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Riding the Femundløpet dogsled trail

Got a silly idea earlier this year and rode 200 km on the tail of the Femundløpet dog sled race. Started more or less as the final musher rushed into Røros. Wind drifts, close to gale force winds at times on the second day and then three times foot bath going through the ice. Yup, I sure got to feel the love of the mountains. Waking up to ten centimetres of fresh snow, then pushing, tumbling and stumbling through to meet up with Mikhail Itkin, who rode with me on the second half of the trip. Luckily, things turned to the better and we enjoyed blissful riding in the mountains on our way to our goal in Røros. This was to be Mikhails first winter bikepacking trip, but that didn’t stop him from riding solo almost 500 km along the course of the dog sled race Finnmarksløpet later this year. What a guy.

If you have access to the Norwegian A-magasinet, you can read more about our trip there.

Got to taste the love of the mountains on day two.

Got to taste the love of the mountains on day two.

My Surly Moonlander stuck in a snow drift.

My Surly Moonlander stuck in a snow drift.

Snowed in. Could have been me.

Snowed in. Could have been me.

Drying clothes.

Drying clothes.

Bivvy bag

Took the bivvy bag along to save weight. Slept well down to -24 °C.

Pushing the only few hundred meters with bad riding conditions on the last couple of days of the trip.

Pushing the only few hundred meters with bad riding conditions on the last couple of days of the trip.

Mikhail eating a cake he won in the local grocery shop in Tolga.

Mikhail eating a cake he won in the local grocery shop in Tolga.

On the way to the mountains.

On the way to the mountains.

Getting ready for a nighttime mountain range crossing.

Getting ready for a nighttime mountain range crossing.

My old MSR Whisperlite finally gave in on the last day.

My old MSR Whisperlite finally gave in on the last day.

Happy me climbing the last mountain.

Climbing the last mountain.

Diving in.

Snowriding misfits

There’s a saying that Norwegians are born with skis on their legs. Before you start to wonder about the hip width of Norwegian women, I better tell you that it’s just a saying. A myth. That’s not to say that Norwegians doesn’t take cross country skiing seriously. They do. Like it’s religion. And the worst kind of sacrilege you can commit is, you guessed it, to mess with their ski tracks. With clockwork regularity, each winter, you will find newspaper articles about despairing track preparers or cross country skiers who are on the edge of a breakdown because of people walking in the tracks or dogs relieving themselves on the freshly groomed corduroy. The war continues in the comment section on online articles. It’s not pretty. The last couple of years, a new destructor of ski tracks has revealed itself. A bike monstrosity with huge tires. The fatbike. Stories fuelled by aspiring light headed fatbikers with too much pressure in their tires for the soft, newly prepared ski tracks has overshadowed the usual suspects of pedestrians and dogs in the media.

With that backdrop, I was both excited and worried when I met up with Joe to embark on our close to 150 km ride along Hallindalsløypa’s mountain ski tracks. With four days of riding ahead of us, we hoped for a low level of conflict and a high level of fun.

If our first day of riding was telling, we were in for both: After a few kilometres of blissful riding on hardly packed tracks with the occasional section of snowdrift, we ran into a huge snow groomer. Even though we did our best to smile and wave our hellos to the driver, he looked far from pleased, pointing first at the ski track, then at us, before finishing off his performance with a rather grumpy head shake. The fact that we hardly made a visible dent in the track seemed completely lost on him. We rode on with a feeling of being unwanted misfits.

We didn’t need to worry.

Morning glory.

Morning glory.

Into the mist.

Into the mist.

Pushing it.

Pushing it.

Long day.

Long day.

Frosty morning.

Frosty morning.

Rocket fuel: A cocoa and coffee treat inspired by Joe.

Rocket fuel: A cocoa and coffee treat inspired by Joe.

The steed.

The steed.

Melting snow. Always melting snow.

Melting snow. Always melting snow.

I know. Cliche. But this time with a fatbike in the left hand side of the photo.

I know. Cliche. But this time with a fatbike in the left hand side of the photo.

Barren 1.

Barren 1.

Barren 2.

Barren 2.

Lake riding.

Lake riding.

Pushing into dusk.

Pushing into dusk.

The view fuels our last steps to the top.

The view fuels our last steps to the top.

A faint Aurora borealis greats us on the top of Høgevarde.

A faint Aurora borealis greats us on the top of Høgevarde.

Before sunrise. Time to head home.

Before sunrise. Time to head home.

Now, head over to Joe’s site and read his account of the trip!

Barely legal bikerafting

I tell my daughters to beware of strangers on the internet. They delighted in reminding me of this as I kissed my family goodbye and headed out the door with my fatbike, loaded only with essential gear and that DSLR I never can bring myself to leave behind. They were absolutely right: I had never met Mr. Joe before.

I live in a slightly posh area of town in a not so posh house. I stubbornly refuse to conform, and I haven’t yet convinced myself that I need a drivers licence. In this part of Norway, people without one have either been speeding or drink-driving. It makes for fun conversations.

Read the full story on Sidetracked.com and head over to Joe’s blog Thunder In he Night to read his account of the trip.

Rocky.

Packrafting.

2014.08.06–09 Over Hardangervidda med sykkel og packraft0676b

A microadventure with an aftertaste

I was supposed to have been bikepacking last weekend. Or was it the weekend before that? It was at certainly not the weekend three weeks ago, because that weekend I had planned another trip. Which didn’t materialise either. With work piling up, the last few weeks are all a hazy mess. I need this ride. But what I can remember, though, is that whichever weekend it was, I ended up de-packing and putting all the gear in a small pile in the hall. On hold. My better half is the kind of person who doesn’t like piles in the hall. Well, to be honest, I don’t really like piles in the hall myself, but this was my pile, and that’s of course a rather different story.

So here I am, zooming in and out of cupboards and chests of drawers. My detective work eventually bear fruit, and finally, I roll into the fading daylight with a bike packed for a little trip in my local forest. I have anticipated this for a long time: Going on an overnight trip with a bicycle in winter. Fair enough, it is more or less spring, but that won’t overshadow the fact that there is an ever so small microadventure about to unfold.

Reaching the parking lot at the start of the ski track, I release a little air from the tires and coast optimistic onto the track. Not even todays warm weather has managed to destroy the effect of the last few nights of frost and the snow is more or less cooperative.

My level of ambition diminishes in line with the sinking sun. It gets dark. It gets cold. The ski trail stops at the old, tiny farm. In front of me, there is now only virgin, dirty spring snow without, or at least almost without, visible traces of human use. Either way, it is a long time since anyone has been here (in truth it was my family who were here last, skiing in the winter holiday half an eternity ago). Riding on now is almost like moving into uncharted territory, into the white spots on the map. It is more than satisfying to stop on the other side of the bog, find a small island of reindeer lichen amid the dwindling sea of snow. Roll out sleeping mats and sleeping bags, crawl into the cocoon. Greet the moon, almost spherical tonight. Unpack the little alcohol stove, put water in the pan, retrieve the bag with the dinner. Dinner? Dinner!?

Quality time in the backwoods.

Quality time in the backwoods.

I decide to not let the fact that I forgot the dinner at home put a damper on the mood, thinking that my spare lunch consisting of couscous and a tiny bit of reindeer sausage will do.

Using the lid for my alcohol stove box as a spoon.

Using the lid for my alcohol stove box as a spoon.

I do think I take it quite nicely. No profanity or yelling of infamous words spreads between the scattered pines or beyond the marsh when I discover that even the spoon is at home. Instead I smile a little at myself, inventive Mikkel, smart Mikkel: Hey, I’ll just improvise, I think to myself, and soon after discover the plastic lid from the tiny box I store the homemade beer can alcohol stove in. Bingo! I dig out a huge scoop of couscous with the lid.

Shortly after, I feel the nauseating taste of concentrated, denatured alcohol spreading in my mouth.

Hello spring.

Hello spring.

Going back home.

Going back home. 

Just a door.

Just a door.

The old farm.

The old farm.

My Surly Pugsley loaded for a quick trip in the backwoods.

My Surly Pugsley loaded for a quick trip in the backwoods.

A fat summit attempt

We have been waiting for it for a long time. Snow crust. And when it finally arrives, we are stuck with everyday life, stuck until the sun starts melting it away and all seems lost. Or is it? A forecast promising a few cold nights fuels our optimism. A few days after, we’re on our way, Håkon and I, on a winter summit attempt. By bike.

It’s late before we manage to get above the tree line and to the foot of the mountain. The snow is not very cooperative, to say the least. The crust gives way more or less nonstop and we have to push our bikes. All. The. Time.

Worn out after riding from the springlike conditions down in town and up to the receding winter landscape 750 meters higher up, the last kilometers on rotten snow fills us with doubt regarding whether it is possible to scale the mountain or not. The thought of another 450 meters of vertical climbing to the summit stops us in our tracks. Instead, we settle for camp, hoping to wake up to a fresh crust in the morning.

A fat summit attempt1
A fat summit attempt2

And indeed, early morning does reveal a thin snow crust. The summit attempt is on. Barely. At this point, the percentage that we actually have been riding our bikes in the mountain range is probably less than three percent. No wonder Håkon sports a broad smile when we finally can ride our fatbikes. But it is to no avail. The crust is melting in front of our eyes.

It’s a shame to turn around, but it would be the pinnacle of stupidity to continue. At least, that’s what we thought.

A fat summit attempt4
A fat summit attempt3

Even if we have to walk most of the way down the mountain, we manage to increase the percentage distance cycled to at least 5 percent. Oh, joy.

We decide to camp at the edge of the mountain range to recover from our failure. After a long evening around the campfire, Håkon chooses to spend the night alongside the fire, while I enjoy the comfort of my brand new Hilleberg Soulo tent.

A fat summit attempt6b
A fat summit attempt6

We awake next morning to a crust thick enough to carry an elephant and can’t help feeling slightly disappointed about our decision to turn back the day before.

This is where this little blog post easily could have ended, if it wasn’t for the very fact that the cold comes back the week after. Whether its due to bad memory or shortsighted naivety is hard to tell, but I can’t help giving it another go, perhaps fueled by the thought of having to wait another year.

I start early in the morning and hope the crust won’t melt away before I have cycled the fifty kilometers up to the mountain range. Unfortunately, I’m on my own. Håkon couldn’t make it this time.

A fat summit attempt7

Arms and legs aching after the brutal climb up to the edge of the mountain range, I enjoy catching a few rides on the crust before it indefinitely melts before my eyes. It’s back to pushing again.

A fat summit attempt9
A fat summit attempt10

I summit many hours and 400 vertical meters later in the last remnants of daylight.

A fat summit attempt11

Then, next morning: A virgin crust fresh from the nights freezing cold. And instead of 5 percent riding and 95 percent pushing, it’s the other way round.

A fat summit attempt12
A fat summit attempt14

That’s one fat summit attempt.

Across Norway with the kids

In 2013, my family and I decided it was time to try something new after completing our book project on family outdoor life.

Keep hikes with kids short, we used to say. Use your neighbourhood. Adventure awaits just around the corner, so keep it simple. And so we did for a long time. Used our neighbourhood with the kids. Went on short, or reasonably short trips. Kept it simple.

But what happens if we cut the umbilical cord to our safe, everyday family life for more than just a handful of days? Can we learn something about ourselves, about our family, living like battery hens with a paper thin film of polyamide as a framework for our life, day after day, for a week, for a month; in rain, in sun, in snow and cold? An experiment was born: We decided to cross Norway. Four times. On bikes. In canoes. Skiing. And on foot.

The bike ride started out in the Trysil area on the eastern side of Norway, criss-crossing through a mosaic of bogs, small lakes and pine forests, aiming to bike as much as possible on dirt roads and tractor roads on our way westwards.

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At times, it was hard to tell whether we were riding on a tractor road or a field of grass.

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The Surly Ogre was a great bike, carrying food and water for three people, a tent, a couple of sleeping bags, dads clothes and, not to forget, camera equipment. With good carrying capasatiy, we opted for bread for breakfast and lunch, giving the usual porridge and ryvita a rest.

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Taking good care of those pedalling feet.

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Saying hello to the local flora and fauna.

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Following a section of the Birkebeiner track

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Makeshift mud guard.

2013.06.25–07.11 Norge på tvers på sykkel515 Long day.

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Still som energy  left.

2013.06.25–07.11 Norge på tvers på sykkel496Riding along Åsta valley in the Lillehammer mountains.

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Where did the toothbrushes go?

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After climbing over the Lillehammer mountains, we descended into the Gudbransdalen valley, getting a glimpse of the mountain ranges in the west we would ride into a couple of days later .

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A lapse of illness forces us to stay a couple of days at Skeikampen Resort, before we decide to continue.

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Just an old farm house.

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Few things beats getting water from a cold mountain stream …

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… unless you get the opportunity to get your feet wet.

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A last push before climbing Jotunheimvegen.

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We weren’t the only ones riding in the mountains.

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We decide to let our dry bread rest in our panniers and fuel our afternoon ride with pancakes instead.
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Another long day.

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Deep into the Valdres Valley.

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Horses, sheep, goats and cattle, the girls rarely missed an opportunity to say hello.

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The old kings road had turned into a field of flowers.

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Our assistant Kaninka points out that the last descent into Årdal will be rather steep. We followed the old road, seen as a white stripe from the lower right corner, along the mountain face and down a huge number of hairpin bends towards Årdal.

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The old road to the small town Øvre Årdal, our final destination.

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