torsdag 3. april 2008

Børgefjell 21-24th March

21st: Another day with nice weather. We could see the sunrise through the tent canvas, but unfortunately my camera was full of frozen condenzation, and didn't get warm enough and dry until the afternoon.

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After lunch we stopped for the day a bit early and decided to practice more on building an emergency snow cave, and spend the night in it if we got it finished in time. It took us about three hours to finish, but then we had some room for our baggage, a "table" to make and cook food on, and a bed. Here's a short description of how we made it:
We measured a rectangle of about 180x100 cm, so that our skies could easily lay across on top. then we dug down perhaps two meters and expanded into the sides in the lower part to get more space. Near the one end we left some snow for steps. Looking towards the cave from the steps we had a baggage room right ahead, and further on the table. To the right was the bed, dug under the snow. The next step was to cover the opening with snow blocks to prevent snow from falling or drifting in, and the wind from blowing in. We put all our four skies across on top, but left some space at the one end for an opening.

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Then we used my snow saw (a part of my shovel, it sits inside the handle when I don't need it) to make snow blocks about 50x50x20 cm, and then covered the skies with them, three across and about 4 lengthwise, and one big block to lie on top of the others and cover the opening.

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There are many different types of snow caves to build in an emergency when you either don't have a tent or are unable to put it up. The snow cave we built does not require a snowdrift or small hill to dig into like several other types, all you need is packed snow and a fairly level ground. In open mountain areas like Børgefjell the wind usually blows enough for the snow to be hard. This is necessary for making snow blocks. At the same time the snow shouldn't be too hard so it takes too long to dig. At our second camp we could barely get our shovels into the snow. Another criteria is the snow depth. You don't need to dig as far down as we did, but it is of course an advantage as you get more space and height. We still didn't reach the ground when we got down to two meters!

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When we finally finished it was a bit past dinnertime, so we quickly brought everything we needed down into the cave and started making dinner. A disadvantage with this type of snow cave is that all the cold air sinks down, so even with the snow insulating, we did not get the temperature up much.

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22nd: We did not move camp but decided to stay and sleep in the cave one more night before we started on our way home. Before lunch we took a short skiing trip together up on a small mountain, and even got som reception on our cellphones, the first time since we started. Staffan continued further on and I went back to camp and read my book to rest before our long day tomorrow. When Staffan came back we made some small improvements on the snow blocks over the opening, then we ate dinner and listened to our audiobooks before going to sleep. We celebrated Easter with a nicer dinner: pasta with tomato sauce and sundried tomatoes, cheese and crackers, and some good chocolate for dessert.
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23rd: In order to get an early start we set the alarm early. It was a bit cold in the morning before the sun had some effect, and my braids got covered with frost! It was a long day, about 23 km, which is quite far when you have a lot to carry or pull, and there are few good tracks to follow. We passed some cabins with several dog teams tied up outside, howling at us as we passed! As we got closer to Majavatn (the train station) the snow got harder and icier. The weather must be getting warmer, melting the snow and then freezing it again today as it was a bit colder again. The last hill down was long and icy, but finally we arrived at the place where we camped the first night, and put up our tent again there.
 
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24th: We got up early again, ate breakfast, took down the tent, packed out backpacks and walked the last few kilometers to the train station. It has been a really wonderful trip. You get a different perspective when you are out more than just a weekend. It feels like you have all the time you need, and can decide yourself if you want to go far and see a lot, or just stay in the same place and take easy day trips, or a combination of both. After having problems on many other winter trips with being able to carry everything and sleep on the hard ground in a cold tent (not very good for stiff muscles), it was very fun for me to finally be able to fully enjoy the trip!

tirsdag 1. april 2008

Børgefjell 19-20th March

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19th: Last night Staffan heard some noises from the "vestibule", but we did not understand what it was until the next morning: a lemming had dug a hole through the snow into my vestibule. Luckily all the food was on Staffan's side, so it did no more damage than chewing a bit on a plastic bag and leaving some droppings in my ski boots... During the winter lemmings live mostly under the snow where the temperature is fairly stable around freezing (0 degrees celcius). 2007 was a high lemming year, so now during the winter there is not enough food for all of them, and many come above the snow in search of food.

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The first part of the day was a bit windy with low clouds, but by the afternoon the good weather was back again! We moved camp northeast to Kjukkelvannet (Kjukkel lake) and got a view of the highest mountain in Børgefjell, Kvigtinden. Just before we stopped for the day we saw a flock of about 15 reindeer. Just after we put out the lights in the evening (headlamps), we again heard some noises from the vestibule. This time we even got to see the lemming, and the problem became getting it out again. We usually dig a pit in the vestibule to let cold air sink down and get more space. The lemming had come in under the tent canvas and didn't have a hole to escape by, so it became trapped in the pit! It was scared and aggressive so any effort to chase it out only received a snarl. Finally Staffan digged a little ramp for it to come up by. This is the first time for both of us to have a problem with lemmings in the tent in winter, I have never heard of it before and never considered it a problem.

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20th: We had planned to stay and go up on a small mountain top, but as it was blowing and the visibility was low, we decided to move on instead (the picture is from earlier in the morning). We passed around Steinfjellet and headed south again towards Store Børgefjellet (Great Børgefjell). After my eyelashes got so full of ice from the snow and wind I started having problems fully opening my eyes and had to put on goggles and a face mask. The right equipment can really make a world of difference. With goggles and a face mask no skin is exposed to the cold wind, and it is much easier to look around since you don't get snow in your eyes.

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The last hill (visible in the background of the picture) up to Store Børgefjell was long and steep, especially for Staffan pulling the pulk, but after some time (with skins under the skies, making it a lot easier) and some chocolate for motivation we reached the top and set up camp a bit down on the other side. The wind was still blowing so we built a wall of snow blocks to shelter the tent against the wind and prevent snow from drifting and piling up on the tent.