Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Very Merry Norwegian Christmas

December has been a long, dark month with no skiing and lots of school work (I graduate this spring - hurrah!). Now I'm finally on Christmas vacation, but unfortunately for my desperate soul the snow conditions are dismal.

We spent last weekend visiting Audun's grandmother. She lives in a farmhouse on a steep hillside in Norddal, Sunnmøre. The place is everything you've ever imagined a Norwegian farmhouse to be - steep mountains in every direction falling straight down to the fjord. There wasn't enough snow to seriously consider skiing, so we went hiking instead. After all, beggers can't be choosers. On Sunday, Audun, his father and I headed up to Rellingsætra, a small seter (traditional Norwegian summer farm) further up the steep hillside.

An old tractor road snaked up through the twisted, rocky forest. Parts of it had been destroyed by falling rocks or mudslides. On our left side, the hill dropped steeply to the valley bottom. There was more snow than we thought, drifted in between the trees.

Winter hiking (Image: Odd Arild Bugge)
On the way up, we found a tree house on the side of the tractor road, and of course had to test it out. The platform was deemed stable, the ladder less so.

In the tree house. Note the broken ladder! (Image: Odd Arild Bugge)
Up towards Rellingsætra the snow was knee deep. A thin crust on top alternately broke and held for each step, making the going slow. At the seter we stopped to drink coffee and eat Snickers. It was cloudy and snowing, and we could just barely see the flank of Torvløysa, the largest mountain in the region, through the fog. 

Coffee at Rellingsætra (Image: Odd Arild Bugge)

We're celebrating Christmas a bit further north, in Tingvoll, where the ground is also mostly bare. Yesterday Audun and I hiked up Kirkeberget, a loaf of a mountain that towers over the village. We met ankle-deep snow on the way up, but still not really enough for skiing. Couldn't complain about the view, though!

Posing in a winter wonderland

The days are dark now, and the sun that hit our faces on the way up felt like a Christmas gift.
Here comes the sun!
Merry Christmas to everyone waiting for the snow, and everyone skiing on it!

- The Wild Bazilchuk

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Joy in the dark and cold

It's the in-between season in Norway to its fullest extent. Cold and dark, but still no sign of snow. In past years I've embraced rock climbing as the sport of choice in the in-between season, but this year I've only been running. In December, a time when my head is filled with exams, and, this year, work on my master's thesis, this is what I've got.

In fact, I don't think I've only run since I started mountain biking three years ago. On Sunday I had my longest run since Pic St Michel. I started at Sognsvann, a lake on the last stop of one of the metro lines here in Oslo. The whole area was crowded with Norwegian hikers out for some fresh air. The Norwegian concept of 'Søndagstur', which literally means Sunday hike, is an institution, and really reflects one of the things I find beautiful in Norwegian culture. It's Sunday, people, let's go be outside!

Obligatory trail selfie

I left the crowds walking along the dirt road around Sognsvann in favour of a small, rootier trail. I joined them againbriefly again at Ullevålseter, a cabin/cafe a few km into the forest where they serve refreshments. After purchasing a delicious cinnamon bun, I ran away again. North. North. Away.

Snow dusted trail and icicles along the trail
The trail lead me across the half frozen landscape, up hills, steeply down, winding and twisting, all the way to the dam at Bjørnholt.

Frozen over bog
Then I turned around and ran the easy dirt road all the way out to have some easier kilometers. By the time I was back, it was almost dark and my cell phone battery was dead. When I arrived at home a half an hour after that, I found a genuinely worried boyfriend, puzzled as to how I could stay out for so long and not answer my calls. Oops. At least I used all the available light.

- The Wild Bazilchuk