I'd better be! All that's between me and Norway right now are about six hours of sleep, a taxi ride and three flights, none of which are guaranteed to go according to plan. The long term weather forecast is "interesting". Here its bone dry and thirty degrees. There it's eight degrees with some wet on the way. That's quite a contrast. I'll let you know how it felt.
We're in the middle of a build. We've been squashed into the first floor whilst the ground floor, including the garage (a.k.a. the bat cave), is being "remodelled" (to you thats knocked down and started again). It'll be mid July before we have a working kitchen again. That has its drawbacks, epecially for a young family, but looking at the temporary facilities I'm left wondering why we're going to such effort and expense: the Optimus Stella and the Primus Gravity EF have been going head to head for three weeks now and doing just fine. The former is a boiling machine par excellence, the latter is to be prefered when it comes to frying sausages.
Preparation for this one has been interesting. I'm less in control than usual. Having poured over the map for several evenings and having read through the information here (a great web resource for peak bagging in Norway and beyond if a little hard to find your way around) I have a good feeling for the terrain but I don't have any detail on the route and will be basically following where Randulf leads. I'm also unsure about what to expect in terms of weather and the need to ship gear three weeks in advance means I don't have the benefit of the short-term forecast . The only certainties are that I'll be in good company, that Seiland will be breathtakingly beautiful and that the sun won't set for the duration of my trip. Several exchanges with Randulf in the lead up to putting together my pack list have largely determined what's in the bag and shipped:
Randulf On the Weather: "You can expect anything from +25 and sun 24/7 to -2 with snow and sleet."
Sounds like a Scottish afternoon. What to pack? Well I'll be wearing merino base layers (Icebreaker Bodyfit 200) my favourite Haglofs DWR trousers (knitted, stretchy and comfortable with a DWR that works), and boots (Hanwag Banks). The latter will have lightweighters reeling but I'm not a fan of trail shoes for the kind of rough, untrodden terrain I'll be up against. I also don't like wet feet. Not at all. Certainly not for five days at a stretch. Lined, lightweight boots are my tool of choice. For those occasions when a baselayer alone isn't enough there will be a Mamut micro fleece gilet and a Rab neutrino windshirt in the bag. I never leave home without them. Next up, for when it's wet, and for some reason I'm expecting wet (the geography, mountains and sea, has me thinking of Knoydart), I've gone for the Haglofs Oz pullover and Montane Atomic DT Rain trousers. The former got a run out in Rondane and although I have some issues with it it's a solid performer and very, very light. The latter are newly purchased so I'm hoping they're up to the job. For insulation on breaks and evenings I'm assuming -2 rather than +25 and going with a PHD Ultra pullover with hood. Arguably not the best choice if it's really wet and calls for careful management but it's cosy warm for very little weight. Besides, I had mine knocked up with a Drishell outer (so it's technically not an ultra perhaps a minim with 900 fill down?) for just such occasions. There'll also be the usual collection of odds and sods including a beany, liner gloves, buff and spare socks (the only spare clothing I intend to pack). It's all shipped but of course I can travel with clothing in my carry on bag. I'll keep a close eye on the forecast and may take one last opportunity to swap clothing out when I land.
Randulf On Insects: "There are probably fewer insects than on the vidda, but it can still be a fair bit... Bivvy bag and tarp, thus is no go - at least for my part. I have a 2 kg tent. Isn't that light enough? .......I'm happy to carry it."
I'm going to run with Randulfs advice on this one. The last time I used a two skin tent, or any shelter other than a bivvy/tarp combination, on a summer trip was in 2006. Finnmark mosquitoes are, however, infamously vicious and if Randulf says we need a tent then we need a tent. Besides, over the years I've become prejudiced against tents. My stance is that they have their place but are not as necessary as many claim. Time then to face down the prejudice and get back in a tent and see how it is. Randulf will supply the tent. I'm not sure what it is, he's being very secretive which I guess means he's got it under review, but I think a 2kg shelter between two is respectable . The only catch is, it's all going in my bag so adds a kilo plus to my MLD Grace Duo and Alpine bivvy combo (900g). The reason why I've offered to carry it follows.
The choice to go with a tent and the possibility of -2 degree temperatures has also forced my choice of sleeping bag. Out is the Cumulus quantum 200 and in is the PHD Minim 300 (only available through PHD's bespoke service or occasionally in the sales). The extra down will be welcome at those temperatures and it lets me leave extra night-timeme clothing at home but the main reason for the choice is once again the Drishell outer which will help me deal with prolonged wet. Again, on the basis of the short-term forecast, I can, at a push, travel with the Cumulus bag and swap out on landing.
Randulf On Dogs: "Another thing: Do you like dogs? We have two Greenland dogs (8 and 9 months) They are very kind, but may be a bit on the enthusiastic side..........The dogs require one kg/day in total. That goes in my pack as well."
It seems we'll be travelling as a group of four. Randulf will have, I guess, seven or eight kilos of dog food on his back. He does this kind of thing for a living and clearly isn't scared of carrying a few kilos, but I think the decent thing is to carry the shelter and take some of the strain.
The rest of my gear list can be seen here. It's a strange mix of ultralight and, lets say, less than ultralight but the juggling act has got my starting weight down to 12.5kg which is in my "basically happy zone". There's a white box stove and meths in there which, although not strictly necessary (Randulf will bring a the main stove which is better suited to cooking in a tent, I'm guessing more test kit to play with) but I want to share my delight in it's simplicity and function. There's also a kilo and half of SLR and lenses. The latter hasn't been shipped so a last minute change of heart might see me ditch a lens, ND filters and tripod but I'm expecting great light and great scenery, as ever, the camera is the hardest call of all.
I'm packed up and ready for the off. This must be a personal best. It's three weeks until I fly. It has nothing to do with being organised and everything to do with the vagaries of air transport. Flights to Hammerfest, apart from being excruciatingly expensive, are far from direct. I'll be making two changes but suggested routes involved up to five. My incoming and ongoing flights in Oslo are rather critically spaced. I'd have to be moving, and probably squealing, like a greased pig in a pig wrangling festival if I was to disembark from the one, collect my bagage, pass through customs, pass through security and board the other on time.
What to do? Well, my plan is to take only hand luggage. A great motivation for going ultralight you would think and a very astute thought that would be if it wasn't for security. Stoves, fuel bottles, pocket knives and stacks of Ziploc bags containing freeze dried powders would have border control guards pulling on elbow length rubber gloves before you could say "assume the position". No, the only working solution is to ship my gear ahead of time. My packed rucksack, containing everything I will carry apart from the clothes I'll be standing up in, fuel, Randulf’s mystery tent and a few bits of fresh food, has been entrusted to the postal service. Gulp. Seven kilograms of my favourite things in the world are separated from disaster by a sheet of plastic, a few wraps of packing tape and the loving care of TNT.
On that latter point, it turns out that, in the interest of customer service, my village no longer has a post office. Apparently, since the end of May, unnoticed to me, my fellow residents have been buying stamps and posting letters at the supermarket. I tried the new service for the first time today. I spent a very pleasant twenty minutes trying to work out tarrifs and fill in customs documents with a check-out girl. Well, my gear shipment was after all the first large parcel destined for a non-EU country since the end of May. Here's hoping for a speedy delivery and a reassuring mail from Randulf . When the palpitations have stopped I'll post my gear list.