south than Bohusleden, which means that not only is it closer to home, also the weather is going to be considerably milder. And since I’ll be doing this in late fall or winter weather is likely going to play a big part. Back in march of 2013 I hiked about 70km of the trail starting from the southern most end. There was a good 30cm of snow on the ground, the lakes and most of the rivers were frozen, even the Danish falls/Danska fall was frozen over. I nearly ended up getting hypothermia waiting for the bus at the end of my hike. I was shivering uncontrollably, I felt dizzy, confused and unnaturally tired. This lasted all the way home and most of the night. Even after a warm shower and huddled up under two down comforters I was still shivering. So even though I’m going to try and pack as light as possible gear choice is definitely going to be affected by the weather.

I can’t go as light on gear as I would be able to in summer. Luckily though the southern part of Sweden is quite closely populated and on several occasions the trail passes small towns where I can resupply my food. So even though my gear will be heavier to accommodate for the cold I will able to stock up on food every 50-60km. Most likely I wont have to carry more than a days worth of food at any one time, which is quite a weight savings. Depending on the time of day I may even have one of my meals at the grocery shop that way I wont have to carry that meal at all.

I’ve planned out my route using a site called¬†Gpsies. It’s quite easy to use and I like that it’s easy to share tracks. The link to the trail is here:¬†Hallandsleden trail and resupply options. From the site I download the trail to my phone and I can follow along without using any data. I use an app called maps.me but there are a ton of different apps that‚Äôll do this.

Gear

I love excel I really do. It’ll do almost anything you want it to. And for anyone looking to lighten their pack I really recommend making a list of all your gear with weights added. It’s been said a million times but it really is a good tool when you want slim down your pack weight. And of course it’s also a good way to make sure your not leaving anything crucial behind.

My winter base weight right now is around 4kg but I am still missing the weight of some items on the list, that’s 8,8 pounds(*your base weight is the weight of your pack without food or water). On top of the base weight I’ll have to carry at least a liter of water, a days worth of food and some food items that can’t be restocked as easily. A bet would be an additional 2,5kg/5.5pounds. This lands my pack at around 6,5kg/14.3pounds, which is reasonable I think given the time of year. Whether or not running with this weight is comfortable, well I‚Äôll have to wait and see.

Seems like maybe I’ve squeezed just about as much out of this planning session as I can possibly justify to myself.