Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Spent last weekend at Michael's cabin in Nordmarka (the woods immediately north of Oslo.) The occasion was Krepsival--Ane and Michael's second-annual crawdad-fishin' extravaganza--and Claire san's departure back to the world of microbrews and thai food. I met Ane at her apartment on Friday and we hopped on the secret train that plunges straight into the woods from the city. We took it for about an hour, and then hopped off to meet our friends who would drive us the rest of the way to the cabin.

Gjerdingen from the water.

The cabin is on a penninsula in a lake, and the plan was to set out pots with bait on Friday afternoon and then collect the poor little bastard crawdads that got stuck in them in two shifts: one in the middle of the night and once the next morning. I bailed on the night shift in favor of cozy sleeping, and went instead the next morning. It had begun to rain (again) but it was actually kind of nice.

celebrating the catch with a gruppebilde

After bringing in our catch we retired to the kitchen. Claire and I made delicious butternut squash curry soup while Michael headed up the job of boiling our 110 new little friends. Afterwards it was lunch, naptime, cocktail hour and then the crawdad feast and general merriment.

On Sunday we went hiking/sheep chasing and then ate more delicious food before heading back to the city.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Sunset on Piz Palü and Bellavista

My friend Casey suggested we meet up for some mountaineering in Switzerland this summer, and I jumped at the opportunity to see the Alps. Jeannie jumped even faster though, and had agreed to coming within 45 seconds of my asking her. What a sucker.

So the two of us met up at the Zürich airport and then hopped the train to Lucerne to meet Casey and his mystery woman Megan. It was really good to see Jeannie. She is a pretty special friend in that we don't actually talk that often when we're apart, but when we see each other after long periods it is easy to immediately feel comfortable and pick up as before.

We found Casey and Megan (who I liked immediately as I realized she was a fellow hedonist,) and hopped another train to Grindlewald, which is right below the north face of the Eiger. We had cleverly stocked up on swiss cheese, chocolate and wine at the store and we spent the train ride enjoying these as we gawked at the scenery and joked about how the Swiss must spend millions a year buying all of that aquamarine dye for their lakes.

Grindlewald is out of control Swiss. The Eiger, the bimmeling cows, the meadows and cutesy houses, the smiling yet cheese-induced-hypertensive's almost too much. But we settled into a hostel for a few days of meadow-prancing, fondue-eating, and cable-car riding there and in/around Lauterbrunnen. We also went for some 'hikes', which usually just ended with us taking a beer in some mountain hut. This area is ridiculously beautiful, and I liked the way the plump little locals were always smiling even with hoards of Asian tourists walking around in lines. They really didn't seem to have a care in the world, and I don't know if I would either with all of the cheese and mountains they are blessed with.
The Euro-mountain-experience

After Grindlewald we hopped on the train again to head all the way around the country and to the very Southeast. We had decided to try our pudgy little hands at some alpine mountaineering in the Bernina group. This landed us a night in St. Moritz, which seems like a pretty ridiculous town. The day afterward though we cruised up to Pontresina and started our hike up toward Bernina to spend the first night in the Boval hut.

180 degree pano from the Boval Hut, thanks to Claire for stitchin'er up for me!

And what a hut it was, with amazing views of Piz Morteratsch, Bernina, Bellavista, Palü and the confluence of two large valley glaciers. Oh, and as soon as we showed up they had beer and a 5-course meal made. I think I could get used to this euro-mountaineering afterall.

The trick is the wake up times. When you show up at the hut the hut-keepers ask in a very friendly way, 'so, what are you climbing tomorrow?' I got suckered into answering this every time, ready to talk about the cool routes we had planned, how sweet the mountains were, etc. But when you tell them which mountain they just nod and say 'breakfast is at 3:00am then.' And me who thought they wanted conversation...

So the next day we stumbled out of bed and started scrambling up toward Piz Morteratsch. There was a big group from the Swiss alpine club advanced mountaineering course that was also on the route, and they had a different style of climbing. Namely, they roped up for everything. The rock section on Morteratsch wasn't that hard (about class three) but all of the Swiss roped up for the entire thing. This was a bit weird, and caused Jeannie and I to doubt a bit why we weren't roped up. Casey insisted that we didn't need to be, and that it was actually more dangerous to simul climb those bits, so we decided against it. It was the right decision on this route too, as the rock had excellent holds and was not as difficult as it looked. We then climbed around a ridge and up to the summit of Piz Morteratsch, which has one of the cooler views I have ever seen. Amazing glaciated peaks all around, and the elegant snow ridge that we had planned to climb on Bernina.
Nearing the top of the rock section on Morteratsch

At the top we were visited by some seriously awesome Flemish Belgians, who were such a fun contrast to the more business-like Swiss mountaineering style. They announced their summit arrival with hoots and hollers, shook out hands and engaged us in conversation about delicious beer, the worthless french-speaking Belgians, and Belgium's little-known status as a world mountaineering center.

Going down to the hut we had to climb down a waterfall/rock step on a rusty chain, and this may have actually been the crux of the route. We were rewarded though at the hut with beer, and then a leisurly afternoon gawking at Piz Roseg and trying to figure out how the hell we were supposed to climb it the next day. Jeannie was not feeling all that well, and decided that she wouldn't be joining. Later the Swiss guide walked up and talked to us, and he was actually a really awesome and nice guy who gave us a lot of good information.

So Casey and I set out alone at 3:45, a half hour behind the Swiss (show offs.) We had to cross the two large glaciers and then climb up to the rock section, but we made a wrong turn in the darkness and ended up too high above the first glacier. We continued on though, because we could see the Swiss team crossing it and they were still up the valley from us. This turned out to be a big route-finding blunder and ended up putting us almost two hours behind the Swiss team. At this point were were considering bailing on Roseg given the difficult route and forecast for thunderstorms, but at the last minute we found the route and decided to make a run for it.

Our route on Piz Roseg

We hoofed it across the two glaciers and actually managed to catch up to the Swiss at the base of the rock section. This section was really cool, as it was challenging without being too scary. It was also my first time using a running belay, and I really enjoyed this efficient style of climbing. The rock section would traverse two towers and then join the hanging glacier above, and we got had some airy moments as the wind picked up. We also got off route for a bit and had to belay a couple of sections that were about 5.6 (fun with mountaineering boots and howling wind :-)
Casey starting up the rock section on Roseg

It was a relief to finally gain the glacier above, but as we started up and neared the snow-saddle we knew we had a problem. The wind became more and more intense as we climbed higher, and as soon as we got to the saddle it was strong enough to literally throw both off us off out feet several times. It was a struggle to even walk and when we got blown down we would immediately anchor in with our ice axes. I had never felt wind this strong in my life (not even in the 80-90mph storms back home.)

There was no way I was going to continue the route in these conditions, as above us it narrowed to a knife-edge snow ridge with a HUGE drop off the side the wind was blowing toward. I really believe that if we had gone up there our chances of being blown off and to serious injury or death would have been upwards of 50%. FTS. So we called it good and bailed out down the normal route. This dropped down a steep glacier and then couloir to a very long traverse of several glaciers on the way to a different hut where Jeannie would meet us. What a slog. I was pretty beat by the time we made it to the hut, but Jeannie showed up and bought the two tired and shut-down mountain climbers beers for our efforts. And she kept us entertained with tales of the cow-chasing, cable car crossing and meadow napping that had filled her day.

By this time I had gotten a little bit smarter about the workings of Swiss Mountain huts, and managed to corner and flirt with the hut-keep girl for a while in my quest for Swiss citizenship. I was also a little more strategic with the 'what are you climbing tomorrow' question and bought us some time with a 5:30 breakfast. Sweet.

So in the morning we set off up the glacier again with Jeannie, to see what we could see. We thought to climb a peak at the top which we believe to be the border with Italy, and that would be a good enough day for us. Once on the summit we made an elaborate show of dancing around and touching the downhill side of the summit, joking about how we couldn't wait to get home and mark off Italy on our facebook stuff-white-people-like where i've been maps. (Later we would see another map and realize that we were on the wrong mountain entirely. Douche bags.)

We spent the rest of the afternoon hiking down from the mountain and back to the other hut. This took some time as we had to stop and swim in a beautiful glacial lake. Turns out I am a bit out of practice with polar bear swimming though, as I made some pretty funny noises getting in and out of that thing. We then crossed the river on the cable car and hiked up the moraine and back to the hut from two nights before. And this time it was packed, but that didn't stop them from busting out some really delicious food for dinner.

The next day we had a long hike out to Pontresina, which was made more fun by the bimmeling cows and later game of spot-the-Italians. In town we marched our little butts into a pizzaria before heading off to meet pick megan up from her horse tour. While waiting for her we sipped wine by the rushing river and reflected on how Switzerland is pretty much the best country ever and the kids who are born there are all lucky little shits.

The next day we parted ways and Jeannie and I headed to Zürich. We spent several hours walking on the beautiful lakefront before heading to the airport where we had decided to crash before flying out early in the morning.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sweet weekend.

Yeah so it's been a good few days. The girls went away for the weekend on an estrogen-fest to Ane's cabin. Rid of them, we were clear to have fun.

It has been hot as hell here this last week, so Friday we took the ferry to an island in the Oslofjord and grilled on a rock until late. Then Saturday Gregers had us out to his parents' house to lay in the sun on the dock and swim in the fjord all day. Man, that was awesome.

Then we headed to Andreas' barbeque, from which we migrated to a bar to crash a bachelorette party. It was a total no-man's-land though, so we got the hell out!

Sunday was spent lazing around, and then we watched the USA-Brazil final.

So summer is going pretty well so far.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


My sister Shari is here on a visit, and we decided to go to Arctic Norway to see the Lofoten Islands. I did a few rounds of begging and propagandaing in the preceding months trying to recruit more travel partners (Shari and I travel well together but we did get a little tired of each other after South America.) It really came down to dredging the bottom of the barrel, but I managed to rope the aforementioned fresh-off-the-boat Americans into the trip. Okay just kidding, they are really fun.

So we landed in Bodø, some 200km north of the Arctic Circle, Wednesday evening. It's kind of a hole of a town, but definitely has some interesting features (read, skate parks and weird, empty carnivals sans meat-on-a-stick.) It's also surrounded by cool mountains, which is always a plus. We rented a cheap cabin in a cow-shit-laden field by the water and took a nap before walking into town. We ended up at a cool fisherman's pub filled with old people and took a few beers. We enjoyed ourselves, and so did the table full of beered up fisher-types next to us as they poked fun in norwegian at all of the tourists who only come to Bodø to hop the ferry to Lofoten.

The next day we made good on their stereotype and hopped the ferry the shit out of there. We didn't really plan our escape well though, and ended up a little short on food. Especially because we forgot about the holiday and when we landed on the island the only store was closed. There were some other touristy types on the boat that decided to go door to door asking for food, but we decided we weren't that hungry and ate an improvised iceberg lettuce and granola salad.
We spent the next couple of days hiking around and camped on a hill overlooking just about everything that is good in life. It was a really cool feeling to look up and down the chain of islands. Such a ridiculous landscape and feeling of isolation the way they come jutting straight out of the sea. Paradise.
I got a number for a kayak rental company and knew immediately upon talking to the guy that he was cool. I talked him way down on the prices, and an hour later he and his crazy British Columbia ski-bum friend picked us up in a SWEET old jeep. We took the kayaks out for an amazing paddle in the fjord and when we got back the guy showed us kayak-ski-touring videos and pics from his ski guiding in Morocco. He then got us a good deal on a fisherman's cabin with the best view ever.
The next day we rented a car and cruised north to see what we could see. It didn't take long before I was slamming the brakes though as we came across a perfect white sand beach surrounded by mountains. Sick. We would find two more later that day before driving through a tunnel and popping out in a field by the beach right as the sun was at its lowest. The lighting was amazing, and we went for a walk along the sea just to soak it in.

We camped right on the beach that night before driving back down to the same fisherman's cabin we stayed in before, but this time not before stocking up on good food and wine. Shari made us a delicious cod dinner and we played some cards.

The next day we took the bus up the length of the islands and to the airport outside of Narvik, where we pitched our classy little tents in the gravel and moose droppings across the road.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Hyttetur på Hvaler

Spent the weekend with Ane, Martin and the two fresh-off-the-boat Americans Claire and Zac. It has been really fun to hang out with those kids again. I took the ferry across the Oslofjord to meet the others, and we cruised down to Ane's cabin at Hvaler. It's a bunch of small islands in the Oslofjord, linked up by a winding road. The landscape is really unique, with smooth rocks, woods and little inlets of saltwater.

The cabin is perched on the top of a big rock, with a nice deck looking over one of the inlets. They are in the process of remodelling the place, and I think Ane and her dad must make a pretty good team (she is studying to be an architect and he is a craftsman who builds sailboats/kayaks.)Anyway, we did what lazy cabin dwellers are supposed to do: barbequed, drank beers/talked shit and went on walks and row boat tours. Good times.

'You've gotta be f---ing kidding me, are those swans?'

They were. What the hell is this place?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bjøberg Renna and the Bat Cave

Haven't posted in a while, so I'll start a few weeks back and then catch up. I was really sick the week after easter and missed three days of work. But when Gregers called me midweek and asked if I was game for Hemsedal I managed to cough up a phlegmy 'uh, okay' before passing out again. Ane provided me with some illegally imported, heavy-duty-American-drugs on Friday (i.e. Nyquil/Dayquil; Norwegians are prudes) and I was set. Pop the green ones at night, the red ones in the morning and you're ready for most anything.

Conditions were a lot more springy since the days are getting so long, and we opted for touring both days. Saturday we decided to go up and ski Bjøberg Renna (=couloir) which was near the tour we did a couple of weeks before. We got a late start and the snow had become freakishly soft, but we managed a combination of skiing and steep postholing up the couloir. I was coughing up some pretty fancy stuff by the time we got to the top though, so we decided to just ski the thing and skip the summit.
In between coughing fits on the way up.

Gregers skiing down.

On Sunday I was feeling quite a bit more lively and we decided to go for a really cool one that we have been staring/drooling at all winter. It's called the 'Bat Cave' and is a crazy narrow, crooked, several hundred foot long, 50 degree couloir that you can see from the 'trailer park' where Gregers has his camping wagon. It's sexy. From below it doesn't even look possible to climb--just a hockey-stick-shaped crack in the cliff--but the guidebook said it was skiable so we decided to go check it out. So we skied up through the woods, crossing several sets of moose tracks and then finding our way to the base.

We climbed up Batcave on the left and skied down the one on the right.

We traded our skis for crampons/ice axe and started up. It was a pretty cool feeling to climb up such a tight couloir, with the tall cliff sides and narrow band of snow. At the bottom we were also getting really excited about skiing the thing. Conditions were hard and frozen, but not too icy and it felt like we could get an edge in with the skis. But as we made it up to the middle we had to rethink our plan, since there had been water flowing over the snow and the middle/upper parts had a few millimeters of water ice glaze over the hard snow. Not good, since any fall could quickly become disasterous as you accelerated on the ice layer. Oh, and the runout was long and do to the crooked shape of the couloir, a little 'bumpy'. Anyway, the real deal breaker for skiing down came a little bit higher. Right at the Steepest part, above the worst run out, the 'snow' narrowed to a 4-foot-wide pile of solid water ice from some water dripping off the sides. We just laughed and said F.T.S.

We climbed over ice and the rest of the way to the top, where we popped out on a flat rock in the sun. Fancy. Ate lunch there and watched two skiers come down a steep face above us. It was in the sun and looked really nice and soft, so we decided to ski around the back side to the summit and then drop it on the way down. Turned out to be lovely, with smooth Spring corn and some fun features to play on. To get back down we skied the next couloir over from Bat Cave, which was tamer (low-mid 40's?) and with a safer runout. The snow was hard there too but it didn't have any water ice over it and was enjoyable, if a bit loud, to ski.

Hey, let's go up there... Skied next to the left edge at the top and then traversed over to play with the little cornice...
Lovely Corn.

Clear for landing?

Nope. hahahaha

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My little shanty

I have moved into the little house on Nøtterøy (nuts island, haha.) It can really only described as, well, 'cute'. Will only be living here for two months though since the owners want it for guests in the summertime.

That little window looks out over the Oslo Fjord

This will be so much nicer during the week for my job, since it's only 5k's away on a bike trail vs. 1.5 hours on the train from Oslo. To keep the Oslo connection though I have made an agreement with Gregers whereby I can rent the extra room in his apartment for really cheap and stay there a couple of nights a week.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

And because I have nothing better to do with my time... are some more skiing pictures :-) From that tour up Bjøberg a couple weekends ago. It was really a nice one because it was fresh, light powder combined with low avy danger so we got to ski some pretty steep stuff. fast :-)
pretty typical landscape once you get high up around hemsedal: endless, white possibilities and nice snow, but not so spikey.

and me nearing the bottom.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Just in from an incredibly good week skitouring in the Sunnmøre alps region of Norway. We were 13 people altogether and we stayed in cabins right on the Hjørundfjord in a tiny and extremely scenic village called Sæbø. It was mostly stormy weather and avalanche city while we were there, but we got out skiing every day except one and managed to get to the top of several peaks and find some enjoyable skiing on the way down. Some highlights:

The Company: a really fun mix of people, only one of which I knew from before. My brain is a little tired after the mix of languages, accents and dialects that were flying around. We had several extremes of the Norwegian dialects represented with Tommy from the South, Marianne from the far North, the Oslo people, and the spicy local dialect. And then we had the Swedish girl, the Icelandic guy who understood Norwegian but spoke mostly New York English, Andrew the South African/Norwegian, Glen the Englishman/Norwegian and of course me. Kind of cool that with such a mix everyone still understood (almost) everything.

Our failed attempt at a timed, group, jump shot...

The Avalanches: There were a lot of them. Several times a day there would be loud rumbling as they crashed down the mountains. I witnessed three large ones, including two that plunged over a 1000ft cliff above our cabins. Really incredible to witness from safe places!

We didn't see this one go but the aftermath was pretty cool when we got to the summit.

We were very careful about where we skied. By sticking to the right aspects, not skiing under large cornices or avy-prone slopes, and even staying off certain (really cool, damnit) mountains altogether, I feel like we skied with very low avalanche risk the whole time. We had to laugh on the second to last day though, because while we were digging a pit test on our mountain a huge avalanche crashed down to the valley floor from the mountain just across from us. It was on a completely different aspect though--the one that had been windloaded--and we knew to avoid slopes of that aspect anyway.

The most Norwegian day ever: We spent the day skiing to and from the summit of a very nice mountain jutting right out of the fjord. Afterward we were stretched out on the porch of one of the cabins with beers when Marianne asked if anyone wanted to go on a boat/fishing tour in the fjord. I was a bit skeptical as she disappeared down to the dock, but half an hour later she came back and non-chalantly announced that she had found a nice older couple with a boat that would take us out and show us around. I guess that North-Norwegian dialect really works for charming one's way onto boats. What a little sjark-hore.

Another half hour and were were standing on the deck of a fishing boat in the rain, surrounded by crazy sweet mountains and fishing for cod. Hallvard caught two (the smug bastard) and we took them home to make 'Mølja', which sounded maybe a little too Norwegian but turned out to be pretty good once I got over my prejudices about eating boiled liver sauce and fish eggs.

Tommy enjoying the rainy boat/fishing tour

Birthday tour: My birthday was on Wednesday. It turned out to be sunny weather, and we set out for what would definitely be my favorite tour of the trip. The views were shit-your-pants-amazing in all directions, and from the top we stood straight above the fjord and could see out to the Atlantic. Well, that's what I'm told anyway--I could hardly be bothered to turn and look that way with all of the sexy, pointy, glaciated mountains to be gawked at in the other directions.

The happy birthday song was sung enthusiastically at me in Norwegian and English on the top before being treated to a really fun and fast line 3500 ft down to the car. Later the sneaky devils busted out cake and Norwegian moonshine and more singing and general merriment ensued. A damn satisfying birthday for sure :-)

Ålesund: Thursday was bad weather and I went with three of the guys to check out the city of Ålesund. It was an hour and a half and a ferry ride away from Sæbø, but is by no means far from its share of sexy mountains. It's also one of the coolest looking cities I have ever been to, with nice buildings, pedestrian streets and restaurants all surrounded by beautiful, snowy mountains that stick right out of the fjords. So, uh, why don't I live in Ålesund??

And if you turn around you see a fjord and snow-capped spikes :-)

Bygdafest! Our social little North-Norwegian came to the rescue again with the tip that there would be a special, once a year 'after ski' for easter ski tourers. It was across and up the fjord where there were no roads, but a boat had been arranged to get skiers there and back for the party. So at 9:30 we shuffled down to the dock and hopped on. I didn't really know what to expect, but it turned out to be a blast! There was one large building with tables, and people had come by boat from all around for the once-a-year party. All of the smiling faces we had seen skiing down the mountains earlier in the week were there, plus a good crowd of locals of all ages. Oh, and lots of beer, singing/accordian/guitar and dancing.

Here are a few more pics and I'll put the rest on facebook.
Hege approaching the summit.

Nice weather eh?

Fjord og Fjell :-)