Hmm. It's all coming out in dribs and drabs. In the wrong order too. I have one of those minds. It likes to see one thing finished before it moves onto the next. Unfortuantely life doesn't always allow me the space to wrap things up as neatly as I'd like. There's been more to say about Oyer rattling around in my head for weeks but time has been at a premium. Birthdays, three in the space of a month, a build and the trip to Colordado have all bumped this last post down the list. Well, here it comes at last. Probably shorter and less ordered than I imagined but lets see were it goes.
It's funny but on reflection I can't make my mind up about Oyer. My heart is definately with bigger and grander landscapes. When pouring over the map before leaving and again since my return I invariably experienced a vague sense of disspointment. Too much infrastucture. Too many huts. Contours too far appart. Too many trees. Too many too manys altogther. Nevethertheless, I don't recal ever having such feelings when I was standing on the ground turning my head and looking over the topography for real. Yes the place is comparatively tame, but it's Norwegian tame. Yes it's relatively accessible but in truth we saw no more than a handful of people on a cloudless, sunny weekend.Yes we used a hut but hell we had the whole damn thing to ourselves. Yes it was quite flat but even so my face spent almost as much contact with the snow as my skis. No, on reflection, it was the right place at the right time. Wild and wintry enough to to create the illusion and gentle enough for the groups level of ability. Challenging enough to get a little practice and improve and gentle enough not to break the confidence. With the passage of a few weeks, I even find myself believing I could take on something bigger next winter. I've got nine months to talk myself out of it.
My pack of choice is now definately, without question, the Granite Gear Vapor Trail. Yes it's heavier than many UL packs now available, in fact at around a kilo it's not much lighter than some of the latest breed of mainstream packs, but it works for me. It fits me, it carries comfortably and it's stable. I think that latter point is too often overlooked. How much energy do you burn when trying to maintain or recover your balance under an ill-fitting sloppy pack? I guess that for me the answer is sufficient to warrant a couple of hundred grams extra. On Oyer Fjell I even learnt that one of things that used to annoy me makes sense. Regular readers may have noticed my critical comments regading the excessively long roll-top. How it gets in the way making loading and unloading all the more difficult. How, the extra volume, towering high above the shoulders with the closure fully extended , is never going to get used. How I was some day going to cut half of it off. Scratch that. This is an all in one pack. The extra hassle loading up is worth it given that the pack accomodates my summer and winter lists with equal aplomb.
Oyer Fjell was far from a light weight trip. I guess, at it's peak, my load will have been around 16kg. With work and/or a liberal use of my credit card, I could make a dent in that number but the truth is I'm basically happy with the kit I carried. I'm sure my shelter, the Exped Orion Extreme, is heavier than it needs to be but the knowldege that it's bomb-proof brings piece of mind. I'd happily carry it into any winter landscape. The only negative was the level of condensation on the inner and outer tents but I suppose some of that could be solved by opening the vents more fully. A lighter shelter that can cary a snow loading is just a click and an argument with the wife away but it'll be a while before I replace the Orion (I've been here and said such things before but this time I mean it. No I realy do mean it!).
RAB Vapour rise has won a place in my heart. I'd read all the hype, used the trousers walking in moderate cold but never realy understood the benefit until I was working hard is deep cold. It's miriculous stuff. It's warm enough, breaths enough, blocks the wind enough, does everything it needs to enough. RAB clothing fits me well too and RAB have got their hoods down! The smock has become an all time favourite in just one outing.
My down came into it's own too. The PHD Ultra pully was'nt out of its depth at -15°C when used as an extra layer. Sling it on over a base layer and the vapour rise smock and it's as warm as it needs to be for most of the time. Chuck a roomy shell over the top of that and wind doesn't pose a problem either. Still feeling cold? Combine the Ultra Pully with the Montbell down inner, light enough on its own to be used as a nightshirt. I honestly didn't miss a big duvet jacket. Perhaps I'd been singing a different tune had we got another ten degrees of cold but that potential mistake is saved for another time.
PHD Minimus down trousers and booties were overkill. Great but overkill. Over the years the clothing in my summer list has been seriously paired down. I tend to walk eat and sleep in my clothes. The only luxury I allow myself is clean, dry socks for the eveinings. My winter list will take the same path. The only way to dry clothes in cold climates is to keep them on. Changing out of the vapour rise and into thermals and down was a real pleasure but putting the day gear back on in the mornings was less so. When moving around my legs were always warm enough in day dress. When in the tent I was in my bag. It'd need to be much colder before I'd pack the down troos and shoes agaian.
The Sleeping Bag
At 1200g the Cumulus prime 700 is not a light bag. Put it next to my quantum 200 and it might as well be a lead sock. It's fantastically warm though. I've been colder in the Quantum in high summer than I was in Oyer in the prime. The second night out I slept in a long sleeved base layer and bare legs and was toast start to finish. I could've pushed the boundaries of my lighter gear but in all honesty, having followed the massive swings in nightime temperature reported for Oyer before departure, If I ever head out into and area like Dovre in winter I'll be happy to have something in reserve. I'm still jealous of Jame's Hispar though.
The Primus Gravity EF worked just fine for what we did, just a few boils for brews and breakfasts, but it wasn't in the frontline. The heavy work was left for a whisper light. I didn't experience any problems in the cold other than getting it started with the piezo and it burned well with the can inverted but It's too early to tell whether this is in or out. I never even got to the bottom of the first can of gas. It'll go out again if I don't get suckered into buying a Spider in the meantime.
The only villains in the cast were my gloves. Buffalo mitts are great but there's a but. They don't fit me well. Even in an XL, a size up for me, they're quite tight and they won't go over my inners without a fight. I could get them on but couldn't get them off again without stripping my inners. I ended up with cold hands and fingers often. That was partly because I need to find the discipline to put on the right gloves for the right task but mostly because that involved too much faff. I like having a full compliment of fingers and thumbs. I need a better system. Inners and outers that work togther, perhaps a lobster claw that affords some dexterity, something I´ll reach for happily rather than reluctantly. Montane may have supplied the answer for next year.
I think I´m done with winter for now. The tulips are starting to appear and I´ve got a summer trip desperately crying out for some attention. Unlike Joe I don´t have ski´s so I can´t perform the ritual of putting them in the closet. I did put Emily´s sledge on the garage shelf though.
The time it's taken to get my sorry ass into gear is better measured in weeks than days but, at long last, the mystery box is shipped. Four items stayed in the balmy south for some R&R. Several more stowed away hoping for a new life in the land of clean air and long light. For a moment there I was tempted to join them.