After last weekend's heavyweight glamping and the impending Scandinavian Ultralight Bloggers Meet-Up making me nervous with excitement it was time to pull my ultralight head on and give my 'close to final' kit choices a shakedown. So I poured over a map and decided on a route I had wanted to do for a while, a ridge walk that linked three summits in the Sveningen area, just a short drive from Bergen. To add another dimension to the trip my ex-girlfriend/sometime-hiking-partner Marit wanted to come along and see what all this 'ultralight malarky' was all about. Before we set off I gave her a first lesson in packing and promptly removed one pair of socks, a 'spare' merino top, a big bottle of anti-bac and a whole tube of toothpaste from the pile of gear on her living room floor. She fought hard and well to cling onto her iPod and hairbrush.
We arrived at the car park late in the afternoon and forewent the easy option of camping where we'd 'glamped' the previous weekend in favour of a few hours of convoluted, scratchy, steep bushwhacking to perch ourselves 300-odd metres above the valley. We found the only 40 sq. feet of clear space in the Capercaillie and deer shit infested forest and settled down to a carefully guarded fire, roasting wieners on sharpened sticks and admiring the sunset through our birdcage of briars. Wrapped up like burritos in our bivy bags we nodded out under the DuoMid's mellow yellow.
The next morning, short on water, we decided on a quick start and a delayed lazy brunch once we found a suitable spot. After another hour of onerous bushwhacking and artistic route finding we broke out above the tree line and stopped at a lake for some Clelland!-inspired groovy-biotic oatmeal. Thus began six hours of sublime trail that traced the rounded spine of the greater Sveningen massif with the 843m summit of Svinningen itself as the sting in the tail. Clouds whirled and mutated above our heads, sometimes as black as an iron stove, sometimes ethereal white wisps swaying across the sky. Around lunchtime we were joined at the top of the world by two dog fighting gliders, hell bent on out-flying each other in the thermals.
There are some ugly steep lumps lingering in your peripheral vision as the ridge narrows and swings east towards Svinningen. I think we were both secretly a bit nervous. We had a window of cowardice that neither of us wanted to take, an escape route down to the lakes far below. We passed that option and kept going. Lack of daylight is not something we have to worry about here at this time of year and despite the odd black cloud the general weather status looked good. "Let's just push our noses up against the granite, then we'll know how steep it really is. We can always backtrack". Thankfully, as is often the case on routes like this, the reality is that with a bit of scrambling and care each piece of the puzzle fell into place and one by one the granite lock was picked. Over a few false summits and a few airy, snow covered cols and Svinningen was ours again. Any elation we had of getting to the top was soon fizzled out with the reality of getting down the other side. A lot more wet snow, steep in places and then an hour of intricate, jumbled rock to pick our way down.
Camp arrived at just the right time, feet and spirits flagging after having our foot on the gas for seven hours. A wonderfully flat sunny pitch, overlooking a mirror-finish lake and more firewood than you could shake a stick-shaped piece of firewood at. We slept long, serenaded by a nearby waterfall. The following morning was slow, drying and packing gear can get like that when your schedule includes no more than walking an hour and forty minutes along forest tracks and tarmac road back to the car. The whole way back Marit was singing the praises of 'going light'. She'd found her own level. She wants a heavier, warmer sleeping bag but only one 'walking stick'. She likes the pretty Granite Gear stuff sacks but not getting her socks covered in twigs and thorns. She wished there was a decent dehydrated red wine but loved the freezer-bag cooking.
I still have a few kit issues to work over before my trip to Sweden but on the whole this shakedown was excellent preparation. The Mountain Laurel Designs DuoMid worked well, it's yellow simplicity brings a smile to my face whenever I saw it. The GoLite Ultra quilt was a revelation, not sure I could go back to trussing myself myself up in a bag again until the depths of winter. The GoLite Peak was comfortably invisible, stripped down now to a fighting weight of 527g but not without it's shortcomings. I'll post a final gear list for the gear heads in the next week or so. Just waiting on a stove from Bob & Rose.
The stable weather helped with the relative ease of this weekend, something we can't rely on with on a trip with a fixed time schedule but I'm feeling good. Nervous too, but it's a good nervous, you know?