Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Adventures in dog owning, volume 2

This year like last year, Audun and I watched our friends’ dog, Presta, while our friends were on vacation. This time though, dog watching was tinged with sadness. My parents dog, Sebastian aka Ralph, was recently put to sleep. Ralph was the dog I grew up with, and it’s really sad to know that he is gone. The best way to commemorate him, though, is to do with another dog what we always used to do with him: go on grand adventures together.

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Ralph and I on Runde island, ca 2008.

So Friday afternoon, Presta, Audun and I set off to the Rondane mountains. We pedalled the dirt road into Rondvassbu on full suspension mountain bikes that sagged under the weight of the camping gear on our backs.

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Audun and Presta biking the road the Rondvassbu

My ambitious plan for the weekend was to attempt the ‘Rondane 2k Marathon’, which is all the 10 peaks in Rondane over 2000 meters. This loop is approximately a marathon in distance, but with well over 4000 meters of climbing, including lots of time off trail on loose rocks and in technical terrain, is not your typical marathon. I’ve wanted to attempt this for a while, and it seemed like a good training weekend for the OCC, which was coming up in 6 weeks (even less now!). With all the vertical, I see the OCC as more of a race in power-hiking, and so I figure it was time to hone my skills.

The alarm rang at 5:30 the next morning, and we were off by 6:15. Presta had spent part of the night snuggling in our joint sleeping bag and was confused at the early wake-up at first, but became enthusiast when she realized we were going hiking.

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Presta and I are ready to go at early o’clock with Veslesmeden in the background. Except you can’t see the mountain at all.

Unfortunately, a thick layer of clouds blanketed all the surrounding mountaintops as we powerhiked up the trail towards the first peak, Veslesmeden. I hoped that the clouds would clear, but instead it started to rain. I shrugged it off, not that easily deterred, and still willing to keep going. After Veslesmeden comes a technical off-trail ridge traverse though, so I was hoping it would clear by the time we reached the top.

Soon it was raining hard enough that I had all my rain gear and gloves on. As we climbed higher on the mountain, the temperature dropped and the rain turned to snow.

“This is so not what I had in mind!” I thought, finally allowing myself to get frustrated about the conditions. The weather forecast, after all, had predicted some rain during the night which was supposed to clear off into a sunny day. Clearly the weather forecasters' definition of day is a little different than mine.

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Cold conditions on the way up Veslesmeden. Yes, this is Norway in mid-July.

As we climbed higher, the conditions were growing more exposed and I could see that Presta was getting cold. I wanted to push to to the top of Veslesmeden, the first peak, a least, but it soon became clear that none of us were really equipped to be out in these conditions all day. We bailed, and headed back down to the tent to warm-up and regroup. On the way down, we met a couple of groups on the way to the summit as well as two guys who said they were attempting the Rondane 2k marathon as well. I wonder how their attempt went; maybe they know the route better than me and were more confident in their off-trail route finding abilities in the fog. {Strava data here}

Back at the tent, poor cold Presta became overjoyed at the discovery of all the dry, warm things inside and proceeded to rub herself on all of them. I wrapped her in my sweater and we all crawled in our sleeping bags for a nice morning nap.

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A refreshing morning nap in the tent.

A few hours later, we awoke to the absence of rain pitter-pattering on the tent. I stuck my head outside; it had cleared off some, although the tops of the peaks were still shrouded in fog. Oh well, if I wasn’t going to do the Rondane 2k Marathon I was at least going to attempt a couple more peaks in the region and get some quality OCC training.

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It tried to clear off as we headed up Storronden.

We repacked our stuff and set off towards Storronden, powering passed groups of hikers going at regular speed. We ascended up into the fog again, but at least is wasn’t raining. It took us 1:30 to reach to the top, where there was a suprising lack of wind. 

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On top of Storronden in the fog

After a quick lunch, we carefully descended the pile of slippery rocks that seems to make up most Norwegian mountains. Once below the clouds, the weather was actually quite nice, with some patches of sun. We reached a fork in the trail: one fork lead down the hill, back to the warm tent; the other, back up to another of the 2000 meter peaks, Vinjeronden. I contemplated for a while. I was fairly tired, and didn’t really feel like going for another peak. On the other hand, if this weekend was about OCC training, then it was time to reread rule #5 and go get another top.

Audun and Presta went back to the tent. I ate some peanut butter cups and continued upwards. After some relatively easy terrain through a valley, the trail up Vinjeronden became very steep, so that powerhiking quickly turned into clambering up the wet rock. I had every kind of weather on the way to the top: sun, fog, rain, hail. I think I stopped three times to take on and off my rain gear. In my tired state, I noticed my mood and state of physical being swinging with the weather. In a detached sort of way, I found this rather amusing. 

“Oh look here comes more rain,” I though merrily, “I’m about to feel really crappy again.” I made it up Vinjeronden, and stopped to eat some sour dinosaur candy (I’m clearly on a superfood diet!) before gingerly making my way down to the pile of rock from whence I had come. The sun came out on top of the mountain, as if the mountains were subtly giving me the middle finger. 

“Next time,” I told myself. Next time. {Strava data here}

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Vinjeronden cleared off as I headed down the mountain. I felt like shaking my fist at it.

The next day I had hoped to be up for a mountain bike ride, but it was raining and my quads were completely destroyed from 2400 vertical on wet rock the day before. So we drove back to Oslo to relax.

My sister Zoe flew in on Sunday night, and later that week we received the most enthused visitors in the universe: the Rand sisters Annavitte and Karin, of JMT fame.

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Annavitte and Karin display maximum enthusiasm at 6 am at Gardermoen Airport.

They spent the next couple days sightseeing in Oslo, here pictured on the Opera house roof with popsicles:

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Zoe, Karin and Annavitte on the Opera house roof in Oslo.

Oslo brought out its best weather for us, and we had a lovely evening grilling and slacklining at ‘Paradise bay’ along the fjord. One of the cool things about getting visitors is it shakes up my regular routine. I almost never go downtown in Oslo for example, but it’s quite a nice city actually.

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Sun-bathing at Paradise bay.

Soon enough it was time to head for the mountains, the real reason Annavitte and Karin had flown all the way to Norway. Leaving Audun at home, Zoe, Annavitte, Karin, Presta and I drove to Jotunheimen to conquer Norway’s highest mountain, Galdhøpiggen.

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Maximum enthusiasm below Galdhøpiggen.

It was a bright sunny day as the five of us set out up the big hill. There were, predictably, lots of people headed up as well. There’s something about ‘the highest’ of anything that attracts a crowd.

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Annavitte surveys the scene on the way up Galdhøpiggen. 

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Embracing the beautiful views

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Climbing through the summer snow.

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Presta digs the view of Styggebrean glacier during our lunch break.

It started to get cloudier as we approached the summit, and by the time we were on top of Norway, we could see a storm headed our way. We stopped to snap a few summit photos and pull on rain gear before heading down.

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Selfie with Presta on top of Galdhøpiggen. Note the ominous grey clouds headed our way.

The storm wasn’t nearly as bad as it had looked heading towards us. Once the the rain passed, the sun came out again and we merrily slide down patches of snow on the seat of our rain pants. Presta, who was attached to me at the waist, particularly enjoyed running ahead of me, almost pulling me down the hill like some kind of tiny reindeer.

The next morning, there wasn’t cloud in the sight. Although Presta’s paws had looked a little raw from the long hike the day before, she seemed energetic enough and so I decided to hike a little ways towards Glitterheim hut with the girls before heading back to Oslo. 

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Packing up the camp in the morning sun.

The mellow hike through the valley afforded fabulous views of Galdhøpiggen and Styggebrean glacier.

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Zoe crossing a boulder-strewn river. Yes, this is basically what the trails are like in the high mountains in Norway. Note the lack of trail.

Around lunch time, I spotted turquoise lake glimmering a little ways off trail. It reminded me so much of the lakes in the high Sierras on the JMT that it felt like destiny. We had to go swimming there.

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High Sierras or Jotunheimen, Norway? Hard to tell!

So we did. It was the perfect closing of our JMT reunion weekend. I headed back to my car for the long drive home, thoroughly satisfied with the weekend, while the girls continued on on their adventure.

- The Wild Bazilchuk 

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