Got a box! Goodies from Bob and Rose. There's a new stove, the Evernew Ti DX. That makes a new stove for each of my last two trips and one for Seiland. It's becoming a habbit but who's counting? There are a couple of Bobs hip-belt pockets to bling my vapor rise with. Last, but not least, there's an OMM chest pocket that I'm banking on being a viable alternative for my shoulder strap camera bag. There'll be more detail to follow but it all looks very nice. The Jelly babies were out of the box and consumed before I could get a look in.
BTW: Beat ya Joe. The DX is a very polished bit of Ti kit first impressions very favourable!
Time travels fast! The day I travel to Hammerfest to explore Seiland with Randulf has dawned already. Fortunately I still have six weeks or so to get my act togther. Hammerfest, at 71° North, experiences polar day from the 16th May to the 27th of July. I won't be packing a headtorch.
All this talk of motivations for light-weighting and lightweight kit lists over at Section Hiker got me curious about the evolution of my own kit in recent years. For the last five years I've been on one main trip per year, give or take, and have kept careful tabs on what's gone in and out of my pack. Responsibilities at home have forced me to keep my trips quite short and as a result they have all taken on a very similar format: four days and three nights on the hill in summer. The data for those trips is therefore pretty clean and should reveal, rather than big swings in requirements driven by season and terrain, something more akin to a change in attitude and approach. The results shown graphically above (sorry I am after all a trained Scientist and analyse everything to death) are interesting (to me if not to anybody else).
There's a pretty consistent downward trend. I'd expected an initial crash in pack weight, driven by the light-weighting bug and first energetic attacks on the big three, followed by a levelling out. However, apart from one glitch, my pack weight, both base weight and all-up weight, continues to decrease. This can't go on surely? There are few majour purchases left to make. Any slack in the system can now only be a few grams here and there as I become more aware of what I can safely leave out?
The truth is actually slightly different than the graph suggests. That Glitch was Rondane, and what you see there is that my base weights levelled out somewhat and the total weight has gone up. That's because the base weight figure is not what it seems. I don't include my photo gear in my base weight calculation. Why? Because it's non essential and on occasion I've left it at home. What the Rondane anomaly (I like that, sounds very scientific doesn't it?) shows is that, as I've eliminated dead weight, as I've pared down in other areas, I've compensated for the difference with camera gear. In Rondane I switched back to my SLR. I could because it was possible to do so and stay under twelve kilos. I'm glad I did because I've got the photos to show for it. Photos I'll keep revisiting for years to come.
The last data point, my first stab at a list for Seiland, shows my base weight is down a little again. This isn't the last version, things are likely to change somewhat, the shelter will certainly be left behind in favour of a space in Randulf''s tent (motivated by bighting beasties!), there'll be a rod and real strapped to the outside of the bag and there will be an extra days food. If, there's still any slack, my long lens my get a run out. I'm willing to bet that all those swings and roundabouts will see me back at around twelve kilos on the first day. Things are probably levelling out after all. That's good. That's a weight I'm happy with. That's a weight I can function under. And, at the end of the day, that's what's important!
The experience is most definitely North American. The trail a tight corridor through otherwise impenetrable forest with restricted views. An acquired taste I suspect and if I’m honest not one I’ve acquired yet. As wooded walks go though this ones got character. Natural growth of Douglas fir, western red cedar and western hemlock score more points than the close knit, regimented plantations of imported quick growing spruce which dot the hillsides of my youth. As the morning passes, the sun climbs higher and, though unseen, it’s effect is felt. It’s hot under the canopy. By design or by accident the pace is most certainly slow and steady.
As we approach 1500m, with close to nine hundred vertical meters and six kilometres put behind us we arrive at a split in the path. We take the path on our left hand and climb a little further but a little less steeply. The path continues to duck and weave to left and then to right through the trees but on average it veers right and keeps on doing so until, at once, it levels out and we find ourselves contouring. First comes the edge of the wood and then comes the light. The harsh light of an early August midday made all the harsher by the clear skies and thin air. We're not above the tree line but the big trees are now behind us and , here on the shoulder of Black tusk, longer views open up, framed between tree tops and branches. Looking up I'm in the mountains. Looking down I'm in a flower garden. These aren't the hills I'm used to. Not subtle greens and greys under grey skies. Not 'ard 'n northern. None of that. No, these hills are extravagantly dressed in lush, long flowing green grass and accessorised with bright blue, yellow, red and white flowers. We're crossing the Taylor meadow in the first week of August and the display is at its best. It's an astonishing scene. Summer in caricature. I have to look up at the snow-topped points to remind myself I'm in the mountains.