3.26.2011

Back on the Flat

One Two


I've now put a week at work between myself and two weeks of winter fun in Norway. Two distinct flavours of fun; first a week of Nordic touring (fun in an alternative sometimes non-fun kind of way) and then, hard on it's heels, a week of downhill skiing with family in tow  (fun in a more conventional, fun-fun kind of way).   As I write my feet have stopped hurting, the holes in my heels have filled up nicely and two angry purple toe nails are about all that's left to bear testament to my foot nightmare. A pointed reminder of earlier lessons that plastic boots made on a last of the average (no doubt average Italian) foot don't work for my far from average (non-Italian) feet. Feet aside, from the ankle upwards, everything worked just fine and saw me admirably through the whole arrangement.

Pull Ups

That there was any skiing at all in the second week was a small miracle: this is the first holiday we've taken AK (for the uninitiated that's Anno Kid) that's actually been anything like a holiday! Both mum and dad got to put in a couple of hours a day on the boards. In turn rather than in company but expectations were nevertheless hugely surpassed. Not that the kids didn't try their best to scupper things, although they've not been sick for months, both were either sick before leaving or sick during the holiday. I'm sure they conspired to be so: “Okay Benjamin, we leave for Norway next week, I'll contract an inner ear infection three days before we're due to fly if you do your impressive diarrhoea trick when they get you in your new ski suite. Deal?”. Lay folk think that kids start from scratch and learn as they develop. I now know otherwise. Kids know as much as we do from birth and just gradually admit to knowing more so we don't get suspicious. If they sense an opportunity to throw a spanner in the works they'll be reaching for a Cr-V-Mo drop forged adjustable the moment you look away.

Plough

It turns out that kids and skiing are a better combination than I'd dared to imagine. I have to admit that I was a little concerned about Emily's reaction to lessons. She's not started school yet and taking instruction is something she's niether well practised in nor well suited to. Mix that in with a few spoonfuls of reserved character and caution when confronted by all things concerning speed (bicycles etc.) and an expectation of obstinate refusal to take part was hard to suppress. To my surprise, apart from the occasional up-welling of a three year olds DON'T-WANT-TOs (foot stamping is at least made somewhat more difficult when wearing boots and skis) it all went swimmingly. So much so in fact that after three days she was ploughing down the nursery slopes whilst eating chocolate biscuits with a look of nonchalant aplomb. Relaxed skiing by anybodies standards! Benjamin, though too young for lessons, and although we, being pushy parents, tried him on skis anyway, found diversion rolling around in the snow like a dog and in his amazing all-singing-all-dancing, hitech sledge. (my steadfast opinion that the traditional wooden sledge is the only real sledge was severely put to the test!).We already fear the worst for Benjamin's first ski lesson. Stretcher bearers at the ready!

Rolling

On the amongst-the-outdoor-fraternity-much-maligned subject of lift-served skiing I'm also changing my opinion. I saw its good side in Skeikampen in mid May. In these days of inactivity and creeping obesity seeing young and old, often as not whole families, toddlers to grandpas, spending long days active in the outdoors is a heart warming sight. Yes it's commercialisation of the outdoors but so is the ugly monster that the gear industry has become is it not? Yes it puts a bunch of unsightly ironmongery in places where we should least want it to be but I wonder, can the books be made to balance? Perhaps some level of infrastructure is acceptable in the light of creating safe, accessible environments for young and old to enjoy mountain air, and to sow a seed of enthusiasm for mountain sports in the next next generation? I can't help but feel that Norway has come close to striking a balance with it's modest developments, family oriented attitudes and bring-your-own-sandwiches-nothing-to-do-in-the-evenings approach. Whatever it is it's a million miles from the huge interlinked, apres-ski-hell of the Alps.

Ski On


Whatever the ethics I expect a winter holiday in Norway will become a Hanlon Family standard from now on. There's something for everyone. New skills and snow fun for the kids, a chance for parents to charge batteries and, in time, great potential for doing stuff together as a family. For my part, I thought I'd got piste skiing out of my system but the truth is it's still great fun: I can ski harder and more aggressively on-piste than I would ever dare to in the backcountry and that's got to be good for my technique and improve my competence and enjoyment of my backcountry trips. Besides, watching my kids master, at under four, a skill I'm still wrestling with is an addictive pleasure. I'm expecting more tears in my eyes and lumps in my throat for years to come! For now though, we're all skied out.

Crash Out Helmet

3.10.2011

Huldreheimen: Back in from the cold


Five days. Four nights. Brutal, cutting winds. Collapsed bags and chilled to the bone sleeplessness. Chewed up blistered feet. Icy crust, windblown hardpack, kilometers of sastrugi, falls and frustration. Lots of "why do I do this". On the other hand, more than a fair share of sunshine, long, oh so long, views, long, oh so long, light and landscapes that drop your jaw and take away your ability to speak. Can't wait to go back! In fact, as luck would have it, I am going back. I'm heading North on Saturday morning for a week of lift served skiing in, of all places, Gausdal (I could save myself a lot of money by moving to Norway!). "Tut, tut," I hear you say,  "earn your turns". I reckon, after last week, I've got some turns in the bank. Besides, Emily's only three and it'll be a few years before she's dragging her dad off to cold camp in the backcountry. More on the Huldreheimen trip when I get back.

3.02.2011

Huldreheimen: Ready for the off....



Winters hanging on for grim life here in NL but the first signs of spring are starting to show. Time to get outa here! Head North and enjoy the ice Queens cold embrace one more time before it's too late I say! All being well an alpine start on Friday morning should see me on the hill in the early afternoon. Hopefully with daylight enough to put up the tent and construct the outbuildings. Am I ready? Well, unless I've forgotten something, which is quite possible, everything I need is piled up in a heap in the bat cave. Now I just need to make a final selection based on the forecast and see if it fits in my rucksack. The forecast suggests temperatures will be hovering a few degrees above and below zero. Truth be told, even after subtracting a couple of degrees for the altitude, I find these temperatures more challenging than deep cold. It's all going to be about managing the moisture!


On the subject of that pile, there's a lot of new and untested kit on it. Amongst the newbies are a shelter (a mid so I'm finally going to find out what all the fuss is about), new sleeping mats (a new mat combo, born out of the need to retire my downmat, that may be just a little light on insulation), a new jacket (mid layer and shell in one?), new ski boots (plastic buckets this time!) paired with very different skis (wider and waisted) and a new make of freeze dried food. I'm wondering how this is going to go? I'm most curious about the ski and boot combination. Chosen for it's potential to ward off face plants it could go either way. I'm generally conservative about footwear. In my experience the equation reads: Sore feet = Misery = Ruined Trip. I'm also quite curios about the shelter. I've had little opportunity to try it out here but recent storms have at least taught me that it can deal with strong winds. Heading out into the winter with an untested tent is not normally something I would recommend but this time out there are lots of potential bail outs should conditions take a turn for the worse and then there's always the shovel. I’ll let you know if experiment supports the theory.

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