söndag 8 november 2009

Everyday exercise with kids

I think I've found a way to exercise. Cycling with two kids in the trailer sure was exhausting. The kids liked it too.
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lördag 7 november 2009

Sarek on the run in a week - Route planning

In a previous post I outlined an idea for hiking fast and light in order to see the Rapa valley in Sarek national park in under a week. It is still very much an open question if I will find the time for such a trip the nearest years, but planning for it is a pleasure in itself. If I can inspire anyone to do a reconnaissance trip before me that would also be great. One of the most important aspects of the trip is the route planning. For this purpose I have put up a google map and will now discuss some of the choices.

Start point
There are basically two starting points for getting into Sarek and the Rapa valley by public transport: Saltoloukta and Kvikkjokk. I'm leaning towards Saltoloukta as the trail from Saltoloukta to Sitojaure is mostly flat and the scenery is nice, whereas the trail from Kvikkjokk to the Pårte-hut is mostly in the forest.

The midpoint goal
My goal is to see "Rapaselet" (A "Sel" is a stretch of calm water between streams.) and the Rapa-delta. These places are reputed to be among the most beautiful places in Sweden (Even in the world, many would argue.).

The Rapa-delta near Aktse (Source: Creative Commons, M, kluber fotografie)

The Rapa-sel (Source: Creative Commons, photographer unknown.)

The best point for views of the delta is most probably the Skierffe-cliff. From where to view the Rapa-sel is a more difficult question, it depends a bit on how far one can go, but a first stop could be Hill 1112. If one has a bit more time the best place to camp according to the mountain-god, Claes Grundsten, is above the "reindeer-herder hut" on Vassjalåpptå.

Walking plan
If one wants to use a really ultralight shelter, which I want, campsite selection becomes more important. It should not be too exposed to the wind. A site among in the birch-forest is preferable if the weather is windy. This can be difficult to arrange for this trip though.

Day 1: Saltoloukta - Sitojaure. Good camping can be found next to the hut. 20km from Saltoloukta is probably far enough for the first evening, even when runnning. Most probably it will be too late to get across Sitojaure this day.

Day 2: Sitojaure -(By boat) -  Svine - Skierffe - Vassjalåpptå. This will be one hell of a day. The distance will probably be around 24km and this mostly bushwacking in unknown terrain. From my personal experience I often do not tend to walk faster than 2km/h in such circumstances. This translates into 12 hours of walking. Running will most likely be difficult on this stretch. During summer it doesn't really get that dark though, so you can walk well into the night.

Day 3: Vassjalåpptå - Skierffe. 12km. A cool day for taking in the sights.

Day 4: Skierffe - Svine - Saltoloukta. A 31km day, but this time on well-beaten paths.

Day 5. Reserved for unexpected (mis)happenings.

Day 6 Travel home.

An alternative on day 2 is to arrange for the boat to drop you off approximately 3km east of Rinim, instead of Svine (Thanks again to Claes Grundsten for this personal tip). This will reduce the distance to around 12km, but the climb up from Sitojaure to Vassjavagge will be steep. At it's steepest it will be about 500m in a km. It would be nice to hear if anyone has any more experience of this area. This choice will also allow for taking a different route on the way back to Svine.

Calle enjoying the fantastic scenery during the boat-trip back from Rinim to the Sitojaure hut. In the background you see Namadis which is hiding the entrance to Basstavagge where we came from.

måndag 2 november 2009

Sarek on the run in a week - A crazy idea?

Five years ago I hiked in Sarek, Lapland. It was a fantatastic experience. I would love to go there again, but it is very difficult for me to get away for a longer period and it takes quite a lot of time (Approximately 2 days) just to get into the national park. After having switched to lightweight equipment I have however regained the hope of getting there again. A crazy idea was born: I should be able to hike so fast that I could reach the Rapa-valley and get back in under a week. I MUST see the Rapa-valley before I die.

Kungsleden with Lulep Gierkau in the background. Still at least a day from Sarek national park. The trail is like a highway and running should not be a problem at least to Sitojaure.

Fording a stream near Lietjitjaure. Ähpar and Pierikpakte in the background. Fording can be very dangerous in Sarek.

Several questions need to be answered for such a an endeavour to be succesful:

  1. Route planning - What is the optimal route that will maximize interesting hiking and provide for good running?
  2. Equipment - How heavy a pack can be tolerated when you are running? What kind of pack? What kind of shelter?
  3. Safety - How light can you go without sacrificing safety? Sarek is a wilderness area and there are no trails. If you fall, noone will hear you scream.
  4. Fitness - I almost never find time for exercise. What do I need to cope with to feel safe before going?
  5. Season - What is the best season for such a fast and light hike?
  6. Travel planning  - How do you get to Sarek in the cheapest and fastest way?
  7. Resupply - How much food should I carry?
Is this a good idea at all? Will I be able to find anyone to come with me on such an innovative trip? Should I plan to do something easier instead with the time I have? I will follow this post with some thoughts on the different topics soon. Any comments and hints are welcome.

onsdag 7 oktober 2009

Bushbuddy cooking above Vålådalen

My trip to Vålådalen was the first trip where I relied solely on the Bushbuddy for all cooking, The only backup I had were a few Esbit tablets. In total I cooked 7 meals (I boiled water for soup and rehydration of freeze dried food and also cooked oatmeal porridge in the morning.). Out of these meals, 2 were prepared above the treeline with fuel from the spot. In no case did I have any problem in finding fuel. Most of the time sufficient fuel was gathered in the matter of minutes as I went along. I never needed to use the Esbits, but I did use quite a lot of the birch bark I had taken with me as firestarter. The weather conditions where very good during the trip, but it had been raining a lot the days before I arrived. I have managed to acheive a boil in much more difficult conditions than these, so weather-wise I had no big challenges.
Above the treeline experiences

Difficult to find fuel at 1200m altitude? - Not at all!
This trip confirmed my experience that it is quite possible to find good fuel above the treeline. The key here is that the Bushbuddy really requires so litte of it. Many small twigs are also a lot better and more efficient than big branches. The nature of the ground also helps a lot since water is drained away very quickly here.

Look closer at the ground - Lots of good dead crowberry roots here. Such roots are available almost everywhere above the treeline and they burn very well. So well in fact that birch bark is not always necessary as a firestarter.

If fuel wasn't a problem, the wind sometimes was. It really helps a lot to find a spot that is sheltered from the wind. A windscreen helps, but it is no substitute. Fuel consumption and cooking time increases dramatically if the flame is disturbed. A few extra minutes for site selection is worth it.

Excellent site on the leeside of a big rock

The flame is undisturbed and hot blueberry soup is soon forthcoming

tisdag 22 september 2009

3 days solo hiking in Vålådalen

I just got back from 3 days hiking in Vålådalen, Jämtland, Sweden. I hesitated a lot before going, but finally bought a train ticket and went on my own. It was my first solo trip. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made. It was a fantastic trip. Here is a link to a photo album from the trip:
Picase photo album from Vålådalen
I will write more on my experiences soon. It was an interesting trip in many respects. It was my first solo trip. I also saw the beautiful autumn colours the first time and I used the Bushbuddy for cooking all meals.

Lillådörren seen from Saalvantjahke

The lake at Lunndörrsstugan in the evening sun

måndag 7 september 2009

Little hiking - a lot of gear

When I was younger I thought that people with a lot of shiny new
gear, which they always talked about, were in fact the ones that
spent the least time outdoors. In many respects I still find this
to be true, but, I have become more humble since I have myself
fallen into the gear trap. Andy Howell put it well when he said
that buying and writing about gear is a substitute for not
getting out in the hills. I have two small children, aged 4 and
2, and frankly this makes it a lot more challenging to get time
off for hiking. Especially since my other major outdoor interest,
hunting, can take up a lot of time. In Sweden we have a "parental
insurance system" that makes it beneficial for parents to share
responsibility for the children when they are small and I have up
to now been on parental leave for more than a year in total. This
wonderful, but somewhat taxing experience makes me hesitant when
it comes to leaving my spouse to take care of the children
herself for a longer period of time. The first time I was on
parental leave with my two boys I lost 5kg of weight in just a
few weeks. This actually pushed me below the official limit for
malnutrition (Don't worry, I recovered quickly).

Filip (Aged 1,5) and daddy trying to make bannock bread for the first time. A good gear substitute. Don't bake the bread on the flames, wait for the embers!

With this excuse out of the way, I now feel free to unleash my
stream of thoughts on my newly found lightweight gear addiction.
This first installment will just give you a brief introduction of
my kit. A teaser if you like. It will be followed by more in
depth comments on the rationale behind each gear choice and some
experience reports.

I kind of started out my transition to lightweight gear by buying a new Backpack, a Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus 2007 (Large). I wanted a fairly large pack that was also
sufficiently robust for occasional hiking in the forest (Although
many would probably want a tougher pack for this, if it was the
main activity.). The pack has not let me down and I'm very
pleased with the customer service at Gossamer Gear.
I also have a small daypack, the Marmot Kompressor. I use this backpack
almost everyday when going to work. It is a very good backpack
for daytrips. It is cheap too and available in many stores.

It is in this area that my gear addiction really shows. I have too many tents. I will have to sell one soon, but I cannot decide on which.

Tarptent Cloudburst
This was my first lightweight tent. It is very light and has good wind stability. It is also quite large for a two man tent. It has worked quite well, but condensation is definitely an issue if there is little wind.

Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo


I would probably have bought the Lunar Duo, if it had existed when I bought my Cloudburst. This as a downright excellent tent for summer use. I've never slept more comfortably than in this tent. It has a high profile however, and you should be careful with your site selection in high winds.

Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape
This is one of my favourite pieces of gear. I didn't buy it primarily as a tent for the night, but mostly for use as a shelter during hunting trips. It's great for that.

Bergans Kompakt Light 3
I got a good price through an acquaintance at Bergans and couldn't resist. The tent is not very light (about 3kg for a three-person tent), but it should be very good in cold and wet weather as there is a large vestibule you can sit and eat in. It could probably be used in the winter as well, which somehow motivates the purchase better (Although, to be perfectly honest I've not yet slept in a tent in winter...). I have a plan for transforming this tent into a truly lightweight summer shelter, but more on that later.

That's all for now. More on Sleeping, Cooking and Clothing systems will follow.

måndag 31 augusti 2009

Pushing the limits - Using the Bushbuddy above the treeline

With a little practice using a woodburning stove in the forest should not be a problem in any weather. Above the treeline, in arctic conditions, it is a different matter.
Will you be able to make a fire in this surrounding? - Kåppatjåkka near Abisko

Before going on a trip to Abisko I did some research on this topic. The best resource I have found when it comes to firemaking in the arctic comes from Yngve Ryd. For several years he has interviewed Saami people from Swedish Lapland and documented their knowledge of fire and other topics. This has resulted in many interesting books on particularly sharply defined topics such as snow, predators and in this case fire: "Eld, Flammor och Glöd - Samisk eldkonst". Unfortunately, as far as I know, it is only available in Swedish.
For the Saami, making a fire was a matter of life and death. This is a very interesting book, not only for those interested in making fires, but anyone interested in Saami life in general.
As a complement to this book I also discussed with people on Utsidan.se to tap into their experiences and it turned out I wasn't the first one to use the Bushbuddy in the Scandinavian mountains. Harald Igesund in Norway told me he had used the Bushbuddy on several trips in northern Scandinavia and came with very useful advice. I was ready to give it a try (With my MSR PocketRocket as a backup.)
Experience report from Abisko and Hemavan
My experiences from last summers short trips to Abisko and Hemavan showed that the best fuels above treeline in order was:
1. Arctic Bell Heather
2. Dwarf birch
3. Crowberry
As a fire starter I used birch bark that I had collected previously, however I also once collected some cottongrass and used as tinder. It works well if you have enough of it and it's dry.
Arctic Bell Heather

Fantastic fuel - Burns like petrol (Well, relatively speaking)

This was the best fuel I found. However, I only found far up north near Abisko. It is also recommended as fuel in the arctic in John Wiseman's book on survival.
Dwarf birch
This is a very common plant in the Scandinavian mountains. It is present almost everywhere, except the high alpine areas. Birch branches contain some kind of oil which means they burn pretty well even when moist.

Dwarf birch (Picture taken by Kim Hansen, downloaded from Creative Commons)
Crowberry is even more common than dwarf birch. It doesn't burn as well though.

Black crowberry. take the dry grey branches. Photo by Ante Aikio from Creative Commons.

Other fuels

There are probably a lot of other fuels available. Willow will probably work very well. According to a Saami man in Yngve Ryds book you can even light green willow directly if slice it thinly. Juniper bushes should also be very good. The best bushes are often found next to rocks.

Beyond the limit

If you go really high up there is almost no vegetation at all available. For these circumstances you need to either bring fuel from the valley or perhaps use Esbits. Four small Esbits should be enough to boil 8dl of water. The pot stand on top of the Bushbuddy works quite well as an erzats Esbit stove. A big thanks to Harald Igesund for this valuable tip. In the future I will try to publish some pictures on this setup.

torsdag 27 augusti 2009

The Bushbuddy - Notes on fuel in the forest

Since I'm on parental leave (Or more correctly, completely busy taking care of my children.) it is only fitting that my first real blog post should be dedicated to one of my leisure time interests, lightweight backpacking , and more specifically to my favourite piece of gear: The Bushbuddy woodburning stove.

Warming baby food in Liljansskogen, Stockholm. Even a trip to a park can become a small adventure with the Bushbuddy.

Andy Howell comments on the site that it is the best piece of gear that he has ever bought. I agree with him. I am an incurable firebug and the Bushbuddy allows me to make a fire almost everywhere with litte effort. There is something about making a fire that connects you with ancient man and fills you with inner peace. The idea behind this stove is that you can cook your meals using fuel that you collect in the surroundings, instead of carrying it with you. This can save a lot of weight if you are on a longer trip. You also save money since you don't have to buy fuel. In the long run this alone will pay for the stove. Weight and economical savings is not the main reason I like the Bushbuddy though, it is the pleasure I get from succeeding in making a fire in different surroundings, the joyful hunt for good fuels and the beauty of the double burning flame.
The Bushbuddy at work in the archipelago outside Stockholm

Fuels - my findings so far
The crux of the Bushbuddy is of course that you have to be able to make a fire, and the most important aspect of this is being able to find and prepare good fuel. Most people will find this a nuisance, I find that it is this challenge that makes it so fun to use the Bushbuddy. It takes experience and often some extra time. In wet weather it is of course extra difficult. To start with, a few basic rules can be useful:
  1. Use dry fuel - Obvious perhaps, but even with experience I often fail here if I'm short on time. It usually pays to look longer and find some twigs that are really dry.
  2. Use small size pieces in the beginning - This is always the best for starting a fire. Once the fire gets going you can switch to larger sticks.
Fuels in the taiga
I live in Sweden and mostly use the Bushbuddy in the forest. We have lots of spruce and pine and you can often find birch as well. With these trees around you really can't go wrong.
With spruce in sight a fire can normally be started within a minute or two, regardless of weather. Just take the dead "crispy" small branches that sit next to the stem of tree. They are normally dry even after days of raining. If sufficiently dry they can be lit with a match without tinder. Once this gets going, it normally doesn't take more than a minute, continue with thicker (Less than 1cm wide) dry branches from the spruce. One or two branches is normally enough to boil a liter of water. The disadvantage of Spruce is that the fire can throw sparks. This seems to be less of an issue with small twigs.
These small spruce trees are not very good as fuel, they are more adequate as christmas trees, but the roedeer is nice. An experienced hunter will also notice the antlers of the roebuck behind.
This is more like it. A hare sitting next to enough spruce fuel for a dinner for 10!
Pine is not as good as Spruce to start the fire, but it is better once the flames are strong. Again, collect the thinnest branches on the stem. These are not as well protected from the rain, so tinder is mostly needed. A special case of pinewood is the the so called "Fat pine". This is the king of all wooden fuels. A real pleasure to the senses. This is dry wood with a lot of resin in it. You can often find it in old dry stubs. The wood is slightly darker and has a nice turpentine smell. With a little whittling, you can make a feather stick with so thin "feathers" that it can even be lit with a fire steel. This requires a knife and some skill with the steel though. The dry pine cones are also excellent fuel and can be found a plenty when the weather is sunny.

Filip explores a small pine tree
Birch is a lovely tree. It's bark has had a multitude of uses in the Nordic countries. It was used for roofs, shoes, backpacks, kitchen utensils and many other things. There is even a special word for it in Swedish, "Näver". Selling birch bark on rolls was even a major source of income in Swedish Lapland. It is the best fire starter that I know of. Just be sure to take the bark from dead trees, otherwise you damage the tree and it gets an ugly black mark, if it survives. When I find a good supply of birch bark I always try to stock up so that I'm sure to have some when I'm in a hurry next time. It does not weigh much anyway. Birch bark burns even when a bit wet, but is of course best completely dry. To use with a fire steel you need to rub the surface with a knife to make the sparks catch. Reasonably dry, thin, twigs also burn very well. They contain a lot of resin.
A mountain birch (fjällbjörk) near Abiskojåkkå in Abisko National Park, Swedish Lapland. Do not take bark from this one! It's alive! (It is not allowed to take bark from dead trees either in this national park.)
Leave no trace
Please keep in mind that making a fire and collecting firewood is not allowed in all places. Especially when the weather is dry it is often forbidden to start a fire, even in a Bushbuddy. You should only collect fuel from dead trees, and even this is not always allowed in some national parks. Please, DO NOT peel birch bark from alive trees. There are normally enough dead trees around anyway so you can get some from those.

onsdag 26 augusti 2009

The Bearable Lightness blog

At least two people have proposed that I should have a blog. That must mean that a large part of the world is hungry for my wisdom, so I guess I cannot disappoint them. Who am I then? I'm an engineer located in Stockholm with a keen interest in software, security and outdoors life. If you are interested in Lightweight Backpacking or Software development you will be able to find some of my thoughts here. I am lazy by nature and don't like to carry too much weight around, either symbolically, when it comes to overcomplicated software development or physically when lugging a backpack in the mountains. However, there is a limit to how light you can go in order to be comfortable and secure. This is what I call The Bearable Lightness. This blog will explore some of these limits through discussions on ultralight gear and ultralight secure software development methods.
I initially do not intend to blog regularly, but rather write something when I find that I get feedback from people that indicates that I should publish some of my thoughts.