Posts Tagged ‘Hiking’


A hike in paradise. My private valley. My private fjord. Sun. Warm. A smile in my heart. The smell of cloudberries on my fingers.

Day 50. 50km. Syltevikmyra – Vardø. Map and gpx.

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Day 47. 24km hike. Kinnerodden

Posted: July 24, 2013 in Hiking, Norway
Tags: ,

The northern most point of mainland Europe. In the sun and clear blue skies. Even warm enough for some tundra lake swims. A wonderful day.

Day 47. 24km hike. Kinnerodden. Map and gpx.

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I have been on a project for work in Boston for the last two months. It has been cold, and it has been snowy. Coming from warmer climes, I didn’t know about driving in snow storms, not using high-beams in blizzards and how important it is to clear the snow on the car roof and bonnet. I am now versed in the ways of the New England winter. Now it is time for the spring – and then the summer – and my big cycle trip.. Yay!

I saw the first sign of spring during my Easter in the Adinrondack Mountains in up-state New York. I was there with some friends (Candice and Sarah), staying in a beautiful log cabin in Peasleeville. On Easter Saturday the sun came out and the mercury rose. The white winter landscape twinkled in the sun as it slowly prepared to melt – over the coming two months. But, for me, the white would remain and I breathed in the beauty.

I saw the blue of my cabin window and jumped out of bed. Such a morning could not be wasted. A jogging loop through the hills was in order. On the map it didn’t look too far. In practice it was further than it looked. (I didn’t check the scale.) Through charming farming land, and through wooded hills.

Peasleeville barn

Peasleeville barn

Strackville Road

Strackville Road

25 km and a big breakfast later, Candice, Sarah and I took out the bikes. This was my first bike trip in the USA. It was a short one (21 km), to a little iced over lake. We had visions of a longer trip, but, as we had more planned for the day, we cut it short to make alternative use of the brilliant sun.

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Lake in Macomb Park

Lake in Macomb Park

And then, keen to see the amazing views on a clear day that I seen from mountain tops on cloudy days, we decided to scale the local mountain out the back of the cabin.

The sun was really shining brightly now, and it was actually quite warm.

On the way up Mt Terry.

On the way up Mt Terry.

It was a steep, snowy climb up a four-wheel track to a communications tower at the top of the mountain. In fact, the tower was not at the highest point. This, however, was not reachable in the winter. I tried my best, bush-bashing cross-country. The snow was deep and, being warm, unstable. I ended my hike in a frozen but thawing bog near the summit. It was beautiful, tranquil, and utterly silent.

Bog at Mt. Terry.

Bog at Mt. Terry.

So, without planning it before-hand, I had done 3 different activities outdoors. 25km running, 21km cycling and 9km mountain hiking. And then a big dinner in the wood cabin with the fire burning.


I love hiking. I love disappearing into the wilderness and existing there, amongst it all, miles from anywhere. Pack on my back and out there in the elements. Through sun and rain, raging wind and serene tranquility. Nature is big, ever present, graceful, wild, and happy.

I love the arctic. There is nature at its most raw. Rocky, barren landscapes etched out by creaking glaciers, creeping slowly down mountains slopes over the millennia. In previous summers I hiked in arctic Canada, Iceland and Finland.

In 2012 I joined the High Places 10 day hike of Svalbard. Our group met at Longyearbyen on Svalbard, to be whisked away from civilization to the self erected base camp on Petunia Bukt. From there we did single and multiple day hikes across glaciers and ice sheets, through bogs, across glacial streams, up mountains, and to deserted Russian mining towns.

I have written a blog on the amazing trip which is summarized here:


Our trip is really over. We dismantled the base camp: took down all the tents and packed everything into the metal containers that were used for transporting on the boat. Our boat pick-up was originally planned for 16:00, but we were told that the boat would arrive between 14:00 and 15:00. We were ready very early and went to hang out in the warmth in the czech hut. It was very cold outside, and we were lovely and warm in the hut. We played cards to while away the time.

We returned to the beach where we were going to get picked up. And then the waiting started. Our eyes were peeled on the horizon, waiting to be whisked away out of the cold. The boat didn’t arrive. It was a bit choppy, and there was speculation that the boat couldn’t make it. Sam told stories of the boat arriving, only to stay 50 m off shore and phone saying that they couldn’t land. It has happened before.

The boat still didn’t arrive. We opened up the spare supplies box and rummaged around. We found a bag of nice muesli: different to the muesli we had had the last 9 days. A welcome change. We chomped through that. Then some biscuits were extracted from the box. And lots of hot chocolate.

It was very cold. I was wearing everything I had, and did some taekwondo moves to keep warm. Sam started a fire. It didn’t give off any heat, though. We put the metal storage boxes together to form a wind shield and Lisa pulled out her sleeping bag and crawled into it behind the metal boxes. I lay behind the shield on the rocks beside her.

Then some of the czech crowd dropped past on the way to their scientific experiment.

Waiting on the cold beach

Waiting on the cold beach

Then finally the boat arrived. We put on the super warm moon suits, and were whisked back to civilization.

Longyearbyen meant warm showers. It meant fresh clothes. It meant nice food. It meant warmth.

We had our debriefing meal in a lovely restaurant before Sam took us on a pub crawl. We walked from one pub to the next, walking through the daylight in the depths of the night between bars. Our night ended in the local disco ‘Huset’, that, until 01:00 is a high quality restaurant. Then it miraculously transforms into a small town disco. There, we danced the night away.

Huset after the transformation.

Huset after the transformation.

Somewhat the worse for wear, we returned to our lodge at 03:00. The alarm went at 05:00 to pack, have breakfast and head off to the airport. Goodbye Svalbard. Goodbye Norway. One of the greatest holidays I have ever had was coming to an end.

My bike, my luggage and myself all arrived at Amsterdam Schiphol airport in one piece. Back from the trip of a life time.

Safe and sound back in the Netherlands

Safe and sound back in the Netherlands

Svalbard Day 9. 03.08.2012

Posted: August 23, 2012 in Hiking
Tags: , , ,

If felt like the trip was coming to an end. Our planned 12 hour night turned into a 14 hour night. It had drizzled all night, and the usual low hanging clouds greeted anyone who cared to glance out of the tent. Breakfast was slow. We wanted to climb to the top of the 1000m high mountain directly behind the camp for a wonderful 360 degree view over ice sheets, glaciers and fjords. We knew that the view at 1000m would be of damp, thick, white cloud.

We finally left and zig-zagged up an old mining path until, in no time, we hit the height of the clouds. Time for the photos. They would not get any better than this.

Petunia Bukt

Petunia Bukt

The glacier opposite the campsite

The glacier opposite the campsite

The leftovers of the mining past

The leftovers of the mining past

We skirted along the side of the mountain for a way trying to get different views of some kind, and ended up directly above the czech station. It was a fun scree slope dash down to the warmth of their hut. We invited them to our bonfire that evening: our last on Petunia Bukt.

The bonfire gave us a task: something to prepare for. We spent the evening sawing logs that had been washed up from Siberia, and preparing the bonfire. It got colder and colder, and there was no sign of the czechs. In the end, I went to bed, only to hear them arrive minutes later – 4 of them. I rose again for an hour or so, and we all huddled around the fire. It was freezing cold, and even the becherovka could not warm me up. Before long, I decided it was really 10 pm for me, and I went to bed.

Bear watch several hours later was a COLD affair. My last bear watch on Svalbard.

While in the clouds, I took photos of everyone. The High Places Svalbard 2012 group. We were now a real team, bonded from our experiences over the last week.

Sam was our guide. A lovely outdoor guy, who led us safely and enjoyably through the week. A real Mr fix-anything with some wire and his amazing multifunction pliers.

Sam

Sam

Steve, a real Aussie from Melbourne. An endless source of energy. ‘It’s all good!’

Steve

Steve

Gordon. The scot with the lovely accent. A lot of hiking stories, and someone to share my mathematical formulations of sun movement, and the sun dial.

Gordon

Gordon

Ben. Another Aussie, living in London. Very philosophical.

Ben

Ben

Lisa. A lawyer from London. Also a runner with lots of marathon training strategies.

Lisa

Lisa

And moi.

Moi

Moi


Our three day hike up a glacier and onto an ice sheet started and ended with a walk of about 4 hours across our now very familiar bay, to our ‘advanced base camp’ at the foot of a glacier at opposite side of the Petunia Bukt.

Familiar terrain on Petunia Bukt

Familiar terrain on Petunia Bukt

The weather was threatening to improve, with the sun poking through from time to time.

Petunia Bukt in the sun

Petunia Bukt in the sun

Our camp at the base of a glacier, on a flat part of the moraine, was quite unspectacular until my bear watch at 3 am. Lisa woke me to an amazing, clear, sunny blue sky. It was breathtaking.

Advanced base camp in the sun

Advanced base camp in the sun

Shadows of the two bear watchers

Shadows of the two bear watchers

Advanced base camp in the sun

Advanced base camp in the sun

Our plan was to walk up the glacier, on to the ice sheet, and to a nunataak – a mountain in the middle of the ice sheet. From there we would have a 360 degree view over the ice. And, today was a day where this may be possible. Our first day with no low hanging cloud. Some clouds had formed by breakfast, but, the weather was ideal. I was chafing at the bit to start.

We started with a walk across the sludgy, muddy moraine. We saw our first serious quick sand as well as our first polar bear print.

Polar bear print

Polar bear print

Then up on to the glacier. The ice was hard and crunchy. Under the white surface was a turquoise blue. Little streams ran down the glacier along their melted pathways. From time to time they dropped down a hole to continue their flow in the depths below under the glacier. We stopped on the glacier to fill up with water – delicious, cold, clear water.

On the glacier

On the glacier

The view down the glacier

The view down the glacier

Icy drink on the glacier

Icy drink on the glacier

Me on the glacier

Me on the glacier

The ice gave way to snow and slushy snow which covered the entire ice sheet. Traversing it was tiring work. Each step sank through the crispy snow crust to squelch into blue, icy cold water. Each step was an adventure. Occasionally I didn’t fall through the icy crust. Occasionally I sank to my shins in the icy water, and had to extract my foot for the next step with a sucking sound. We made our way up, squelch, squelch, towards the crest of a ridge. The ridge always looked 100m away. And, like on our other glacier walk, the ridge remained just out of reach.

Paltry sounding distances become major expeditions in this terrain. The nunataak we wanted to scale was 7 or 8 km from the top of the glacier. We didn’t even make it to the top of the ridge before we stopped for lunch.

The ridge at infinity

The ridge at infinity

Lunch

Lunch

Then our Nunataak came into view.

Nunataak in sight

Nunataak in sight

The nunataak remained desperately close. And the going got tougher. With every step we sank to our ankles, and then to our shins in the icy slush. Each step became a squelchy adventure. Would the next step see us sink to our knees?

Nunataak in sight and the going got tougher

Nunataak in sight and the going got tougher

The group dynamics became interesting. Climbing a nunataak was one of my goals of the whole Svalbard trip. The same was true for Steve. Normally he was quiet, agreeing with any group decision in his happy go lucky, ‘its all good’ style. This time he wanted to continue. The going was tough, but the nunataak was just there and we wanted to wade through the last half a kilometre of slush to get there. Gordon was tired, but, I think still keen. Lisa was tired and saw another long day becoming a reality – too long for her liking. Ben was ‘philosophical’, by which he meant that he was easy either way: continue or return. As the slush got deeper, I felt my spirits sink. I felt the group decision flipping, so close to the nunataak. I sank to my knees, extracted my now drenched and numb foot out of the snow to make the next step. And then another. The philosophical Ben was wavering, and Gordon was also not so set on the nunataak. Sam called a stop. We distributed some chocolate, and Sam went to get some water (by digging through the snow to the liquid slush below).

Collecting water at the foot of the nunataak

Collecting water at the foot of the nunataak

We would return. 😦

The views down the glacier were spectacular. The clouds made a beautiful light spectacle on the distant mountains. It was amazing scenery and lovely weather, and I was disappointed.

View down the glacier

View down the glacier

We stopped for a break on the ice sheet and stood still for a moment. There was not a sound. The snow enveloped us in silence. Just above us passed a pure white bird. Whiter than white. It felt like a messenger from the Lord of the Rings. It gracefully passed just above our heads as we stood in awe. So pure. So silent. So beautiful. A very rare sight, said Sam. We were honoured to see it, and see it so close.

Down and down we went. It remained slushy, but, our way back was fast.

The way down

The way down

We arrived back at our advanced base camp at a reasonable time. Our defined 10 pm start of the night Svalbard time did not feel that late.

The next day was a return to the main base camp across the now totally familiar Petunia Bukt. A three hour sleep, then dinner, ending with an evening in the czech research station, listening to lectures on polar research, and chatting with the researcher while drinking becherovka – a czech schnapps. It was a late night, returning to the base camp in the eternal sun.