Trip report Vålådalen 2016

My trip started from my home in Jönköping, Sweden, on the 9th of September where I drove up to Jon’s cabin in Jämtland about two hours from Vålådalen. It was an easy drive up north and I arrived at the cabin around 11pm. Once there I lit a fire in the fireplace and sat down on the sofa and had a beer before going to sleep.

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I got up the next day at 7am, had some breakfast, packed the last things in my backpack and got in my car. It was so dark when I got there last night so I didn’t realize that fall had actually come a long way up here compared to home. Was excited about this because that would mean that I could expect vivid colors out on the trail. The morning was clear and the air was cold and damp, you could see for miles.

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9/10, 10 am, Vålådalen mountain station, my feet are starting to carry me out on the trail going south. It was quite many people on the parking lot preparing to go out just seconds after I arrived with my car half an hour ago. Fortunately they all went further south towards Lunndörren so just after five minutes I was completely on my own. I didn’t see another person for almost two hours, did however see two mountain bikes leaning towards a tree but didn’t see the owners of them even though I lingered a little at the spot.

Walking alone for the first time like this and knowing I’m to be out on my own for about 7 days is both really exciting and also a little scary. Not knowing what I’ll encounter and what kind of problems that might arise. My biggest fear, gear-wise, is to break on of my trekking poles because then I’ll have some real issues with pitching my tent…

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At lunch time I’ve arrived at Stensdalen mountain hut, alone. Met up fairly quickly with the hut wardens before they set of with their kid out onto the fells. The weather was warm and cloudy, perfect for hiking! After leaving the hut I meet a few groups coming in to stay the night in Stensdalen. They said that the trails up north have been swamped with people over the weekend. Today it’s Saturday and I won’t be coming up on any big huts until lunch Sunday, hopefully by then most of them will be going home, back to work.

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Stäntja with Sylarna in the horizon. Gåsen mountain on the left and Tjallingklumpen on the right

Around 4pm I reach Stäntja (emergency) hut and just before that I see my first deer in the wild that I’ve ever seen in my life. It was a surreal feeling. Not knowing how many I’d see later on I was really hyped about it. Coming up on Stäntja it was now time to go off trail to my predetermined campsite. The plan is to camp  between the two mountains Gåsen and Tjallingklumpen where there’ll be low ground and easy access to water.

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The climb up to Tjallingtjärnen is quite easy and I meet up with a lot of deers grazing on the hill sides. They’re about as surprised to see me as I them. 1,5 hours later I arrive at my campsite and it’s more beautiful that I could have ever imagined. I haven’t seen another human being for the last four hours and I’m starting to get used to being alone out here.

I setup the tent so I have a nice view over Lill Ulvåfjället and if I go back up the trail a little I can see Sylarna. 8 hours on the trail, 6 of them actively walking resulting in 27.2 kilometers.

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9/11, my brothers birthday. It’s been raining quite heavy since around 11pm and I’ve woken up several times due to the rain hitting the tent so hard. That’s the downside with cuben fiber. When the rain hits it it’s quite loud at times compared to silnylon. It just stopped raining as I woke up and when I looked out the door to the west it looked as it was about to let up completely. I never looked east though, then I would have realized that it wasn’t gonna be the case…

Breaking camp was done in really bad weather, raining really hard and the wind had really picked up. The raindrops hurt when they hit my face due to the windspeed. It was almost coming down horizontally. I think I’ve never broken camp that fast in my life before, haha.

Walking towards Storulvån mountain station was quite tedious not only because of the rain. The trails were completely soaked in mud and because of the mountain bikers they were also at times destroyed to the point where you couldn’t really use the trail itself. After the first river crossing I made a poor decision to go up on Lill Ulvåfjället where I thought that I could scratch off a few kilometers of walking compared to going on a car road but that was not the case. Due to the rain that mountain side was completely filled with water. It was a no-go and after a few kilometers I felt it to be too dangerous to stay up there as the winds were picking up and also if I fall over and hurt myself I would be hard to find. I decided to go back down again and use the road.

I lost a few hours here and I was quite disappointed at myself making a “big” mistake like that. After walking on that road for about a kilometer or two I took a break and rested my feet. Hello there my first two blisters! I could also feel some pain in my left ankle but nothing too bad at the time.

I reached Storulvån at around 1 pm and the rain had almost stopped. I went inside and it was filled with people coming in from the trails around the area. Everyone being just as wet as me. Most of them were going home after a weekend hiking the Jämtland Triangle. I stayed here for about 1 hour drying up and resting my feet. Blister-control. As soon as the rain had stopped and the sun had come back up again I got back out on the trail. I grabbed a power bar and some nuts and pushed on north up the southern side of Getryggen with my goal set for Snasahögarna where my plan was to make camp for the night.

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The view down south towards Storulvån mountain station.

But, yet again I had made a bad decision. This “trail” was really hard to walk due to the rain so instead of getting there faster I never made Snasahögarna. I found my way back to the trail in the west just due north of Snasahögarna hut where I took cover and had dinner as another rainstorm came in. I was really beat at this time and really thought about what the heck am I doing out here… After the dinner was ready and I gained new energy all those negative thoughts were gone just like the rain. Note to self, eat!

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I set up camp just south of that hut on a small “island” just next to the trail and I went to sleep at around 7pm. The night was calm and quiet but cold. I slept like a baby.

32km, 10 hours and 6.45 out on the trail walking.

9/12, waking up to a nice and cold morning, windy. My body feels good and I’m rested. However my left ankle hurts like hell and is a little swollen. Painkillers.

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After I got on the move and my muscles started to warm up the pain got easier to handle. Still feeling every step I take but as the nice views of Sylarna started to show up I soon forget about that. I have a quick stop at Ulvåtjärn hut, drying my feet.

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The trails are really muddy. Have sunken down in to a mud hole on my way here, my left leg was covered right up to my knee in mud. I meet the first hikers after a few hours and one of them is walking alone so I ask her to take a picture. The sun sitts really high now and it’s really hot. Probably around 18 degrees celsius at 10pm.

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After a 5 minute chat we set of in different directions again and it takes about an hour before I meet someone else. The trails are not crowded at all, I feel relieved.

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Oh deer.

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Sylarna, just south of the mountain station.

I arrive at Sylarna mountain station around lunch time. The plan was to go up on Sylarna and setup camp there but because I never made Snasahögarna yesterday I’m about half a day ahead of schedule. I talk to one of the staff at the hut and he recommends me going up on one of the ridge lines on Sylarna to get a good view west into Norway and from there go down south and camp somewhere around Ekorrdörren hut.

The wind was picking up again and my left ankle still hurts like hell so I decided that I’d seen what I came here to see at Sylarna and instead try to get a better view to the east and inwards towards Sylarna from a higher angle. There’s this mountain just behind me to the east called Herrklumpen (1 288 m) where I figured I’ll get that view. And oh did I get a good view over the area. Not disappointed at all leaving Sylarna for another time.

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Coming down from Herrklumpen, view south east, Helags in the distance (left).

Pushing on towards Helgs now. The views are really nice but it was hard to find a good campsite. Just like always I walk further than I planned ending up at a good spot for the next day with an awesome views of Helags.

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Campsite for the night, awesome view!

I parked my tent just north of Mieshketjahke (say that one fast) around 5 pm. Having actively walked for about 5 hours, 30.88 km.

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9/13, decided last night that I would have a slow morning and sleep in as I was so much ahead of schedule, 1.5 days right now… More painkillers, my left ankle is really swollen right now, even worse than last night.

The night was calm and quite cold. Around 2am I woke up to a deer close to my tent barking at me. It probably wondered why I was there sleeping in his or her spot. It left after a few minutes but still scared the crap out of me when it started shouting at me so close by.

The morning was warm and calm. Could feel as soon as I woke up that it was gonna be a hot day. I brought everything that was wet or moist out of the tent and pegged my quilt to the ground to dry as there was a light breeze and I was in no mood to run an chase it if the wind picked up.

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As soon as I had breakfast I left. The first river crossing was just 50 meters from the tent, with dry shoes for the first time in two and a half days I did my best and managed to get across without getting my feet wet. Hooray!

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Mieshketjhakies hut

The road to Helags is dominated by vast and open landscapes. I wondered how it would be out here in the winter when the wind is blowing. I guess you can’t really see much.

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“Härjedalen”

The weather was awesome and the views are even better. Arrived at Helags hut without meeting anyone on the way there and it was about lunch time. A few fell runners came in about 20 minutes after I arrived and I was no longer alone. Well, I wasn’t really alone before that either because there was a deer that didn’t show much fear of humans as he was in the middle of the hut complex standing in the shade. Every now and then he set off on some mission to the north and came back in 1o minutes or so and went back to the same spot as before. He just stood there. If you haven’t seen him move earlier you might misstake him for being a stuffed animal.

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I sat there at Helags mountain station enjoying the view of the Helags glacier. The southern most glacier in Sweden. The plan was to go up to it and have a look. That was the one thing that Jon really wanted to do when we planned the trip here. Unfortunately Jon got a really bad cold or something similar and couldn’t make the trip. I had this vision in my head the night before that I would be on top of Helags standing next to the glacier and calling or texting Jon that I was there. Yet again I fear for my foot as it was hurting quite badly and I had increased the amount of painkiller that I was taking. There was a uphill trek towards my next campsite so I figured I might have the same luck again as the day before if I went up there.

The original plan was to climb Helags and then camp just south of the mountain station. But this morning I said to myself, yes literally, being alone makes me talk to myself, and my fellow deer friends that I come across, that if I don’t feel like it I’m just gonna push on and go up another mountain instead. So that’s what I did.

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After going up that hill to the east I got a great view into the “crater” of Helags. I kind of wished that I had gone up there because it revealed that the glacier was much bigger than what you could see from the mountain station. But I was in good spirits and also had a big eagle circling above my head going quite low so I could see all the details on its wings. All this kept me pushing on with a smile on my face.

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The walk was good, I had the sun at my back, a slight breeze was blowing with warm winds and I was completely alone.

As soon as I got down from the high ground it went completely silent. I had to stop several times just to listen because the only thing I could hear was my own footsteps and my trekking poles touching the ground. Otherwise there was nothing. That’s a really weird feeling that can’t really be explained. It has to be experienced.

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My planed and actual campsite for the night was just north of Ljungan hut and on the south-eastern slopes of tomorrows climb, Härjångsfjällen. I made a quick stop at Ljungan hut before trying to get my bearings on a good spot for me and my tent. The walk was tougher than I’d imagined but I came there fairly easy in the end. It was not the best or should I say the flattest ground but I managed to find a good spot in the end. The scenery was spectacular. Helags in the distance with the sun setting is an amazing view, I tell you.

Two days ahead of schedule, 5.5 hours active walking, 33 km.

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harljangsfjallen-map9/14, last day of the trip (not planned to be the last). Woke up fairly early and had breakfast outside of the tent as the sun came up. It was getting warm really fast and I could feel that it would be a really hot day.

I broke camp and had the previous day set a direction to go up on Härjångsfjällen. I went in the “middle” so to say between the two peaks. It was completely still, the air didn’t move an inch and the hillside was totally exposed to the sun, it was a sweaty climb. Even on the first peak I reached there was no wind but as soon as I got to where I wanted to go the wind was really moving and I needed to use my wind jacket not to get too cold. I thought I was alone on that hilltop but no. After a minute or so 5-6 deers came up from the northern side to say hi. I moved down on the north-eastern slope parallel to Tvärhammaren that looks more like a sword rather than a hammer that the name points towards.

dsc00592_16-09-14I followed the river down to Härjångsån which I crossed, quite deep and fast moving. Made my way towards Vålåstugorna and halfway there I met up with an old man who solo-hiked with a big backpack. We both stopped and chatted for 15 minutes or so about the trails and where we both were going and have been. He was headed towards Norway just west of Sylarna.

I reached Vålåstugorna not long there after and made a quick stop. It was around 1pm or so when I reached it. The original plan stated that I should make camp just north from there and go via Lunndörren the next day and home. But there was nothing interesting to go and look at right there so I made the decision to push towards Lunndörren and back to Vålådalen mountain station and home, 2 days ahead of schedule.

So that’s what I did. The trails were quite muddy and damaged from the rain that came down on Saturday. One might think that it would have dried up a little but that wasn’t the case.

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I arrived at Lunndörren mountain station quite late, it was longer than I’d expected. I don’t think the signs was completely right because it said something like 15 kilometers to Lunndörren from Vålåstugorna but it was more like 16-17 kilometers. I don’t recommend the trail between those two places or even up to Vålådalen. A waste of energy. In hindsight I should have gone back up to Stensdalen where I came in. I didn’t do this because I didn’t want to cross the same place twice.

The sun was starting to set when I reached Lunndörren. I grabbed a power bar, more painkillers and two handfuls of nut mix and started walking again. I even tested my head torch before setting off because I was sure that it would be really dark before reaching Vålådalen mountain station.

The sun started to set and the trail was filled with roots and rocks so I didn’t want to get stuck out there in the dark. I picked up the pace and that really hurt my ankle but as it was only like 13 kilometers left I tried to ignore it the best I could.

I reached Vålådalen mountain station about the time it started to get really dark outside. I had made it just in time! I went up to the hut and managed to get a sandwich and a cup of coffee before heading down to Jon’s cabin. Mission complete!

The last day consisted of 9 hours of walking and 43.8 kilometers. Just past 10 hours since I broke camp around 1o am. Tired but really happy. A personal record.

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Quick update

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10.9 kg excl. water

Some changes to the trip. Jon is unfortunately ill and can’t make the trip.

Therefore I’ve done some changes to my kit, added the cook set and inner tent. But instead of going with my Bearpawwd Pyranet that’s quite big for just one person I borrowed Jons Six Moon Designs Serenity NetTent.

Right now my pack weighs in at about 10.9kg. That’s almost 500g lighter than my packing list. So either something in there’s not weighed correctly or I’m missing something vital, haha. I guess it’s the former one as I’ve dropped a few things in my first aid- and repair kit and haven’t checked their weight afterwards, lazy, yes…

I’ve been looking for a smaller inner for my HMG Ultamid 2 and this is a sweet combo so far. Might be a good buy for me. I’ll get back to how the two performed together after the trip.

So without further ado, Hyperlite Mountain Gear meets Six Moon Designs Serenity NetTent!

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Packing for Vålådalen

It’s starting to get closer to this years trip into the wilderness. We’ve been test-packing and checking our gear today in the sun and then went for a supply run to stock up on food and snacks. Everything looks like it’s in order.

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I’ve bought some new stuff for this trip. Some items were just too worn out to bring and I also got something new as an complement, down vs synthetic.

New items:

  • Inov-8 Terraclaw 220 shoes (replacement)
  • 2 pairs of socks (replacement)
  • Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoodie (complement)
  • Patagonia Houdini Jacket (replacement)
  • Arc’Teryx Venta Gloves (replacement)

My gear list can be found here, it’s a work in progress. Haven’t weighed and repacked the food just yet but everything is bought. Besides that everything should be there.

Jons list gear list also more or less completed.

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Why you won’t freeze or starve going ultralight

Quick reblog from Mike at HMG.

I think this is the thing that people always look at me with that strange look when they ask about what I bring to a backpacking trip.

– Will you survive out there with just those things? How can you even wash your utensils if you don’t bring the kitchen sink? Look! I bought this at [enter random store name here], it was super cheap and the sales person said it was the best thing ever. I bought two just in case…

Link to my kit-list.

Remember to never go stupid-light!

People new to thru hiking and backpacking often don’t realize they need far less than what they think or what their local big box outdoor store salesperson tells them they need. They base what they bring on their fears. Don’t fall into this trap. Understanding what you need is the secret to knowing what you don’t. You absolutely need something to sleep on, to sleep in and to sleep under. Plus you need insulating layers, waterproof layers, some kind of water treatment, a knife, a headlamp and the right kind of food at the right time. Anything else is gravy. I’m not saying you must leave your nonessential, favorite items behind; I simply recommend you strip down to the bare essentials, and then rebuild your list from there with your wants.

These are some common fears or questions we’ve heard over the years:

  • How warm is that tent?
  • I’d better bring 2 layers of fleece in case I get cold!
  • What if I don’t have enough food?
  • I need a stove to cook.

These fears are misplaced, and here’s why.

Read more!

Iceland 2015 – Gear talk with André

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Post-hike-picture

Here’s a rundown of what I brought to Iceland. All in all I’m very please with my gearlist and how everything works together. But sure, some items could be switched to lighter alternatives especially some clothing. I mainly refer to my Patagonia items. I’m a big Patagonia fan and that’s also why I don’t see any need to switch them to anything else before they break down completely. And this far they’ve held up really good!

Big Three

Zpacks Arc’Blast Backpack

One of my latest additions to my list. Sold another backpack for this one and I haven’t looked back since. Very good quality and super comfortable.

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Sleeping bag

Cumulus Quilt 250

Also quite new, have had a few nights in it but not any cold ones. I had great hope that it would perform as I liked and I can’t say anything else. Cold/warm nights aren’t a problem as you just cinch it tighter or leave it open depending on the weather. Had the coldest night in it since I bought it, around 0 degrees centigrade and it wasn’t a problem. If it would get a bit colder than that you’ll have to sleep with more clothing on. For around zero you’ll be good in long johns and a shirt.

Sleeping pad

THERM-A-REST NeoAir X-Lite

If it was a liiittle wider it would be perfect. Happy with the length if I just put a sitting pad under my feet during the night to keep them off the cold ground.

Shelter

HYPERLIGHT Mountain Gear Ultamid 2

I’ve had this for some time now and it always feels like a safe place to sleep. One thing that I’ll probably change in the future it’s the HMG pole straps. They’re not bad but not the best either. If something will fail with the shelter it’s probably them. I’ve looked at a few options and I think I’ll have some sort of pole extension. Probably the “The Missing Link“.

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BEARPAWWD INNER Net

Good stuff but a little heavier than other options on the market right now. When I got it there weren’t any real good options to this one. Happy with it.

Clothing

I’ll just be a little lazy here and not put everything out here from my list. As I started this post I mostly use clothes from Patagonia and they’ve always performed well. Nothing to complain about really other than they could be a little lighter.

INOV-8 Trailroc 245

Great buy, cheap and durable! After this trip I’ve bought new inner soles just as an easy upgrade. Not really sure that my current ones are worn out but better safe than sorry. Have walked +300km in these and on the outside the mesh still looks good and the sole still have plenty of grip left. Something to note is that the grip will eat away faster on rocky terrain like in Jotunheimen rather than the mixed terrain on Iceland (go figure).

SEALSKINZ

Well… They’re comfortable but won’t keep your feet dry long enough even if you just use them round camp. When they’re brand new the do the trick pretty good but the GTX membrane will deteriorate quite fast. Will probably look for a replacement.

Mountain Laurel Design Rain Kilt

Also first time use on this trip. Never had to use it in rain but wore it in camp once after a quick “swim” in the hot pool. It’s supposed to be good for when you do laundry on thru hikes and such (and of course in rain) as it’s not see-through. Jon however commented on that it might not be. Don’t know if people was looking at me because of the kilt/skirt or because they saw something underneath it… I’ll never know 🙂

Tools

Suunto Ambit

Great watch with good battery life. Unfortunately it has been acting up some times and have had problems with acquiring a good GPS-fix. I’ve noticed that it’ll “jump” a few hundred meters in all directions and then coming back to a good fix (out on the trail). It’s completely on random as far as I know and I haven’t found anything on the internet saying that this is a common problem with the particular model. I’ll just have to get in touch with Suunto’s customer service and see what they think.

Sony rx100 mark 3

Great little camera! I was very please with the quality of the pictures. It’s most definitely comparable with the expensive DSLRs on the market like the Canon 5D Mark II.

BLACK DIAMOND ALPINE CARBON CORK

Just, wow, everytime you use them. When you’re out there you don’t really think about them, they just work. They never complain, the flick-lock system hold everything in place during the day and the night when it supports the tent. Can’t recommend them enough.

HMG Stuff sack

These I just got before we left for Iceland. Replaced my sleeping bag stuff sack with one of these and the other I used for the food. Worked just fine, nothing to complain about.

TRAIL DESIGNS SIDEWINDER + INFERNO CONE W. EVERNEW TITANIUM ULTRA LIGHT .9L POT

Aaah, the kitchen. What makes you go further (and lighter). Works great with both alcohol and wood. For this trip it was only used with alcohol and we had no problem with it even in windy conditions.

The stove and HMG stuff sack filled with food.

To sum things up I’m very happy with everything I have right now and there isn’t anything that i really need to change because it’s not working right now. But there’s always possible to upgrade some items just to be safe like with the adaptor for the hiking poles to support the shelter better in high winds.

Iceland 2015 – Gear talk with Jon

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Final day of the trip on top of volcano Magni. Carrying all I needed for the trip. No less, no more.

So now with some time to reflect after the trip it’s time to do a gear rundown. In general I am very pleased with the kit I carried for this hike. I used more or less all the items carried, never felt that anything was missing and managed to be fully self sustainable during the whole trip.

Here is a quick walk through of the gear I brought on the trip. I have kept the information very short. If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Big three:

Arc Blast Haul Cuben fibeR version

The suspension of this pack is totally fantastic. After five days and 100 km + of walking I felt like I hadn’t even worn a backpack. No problems with aching shoulders, no sore hips after the belt and the vented back actually helps a bit to get the sweat of my back.

The only downside is that the mesh on the front pocket got ripped in a couple of places. I don’t have any good ideas how to fix this so i guess I’ll have to live with it. A bit disappointing for 400 dollar backpack to.

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Striking a pose above Skogafoss. My shoulder pouch well visible. Also note the dyneema shoulder straps and roll top that clips down to the side of my pack.

The shoulder pouch is worth mentioning. Used this for my camera and sunglasses. And it got used all the time. A perfect way to store these items that are a little bit fragile and good to have close by. If now someone could make a version with padding

Sleeping Bag

RAB Neutrino 200

Kept the temperature really well. I love the waterproof dry/stuff bag that comes with it. Considering getting either lighter version, possibly a WM Hi Lite to save some weight.

Sleeping pad

Therm-a-rest Z-lite

One of the few items I’m not satisfied with. To sleep better during longer trips I have now realized i need a wider and full length sleeping pad. Considering getting a Klymit pad for this.

Shelter

HMG Ultamid 2

Superb! Nothing more to add.

Bearpawwd inner tent.

Besides the weight the only problem with this inner tent was that its lack of solid walls made it quite chilly inside the tent when the winds got stronger. For future trips in these kind of conditions a similar version with solid fabric for the lower part of the walls seems like a good idea.

Clothing

Houdini Motion Light Pants

Light weight and dry up fast, an important ability when doing lots of river fording. On the downside these pants are starting to get worn out. Seems are loosing and I got a couple of small holes in them. I think I will look for a new set of pants for next season. Hopefully I can find a model with zippers on at least one of the front pockets.

RAB Helium T-shirt

Sheds away sweat like a champ. Dries up fast. It’s a keeper.

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State of my shoes after one day in the lavasand!

Salomon Fellraiser

These shoes fits me perfectly. The toe box is a bit larger than usually and gives good room for my toes. Inner soles were completely finished after this trip, so when i found them at a discount in a nice green color at Wiggle i ordered directly.

Haglöfs Lite Webbing Belt

I don’t know why I didn’t switch this piece of crap out after last year. Loosens up all the time and forces me to stop and adjust both pants and belt. Combined with Andrés bad experience with Haglöfs products I am now starting seriously to question the quality of their products. Needs a replacement asap.

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One of the few moments I didn’t wear the wind shirt, only my Icebreaker Merino. Sunglasses neatly stuffed in my shoulder pocket.

Icebreaker GT Merino long sleeve

Used more or less all the time. Combined with an outer shell this gives enough warmth for all but the coldest weather. Used by itself it ventilate good enough to be worn almost all of the time. I actually think this shirt was worn 99% of the time I was on trail.

Microfiber boxer shorts

Dries up to slow. I need to get a pair of merino boxers.

Inov 8 Mudsoc Mid

Wearing regular pants there is no need to have longer socks than this. Combined with a pair of 10 denier ankle socks I managed to keep my feet in perfect condition. Despite walking for over 20 km in snow, crossing dozens of rivers and in general walking with wet feet.

Houdini Airborn Hat

I love this little beanie. One of my favourite pieces of kit. The merino/silk combo works wonderful. Keeps me warm in the breeze and stays cool when my body builds up heat. Also dries up fast, an ability that’s important for me if you haven’t noticed…

Woolpower liner socks

Extra socks I wear to warm my feet when sleeping. Keeps me warm and gets my feet dry.

Sealskinz

These started to get wet after a couple of days. I only use these at camp to let my wet feet rest and get warm. So these socks don’t get used much. Have heard good things about Rocky GoreTex socks so I’ll maybe give them a try.

Arc’teryx Konseal Fleece

Didn’t use this much at all. But it fills a niche when I need an extra layer and is to sweaty or wet from rain to use my down jacket. Stays for future trips.

Icebreaker Long Johns

Only needed this for cold nights in the tent. Did the job well. Only alternative I could see is a pair of down pants but im a bit sceptical about those.

RAB Pulse Rainjacket

Incredibly we had only lighter rain showers so I only used this jacket once! It’s lightweight and keeps away rain showers reasonably. But I have noticed that the Pertex fabric is starting to peel of at the shoulders. I guess the wear from the shoulder pads is to much for this fabric. Think I will keep my eyes open for a eVent jacket.

Montbell Versalite Rain Pants

Didn’t need to use these. Light weight though.

RAB eVent Gaiters

Didn’t use.

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Montbell Ex Light Wind Parka. 65 gr of wind proof magic, straight from Japan.

Montbell Ex Light Wind Parka

MVP of this trip. Used this ridiculously light wind jacket so much. It breaks wind perfectly and is quick to adjust when you get warm. Even the super flimsy hood does a good job of keeping my head warm in the chilly winds of Iceland.

Montbell Plasma 1000

Super light down jacket. I downgraded from my thicker Arc’teryx hoodie that was overkill for these conditions. Used as insulation for shorter stops and at camp.

Outdoor Research Versaliner

These gloves still hold up and suits me perfectly. Didn’t need to use the waterproof shell but it’s a nice insurance to have if the weather gets really bad.

Vans Spicoli Sunglasses

Cheap and durable Wayfarer style shades. For hikes in more sunny environments I would probably go for something with more cover.

Tools

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A quick stop on the way up Mount Gathilur. On ascents like these hiking poles are a great help.

Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork

These trekking poles are perfect. The flick lock system doesn’t compress a single millimeter. I used them almost all the time and at night they double as support for the shelter. The fact that these poles are not at a fixed length also makes it possible to pitch the shelter at different heights depending on how much airflow you want.

I have yet not needed to use the snow baskets for these so I think they will have to stay in the gear box for now.

GoPro Camera

Didn’t use this one very much as André stood for most of the filming. I’ll leave this one at home next time.

Canon IXUS 240HS

This one was ready in my shoulder pouch and I took loads of pictures. Of course not a high end tool but ok for my needs.

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A long spoon for your freeze bag meals. Some times it’s just that easy!

Sea to Summit, Long Spoon

Perfect to dig up that last bit of mashed potatoes out of the bottom of your freeze bag.

Platypus flasks

Ditched the push pull cap for a normal screw on version. Does it’s job, lightweight and still holds up.

Zpacks dry bag and stuff sack

A dry bag for my dry clothes and a lighter stuff sack for my food. I have learned that one dry bag is enough for me. Use a 3 L Zip lock as extra storage for wet clothes that i don’t want to put in the dry bag.

Trail Designs Sidewinder + Inferno Cone w. Evernew Titanium Ultra Light .9L Pot

Used this only with alcohol this time as wood is quite sparse on Iceland. Worked well but takes its time to get water boiling.

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27 g

Deejo 27 folding knife

Used this for cutting cord, opening food bags and so on. Does what it’s intended for but don’t expect more from such a small blade.

 

So, for the future I can see some room for improvement. Of course some of these are depending on where we I will be going next. But there still are some smaller items I wan’t to switch. But in general I feel that I now have nailed down a very good UL-kit that I can depend on in tough conditions!

Iceland 2015 – Trip report

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This year we decided to go for a trip to Iceland. We discussed a lot of options after our fantastic travel to Jotunheimen, but when we found the Laugavegur trail we quickly decided that Iceland was a go for summer 2015.

As we both have quite busy schedules we knew that we wouldn’t have too much time available for travel so we tried to maximize the amount of hiking we could get out of from a total of one weeks travel, flight and transfer included. Normally the Laugavegur trail is recommended for a four to five day trip but we guessed that we would make that trip in two days. So we added two extra days for expeditions in Thórsmörk valley and then decided that we wanted to walk the Fimmvörðuháls trail from Thórsmörk down to Skógafoss as the great finale. If all went as planned we would arrive at the Atlantic coast after five days of walking.

Short after this the preparations began, we were pretty confident after our Norway trip so only small adjustments were made. What worried us the most were the weather conditions on Iceland. We were told to expect a lot of rain and wind. So the rain gear was updated. Exept for the rain gear there wasn’t very much that was changed from last season, the main difference were our shiny new Zpacks backpacks. But these would have been bought any way, as we both wanted to get new backpacks.

With all gear and planning sorted we went for a couple of weekend test hikes. Both of these showed to be fantastic trips in their own and we felt safe with our preparations, even thou we didn’t se a single raindrop on these trips.

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Day One

We started of the first day early from Landmannalaugar. This place reminds more of a festival camping than a regular campsite so we were eager to get on trail.

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Landmannalaugar

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Hot springs, kind of like the Blue lagoon.

From the first steps of the trail we understood that this would be a very different kind of trip. We started directly by climbing up a wall of black lava, covered in old moss. All around us were the multi colored mountains of Landmannalaugar. The trail went steadily upwards but we continued in good pace, just stopping to hydrate and marvel over the other worldly views around us.

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First steps out on the trail.

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Walking past some beautiful scenery

Walking past some beautiful scenery

As we gained elevation the trail was soon snow covered. This went on for around 10 kilometers and slowed us a bit but sure made for some interesting hiking. By 10:00 we arrived at Hrafntinnusker hut which was midpoint of this days walk. We soon started to catch up with some of the hikers who had stay at the hut and now had started tolk walk towards Álftavatn. A couple of kilometers later the snow finally ended and we climbed the last peaks and could enjoy a view back over the mountains of Landmannalaugar.

The 19th Laugavegur Ultra Marathon just happened to be on the same day as we started. Good for us that we we're so far a head of everyone so that we'd passed most of the snow.

The 19th Laugavegur Ultra Marathon just happened to be on the same day as we started. Good for us that we were so far a head of everyone so that we’d passed most of the snow.

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On top of the hill from the last picture.

The descent now started down to Alftavatn. At some parts the trail was pretty steep and now the wind was also starting to gain strength. You could actually lean forward a good bit and let the force of the wind hold you upright!

When we finally had made the way down to the foot of the mountain we decided to stop for lunch. This was the first flat ground we hade met that was not snow covered. As the weather was quite good with sunshine and a slight breeze. we could dry out our footwear and catch some sun hidden from the winds in a small canyon next to the trail.

After this there was a quick walk on flat ground down to Álftavatn. The campsite was located on a beautifull open green plain next to a small lake. We pitched the tent, took a stroll down to the beach and made some food while enjoying the sunny weather.

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The open location of the camping field seemed lika a perfect place for strong winds so we anchored the Ultamid shelter with great care. And indeed a couple of hours into the night we woke up from the smattering noise of the Cuben canvas getting beaten by the wind. But the tent stood its ground and didn’t move an inch. Later we got to know that the winds were up to 25 m/s during the night and its a good feeling to know that the Ultamid has no problem dealing with these kind of forces.

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Álftavatn campsite and hut

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Day Two

Next day we started of on the long walk towards Thórsmörk. The normal walk for this is to stop halfway at Emstrur but we felt that would have been to short for a one day hike.

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Hvanngil

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The trail took us down in the valley of Katla Geopark. All along the way we hade the glacier of Mýrdalsjökull on our left side. Covering the whole view to our west. Here the landscape was greener with mountains and old volcanoes at all sides.

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There were a couple of river crossing on this section. Hiking with wet feet is a great advantage when doing river crossing as you hardly ever need to stop before wading over the cold water. At each ford we always met hikers either preparing to ford the river or working frenetically to dry their cold wet feet to get back in their warm and fussy boots. The look on some of these people when we just walked past them and into the river was priceless. Counting up all the rivers we crossed we must at least have saved one hour during this day, just by not needing to stop and switch footwear and dry up.

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The black sand is really cool but it also attaches to everything

After a couple of hours we reached Emstrur, a small camp located in a ravine. We stopped for some food, took a small detour to the canyon close by and then got going towards Thórsmörk.

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Coming up on Emstrur hut. Just around the bend to the left, where the car is going.

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By now the wind was starting to catch up in strength. When the trail got down to the low lands, covered in a black sand desert we started to see small tornadoes of black sand. The landscape once more was completely surreal. Black desert covering wide stretches of ground, framed by equally dark mountains stretching up on all sides. If there is one place on earth were Sauron could have lived with his orc companions this would be it!

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The closer we got to Thórsmörk the more vegetation surrounded us. In the afternoon we crossed the last river and entered the small woods in the hills of Thórsmörk. The contrast to the previous landscapes was remarkable. This place felt almost as home. By six o clock we arrived at the Volcano Huts, having walked 35 km we were of course a bit tired and most of all hungry!

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Jon is taking a pre-meal-break

After a quick dinner we pitched the tent, took a bath in the geothermally heated pool and soon fell asleep in the bright Icelandic night.

Day Three

We woke up to rainfall. As the day before had been long we didn’t hurry away. Instead we took our time and waited out the rain before breaking camp. For the two next coming days we had planned to do expeditions in the valley so we started of, aiming at the closest mountaintop.

On our way we stumbled over a cave, complete with a overhang waterfall. We managed to squeeze in between the boulders and stood watching in awe.

André is drinking water from the waterfall

André is drinking water from the waterfall

After this we climbed up to the top of Mount Valahnúkur. Not a very high peak in it self but its conic volcano shape and placement at the edge between two river deltas made for a marvelous view over vast glaciers and valleys.

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Contemplating

Contemplating

Photo taken by some American seniors that arrived about the same time we did from the east (easy) path

Photo taken by some American seniors that arrived about the same time we did from the east (easy) path

Down from the mountain we took a break, cooked some food and decided to cross the river Krossá. We decided to ford the river instead of taking the bridge that was located a couple of hundred meters up river. Not a very smart decision in hindsight as the water was waist deep and the stream quite strong.

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Trying to get across the cold rivers, easier said than done

The goal for this trip was Stakkholtsgjá Canyon, a deep canyon ending in the valley below Mount Valahnúkur. As we got closer we realized that the water level on the fords in the riverbed was pretty high, explaining why no one else was to be found at this spot. We had to try at least five different crossing before we finally were able to find a safe way over the rivers and could walk deeper into the canyon.

The canyon was definitely one of the highlights of this trip. Walking the bottom of the riverbed, surrounded by vertical cliffs and waterfalls at all sides with birds circling above us brought a calmness and serenity not often seen in our modern lifestyle. We stayed in the canyon for a couple of hours walking in deeper and following the riverbed up closer to the glaciers.

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A really cool place!

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The view from where we came in

After this we quickly went to a campsite on the same side of river Krossá and made preparations for the night. All the river fording in the canyon had got us cold and it was a relief to get the wet clothing off and switching to warm layers. Unfortunately both of us had problems with our Seal Skinz socks that by now where starting to leak. Despite that we only were using them on evenings to get our feet dry and warm!

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Brought this portable swing in my pack and decided to have a go before pitching the tent

Day Four

Next morning we went back over Krossá, this time by the bridge, and walked up the Tindfjöll mountains. The path led along a ridge giving a view not only over the Thórsmörk but also over the valley where we hade walked down from Emstrur two days earlier. A satisfying feeling to look back over the expanse and see how far we actually had walked.

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The recommended way to cross Krossá…

Jon now realized he had made a biiiig mistake. He had forgotten one of his inner soles. The soles were taken out the evening before to dry up after all the river fording the previous day, and somehow one of them got left behind. Luckily the camp was on the way back towards Skógar so we decided to walk back in the valley below the Tindfjöll mountain range and cross the river again to go searching for the inner sole. Despite this being a pretty serious situation we managed to keep up the mood and walked along. André was a bit bitter though, as he had seen a nice mountain top further away that he more than gladly would have climbed.

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Tindfjöll mountain range

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Watch your step!

After a short walk we were back at the camp. And believe it or not, the sole was still there, hidden in the wet grass!

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Just like winning the lottery!

As it was only lunch time we decided to go up closer to the valleys next to Mýrdalsjökul and Katla to see the glaciers up close. Also this time the riverbed was crossed with fords that were pretty hard to wade but we were soon over.

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Natural Pringles

The trail lead us straight up Mount Gathilur. As the sides of the mountains were very steep we had to follow the switchbacks back and forth. Higher and higher up the mountain. When we finally decided to stop we were at 500 meters height and had a fantastic view over the green mountainsides and the massive ice cap covering the volcano of Katla deep below.

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Taking a break next to a massive rock with a small cave

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While we were resting we suddenly saw a trio of hikers approaching from the top. Soon we realized that one of the guys was riding a bike! It’s to much to say that he actually was biking as it showed out to be some kind of photo shoot. The guy on the bike carried his bike to a scenic spot, waited for the camera team to get in position and then cycled 20 or 30 meters down the trail while his companions shot away with their cameras. Pretty impressive anyway, sure made for some cool photos!

Having observed this for a while we decided to go back down and pitch our tent. We found a good spot close to the start of Fimmvörðuháls and made camp there. Eager for the last day of our trip!

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Campsite for the night

Day Five

A light drizzle met us as we started our way up towards Fimmvörðuháls. As we climbed higher we soon reached and passed the low layer clouds that were covering the mountains around us. The trail constantly went uphill and we started to get very warm in our rain gear. It wasn’t long before we skipped the rain jackets and got into our wind jackets instead as the rain got lighter and lighter.

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Thórsmörk in the background.

We had noticed earlier that the trails on Iceland tend to go OVER all the tops and ridges instead of going in the valleys and along the lowlands, as our trails back home in Sweden. And the part down to Skógar was no exception. At some parts we walked a 50 cm wide edge with 45 degree slopes on each side ending in the valley 500 meters below!

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Patches with snow soon started to dot the previously so green landscape and after that we quickly hit the snow. We kept on climbing upwards in the slushy snow and by 10:30 we hade reached the pass were the two newly formed volcanoes Magni and Modi stood. Standing on top of a volcano, shaped no more than five years ago sure is a strange feeling! By now the snow cover was so thick that in som places the posts marking the trail was totally covered. These were a bit over two meters tall, so there were lots of snow!

We kept on pushing through the sleet and by 12:00 we were at Baldursskali hut, from now on we knew that it would be downwards.

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Baldursskali hut in the distance

Not long from the hut the trail started to follow Skóga River. In the beginning the river was small and the waterfalls we saw were quite modest in sight. But as we got lower and closer to the Atlantic the waterfalls got bigger and bigger.

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These kind of small waterfalls were just about everywhere just next to the trail

Now we also started to meet people that were walking up from Skógar to watch the waterfalls. They tended to arrive in large herds so we had to do our best to avoid the masses. Now the feeling that the journey soon was to be over started to get strong, we were no longer alone in the wilderness and civilization was around the corner.

The Atlantic!

The Atlantic!

After walking in what seemed to be a never ending line of gigantic waterfalls at half by twelve we finally reached Skógafoss and end of line to this journey!

Skógafoss

Skógafoss

We had not only got there in time, we had more or less made a flawless journey where we were able to stick to our planned route, brought equipment perfectly fit for the trip. And we were both in fully good condition!

Conclusions

Laugavegur is a fantastic trail. In a rather short trail you manage to see a great variation of landscapes. Landscapes that you won’t be able to see on many other places on earth. multi colored mountains, hot springs, volcano tops, glaciers, lava deserts. The list can be made long. The trail itself is not too hard to walk, as long as you are prepared for some ascents and from time to time really bad weather.

A big drawback with this trail is that you have to camp on the dedicated campsites. As Swedes we are used to allemansrätten and the possibility to put up a tent at any place where you won’t disturb anyone. This is for us a large part of the outdoors experience and truly lets you make your own experience.

This was not made better by the fact that many of the campsites almost were like small festival camps. Busses and cars everywhere, people playing basketball. None of this is of course anything wrong, but when you fly halfway over the Atlantic to enjoy a hike in nature it kind of take the wild feeling out of it. The fact that you had to pay a mandatory camping fee didn’t help either…

With that said this was an amazing hike. For anyone with the slightest interest in hiking we would warmly recommend to walk Laugavegur and get the chance to see the incredible landscapes of Iceland!

Finally the video from our trip, one more time:

Happy hiking!