This is not actually something new, but there has been a quite active Estonian hiking forum online for some time now. At the moment all of the discussion is in Estonian, but there is a sub-page in English where one can ask about hiking in Estonia. Some of us have been around a lot and can point you to the right direction. Gear-wise it’s pretty heavyweight, but the seed of lightweight hiking has been planted and there are some followers.
I hope that the registration process is made easy enough and that we can help you out to plan a visit.
The address is www.matkafoorum.net or you can use the banner on the left titled Estonian hiking forum.
This blog is quite like my life has been recently – uneventful, when talking about hiking and outdoors. I did ride some bike, but that’s a lame-ish excuse.
So when we had to organize a march for conscripts finishing their basic training I decided to make this into a training walk for me and choose the route accordingly. Usually the march is two days with around 25km each day. Before the event I had measured the distance on the map by eye and it seemed like around 50km. I had to man one checkpoint in the beginning and after that was free to pace off. Soldiers usually do this in full gear, but as I ended my basic training almost 10 years ago I can do much as I please. So it was combat gear (minus rifle and helmet) and light sleeping gear for me.
Travelling was mostly on gravel roads. 60km in total with walking time around 12 hours. About a third I walked in total darkness, which was cool. Got some blister, because I neglected foot-care, but nothing too painful. Muscles felt stiff in the evening after finishing, but the next day it was almost OK.
I have a map lying aroun in my cabinet that covers the Lahemaa national park and Kõrvemaa natural reserve. I used this on my last walk from Kunda to Võsu, but the outcome of that walk was a little bit unsatisfactory so last week I thought that now would be time to have a go at it again. I spent some time sketching the possible rout to the map. Main goal was to follow the shore-line of the capes Käsmu, Pärispea and Juminda and the cut over the Koitjärve mire to Aegviidu, where I could catch a train back. I would say that I managed to fill about 70%
I’ve fallen a bit behind with this post, but nevertheless here it is.
The simplicity of what I was doing. Walking. Obviously. It’s like the most simple thing you can do – put one foot in front of another, repeat. (more…)
Snakes. They creeped me out too. And I saw more of them than I have ever seen in my life in just three days. And as one can imagine this is the post about what I didn’t like during the walk through the Alps. Word of caution. Some highly aggressive ranting is going to follow and lots of fucks.
So I’m back from my 5 weeks in the Alps and now I’ll try to pull off a series of a posts covering some aspects of my walk. I will start with a brief overall statistics and some teaser pictures.
So I started on 6th of June with a flight from Riga to Munich and from there via trains to Ehrwald, which is only a few kilometers away from Bieberwier, where I ended up last year. From there it took 34 days (315 hours) to cover about 1070km.
Took one rest day during that period.
Visited Germany, Austria, Italy, Lichtenstein, Switzerland and France
The average distance covered was 31,5km and depending on the day it took about 10 hours to cover. Some days were better though and therefore the overall average speed is near 3,4 km/h. I felt pretty strong on the ascents, but not so on descents, but maybe I was just careful. I believe that on most days I would have been able to go on for another 10km or so.
About 1/3 of days it rained or was cloudy so it’s suitable to call that part “the imagination tour”. The rest was pretty sunny – ocaasionally too sunny ’cause I managed to burn my nose again. Although I was dressed pretty lightly – shorts and a longsleeve and the SilPoncho when it rained I generated enough heat to keep warm in temperatures between 10-15 C.
The overall expense of this trip went much higher that I expected. Mainly because I overshopped, slept too much indoors – 9 nights total of 37. One of those was in a sheperd hut I used, but didn’t have to pay for and one was in an airport. Also paid once for camping, ’cause I needed to get human like again before going to trains and planes. Food prices in Switzerland are just ridiculous and the money you have to give away in mountain huts and restaurants is just insane. But the added price isn’t constant for everything – for example ice cream (very expensive) is about the same price as in supermarkets, but the price of bottled water is 5x higher. Once I cashed out 9 euros for 1L of water. How stupid is that?
Mostly I drank from streams and wells making sure that there is no cattle upstream. NEVER used any water purification method and NEVER had any bad consequences – which doesn’t mean that you can get away that easily anywhere. I did check the water for small particles of course so if I could see anything floating around in my bottle it was a no go. The best place considering drinking water was Scuol, because it had MINERAL WATER coming from various fountains all over town. How cool would that be to have at your home?!
The paths. I walked basically every surface one could imagine – except lava rock. The waymarkings were usually pretty good, but going down to decent in some places. There were streches where the Via Alpina markings weren’t to be seen for days, but as long you went in the same general direction it was OK. In some higher passes where there was plenty of snow I had some trouble finding the markings, but that was due to bad weather and I will come to that in a later post.
Camping. I usually went on as long as I found a campsite that satisfied me. Again very wide range of ground, but mostly soft and even enough. On few occasions I had to settle for a under satisfactory conditions – meaning I was on a slope or that the ground was so uneven that I could comfortable sleep only in one position. On about half the nights I slept outdoors I had the tarp set up or half set-up so I could pitch it in a matter of seconds. I made a habit of always having a plan how to pitch the tarp, if the weather changed quickly and it started to rain. On only one night, when I didn’t have a plan I was punished with a violent thunderstorm that lasted half a night. It wasn’t very pleasant to try and pitch the tarp in the middle of night on a shitty ground and then hold on to the tarp with both of your hands, while the wind is doing it’s best to sherd it to pieces. Next time I pitched it good and slept OK during an another thunderstorm.
Food. As last year pasta became my main dish. I cooked only once per day to save gas and time. To go with the pasta I used mainly Knorr dehydrated soups. Worked pretty well. In the mornings I ate cereal and gorp and cereal bars and chocolate during the day. My big favourite was a 600gr package of nuts covered with chocolate that can be found in COOP. When in town I tried to gorge on everything I had craved during the days when I had to keep simple diet. And that did the main damage to my bank account. The few times I ate “out” or actually “in” it was mainly pizza although as the prices went up my appetite went down – not ready to pay 20 euros for a pizza. Once I had lasagne and that proved quite under average, but a tiramisu cake in the same town was heavenly.
I was alone 98% of the timeon the trail. Although I saw other hikers they were usually going in the other direction. When I got near Chamonix it got really crowded, with everybody doing the Tour du Mont Blanc. I think I didn’t see as many people during the first 4,5 half weeks than I saw on the last two days. Not complaining at all. I can say that nobody could match my pace, ’cause there wasn’t anyone who came from behind and passed me – expect some bikers and trailrunners. I managed to leave some bikers behind myself 😀
I think that’s enough for now. I’ll have worst and best experiences and also some gear talk in later posts. And pictures when I’m done sorting and editing the 1000+. And maybe a video for those lazy enough willing not to bother clicking through the final cut of the pictures.
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.