button-hole stitch the wounds (you can take your time and do it more neatly)
button-hole stitch the wounds (you can take your time and do it more neatly)
Preparing for this day I was faced with the question, “if you get one day out in the peaks in ten years, which route do you choose?” I spent a couple of evenings pouring over the OS sheet and changed my mind a hundred times, each time returning to Edale and the Southern Edges of Kinder Scout. Ultimately, it had to involve Kinder. It so typifies the Dark Peak and, for me as for so many others born and raised in Englands Northern Cities, it’s where it all started.
Given the time of year, the summit plateau of Kinder has the potential for deep, bone-numbing, mysery. A wet, muddy, flailing through hollow and rise, hopelessly lost in the mist mysery. Although a rare and precious thing, such mysery is an acquired taste and better shared with the right company. Better, better by far today, is to stay on the edge of the thing. Feel its height and bulk, get the views, explore the menagerie of weird rock formations, but look at the expanse of the thing from a safe distance.
In the meantime we’ve been passed by two other walkers who are now doing their share of breaking trail and things start to move more quickly.
Popping the battery back in the camera I fire off several more shots. Jane provides the foreground interest but I immediately realise I should have waited until the mobile was away from her ear. What was that I said about becoming a better photographer? The phonecall serves it’s purpose though. Even when you’re away you’re never truely away but having confirmed that all’s well at home the peace of mind is perceptible on Janes face.
A glance at my watch tells me we are now at the half way point in hours and minutes and so need to be there in kilometers and meters . A quick look at the map reveals two alternatives: back the way we came, which would, by a kind coincidence, put us exactly at the half way point, or back via Grindsbrook. A quick look at the ground however rules out the Clough. It’s dark down there, no doubt cold, and the head of the clough is steep. Not today. Nevetheless I’m not keen to retrace our steps. Just like paper beats stone a circular route beats an out and back. Further pause for thought brings the solution. We’ll go over Grindslow knoll , which carries extra points because it’s in the sunshine and bears a cairn, and carry on over its nose back into the valley.
With our shiny new plan in our pockets we carry on around the edge. One little tricky bit, a traverse of the steep sided head of the clough in deep drifting snow, causes Jane a moments discomfort. Play by the rules: place your feet carefully, move deliberately, don’t lean into the slope, and all will be well. The moment duely recorded with a couple of quick shots on my now long dead battery and then we’re heading up the shallow slope onto the Knoll.
A spectacular panorama of Kinder opens out as we go. Spectacular is not a word I’d usually associate with Kinder Scout. Muddy, wet, cold, bleak, dark, unforgiving and numerous other adjectives yes but spectacular no. Today however it is truly spectacular. It has taken on a totaly different persona. More vidda than moss. Clints and Grykes ironed flat by drifting snow. Everything about the scene is captivating. Long shimmering views of a winter ravaged landscape to the horizon. On a smaller scale, last seasons grass poking through drifted snow, each casting relief defining shadows under the low winter sun. My kingdom for another camera battery.
In what seems like a couple of steps we’re at the top.
Leaning against the cairn, finishing off the tea and eating chocolate, speechless, just soaking it all up. We’re not alone, It seems that the Knoll has pulled a few folk in today, the walkers we’d followed up, a couple in matching red Goretex with matching walking poles, a diehard on touring skis. All grinning insanely. All trying to compute the unreality of the situation. Real winter weather. In the dark Peak. I look out across Kinder and with a rush a sudden ,intense, desire to stay up here and watch the sunset hits me. Its quickly followed by a comparable desire to hang around for sun rise. Suppressing the chain of thought I pack the bits and pieces into the rucksack and follow Jane down off the top back towards the valley.
The descent is beautiful. First the wide flat South-West of the Knoll across which runs a ghost outline of the path, its edges defined by golden-brown old vegetation and still visible in the snow. An unbelievable richness of colour and texture stretches out infront of me. Then comes the broken wall and the backed up snow at the start of the steep drop into the valley. This under a sky, slowly reddening as the sun first casts an eye on the clock and reaches for its coat.
The compromise we've arived at is to forgo train and bus in favour of a hire car. That gives us freedom to jump off from several possible locations a few kilometers North or South of Nordseter. Those few kilometers get us out of the ski-centre and bring unmanned DNT huts within reach. This won't bring the pack weight down though, we're still struck on the idea of sleeping out for a night or two if conditions permit so will have to carry the necessary, but having huts nearby is a welcome failsafe in Norway in February.
My kit list is taking shape. It will change a little between now and departure but probably not by much. If I'm honest, for the second time in this post, this challenges my gear so without significant purchases there's not much I can change. I've cold camped before in the UK, even my summer trips aren't exactly tropical these days, and I've spent some time in real arctic climate. But, and this is a big but, everything I've done in truely cold climate has involved day tripping, evenings warming toes infront of open fires, warming bones in Saunas and warming the spirit with, well, spirit. I have little winter-specific kit and Norway has the potential to trash my personal best cold sleep-out. Here's what I plan to take.
I run hot. Sweating at -20 is not good. At least not if when you stop you're still outside. I'm hoping that I've chosen a layering system that'll keep me comfortable and dry when active and warm when passive. It starts with a heavy Merino base layer (Icebreaker bodyfit 260g) and is followed up by RAB Vapour rise Trousers and Smock. I hope this will suffice when working hard in all but the lowest temperatures and strongest winds. I used the trousers in freezing temperaures in the Dark Peak and was impressed. I'll be packing an extra micro fleece Gilette (Mammut Trail Vest) since it gives me the option of putting a little more insulation on my torso without significant weight penalty.
Gloves, Hats, Scarves and Goggles and such
Joe recently vented his spleen on the subject of gloves. There's not much more to say realy. My system lists as follows. Fleece liner gloves, Mammut Kompact gloves, Outdoor Reserch Goretex Shell Mittens and Buffalo DP Mittens. That's four pairs of gloves for four days. Overkill? I don't think so. Cold hands equal missery, wet gloves never dry outdoors and my fingers are quite useful so I'd like to keep them for the time being. If I had the money or the inclination I would change some things. For instance, I'd probably be better buying some power-stretch gloves for skiing in since poling is likely to trash my lightweight Mammut gloves. I hope to get away with just the fleece liners (stripped from an old pair of Alpine Skiing Gloves trashed in a single season these liners are the warmest I own), but If needed I'll pull the Mammuts on over the liners for extra warmth on the move. The OR shell mittens, bought from a bargain bucket several years ago, make me swear out loud. They're not gauntlets but instead have elasticated waisting around the wrists. Getting one on over a gloved hand is difficult. Getting the second one on using your freshly shell-mitted hand is close to impossible and involves the use of expletives (OR thankfully have discontinued them). Still I want "waterproof" shell mitts for setting up camp which is likely to involve shoveling snow and other such wet-hand activity and this is what I have available. Finaly, Big Dumb Mitts are warmer than anything on the plannet. Buffalos are lightweight tried and tested. They're also made in Sheffield like my wife.
The other thing worth mentioning here is face protection. I've skied at temperatures in the minus twenties and you need to cover your face. For the purpose I'll be carrying a Polar Buff, which also conveniently doubles as a hat, scarf , balaclava etc. Although I've never skied in them I've been pursauded that Goggles are a must for moving through falling or blowing snow so I've picked up a pair. I didn't spend too much time or effort on the choice nor did I spend too much money on the purchase and ended up with a pair of Sinner Beast chosen solely on the premice that they fit comfortably over my glasses. Time will tell if the purchase was a good one.
A good mat is half the work (two thirds if you listen to The Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing). That's why I'll be taking a Downmat 7. My down mat is a short so I'll be taking a Duomat for under my legs in addition to the heavy foam back of my rucksack and as emergency backup incase, horror of horrors, the Downmat springs a leak. The Duomat folds up nicely and fits in my pack so I won't have a foam roll hanging on the outside to catch the wind.
Dead reconning suggests that the set-up will be good for around -12C in comfort and a little lower with some discomfort. Realy low temperatures will see me heading straight for a hut, or at least sleeping within walking distance of one. If I get the chance I'll be trying the system out before I leave for Norway.
This is my second biggest headache. Tarps are out. Definately out. I'll be taking a tent. However my choice is limited. The only tent I have that's up to the conditions is my Exped Orion. A truely bombproof shelter that will shed snow and stand up on it's own. Weeks spent inside it in Canada tell me that it's pretty much the perfect two man tent in all respects but one: weight. It's a beast. With all the bits and pieces, including snow anchors, I'm looking at a weight of around 3.8kg. Even shared between two it's still heavy by todays standards. Still, it's what I have and, I'll sleep well in this thing since I know it's up to the job.
My intention is still to carry a bivvy bag. My weapon of choice is an MLD Alpine Bivvy. It has its limitations but it's light. I may be pursauded to leave this at home yet but I I'm inclined towards it for two reasons. It will boost my sleeping bag(s) rating by a degree of two, will keep things dry(er) and will be beneficial if we have to snowhole.
Headache number three but a minor one. The main burner will be a multifuel stove(Whisperlite?) and thankfully carried by Willem-Maarten. Of all the stoves to hand this is the one that we can be certain we can get fuel for (it will burn Lead free if needs be) and which will work at low temperatures. The stove will be working hard for at least two days, melting snow and heating water for ready meals for four hungry men and these things are reliable work horses.
Still, I think it's wise to have a backup and nice to have a stove for each of the two tents. I've toyed with the idea of taking a UL meths burner since Meths will be obtainable and works, with a little coaxing, at low temperatures and I have several options to hand. Having played with my Vargo Triad again It's off the list, filling and priming the stove is a pain and I feel the burner is too inneffective for winter. The fact that it's super light (just 27g) keeps pulling me back but I should just scrap the the thing. It's just too fidely for my taste. On the other hand the white box stove is a super bit of kit, and one I wouldn't hesitate to recommend, but you wouldn't catch me using one within 10 yards of a silny tent. No sir. Tent fires aren't us. That just leaves a Trangia then. Heavy, even if you're just looking at the burner, but, in my view still the best meths based field cooking system there is. My provisional choice is to take a windshield, burner and a kettle. It will just be required for boiling water for drinks and ready meals (dried ready meals are the order of the day this time out) and a kettle, with insulated handle, is an efficient and convenient way of doing that. I said provisional didn't I? That's because I may yet just fork out for a liquid feed cannister stove but we'll see.
Skis and Boots
I'll be hiring skis and boots in the Netherlands before departure. Simply out of expedience since we won't have to waste time fitting up in Norway. That forces one choice. They'll be waxless skis. For the rest the set-up is pretty standard for Nordic Touring. Fischer E99's, paired with leather boots and standard Nordic bindings. Lightly taylored skis that will fitt in the tracks and comfortable boots. The teraain will not be extreme and we will be, potentialy, on track for much of the distance covered. I've used Alpine skis and skinny nordic track skis before so the touring set-up is new to me. I'm hoping it will be kind to this bad skier!
Here the choice boils down very quickly to one. I need a pack that caries a large volume and high load with comfort and, most importantly if I hope to stay off my backside for at least some of the time, stabilty. I have two packs that fit the bill. A Macpac (A variant of the Rimu) and a Granite Gear Vapour Trail. The Macpac is not far short of 3kg. The Vapour Trail is a little over 1kg. The Vapour Trial is up to the job and I love it. Choice made.Camera Gear
Definately the Oly E400 Body but which lens? My heart says the 14-42mm just like in Rondane. My head says take the standard 25mm pancake lens because, although it's more limited, it makes for a smaller lighter package. Yet to make up my mind on this.
My Full (as yet provisional) gear list can be found here.