Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A snowshoeing trip.

Our host Olli
picture; Boel Engkvist
Last saturday saw another meetup f our local bushcraft group. This time the goal was a snowshoeing hikeup the Gyllbergen, a rise in a natural reserve near Borlänge. The weather was hard to forecast, with all the changes, but in the end all went well.
Had some minor snowfall on the way in, deep, fluffy and powdery snow, especially around the top and a touch of sunlight every now and then. Temperature was around -7C with some windchill at the top. Some of us, including me, had never or very scarcely walked on snowshoes and I thought to bring my old (antique) ones for the occasion, accompanied by poles at least as old.
For the occasion I dressed up in my army woolpants, t-shirt, wool sweater and winteranorak. However, in my rush to get away from home I forgot my Finnish winterhat and my mittens, so all I had was a thin knitted hat and fingergloves. A pair of those without the tops with thin knitted ones below that. I had brought my LK35, complete with a thermosflask of hot coffee, an army shovel with snowblade, cookingset, food and 1,5l of water. Of course my winterbelt and my the first aid kit. I had thought of tbringing a fleece blanket, but figured in case of an emergency 2 emergency blankets would suffice.
Olli, who arranged this trip, told us about the history of the reserve and I must say it really was a completely different landscape from when I was here first last year. I had never seen anything like it. Magically transformed by the snow, fairytale-like sculpted trees and snowdrifts. I felt overwhelmed and touched to my core. 
On the way to the top I started experiencing problems with my left snowshoe, because its front strap kept slipping of my foot all the time. The walking on those snowshoes itself felt quite easy actually, but the fact that the rest used narrow, modern ones made the going on my wide duckfeet a bit cumbersome, because I kept stepping on the edge of their trail. As we started to near the first stop, being the cabin, I took off my mine. I was holding up the group too much. I clasped the snowshoes to my chest with the sternumstrap of the lk35 and kept going without them in the trail. The going was pretty tough! Despite the whole group breaking trail before me, I sank down at least 20-30cm with most steps. The flow of those old things was quite good in hindsight!
During the hike the disc of one of the staves came off too and I immediately noticed the difference, becuase the stave just disappeared into the waistdeep snow. I could not find it anymore. Of course.... Panting and sweating I arrived as last at the shelter/cabin. During the rest there Marcus lent me 2 straps, so I could fasten the snowshoes properly and after that the problems were pretty much over. At least until we found a place to "camp".

picture; Marcus Östlin

picture; Marcus Östlin

picture; Boel Engkvist

picture; Boel Engkvist
Our merry group of snowshoe-ers.
picture; Boel Engkvist
picture; Boel Engkvist

picture; Boel Engkvist

At the campsite, some started trampling the snow and 2 of us, including me, broke out the snowshovels and dug a pit, large enough for us to sit around a fire. Here my second gearfailure occured. The steel thermosflask I had brought made clear why it ended up in a secondhand shop for me to buy. It had leaked like a sieve and the coffee was nowhere near warm anymore. Lukewarm at best. Maybe the rubber seal was not attached properly and maybe an axtra insulating layer might have kept the coffee warmer.
Everyone had brough one of two blocks of wood up with them, so plenty if firewood was present. Now that fire did cause some irritation and hilarity..... The wood was not really dry, so it smoked a lot. On top of that it was pinewood, so pretty resinous. And of course I sat on the exact wrong spot! Together with Marcus we got out meat smoked pretty decently. Excessively was more likely. Tears ran down our face and we twisted and turned in every which way, but in the end had to move away just to breath. In desperation I brought out my emergency snowgoggles, a pair of those celluloid foldable ones. They look ridiculous (if the comments and laughter were anything to go by), but they worked at keeping the smoke out of my eyes..... sort of. They actually are intended to prevent snowblindness in case of getting stuck.
The mood was generally merry and the food and campcoffee only enhanced that. There was a deal of clowning around and the ladies provided an even better atmosphere by singing a number of folksongs.

I really like Karin's round bottomed, castiron frying pan.
picture; Jonathan Sälg

picture; Marcus Östlin

smoking a ciga.... sausage?!
I got dubbed Ron Guevara...
picture; Boel Engkvist
The goggles in question
picture; boel Engkvist

There be snowgoblins in them hills!
Travellers beware!!
picture; Olli Niemelä
Then the sun started setting and it was time to pack up
And here it was that the troubling snowshoe failed completely. In an attempt to tighten the straps more, one tore off completely. The straps had become to old and brittle. I was now facing a 1,5km hike downhill in loose snow. But Olli came to the resque! He lent me hios modern snowshoes, so I could carry on. He was used to it anyway, he said, plodding through the deep snow. He's a bit taller then I am as well.
By the time we all were ready to go, my fingers had become real cold. Cold enough that I started worrying and I was eager to start going and get my circulation going. From experience I knew that that would pretty much solve my problem. Standing still would only increase it. Holding metal staves did not make things better, despite the grips, made from natural materials.
The way back was quite something too. At places steep downhill and a number of us got into difficulties, but managed to overcome those using non-standard solutions, so to speak.
It was only a few 100 meters to the skitrack, but it felt much longer. Same as the way in. I know it is wayyy shorter then it felt. Going under these conditions takes a lot, lot longer. The rest of the hike went over skitracks, which did hold a few surprises. Boel stepped into a deep hole and tipped forward. The kind of incident that might just snap your knee to pieces! Luckily she came away smiling. The snow simply gave way, despite the snowshoe.
In the end the parkingarea was reached with everyone in one piece and as far as I know I was the only one having experienced some trouble.

Picture; Magnus Brodén

picture by Olli Niemelä

The whole experience left me with an elated feeling! Not only the scenery and the fresh air, but also the feeling of belonging and of friendship made me feel..... human. It is those later feelings that I had missed those last years, but I really do feel we have a small group of people here that have found each other. Järngänget, as olli described it. The iron group or hard core.
Besides that the afore mentioned magical atmosphere and fairytale-like landscape really made this day special. A memory for life, even if it only lasted a few hours. My heartfelt gratitude toward all those involved and present for making this so!
What I also felt, was my body. Especially the lower half! For days!! Sore muscles, especially the inner thighs and I actually still do; my hipsjoints and right hamstring. A small price to pay, but I am actually less pleased by the gear failures. Those can cause some real problems. I need to go over it all and I have plans to redo the old, broken snowshoe(pair). The staves..... well, they will probably end up as staves when walking the dogs on icy roads.
But on the other hand I was really pleased to once more notice that my clothing-system held up. Despite having sweated a good deal I did not freeze, while others were forced to take off or even replace clothes due to sweating. They were wearing modern day jackets, that apparently had less capacity for ventilation. I was also pleased that the footwraps I tried held up in every way! They were comfortable and kept my feet warm, even during inactivity. And the shovel proved it's weight worth in gold. Not only was the area cleared pretty quick, but by making the blade angle with the handle, thrusting it into the snow and draping my sheepskin over it I had an in promptu seat, removing the necessity of sitting on the snow. Next time I'll bring a small foampad though, since my buttcheeks were a little sore afterwards. But the height is perfect for sitting comfortably!

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