Friday, February 10, 2012

OUT - Wintersolstice wonderings....

But it didn't turn out the way I had planned or hoped!

I was planning for an outing, being by myself for 24 hours from 21-12 12:00 until 22-12 12:00 to celebrate the shortest day and also to find some peace of mind.
Unfortunately Mother Nature decided otherwise. She found in necessary to drop temperatures at night to -13C, for which I am not equipped yet. She also thought it necessary to give me a cold, clogging up my cavities around the nose, eyes and forhead and my airways and just generally made me feel.... well... uncomfortable...

But....... I went anyway. I just had to get out into the cold and white world around me. It would be my very first day out in the cold and in deeper snow here. Not that I have much experience in conditions like those at all.
I thought it would be nice to bring my oldest backpack; my Swiss army horsehairpack from '44. I also wanted to see how the leather jerkin would perform. I got that one last week, as a gift from a Dutch friend, who knows how I like that old stuff.

I started packing the night befor and while doing so, I tore off one of the pack's leather fasteningstraps. **insert some swearingwords here** The leather had gotten too old and brittle, despite me taking care of it and rubbing it with leathergrease regularly.
Another shortcoming of the pack turned out to be the limited volume. I had to carry not only my haversack, but also my messkit AND my waterbottle separate from the pack, which really made me feel like a packmule. Thankfully my jacket has several large pockets, so there was no need for a belt with pouches this time. All the smaller things, like compass, cellphone, camera, gloves, SAK, vaseline, firemakingtin etc fitted in these, easily.

Enough talk, picture time......
When I set out to go the temperature was -4C, but when I reached the woods it felt a lot less cold.
My wife's point of view....

and mine....

Between the trees the going was acceptable as far as the snow was concerned. In open areas and on trails the snow was about 25-30cm deep and very powderlike...
I wish I had some snowshoes!!! Stomping around like that is very demanding and, allthough I tried to avoid it, I started to sweat quite a bit.

Found some moosetracks, which crossed my path;
I have a size 40

Further up the trail I came across moosetracks again, so I decided to follow these for a while. They lead me right across a clearcut area, which made going even harder. The snow was deeper and the covered layers of pinebranches made me sink in even more.

The tracks headed back towards a pineforrest;

Here I decided I wanted to make some lunch and coffee. It was quite a lot colder up here then down in the forrest;

There was much more wind and there was freezing fog up here, too.
The latter created some beautiful icecristals. These were on the roots of a fallen tree;;

Sometimes the blue sky was visible;

This one I'll turn into a christmascard;

I wanted to make a fire to get me some hot coffee, but whatever I did, the fire would not start! I tried the featherstickthing, the woodshavings, the split wood, I even threw in the cardboard matchbox! The wood just would not ignite!!
It would sputter a little, hiss a bit, smoke a bit more, but that was it. The wood I used was from the branches of several falled pines, which were up in the air and snow and icecovered. I knocked them clean, stripped of the bark and mosses and than worked with the exposed wood.
I chose the exposed soil under the roots of the first fallen tree as a fireplace, hoping the heat would radiate back from the soil to me. There was also less snow there, which I clear as far as possible.
Heavily frustrated I kicked the gathered woodpile through the area and decided to head back home.... I still had about an hour and a half of daylight left, so I'd be home befor darkness.
I think that there lies another problem; the lack of daylighthours. If I don't want to walk around the woods in darkness, I have just a few hours to work with now; 7 in sunny weather, 6 or even less in darker weather.
When I stopped for lunch I had 3 hours left to make a fire, have lunch and get home again. So yes, there was some pressure....

Than I packed up. While doing so, I tore up the canvas carryingpouch of my BSA-kit. The fabric had gotten wet at just ripped at several places as I tried to slip in the kit. Now I need to find an other one, as this one is beyong repair. I guess the fabric just is too old and has started to rot.

The view from my "lunchtable";

While I was up there, being wet from sweating and exposed to the wind I tried my leather jerkin. What a difference it made! It kept my torso from freezing, keeping me a lot more comfortable.
This jerkin, by the way, is made like the ones used by british and Canadian forces in WW2 and in the Dutch army after that. It dates back to 1953.

On the way back, Mother Nature did treat me with some great scenery though and the pictures I took really don't de them any justice!
I could see the highest "peak" in the area, with clouds and fog drifting by, occassionally letting the sun through....

These weren't there when I passed here on the way in;

These are about 100 metres from the place I was.

These weren't there either;

And they were even closer, about 50 metres! I heard it's "clock... clock", when I tried to make the fire, several times... A black Grouse's tracks???

I live down there. My house is just behind the treeline, not visible from up here;

Some bonuspics;

The path I used on the way in;

So... what did this newbie winterwonderer get from this day??
I DID get out....
I did get a few quite hours on my own....
I experienced how difficult and tiring this terrain under these conditions can be...
I did clear my head.... Literally! I had forgotten that the human body could produce "stuff" like "that".....
I now know I just have to bring my own, dry and prepared, tinder with me the next time I'm heading out in winter.
I now know that I am not prepared enough for any serious winterconditions, both in knowledge and gear. Still a whole lot I have to work on!!
Unfortunately, there was a downside too. The backpack proved to be quite unfomfortable. It is far to rigid, too small, both in volume as in dimensions, even for me being 1,71 metres and normally build. It proved to be a major paint in the back and shoulders, especially later at night.
Also the material showes signs of decay, like the leather strap I broke.
Therefor it has more ornamental than practical value, especially in these conditions. It might be fine and fun for a summer daywalk, but that's about it.

All in all, not bad for a wintertrekking greenhorn like myself, 'ey?  


  1. Looks a lot like Finland!

    Nice post. Seems like you're become more Swedish every day. ;)


  2. Hello, I'm a student from Chile and I would like to ask for your permission to use one of your awesome pictures, is the one in which you are talking about a leather jerkin, it would be perfect for my class assignment, It would only be shown in that class and there won't be further exposure of the picture. I really hope you say yes to this. Miguel Medina

  3. Hey Miguel,
    drop me an email at and we'll work out the details!

  4. For some weird reason I can't seem to be able to send you the email, so here´s the information

    Hello Ron, to be more specific on the use of the photograph, it would be for a "Short Story and Novel" class, I'm an English Pedagogy Student from Antofagasta, Chile, and the assignment I had was to find a picture of someone who reminded me of Rip Van Winkle, the Washington Irving story and it had to have modern clothes and the aproximate age of the story's character(the young Rip Van Winkle). Looking around in google I ended up finding your blog and that picture just caught my attention, it was just the image I had in mind when i was looking for the picture, as I said before, it will only be shown once on that class while I talk about the story. Of course I will give you the proper credit for the picture on my class, so if you agree on letting me use the picture I would apreciate if you could send me (in case that there is) a title for that photography or maybe the date for when it was taken :)

    Miguel Medina
    English Pedagogy Student, UCN

  5. Hej Miguel,
    go right ahead and use it. I'd be honoured.
    The date this was taken was on the day of the wintersolstice, so december 21 2011. The clothing is a M39 Swedish woolen uniform, a woolen replica of the german WW2 fieldcap and the jerkin is A Dutch armyversion from 1953 and a direct copy from the British WW2 jerkins.

    The Rip van Winkle-story does have a lot of simularities with me actually, apart from the nagging wife and I'm not all that lazy.

    I'd like to know how everything turned out, so please keep me informed. Good luck on the assignment!

  6. Hey Ron,
    could you please tell me what's your lastname? that's the only information I'm missing