Saturday, 10 July 2010

Back to the Front - planning a revisit to Hardangervidda

With the collapse of my plans to hike the entire Nordkalloten trail this summer due to reasons beyond my control it was time to figure out where to go and spend some quality time in the mountains. I still have plans to revisit the Rondane and make a foray into the Jotunheim but it was my memories of the Hardangervidda that has lured me into planning a week long trip across this beautiful mountain plateau. I will start at Finse train station and follow several DNT trails in what is basically a due south heading, running through the middle of the national park, to the east of my trip last summer, before swinging west at the end towards Odda and transport connections back to Bergen. I will pass glaciers, walk between towering peaks and along lonely rivers.

(photo courtesy of Fjäderlätt)

Averaging just over 1100m I am slightly nervous but excited about using my Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn tarp and Katabatic Gear Bristlecone bivy as my shelter for this trip. I am lucky in that I have a very flexible schedule and will select a good weather window to mitigate my own concerns about the storm worthiness of such a minimalist shelter but my Laser Comp was almost 'too much' last year and the SpinnTwinn offers plenty of coverage should I endure significant precipitation. 'Storm worthiness' will be down to my pitching abilities and site selection. Protection from bugs will be more of a concern and I'll employ the Bristlecone's bug netting, an MLD Head Net, weapons grade DEET and judicious campsite selection in an attempt to thwart the over-attention of the little blood suckers.

I will also be taking the brilliant Four Dog Bushcooker LT1 stove. Now I know what you're thinking, isn't the Hardangervidda a 'treeless' mountain plateau? Well, yes, but there is still plenty of fuel available in the form of dwarf birch and berry stalks. Every night on my trip last year I was able to quickly gather enough 'wood' for a fire which I never actually got around to lighting due to the high temperatures and relentless daylight. I'll be packing a few Esbit tabs as back up in case dry fuel is scarce but I'm interested to see if this is a viable way of boiling water in this environment.

All my other gear will be pretty standard UL fare. The minimal footwear system, a clothing ensemble with precious few redundancies and a wash/hygiene kit that is 'bare bones' to say the least. It will be challenging but I have learned a lot since last summer and will mitigate many risks through careful planning and the luxury of that loose schedule. If it all goes 'tits up' there are always the DNT huts that stud the area where I can seek shelter. The hardest job is collating the 7 days of provisions and trying to cram them all into my Gossamer Gear Gorilla. Then it will be a case of picking a travel date, getting myself to the train station and returning to the wonderful Hanrdangervidda for more adventure. Revisiting the stunning flora and fauna. Going back to the Front.


Unknown said...

Sounds very exciting!

Have you used the Bristlecone bivy before? I'm looking for a new one as I was unhappy with my TiGoat Ptarmigan. Is there plenty of room in it for a air mattress and quilt?

Unknown said...

Interesting... Tarps and bivys may not win the weight game for mych longer. I totalled up your tar and bivy and it totalled up at 513 grams. Terra Nova Laser Ultra 1 comes in around 500 gram! And that's for a tent with the feeling of security that gives. Pretty cool eh?

Unknown said...

Oh, also check Tarptent's Sublite at 525 grams too!

Joe Newton said...

Mark - The Bristlecone is brand new and hasn't been tested outdoors yet. I have however tried it indoors and it copes easily with a NeoAir and a 3-season quilt.

Tor - I chose tarps and bivies for more reasons than just weight. Modularity and flexibility are two reasons. The Terra Nova Ultra won't weigh 500g once you pack it with real pegs (the Terra Nova 1 and 2 gram pegs are a joke and need to be upgraded before you take it outdoors) and while I just about fit in my Terra Nova Laser Comp it isn't the most spacious of places to spend time.

The Tarptent Sublite is a great, very light shelter but it's Tyvek construction isn't waterproof enough in sustained rain, something I could easily have to endure on the Hardanger, or anywhere on the west coast of Norway for that matter.

Neither of the shelters you mentioned will sleep two people either, something the SpinnTwinn will do easily. Flexibility. Having shelters that will sleep two reduces the number of shelters I need to own.

Lastly, the SpinnTwinn will allow me to commune with nature more. Nothing beats waking up in the morning and looking at the wildlife without scaring it away with noisy zips!

Martin Rye said...

Sounds a fantastic walk. That tarp if you find good spots in bad weather hopefully will do you fine. The new Ultra tent has a 20cm porch. What good is that? Saying that Joe the DuoMid has a big door to leave open and close in bad weather. Only down side for me is the hight can catch the wind in the open. I expect you will be fine. Have a fantastic walk Joe and enjoy the hills.

Gustav Boström said...

Glad to see you are going into battle with your new flamethrower! I hope you will have some bad weather so that the concept can be properly tested ; )
Will you be cooking under your tarp? Remember to bring enough birch bark.

kate said...

very exciting. are you going solo? a week on your own- no luxury of music/podcast? will you be carrying all food for the trip?

Nielsen Brown said...

Joe this sounds like a great trip and maybe one for me for the future. I look forward to reading your report and hearing your comments on gear etc. Have a great one.

Joe Newton said...

Martin - thank you. The idea of taking the tarp is to test some personal boundaries. You're right, the DuoMid is a more suitable shelter but I want to see if I can do it under the tarp. The DNT huts are my safety net!

The Ultra tent seems to be another technical exercise by Terra Nova ("I got some of that cuben fibre! Let's see if we can make a tent under 500g!") when their efforts would have been better spent refining and improving the current Laser tents. The crap stakes and ventilation are two areas they could have looked at for a start.

Gustav - you want it to rain on me?! I had enough of that in Sweden! ;-) Not sure about cooking under the tarp, maybe with a high pitch but if the weather is benign enough to allow a high pitch then I'd probably be cooking outside anyway. I'll be pocket drying birch bark the whole way!

Kate - yep, solo. Just me and my thoughts (that's a scary though in itself). I listen to music all the time in the city, I'm looking forward to getting away from that and listening to the timeless sounds of the mountains (even if that is rain ceaselessly drumming on the tarp...)

Roger - thank you. Trip report will follow.

kate said...

so, no tunes, just the voices in your head! just followed that link to the new terra nova tent, very interesting. but i agree, even if it's lighter, it doesn't have the same atmosphere/feel of a bivvy. but we do sleep 2 in the laser photon on mountain marathons. where there's a will there's away ;)
...still a bit confused about your food for the trip, are you 'collecting' as you go or taking it all from the start? i'd be interested to see what you do eat on a trip like this.

...sorry for the ramble

Joe Newton said...

Kate - it is possible to sleep two people in some '1 person' shelters but you have to be very good friends or desperate! ;-)

I'll be taking all my own food. As calorie dense as I can but hopefully still tasty. Breakfasts will be nut and fruit boosted oats. Dinners will be couscous and pasta based freezer bag affairs with plenty of pine nuts, cheese powders, shelf stable sausage and a splash of olive oil. Through the day I'll be 'grazing' on nuts, dried fruit, chocolate bars, 'muesli' bars, Ritz crackers and as much peanut butter based candy as I can find!

Unknown said...

Hi Joe,

There was no intention to criticise your choice of tarp/bivy over tent.
I agree that tarps can be very good shelters, however I personally feel that after a full day outside I think it's nice to be able to crawl into my own personal space. I think that on the treeless mountains, when the rain is coming sideways a tent gives that extra bit of weather protection.

I can understand that it's a bit of a price issue as well. Forking out €3-700 time and again isn't something anyone wants to do, however if you can afford it it gives you the flexibility to have something that is tailored to the situation.

I'm not sure that I agree with your that TN shouldn't have made this tent though. I think pushing the limit is part of the brief for any company that wants to stay relevant. Though it's of course true that they should not forget about issues that need to be sorted out in their rush to do exiting new stuff. :)

Joe Newton said...

Tor - I didn't take it as criticism, just a difference of opinion!

No doubt a double wall tent offers more protection, especially during bad weather but one of the reasons I'm doing this trip with a tarp/bivy combo is to push my own boundaries. I'll be testing my skills and techniques instead of relying on technology.

My desire to reduce the number of shelters I own is not driven purely by financial reasons but also by my quest to own less 'stuff'. Having specific shelters for specific situations can lead to too many choices! My shelters now all fit in one drawer and deciding which one to use takes seconds!

I didn't say that TN shouldn't have built the Ultra just that maybe they should also spend some time and effort perfecting the Comps which will probably be bigger sellers for them.

Good discussion! :-)

Anonymous said...


Sounds like a great trip! I totally hear (har...) where you're coming from on the music thing. One of the reasons I'm really looking forward to being for so long is seeing what life is like without the soundtrack. The solitude and lack of music makes am me a more productive thinker anyway, but I really have to force myself away from music consumption (as oppossed to real listening).

I am going to print out some lyrics from songs that I love btu haven't memorized, so I can sing around the wood-burning stove. At least I'll be entertained, and encourage anyone near to practice stealth camping!

I don't have it in front of me,(I'll post it next week on the blog most likely), but I found a killer peanut butter-honey-protein powder-oats-wheat germ-dried fruit-nuts bar recipe that is incredibly my house. So imagine how it will aon the trail! It's a bit melty but so calorie-dense-good. I'll let you know if any other power bar recipes pan out.

Please post more about food if you have any good insights, that's my last big projects before I head out and I find to be less-covered in UL blogs.

Unknown said...

Cannot believe I missed this before we went gallivanting around Europe. Great trip, Joe. I;m the reverse with music actually - given I'll be taking my iPhone with me on any given trip, I often listen to film scores whilst walking. Perennial favourites are the LotR film tracks, the new Batman films, the Last Samurai and for a more angry shove in the ear, the Bourne films.

Very much looking forward to the photos. As for the TN - durability is what immediately springs to my mind. The lighter they get, the more diaphanous and ethereal the material. The bivy, being light because of size more than anything else, does not have that problem, nor does that tarp as you're not lying on it.

Joe Newton said...

Hamilton - eating calorie rich food is one of the best reasons to go on long hikes! We all know about the hiker's obsession with food after just a few hours of a hike starting!

Maz - that's ok, summer is a busy period for all of us going on planned trips.

One thing I didn't realise about the TN Ultra is that the floor is cuben fibre too. Hmmmm. And the construction is stitched. It will VERY interesting to see how those two design elements cope with the real world.