Wednesday, 21 April 2010

A local adventure for local people

After the burst of inspiration that Ryan Jordan's '24' videos created across the ultralight backpacking community it was someone closer to home that inspired my latest outing. Phil Turner posted recently about his Local Adventure Project, an initiative to get people to look under their noses for the adventure and wilderness that we sometimes pass on our way to work or on our way to more glamorous, well known destinations. This resonated strongly with me. I no longer own a car and being able to access the wilderness takes a little more organisation but I'm also blessed by living in Bergen and wilderness, or some degree of it, is on my doorstep. Literally. One trail, that scars the bust of Ulriken (643m) starts inside of a minutes walk from my porch.

My own little adventure was penciled in for a quiet Tuesday night but was almost erased straight away when I double booked myself and arranged to catch up with a friend. Thankfully Steve understood my plans perfectly and after sharing pizzas and some cold beer we left my apartment at around 8pm, Steve riding his bike alongside my hurried stride, like a coach and a lightweight contender. Around the reservoir we raced the daylight before Steve headed off to a warm apartment and I struck out upwards, towards Satene (498m), the guardian headwall of the Svartediket valley.

The first hour was just a grind up the graveled path, stripping layers like an onion as I went. At the top I left the path and cut my way up the shoulder of Satene. As a reminder that Winter still lays claim to the higher elevations, my 'crux pitch' (I gotta stop reading so many mountaineering/'death in a tent' genre books) was a steep little ice and snow choked chute that was fun in trainers and trackies.

Racing the gloaming light I pitched my wee Laser Comp on the edge. I fired off some photos, munched some chocolate as supper and settled down on my rock, enjoying the stillness. Below I could see my city, my running track, the reservoir that supplies my drinking water and almost, but not quite, my own doorstep.

Across the valley Ulriken's illuminated tower was performing it's nightly twinkly light show, the glow from the restaurant windows making false promises. Every time I've made the circuitous trek up there for a hot chocolate and waffle it's been shut.

A final stroll around my precipitous campsite, admiring the onrushing night. A final piss but I knew, as always seems to be the case when camping, away from the convenience of a warm bathroom, that I'd have to get up again in the middle of the night.

Bergen winked goodnight, resplendent in her shimmering halogen jewellery.

Bergen breathed good morning with the familiar sting of needing a pre-dawn camping piss and also the sensation that the wind that had sprung up during the night was threatening to tear the Laser Comp off it's perch and into valley below. Reluctantly I squirmed out of my cocoon and took care of business. In an effort to ballast my beleaguered tent I got back into bed and relished the still-warm down.

After a snooze I surfaced to the rhythmic drumming of something hitting my tent. Nothing was forecast so it was with some surprise that I opened my tent to the sight of light snow whipping over head and swirling into the protected lee of the drop. Ah the joy of packing light, everything in stuff sacks and into my backpack in a few minutes. Then there was just the task of trying to hold onto a flapping tent as I took it down in a hooley.

Time to get back down to the city.

Light started to smear the horizon, hinting at the forecasted sunshine. Too late for me to sit around on my rock and enjoy the morning but it's warming rays would further erode the ice that stubbornly clung to the darkest corner of the top reservoir.

Down through the forest the morning light illuminated the emerald carpet under my feet. The feathery edges of the flora making it almost glow.

After the monochromatic winter it's warming to see different colours again, especially when it's presented in so many different shapes and textures, from the soft globs of moss to these sharp star-bursts of green.

Back on the path I took a moment. With Satene over my shoulder it was time to look forward to another day. It was a good way to wake up. I was up before the earliest jogger and my day was starting with a bracing pinch of wind, colour, cold, coffee.

The fresh, new colours continued around the reservoir. Yellow buds on the trees sprouted in fireworks of pollen. Before long the path under my feet seamlessly swapped from gravel to tarmac and I was slipping quietly through the streets as people were stepping out of their houses and beginning their days with the morning commutes. My own commute that chilly Wednesday morning had started with a little adventure. A very local adventure.


Anonymous said...

It looks higher the 500mm. It's pretty nice to be able to walk to that camp from you front door, but to be able to do it from a urban, rather than a more rural context even more so. Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh pales in comparison.

I live in Dunfermline now, and there are no hills within walking distance, I'll need to give some serious thought to a local adventure, I don't think I can do one [at least a truly enjoyable one] without some sort of transport.

Joe Newton said...

Fraser - Higher than 500mm?! I should think it's a little higher than 20 inches ;-)

I am very, very lucky I know to live here. There is only 4.5 million people in Norway so there is plenty of space for everyone.

I'm not sure hills are the only thing that Phil is looking for on his Local Adventure Project. Forests, beaches and moorland could all be targets and easily attainable on public transport or a short car journey. I've got my sights set on a beach wildcamp in a couple of weeks.

Anonymous said...

Ah crap! :)

Yeah, I know the concept is more than just hills. We mostly have farmland in the surrounding area. Although, I do have a wee plan germinating which might be doable, incorporating bike and tent.

jumbly said...

A most excellent adventure by the sounds of things.

Phil said...

Fraser - it'd be great to hear about a trip involving a bike - my partner wants a recumbent which could be novel..

I'd suggest the Pentlands count as local for you too, and you can get there on the bus reasonably easily (I used to be a ranger there). Plus I'd count the coastline around Gullane and North Berwick as local, or who could resist a wildcamp overlooking the Grangemouth flarestack?!

I'm only up the road, shout if you've got a good idea, though I'm a liability on two wheels.

Anonymous said...

I'll need to get the bike cleaned/lubed first!

I'm still considering possibilities at this stage. Biggest issue is trying to pick a camp avoiding other humans. Then figure out a bike friendly route between A/B.

It's a toss up between Grangemouth or the local landfill site ;)

I thought you were in The Weej Phil...?

Dave Hanlon said...

I think this is a fantastic concept. I've often thought about making a multiday trip but instead of the usual car/ferry/bus/train/plane thing starting out from my doorstep. Imagine that. Pulling your front door shut behind you swinging your rucksack onto your back and heading off on foot for a few days and nights. The fact that I reside in the most densly populated, flatest, corner of europe in which there is a strict wild camping ban just makes it more of a challenge. In my case it would have to be dune and beach all the way. Having decided on dune and beach the only other decision would be whether to head north or south.

Joe Newton said...

Fraser - a bike would make a great transport choice. I think it's time to dust mine off after four months in the cellar. Ultralight backpacking ethos lends itself perfectly to travel by bike, you don't even need a rack and panniers. Hook up with Phil if at all possible, I'd like to hear about any trip you guys get to do.

Jumbly - it was indeed. Planning the next one is under way.

Dave - Do it! Beach camping is the new summit camping! You heard it here first (and I blatantly copied it after reading Erin and Hig's 'A Long Trek Home' book).

Phil said...

Beach camping rocks! I had one of my best overnight camps ever in a bivvy bag on Sandwood Bay (there's a video back in the depths of my blog actually)- not sure that's local to ANYONE really, but still....

Dave - blog it and send me a link and I'll put it on 'the page'(provided it's not offensive I suppose).

Fraser - I'm indeed currently in Glasvegas, but I've served my time in Edinburgh and Falkirk too (I get bored in one place).

I'm really heartened to see that people are getting inspired by this, and that Joe's blog is becoming a Scandinavian satellite for the project. Now I need a Dutch one I reckon.... ;-)

Nielsen Brown said...

A nice report, it gets me thinking about what could be done where I live, yes I could walk out the door with a pack on, but camping (legally is the challenge) However, there are some options, which I can work on.

Thanks again for a great report and great photos.

Joe Newton said...

Roger - thank you. I know I have it very easy here, a right to roam and camp and beautiful wild places not far from the city. I would have made it work back in the UK too, there were woods, fields and beaches within reach easy reach of my home town. This is the type adventure where red and yellow shelters are not the best choice, 'stealth' is the key word!

Nielsen Brown said...

Green bivys are a great option : )

Rog Tallbloke said...

Hi Joe, I got pointed to your site by Gustav Boström at

My lady and I are flying over to Oslo next weekend for a 5 day trip and Bergen is our destination. It's great to see such beautiful hills right outside town!

We are handbaggage only UL hikers and I was wondering if you could offer some advice on required warmth levels for our kit, and where to camp with our modified Golite Hut 1.

Joe Newton said...

Rog Tallbloke - If you're coming to Bergen from Oslo be sure to come on the train, one of the most scenic public transport journeys I've ever been on.

Whilst not true 'wilderness' Bergen is blessed with plenty of places to hike and wildcamp within walking distance of the city. You can even take the cable car to Ulriken or the Floybanen and skip the first steep ascent out of the city!

As for warmth, whilst Spring has most definitely sprung as evident by today's warm sunshine I would still be prepared for night time temps possibly down to around 0C. Also Bergen is notorious for it's rain and I would be prepared for low cloud and continuous rain if you're unlucky with your trip timing. Try for detailed weather forecasts.

As for where to camp then the hills to the north east of the city are within walking distance of the train station and city centre. If you can arrange some transport then the Gullfjellet area, half an hour to the east of Bergen has plenty of wild open spaces to enjoy. The best map for either of these areas is the 1:25 000 scale 7-fjellsturen tur kart.

Feel free to contact me for more specific information and enjoy your trip!

Dave Sailer said...

I have 11 cameras, a car, and I'm not getting out or taking pictures. And I want to buy more cameras. And I'm overweight. And probably dumber than I realize, though I can't really tell about that one. I do like your photos though. Thank you.

Joe Newton said...

Dave - No, thank you. 11 cameras? I reckon I could live with one, but it would be an ugly bastard. A 20mm wide fixed focal length, waterproof, built-in optical viewfinder, large sensor, HD video, titanium bodied, retro styled Panasonic with AA battery compatibility. The ability to hover and negate the need for a tripod would be pretty neat too.