Tuesday, 10 March 2015


I'm moving my blog over to www.blogspot.gauperoar.com - a play on my new surname of Gauperaa :). Since on Twitter my husband, Thomas, had already used this name (what a cheek!) I took the theme behind it – gaupe meaning lynx – and added the roar, hence Gauperoar!

I've already made my first post over there The Østmarka Mil, and now that I'm out hiking again I hope to update my "new" blog more frequentl. Plus there'll be thoughts and observations on Norway and whatever takes my interest. All of the content here has been migrated over to the new blog, so please redirect your blog following list over there.

Happy reading :)

(Edit: Thank you to Jay Dub for pointing out my mistyping of the new address!)

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Foresting Fibulas Batman!

Sometimes even just a short trip outside takes me away from the hum drum of life, and last night found me and Thomas wandering into our local woods, the early evening sunshine bathing everything in a soft, warm, golden light. Thomas wanted to set up his new tarp from Warbonnet, and I was just happy to be outside. The tracks were dry, the pine needles soft underfoot. We (I) were singing and looking around, joyful. The softness was treacherous though, as suddenly I tripped against one of the many exposed roots and started to fly...

Perhaps it would be more accurately described as a triple jump.

I hopped, skipped and jumped as time slowed down and I started to realise I was falling.

I remember thinking to myself, "I'm falling, I'd better land so that I soften my fall as best I can." A wing suit at this time would have been extremely useful, but I recollect aiming to do some sort of martial arts roll, to deflect the blow. Unfortunately I am not ninja shaped, nor did the root ahead of me that I fell on receive that message. Forest walking isn't necessarily a walk in the park! Mountains and craggy tops have their place (and I've fallen down those too), but so do forest paths where roots of old, old trees rise and twist several inches above the ground. It was just bad luck, but laying there after landing, with an amount of writhing and groaning and wondering what the outcome was, made me wish I'd been more careful...

After a few minutes of pain I got to my feet – hurrah, nothing severely damaged! Walking with the aid of Thomas and a stick I got halfway home. That is, halfway along only 150-200 meters. I felt sick (I banged my head) and my leg felt strange, numb to the touch but occasional shooting pain under my knee. After a fair but of arguing Thomas went to get help and a neighbour came to support me on the other side with me hanging in the middle. I wasn't convinced it was broken, and neither was the really nice emergency doctor when we eventually got to see someone, but I managed to surprise him, and me, when the X-rays showed a fracture to the proximal fibula.

The upshot of it is that I have a damn sexy compression bandage on my leg from my toes to above my knee, I can't put weight on my leg for a few days, but hopefully I'll be up and walking around again properly in a few weeks. Back to the hospital for repeat examination in a couple of weeks to see that the bone's knitting. It could have been a lot worse!

So, in the meantime there is still an overnighter I still want to write up, and, although this has put my plans back a few weeks, I hope to do a longer walk in the near future, which has brought my attention to an aspect of history Norway that has but which England doesn't. I'm looking forward to researching that more, and sharing what I learn!

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Chocolate boxes and keeping warm camping, with views

Sometimes walks don't turn out to be the chocolate box attractive trails you hope. This weekend didn't start too promisingly, a bus ride out to the northern suburbs of Oslo followed by a 4.5 km walk on tarmac (ok, this is not such a big deal, but I still hanker after having a car sometimes) before the 'proper' walk started.

Forest roads sweeping past a saw mill and a gushing stream beyond, led us to a war memorial and a spot from where people were taking canoes out onto the numerous connected lakes. The landscape reminded me a bit of the forestry commission in the UK where pines had been cut down and unwanted branches left at the side. Not auspicious! But the warmth of the spring day released the pine oil scent, reminiscent of warm days in Austria. A nursery of Christmas trees brought some relief, and us singing to each other to create a rhythm and pace to walking helped immensely!

Our initial goal was to reach the DNT hytte, Røyrivannskoia, on the edge of the southern nature reserve in Østmarka. A short turn off the forest track led down a path, obviously still managed forestry, but crossing the beck at the bottom the ground on the other side was clearly managed in an entirely different fashion: this is the Østmarka I love!

Immediately, mossy green troll heads appeared from rotten tree stumps. Lichen and moss covered limbs, stones, rocks, almost whole trees, told the story of old wood, gamle skog. The closest area I can think of in the UK that resembles the old nature is around Padley Gorge on the Longshaw NT park, when the stunted oaks bend misshapen forms around stones and wind. But this feels old, as if it carried memories.

Røyrivanns koia was occupied when we came across it. Neither of us felt inclined to intrude, so after a short look around we continued on the blue trail around the bottom of Røyrivann itself, enjoying some mirror reflections of the banks opposite, and away into the distance.

After climbing along the backside where we were the trail broadened out into something that looked like a Roman road ruin. The sound of powerful water drew us over to another troll and the rusty remains of wood chutes – used to float timber down from one body of water to another. In fact this chute transported wood down almost a 50 meter drop. I didn't mind seeing the remains of earlier industry, but wonder whether the proliferation of wind turbines will be seen in the same way in the future. What will happen when they reach the end of their lives?

We crossed the head of the stream, continuing on the blue trail, which writhed up and onwards through birch and pine forest, over roots and rocks, the ground pretty dry underfoot with moss looking spent of moisture already, and it's just the start of May! By now though our thoughts turned to sleep; where to camp? We knew from the map that there was a lot of mire around the lakes, but there were also spots, hopefully, unmarked by mire. A small peninsula into North Krokvann (no, sadly we don't have crocs in Norway) was recced by Thomas who was jubilant on his return to me, guarding his ULA pack (ok, I was shattered!). Rain threatened so I followed him to the chosen lair with haste!

It was a wonderful spot, and Forrest Gump's words resonated with me. The kilometres of forest track were definitely worth it for this gem! It was obvious people had been there before, but the ground wasn't trashed, there weren't the tell tale signs of amateur arbor craft: only the professionals had been at work and beaver felled trees fell away into the water on the East side of the peninsula.

It started to rain. Thomas started to put his tarp up to shelter us while it lasted. He was going to hammock rather than use a ground shelter (if you want to find out more about what he used you can ask him on Twitter (@Gauperaa) or badger him on his blog - it's about time he updated it!). I have inherited his old Akto, a rite of passage I missed. This is the second time I've used it and I have to say I really like it – it feels so in keeping with the surroundings here.

Anyway, the rain abated, we selected where we wanted to pitch and got on with it with only minor faffing. Dinner was to be an ultra lightweight affair of disposable barbecued sausages left over from the day before, with mashed potato. Yum! The disposable barbie wouldn't light so Thomas sprinkled it, Jamie Oliver style, with some crushed esbit. After determining the correct amount of crush necessary to light a barbecue we got the pølser on, I brewed some tea on my caldera cone and finally we got to eat.

Already in Norway (or at our latitude - just over 59 degrees north) the sun doesn't set until about 20 past 9, so we still had some time to enjoy the view of two men fishing in a canoe on the lake, before a stunning sunset. The sun's last glow hit the trees on the far side of the lake, burning them to their tips as the sun left for the day.

And then, my evening battle commenced.
For my battle this time I had:

  • 2 hot water bottles,
  • lovely Woolpower socks (400, cheaper in Norway than in the UK, faint!),
  • Smartwool base layers and a Choc Fish Merino T,
  • Smartwool liner gloves and wool Devold mittens,
  • Exped Down Mat 7 (heavy and bulky but I can feel the warmth),
  • Western Mountaineering Alpinlite,
  • an Aklima balaclava and a possum wool beanie
Oh, and a hand warmer Thomas found in the closet that had a best before date from 2 years + ago...

Initially it was all lovely, I was cosy and warm in the Akto, but around midnight I got too cold. Remembering Joe Newton's fab email to me from about 2 (or is it 3) years ago, I decided to go to the loo, make a Real Turmat (real camp food) dehydrated meal, have something hot to drink and try again. I also put my Rab Photon on which I'd had covering my legs. About 20 minutes after zipping the place back up and no longer seeing my own breath in the cold night air I was unconscious. Success! I slept until about half past 7 and then again until I got way too warm in the sun.
Lessons for next time: do the above but a lot earlier!

After an alpine start of almost 1 o'clock we hit the trail!

In such a small area we covered lots of different terrain. Bog, birch woodland, round boulders, sharp stones. Pine trees, mire, lakeland, moss. It takes me ages to walk anywhere because I'm always gawping at the next thing, looking, taking snap shots, imagining, discussing. One mans trail run is another mans adventure.

One of the reasons I like Østmarka is because of the variety, particularly in these more protected or out of the way areas. It feels like a living place but one of very slow pace and of great age – that we are all just passing through as it slowly morphs through seasons and years. I could quite happily spend days, or weeks at a time in Østmarka, and that's just on the marked trails – veer off the trail and you're up to your armpits in water or having to cross terrain or through woodland that hasn't had human contact for years. That's quite hard going!

All too soon for my liking we rejoined the forest track back towards the north. We made the best of it; it's useful for me to get some fitness or speed up, and there are still plenty of things to look at. A wren sang beautifully at the edge of the forest, a bird I rarely see now. Great Tits however are abundant, as are Pied Wagtails which swooped down to rough ground.

We paused for 5 minutes on the side of a large lake, just before a turn to Finnland. Fish were rising all around us and we even managed to spy the dark shape of a trout in the water. The rest of the walk was, frankly, unremarkable, save for passing derelict buildings or productive farms. In the distance we saw the church tower of Hammer Kirke – the style of churches in Norway still feels rather alien to me (though less so than the sand pits bunkers on golf courses). A green bus drove by about 500 meters in front of us. Half an hour wait until the next, but we got lucky with a different bus ten minutes later and made our way home via the city.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Sweating over Cuben on Labour Day

Labour Day, at least in Norway, so a day off to chill out, relax, go for a walk. Except that we didn't. A few days ago Thomas ordered 2 DIY kits from Yama Mountain Gear to make some cuben stuff sacks, one in white cuben and the other in sage.

They arrived yesterday – we couldn't resist having a go at making them!
The package contained cuben fiber, transfer tape, cuben tape, spectra cord and cord locks: enough to make 7 different stuff sacks.

Looking at the website page, a variety of different configurations were shown to enable you to make stuff sacks of varying sizes. I chose to start off with a large stuff sack as I reckoned it'd be less fiddly to make.

I'm not going to replace the excellent instructions that Yama Mountain Gear provides (there's a YouTube video too), but have a couple of snapshots of work in progress and what the final product looks like.

I also made a minor modification to create a rectangular, or square, bottom, by changing the position of the seam on the shorter side and creating a base. Results of that are shown, too.

I really recommend this kit if you want to make a few stuff sacks of your own. In fact, it's so easy to make them that I'd recommend trying this out rather than buying any of the commercially available ones, whether you're looking for silnylon or cuben.

Now I'm thinking about making more cuben goodies; possibly rain chaps, likely some replacement tent pole bags (I'm trying out Thomas's Akto) and certainly a replacement wallet for the excellent cuben wallet pouch I got from ZPacks last year. (Incidentally, Joe and Matt will be walking the TGO Challenge this year, starting next week!) There are a lot of possibilities and I found it so much easier to work with than the 7g Silnylon Slipperiness I made a few years ago!