Got mail today. In the package was the pre-edition of Andrew Skurka’s soon-to-be-a-book about hiking and more specially hiking his way: fast and light. It’s pre-edition ’cause it’s more like a draft with all the spelling and punctuation mistakes, but the content is almost intact. This brochure should be a great addition to the two books by Chris Townsend – Backpacker’s Handbook and Advanced Backpacker – also more focused on lighter hiking.
But Andrew is probably the greatest at the moment. What he has achieved can be red here and in the March issue of National Geographic, which itself is quite remarkable.
It’s official now. I’m leaving on 6th of June to Munich to continue my walk in the Alps. Ill try to catch the flight back on 12th July from Geneva. Flying back was a bit tricky to figure out cause there weren’t many good flights available. I tried directly to Tallinn, to Riga and to Stockholm, but those proved too expensive or long with many transfers. but through Helsinki was easy enough although I have to spend about 15 hours in Copenhagen.
So basically I have about 34 days to cover the distance of approximally 1000 km or more 😀
Bought some gear too, but about that when it arrives. Id still like to get a new sleeping bag and trail shoes, but I have my eye on some items.
The greatest thing about the birthday of one’s country is that it’s a day off from work. Unless one has to attend the parade. Luckily not me this year so I could pull off another day skiing in the countryside. I had some work to do also so it was good that it could be done during the trip.
But again – lazy as can be so I again started at 12:30pm. And again starting from the Ohepalu hiking trail for some kilometers and then turning west towards Saksaare. Reaching that place I continued west aiming for the Kukepalu practice area where I was to mark some coordinates for the upcoming live-fir exercise. Reaching that proved not very easy, but I had plenty of time and too it easy. There were other ski tracks around, but those were much narrower than mine, but as the snow is rather compact those seemed to carry as well.
The weather was very good, with temperatures at -15 again, but sun shining at warming quite well. Had to wear only quite thin layers and moving kept me from cold. Gloves were a problem until I switched to thick mittens. Still, when you remove the mittens to do something that requires fingers, they get cold very quickly.
So with the sun getting lower already I started towards Pakasjärv. It’s a small lake in the middle of the bog. At summer I tried to reach it once, but it was too wet for my gear at that time. In a winter like this – no problem and skis are just perfect. The snow was powdery, but carried fine. After reaching the lake, headed towards the main road going through the exercise area. Went off the planned course a bit and had to go back about a 1,5 km on the road. On the road the going was rather quick, ’cause the road was icy. The edges of my skis aren’t actually that sharp so it was quite slippery also. When reaching the planned trailhead I was on the path already well known and therefore going was easy. Unfortunately some tracker vehicles had also moved on that road and it wasn’t very good path. Still a lot quicker than breaking my own path. Quickly going through the old rocket-base it was already very dark and I had the last strech to go. But it was also the worst strech ’cause it was a long-long, very straight path. There was also a smaller, partly unfrozen stream I had to cross. No problems though. Reached the car at 19:30, after being on the move for almost 7 hours and 32km.
A very good day and hopefully some more to come before everything starts to melt.
I managed to be active and complete some plans again. Since the winter is freaking awesome this year I had made plans to go out touring as much as possible. This weekend became free so I decided to head to Lahemaa national park and look around. I had sketched two possible routes and chose the one around the peninsula of Vergi.
As I’m lazy as can be then I hadn’t prepared the previous evening and didn’t wake ’till 9am. So after eating and making tea and picking up the boots from my office and shopping and driving to Võsu it was already noon and I got on the trail at 12:15. The first part was following a ski-path and ended near Altja after which I followed a smaller stream and reached the beach at 14:00. The sight proved to be worrying cause the bay was filled with pressure ice and that’s not very good for skiing. Fortunately near the shore the ice was even and smooth enough so I had to take only a small detour. Skiing was OK ’cause there was also a thin layer of snow on the ice so it wasn’t very slippery. The pole tips could have been sharper though. Had the first break near Vergi harbor at 14:30. When continuing towards cape Pedassaare I had to walk for a kilometer or so ’cause there was no good way around the rough ice. Rounded the cape at 15:30. Occasionally the ice had built up wall, consisting of ice blocks looking like some construction details. The sun was getting lower also providing some decent shots.
When rounding the last cape the sun was setting and to my great satisfaction the ice far smooth until Võsu and made skiing very easy although I was getting kinda tired. When I reached Võsu it was already dark, but I had only a few kilometers to go to my car. Ended the hike at 18:45.
So it was fun. Weather was cold -15 to -20 but no wind and the sun was shining all the way. Should have started earlier and prepared on the previous evening, but still managed to finish at a reasonable time. So distance about 30km and time without pauses 6 hours.
I modified the ski-bindings and they held together well. Although not adjustable any more, but as I plan to use the same boots for skiing then it’s ok.
Now as I didn’t get enough of skiing on the last weekend i had planned two days of ski touring with consripts. Area – Ohepalu nature reserve.
First day was perfect weather, but very hard going. I failed to navigate precisely enough and that led us through quite bumpy and dense vegetation, which slowed us down. But the soldier liked it – at least mot of them seemed to enjoy the day out. We started at about 10am and finished near 10 pm. And in that time we covered 25km.
As the second day was Friday and most of the conscripts were supposed to go home I didn’t want to take that long time to reach the end so I modified the track a bit and we stayed mostly off the harder terrain. Again starting at 10, but today I finished as early as 17.30 covering about 25km again.
Now most of the group managed quite fine and we would have moved at a much faster speed and reached our destination hours earlier that we did, but there were some factors.
When I went to school we had skiing lessons in winter for our PT. So everybody could ski. We also had plenty of ski-tracks in the vicinity. And we had some slopes that we particularly enjoyed, ’cause going down hill is by far much easier than just cross-country skiing. So long story short – 99% of people I know could ski. But now I have theses 20+ year old young, supposedly strong men at my command and there are those who have never been on skis. Fair enough – a lot of them managed quite well. Maybe slow, but at least their movement was co-ordinated. But then there are those who were like they had woken up this morning and discovered that they had grown two hands and feet and didn’t know what the fuck to do with them. That meant that at the time I had covered 100m in a moderate speed they managed barely 10m. And they didn’t get any of the instructing I gave. Like talking to a cactus-plant. I swear there were moment when I thought that one of us will not make it to the end of the day. How the fuck have you managed to get by for so long!! Now I know what people mean when they describe somebody so clumsy that they probably wouldn’t succeed in getting hit by a truck, while standing in the middle of the highway at the rush hour. Unbelievable.
Went skiing today. Started from Tõreska and the first plan was to go all the way to Moe, but that changed a bit. Karmo drove me to the starting point (he was supposed to come to, but decided to be lazy instead) and at about 1pm I was off. Snow was very light, basically powder so it was rather easy to push through it. 10 minutes on the trail I had a minor failure on one of the bindings, but I managed to fix it. After few kilometers the tracks turned left and I had totally untouched snow. Easy going still. Weather was perfect – no wind, -5 C. Some sunshine would have been nice.
Near the Udriku lake I encountered a wild boar. I saw it first at about 75 meters, so I stood still and tried to get a picture. It went on and off the trail and when it was about 50 meters from me and still didn’t see me I gave out a blood-freezing and ear-crushing roar letting the beast know, who is the boss here. It froze, probably trying to blend in with the snow and when realizing his pitiful attempt has failed escaped in terror. So I carried on.
After about 6 km the snow grew thicker, but still about half way to my calf. Going got tougher. I hadn’t treated the soles of the skiis and they gathered clumps of snow which hindered the gliding seriously and it began to get dark. It didn’t really dark because all of the snow and the glow from Tapa was visible too. So I pushed on like that for the last 8 km to the Valgejõe bridge, where I called Karmo and arranged a pickup. Still had about 1km to go. By that time the temperatures dropped to about -10 C and I was mighty tired.
But it was great to get out and start the skiing season In 3 weeks we’ll try to ski to Vormsi and after that I’m going to Trysil. Hope the winter stays like this ’till March
About a week after I returned from Austria I got a call from a friend asking if I’m interested in going to Sweden to climb the highest mountain there – Kebnekaise. Interested I was and after finding out that I could get a whole week of days off from work planning was set to motion.
The plan was to use a ferry to get over Finnish gulf and drive, drive, sleep and drive some more to reach Nikkaluota where the hike would begin. Starting quite early on Tuesday we were in Helsinki at 10am and drove about 800km that day with smaller breaks.
Visited a bell museum. The weather was very hot so you could only feel comfortable inside a conditioned car or in some shade.
We found a nice camping place when we reached Sweden.
Next day we finished the drive and after lunch and some packing we were off to Kebnekaise fjällstation. It was an easy trek which we covered in 4,5 hours with some breaks. The station was very crowded. I probably didn’t see that much people during the month in Alps.
Kebnekaise is above the Arctic circle so it doesn’t get really dark in there – basically the sun just goes lower and behind the mountain. So when it got lighter again we were off to the top – starting in the wrong direction 😀 I didn’t bother navigating ’cause two of the group have already climbed the mountain. So I was confident that reaching the top won’t be a problem. So I didn’t take the map with me. This resulted us going way off the track. Well, actually we were on the track, but it took a wide arc around the mountain. So it took us like 9 hours to get to the top. By that time the clouds had reached the mountaintop and we had very poor visibility.
When going down we opted to take the Eastern route down. That involved some climbing using ropes and cables, but nothing difficult. This descent took us to a glacier. Which was very cool, but also rised another navigation problem, ’cause there weren’t any tracks visible on the ice. The cracks were small, but still we avoided patches of snow. I knew the rough direction of the station so we tried to carry on in that direction. The mist made it difficult and walking on the glacier without crampons is tricky. I also managed to step on a loose stone and lost my balance which led to a 3cm long wound on my right thumb. And we still had to descend quite a bit. While on a small break the wind cleared a bit and I saw the valley we were trying to reach. So we continued along the river and soon saw some people descending from the track. So back on the track we were and soon in the camp. The others were already there. With some help I bandaged my thumb and prepared for the night.
We planned to make the drive back to Helsinki in one go so in the morning we rushed back to the car in rather great speed – 4 hours with small breaks. Washed up and left a note to a friend arriving later from his trip from Abisko. Taking turns behind the wheel we arrived the port in 15 hours with spare time until the first boat.
I tried to take minimal gear with me and tested how my New Balance running shoes work in the mountains. And they worked very well. The ground wasn’t that rough that I could have injured my ankles. My feet got wet a couple of times, but dried soon enough. Using Gore-Tex would have been better. Everything else was already tested and worked well. Still I’m missing a more comfortable backpack. I’ll start working on the shelter and possibly a lighter sleeping bag or a quilt.
Next bigger hike will probably in the winter.
Basically I’m to lazy to write about each day, but I’ll try to make a brief overview about the little trip I had in June in Alps.
First of all I’m extremely pleased that I did this – the nature, the process of walking for quite a long time, being alone with my thoughts, testing myself, experiencing weather from hot, sunny days to snowstorms and heavy rainfall – it was just so grand for me and totally suited my own nature. I didn’t experience any extreme nirvana nor did I find the meaning of life (at least not the whole meaning), but in all I enjoyed almost every little moment on and off the road. Yes I had times not so thrilling like wet boots for like a week or one or two snowfields too many on the route, but I consider it an experience to learn from.
About the gear. Without food I carried about 10kg of equipment. I was mostly totally self supported – only needing to buy food occasionally and the water of course was essential. I’ve read quite a lot about lightweight hiking now and I definitely could and should go lighter in the future. Food added about 3-4kg depending on the distance to next supply possibility. Occasionally I totally overbought food and had like half a liter of milk in a glass bottle with me.
The gear worked well and I had only very few items with me that I didn’t actually need or use, but that was mostly because the conditions were good enough. For example I didn’t need the extra stove for different gas cartridge type, head torch, didn’t take any medicaments or had to repair anything except for my spork which actually broke before the trip. I broke my walking poles, but I couldn’t repair them there. My boots were wasted in the end of the trip, but considering that they were quite old already and seen some trails that didn’t bother me much. I was totally surprised that I managed with only two 230gr Primus gas canisters with my Primus EtaExpress, although I cooked like two warm meals most days or just boiled water for food. In the end I just burned the last one empty and it had 15 minutes of gas left in it. One thing that bothered me about the stove was that the piezoelectric igniter wasn’t able to ignite the gas in higher altitude, but having matches solved that problem. The Ferrino bivy bag totally failed the one time I used it in a few hours of rain one night, but that shouldn’t be a surprise considering the price. For the most part I think I made quite good choices from the gear available.
The point I’d like to mention separately from the rest of gear is maps. If I had gone with big maps for the whole trip then i would have had like 8 A2 sheets with me. I didn’t consider that to be very practical. So I bought the maps, scanned the parts I needed, edited them together in GIMP so they would fit on A4. I printed those double sided and laminated so they could take some abuse. Latter proved a very good idea. So I went with 5 paper sheets for maps. I had to buy two additional maps in the end phase. Handling them proved to be much more complicated and thankfully it didn’t rain.
About the regime. In the walking phase I had 27 days on the move, 1 forced rest day and two shorter days that can be considered rest days. The forced rest was because of snowstorm. I covered about 750km, that is about 27km per day. The time on the move was about 270 hours, that is about 10 hours a day. Woke up at 6 and was on the move at 7-7.30. On very few days I woke about an hour later. Went to sleep around 9-10. The longest day on the move was about 14 hours.
I can’t say the some day was so exhausting that I couldn’t go on the next day. The sleep wasn’t actually very good throughout the trip. Don’t know why, but I found myself checking my watch at about 2 hour intervals even when I slept in bed.
Health. You don’t have to guess twice – blisters on blisters. Left Achilleus went numb in the beginning. Hurting occasionally, feeling funny but minimum hindrance. DeepFreeze and band-aid were my best friends. In the last few days during the longer descents knees weren’t so good. Sunburn, especially on the nose. Last year I burned my knees while wearing shorts – this year only decent tan. Health was very good.
People I met. During the month I had on 1,5 unpleasant encounters with locals. The .5 was just person losing interest in me when I told that I don’t have enough money to pay for accommodation. The other one is a different story. I had walked about 3 hours that day and came to a hut serving food. Nothing special: just beer, sandwiches – just like every other hut and with prices like every other hut. Now I was just taking a short break behind the tables outside. I was asked if I wanted something by the owner of the place – some old guy. He got really pissed when I couldn’t get his hilly-billy accent. Before I left I wanted to use the toilets for number two. Old guy probably saw me through the windows, cut through the house and met me in front of the toilets. Over the noise of the generator he tried to explain how badly I’m behaving when I didn’t make him any profit and now was trying to use the toilets that he has spent so much money on. He went on and on about he has spent so much money on the hut and he can’t make living like that. My German isn’t that good so I didn’t start to argue about it. Just took my things and left, walked about 10 minutes and shat in the bushes. Fuck you old man and you comfortable toilets! When I started to think about it later I got really pissed. Here’s why. The hut is about 10km from the nearest town and has a road leading to it. In town beer costs about 0.50 to 1 euro and that is in a shop. If you buy a bigger amount and from a dealer then it’s even less. In the hut it’s 3 euros. Now this guy had a car by the house that could carry about 10 cases of bottled beer in one go. Also he had like 50 cows on the field meaning that he probably doesn’t buy milk, cheese or meat or buys in small quantities. The hut was basically an old farmhouse, built hell knows when. That penny-pincher (taken from a dictionary) is making profit of a lifetime in there and doesn’t like me using his toilet. Like said I got really pissed about that guy. Fortunately that was the last of that kind of experience.
I didn’t see much of walkers in the beginning, but the crowds grew as the season became more favorable and I reached more popular and accessible places. Most of the people I came across to were elder people and there was really lot of them. Going from hut to hut, taking their time and enjoying the free time available to them. The occasional locals I met on the path or in my campsites or in the huts take interest in where are you coming from and what you’re up to. Big thanks goes to my German teachers – I think I managed quite fine despite the long years I haven’t had the chance to practice. A remark about he language they use especially in Austria – when they are talking among themselves it was almost impossible for me to understand what they were saying ’cause of the local dialect they use. Fortunately they can speak normal German too and probably change to English. But I used as little English as possible. As a matter of fact I found it difficult to switch to English when I came up to a couple who didn´t speak German.
Company. Didn’t have any 😛 Of course there was people in huts or eating places, but everybody had their own goal and very few people went in my direction, who could keep my pace. For a day and half I hanged around with a Portugese guy – Nuno. I met him the day before I climbed Triglav. We camped together by the hut before the climb, ascended together to the top and descended to Trenta. Next morning he took his time and I was off. But it was great to talk and it always better to make a ascent that isn’t a easy walk with some company. In Trenta we had some beers and shared experience. Nuno is on his way to Monaco making the whole Red Trail in one go. I also met a older couple near Zugspitze who were on their way to Vienna. Did I miss constant company? No. Of course it great to occasionally talk to people more than saying “hello” on the path, but I was fine.
Highlights. In Slovenia – partisan hospital in a Gorge, climbing Triglav, the highest point in there – 2864m, almost stepping on some snake, caves in Matavun. Austria – fortifications along the Austrian-Italian border along the ridges, marmots, snowstorm, Drei Zinnen, sleeping in a tree hut, a water reservoir, mountain huts. Germany – Zugspitze, glacial valleys. And all the mountainranges, ridges and every piece of rock.
And that’s it. The rest of the pictures are here.