The dark months
November and December in Norway are darkest months. The days grow far shorter than a typical work day and I struggle to find energy to do more than work and get in my daily workout. There has been little to no snow in Oslo these past months, and that makes everything seem terrible dark. But when I look back at the photos I’ve taken in the last couple months, all I see is the happy, bright moments of this dark time.
The advantage of the dark time is late, long sunrises and sunsets, and ample beautiful, low-angle light.
The sunrise on a cabin trip to Kvitfjell in mid-November.
Being an expatriated American, I still celebrate Thanksgiving, although my traditions are different than the average Americans. Since it’s not a holiday in Norway, my family usual celebrates on a weekend. Since no one but my immediate family is in Norway, we often invite a group of international friends. And this year (like in 2013), we held Thanksgiving at Bårdsgarden, a cabin in the mountains. Although the cabin is cramped for cooking, it is great for getting outside.
Audun crossing the frozen river near Bårdsgarden.
Dad, Audun and I squeezed in a 11 km run over a small pass to the next cabin, Vassendsetra, before Turkey on Saturday. It was -8 C, and the ground was dusted with snow, making for slow going. We considered heading further up into the mountains and making a bigger loop, but is was foggy and windy, and the trail markers were covered in snow. So we made in a out and back. The scenery was not terrible on the way back either.
Spot the runner.
The next day we got in a short hike up to the ridge of Okla peak, where the mountains were spectacularly lit up by the slanted sun.
‘Summit’ yoga at our high point of the day.
My birthday is at the end of November, and this year I turned 25 (or five squared!). I celebrated by making some friends dinner, and building a tower of cupcakes...
…and completing my personal ‘25K for 25 years’ challenge in adverse conditions in Nordmarka. Audun joined me for the first two thirds of our run before taking the bus home; he’s still working his knees up to longer runs. The run was my favorite type: a scenic point-to-point wherein I took the subway out away from my house and ran home. We started the day with the steep climb up Vettakollen.
Me, Audun and Oslo, looking not too shabby in the background.
We then left the views and headed deeper into the forest. The trails were at times extremely icy, but enough of the ground was bare that I was glad I wasn’t using my studded running shoes.
Pretending I’m a penguin, the best way to get across the icy stretches.
After grabbing a birthday cinnamon bun at the cabin/café Ullevålseter, we climbed to Fagervann lake. On the way up, the trail was literally an icy river. It was horrendous, but probably character building.
Trying to avoid getting my feet wet on the way up to Fagervann. I failed, several times.
On the way down from Fagervann, I slipped on a wet rock, banged my right knee and immersed most of my right side in icy water. After that it took a lot not to quit and take the bus home with Audun from the bottom of the descent. But I was determined to complete my 25 kilometers, and so I would. I put in headphones and cranked out the last 10 kilometers, which were mercifully easy, listening to podcasts and enjoying my own company.
In December we’ve head some beautiful sunny days, here from a run at Bygdøy in Oslo...
Swans on the fjord. I’m not making this up.
…and in the forest with Audun. I’m trying to established a running route from home to work through the forest, which I think will end up being around 20 kilometers. So not for every day commutes, but for the occasional longer training runs.
Audun near Røverkollen.
Christmas was not white in Trondheim this year, but we still found a way to use those precious hours of light. Everyone, except Dad who already had some, got microspikes for Christmas, and we had a chance to test them out on the icy hills of Liaåsen on Christmas day. Having what amounts to a miniature crampon on your feet is definitely a pretty sweet way to combat icy conditions.
Dad in a Santa hat on the way up Liaåsen on Christmas day.
After Christmas, Audun and I travelled to his family in Tingvoll. I had high hopes for some quality mountain time, but snow that fell just after Christmas wasn’t enough to giving a base for skiing. We decided to attempt a hike (or ‘winter summit’) the highest local mountain, Smisetnebba. The trail crossed half-frozen bogs in 20 cm in loose snow. It was slow going, but I was hopeful that the ground would grow firmer up high. As soon as we started to clear treeline, however, the wind started to blow really hard. We were making forward progress, but had decided not to bring ski goggles (for some stupid reason). When a layer of ice formed on the inside on my sunglasses so I couldn’t see anything ahead of my in the gusts of wind, we decided to pull the plug. No Smisetnebba today.
Audun in wind, right before turning.
Luckily we bailed in time to hike up Høgfjellet, another, local mountain, where we had intel that the wind was not as strong. We powerhiked up and made it to the summit just as the light was getting spectacular for sunset.
Audun on Høgfjellet, with Tustna in the distance.
I kind of regret forgetting my camera on this outing, but at least our cell phones take OK pictures!
Descending Høgfjellet over Tingvollfjord.
And with that shower of photos and stories, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I’ll see you on the flip side of 2015!
-The Wild Bazilchuk