Woudlopers Orienteering Run

It feels like we’re back at school. Last week we’ve made our homework, today is the day we have to perform. At half past nine the briefing starts, at five to ten we can collect our envelope. At ten o’clock we can finally start, we may open the envelope, the race has started! A week ago we received our homework. This time a 9 minute during YouTube movie. A part of the route could be seen in this movie, but partly the movie raises more question than that it answers. The briefing is similar. Are clues still clues if they only raise more questions?


In the envelope we find six pages with maps, a double-sided roadbook, two cards for the answers, a balloon and a string of wire with cheerfully coloured plastic caps. Enroute it surely will work out. We take half an hour to put the maps in the correct order, mark the coordinates on the maps and read the full roadbook. Then we’re off. It’s 13 degrees centigrade so we can’t call it a proper winter, but rain and heavy winds make it a bit cold and stormy.

Tired, satisfied and enriched with a great experience we drive homewards.

The start we recognize from the movie. Two special checkpoints in the pocket. At the second checkpoint we also see our first “false checkpoint”. We’ve been warned: in the surroundings of a real checkpoint there might be false checkpoints. When you write down the control number of a false checkpoint, you’ll get a time penalty. We’ll build up enough experience with time penalties the next six hours. According to the roadbook special C is located on a trajectory from checkpoint 3: “Go for 35 meters in 45 degrees / 40 meters in 350 degrees / 35 meters in 270 degrees / 65 meters in 165 degrees.” I wish we had drawn this beforehand. Once we arrive at CP 3 we find out the trajectory goes straight through some woodland and swamp. We make a quick calculation and conclude that we should end up back around CP 3. Unfortunately there are four checkpoints near CP 3, we choose the wrong one.


After some time of running, reading the map, interpreting instructions and sometimes a swig of water and a biscuit Charissa asks how long we’ve been busy since the start. I look at my watch: “Two and a half hours” Really?!? That long? We thought we were only racing for an hour. Half way through the race we have to shoot at bottles to get extra instructions and we have to sniff at trees. Unfortunately we don’t recognize the decoy. The deadline slowly comes closer. It’s not possible anymore to reach all checkpoints, so we take a shorter route to the end point.


Regularly we meet other people with maps in their hands, crossing the forest running. Are they lost or do they have a better strategy? How high will we score as newcomers? The deadline is set at four o’clock, time penalty when you arrive later. We take our last sprint. Slowly we start to feel the tiredness of our bodies. Twenty-three minutes later our time is stopped. Even the last kilometers to the starting point we continue running not to cool down too much.


Back at the start we changed our wet clothes and eat spaghetti with the other participants. Advice is exchanged, errors recognized. This is the moment the rain and cold are already forgotten and the tall tales start to emerge. The verdict: 13th overall and 4th in the mixed class. Tired, satisfied and enriched with a great experience we drive homewards. Is it already possible to reserve for next time?


Click here to see all photographs.



Of course we’ve reviewed our race and see what we can do better next time. We’ve ran twenty-seven kilometers in six hours and twenty-three minutes. That’s not much less than other teams. Some days after the race we received all results, which can be converted to a few nice graphs. One of the conclusions we can derive is that the teams that have a high score have few errors and are fast. No surprise, just build up the experience.


Another conclusion is that at the start almost everybody finds all checkpoints and makes few mistakes. In the second part a lot less checkpoints are found and more errors are made.

(More graphs can be found at the pictures.)

Bleau without bouldering

New year’s day 2015. The snow has just melted when we’re driving to Fontainebleau. The rain joins us however.

We’ve took our crash pad with us, but it stays in the car. We’re happy to make a nice stroll through Trois-Pignons: circuit des Belvévères. The next day it’s still raining and we go bouldering in the local boulder gym. The rain leaves and fog appears. The sandstone in this area becomes soft when damp. After the rain en fog of the last few days the rock is nowhere near dry. We can’t boulder, so we put up our slackline near l’Éléphant and run the T.G.L.

13 Slacklining near L’Éléphant

10 Slacklining

19 Parcours Larchant T.G.L.

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IGN Carte de Randonnée, 1 : 25000, 2417OT: Forêts de Fontainebleau et des Trois Pignons

Chez Bertrand, la deuxième fois cette année

When the last rainshowers leave the area, we start driving to our neighbours in the south. Last spring we started the GR571, Vallée des Légendes. Coloring leaves on the trees and a good weather forecast for the next days is a nice excuse to continue this route.


We leave the car in Trois-Ponts and walk along the Salm. A sneak preview for what we will encounter when we want to packraft this creek later this week.


The first night we do a painful discovery: our stove breaks down. We eat lukewarm macaroni and have no option to cook hot tea the next day.

We continue to Gouvy the next morning and return to the car. For the second time this year we eat at Bertrands, the well-known, local frieterie (sort of mobile snackbar) in Trois-Ponts. Like aways, it’s very busy.


The next day we arrive at the railway station at ten. Twenty past ten the train to Vielsalm will leave. Nineteen past ten an announcement is made. “Le train à Luxembourg […] de dix heures vingt […] Excusez-moi” We don’t understand everything that has been said. Something is said about the train we would like to catch, but what exactly, we missed. We wait for another five minutes and then walk back into the railway station. Previously three other people were waiting there, but now the railway station is empty. We find someone from the railway who tells us the train will not come.


Maybe a bus will leave in twenty minutes. According to the timetable route 142 will leave, but the sign near the busstop only indicates route 42a. We’re lucky, the bus arrives and this one will head for Vielsalm.


According to Ardennes’ terms the Salm is quite small and fast flowing. Contrary to most other rivers no canoes can be rented here. Fallen trees are therefore not cleared. For a few hours we enjoy the packrafting. We find seven floating soccer balls and have to step out of the packraft for six times to walk past fallen trees. One time the cows like us that much that they start running with us for two hunderd meters.


Water flow at the Salm: 3.2 m3/s. Barely enough for packrafting. We didn’t get stuck, but scratched the river floor quite some times.

Click here to see all photographs.

GR571, Vallées des Légendes Amblève, Salm, Lienne
Topo-Guide du Sentier de Grande Randonnée
ISBN 2-9600450-6-8

IGN Carte Topographique, 1:50 000, No 55: Durbuy
IGN Carte Topographique, 1:50 000, No 56-56A: Sankt Vith

Monkey climbing over the Swalm


Sunday afternoon, halfway through October. 23C has been measured at de Bilt, the highest temperature since people started to jot down this list in 1901.


It’s a beautiful afternoon to raft on the Swalm. One of the few patches of nature in the Netherlands with the least amount of human intervention.


The Swalm feels like monkey climbing in elementary school. A high level of flexibility is desired.


Click here to see all photographs.

It takes forty-five minutes to get from the railwaystation in Swalmen to the border with Germany. Expect a lot of fallen trees, you’ll need to get out of your boat quite regularly. The sailing will take longer than expected.
The water level was 37 cm when we ran it.

Skiftende bris*

*) Changing wind


Hiking without plan is different from roaming around without goal. Without plan we leave for Norway, a journey in two chapters as we go to Børgefjell NP and Lomsdal-Visten NP. This time no ease of footpaths, coloured dots of paint or luxurious cabins of DNT. Swedish Sarek is also called the last European wilderness, but these two Norwegian national parks are almost as wild as Sarek.



When the train pulls over, we immediately search for the train guard. “Two tickets for Majavatn please.” The timetable says about Majavatn: Stopper ved behov, only stop when asked for. Half an hour later we disembark, indeed, we’re the only ones.

We head for Jengelvatnet, fishing paradise in Norway. Enroute we meet the biggest group of people we will encounter for the next three weeks: five fishermen just return from the lake. During the remaining of our tour we sporadically meet some people. Most of them two persons, Norwegians and staying in the park to fish. We try to catch some fish as well, but reserve too little time for it. In between pitching our tarp and having a soup we fish for half an hour. The rumbling in our stomachs remind us of the freezedried meals we haul each day in our backpacks.


Not only the fish play hide and seek. We see raindeer dung all over the national park, but no raindeer to be seen. We find the first herds when we head for the Bȧtskardet col. We sleep on the col, while being visited a few time by the herd. They’re startled by our tarp, bark to tell this threat to the others. Then they run away.

We leave Børgefjell via the Simskardet valley. A dirtroad links the parkinglots to the main road. We walk over the dirtroad when we notice a drowsy fox. A fox! We didn’t expect to see this shy and sly animal here. Seems like he prefers walking the dirtroad over bushwhacking just as we do!


Changing national parks coincides with the change in weather.



Changing national parks coincides with the change in weather. We crossed Børgefjell in beautiful weather. Lots of sun, sometimes a bit of rain. We’re welcomed in Lomsdal-Visten with four consecutive days of rain. Sometimes we find a cabin we can use, sometimes we’re stuck in bad weather. Our first idea is to cross the park until we reach the sea. We spent a long walking day reaching Litlskardvatnet lake. After all the rain the karst land with only a few centimeters of soil is so saturated the border between swamp and creeks fades. No-where we can pitch our tarp. As soon as you lie down, you’ll push down the earth so far you’ll create your own pool. Searching a long time for a place or discussing it is also no option. The wind blows ferociously, freezing us in our wet clothes. There’s no other option then return on our own steps. One and a half hour it took us to climb, we’re back down in an hour. We cook in our tarp and immediately fall asleep.



The next day we try again. One and a half hour of climbing, the river still high and fast flowing. The clouds lower over the lake. We doubt but know too little of the remainder of the route and the weather to continu. We decide to return and try via another valley.

In Lomsdal the raindeer gather at specific places as well. We meet a merry herd of around seventy animals between Grønfjellet and Storklumpen. Only the last day we see a moose, again in a downpoor. The camera stuck deep in our backpacks in defence of the water, we’re just in time unpacking the camera to get one picture of the large animal with its wide antlers.

A few minutes later we find ourselves before an abyss. Fifty meters of sheer drop. Looks like we’re stuck on a large rock band. We go to the place where we last spotted the moose and find his tracks. Tracks that guide us down over a steep path. It reminds us that this is his place and we’re only visiting.


They burst out laughing: “Ah, that’s why you’ve returned today, you don’t trust the craftmanship of the Norwegian hunters!”



At the end of our adventure we arrive at the super market in Trofors where we’re addressed in Norwegian by two persons, an old, grey guy and his friend with only one arm. Jeg snakker ikke Norsk, I don’t speak Norwegian. Instantly they change to English and ask us if we have been in Lomsdal. Yes, we’ve been hiking in Børgefjell and Lomsdal for three weeks. “Three weeks? Only hiking?” Indeed. The old man looks at our backpacks. “Light weight?” Yes. Very not-Norwegian: small backpack, light, no resting day to hunt or fish. He says he’s going to Lomsdal as well the next week. We remember that it’s the tenth of September today, the opening of the hunting season. They burst out laughing: “Ah, that’s why you’ve returned today, you don’t trust the craftmanship of the Norwegian hunters!” After discussing the beautiful wildlife here for some more moments we say our goodbyes. Goodbye to this spontaneous talk and goodbye to the precious and wild nature here. It feels like the journey returning home has already started.





Click here to see all photographs.



Part 1: Majavatn – Breidskardfjellet – Søre Bisseggvatnet – Nordre Bisseggvatnet – Simskardet – Bȧtskardet – Breidskardelva – Strendene

Part 2: Strendene – Stavassgȧrden – Litls Kardvatnet – Stavassætra – Oorlogsmonument – Storklumpen – Feitskardet – Stavvatnet – Tinden – Øvergȧrdsvatnet – Trofors

Climbed mountains: Col of Kvigtinden, Litl Kjukkelen, Breidskardfjellet, Storklumpen, Tinden

DNT, Uglant IT
Børgefjell Nord
Turkart 1 : 50 000

DNT, Uglant IT
Børgefjell Sør
Turkart 1 : 50 000

10114 Vistfjellan
1 : 50 000
ISBN 978-82-8278-114-5

Taming the green Llama

‘Bitter water’, I think, when I swallow a mouth full of water from the Markkleeberger See. Why is the reptile part of my brain so fast and so powerful? Why does it take a while for the more intelligent parts of my brain to kick in and take over? We’re at the Kanupark Markkleeberg where they pump 10000 litres of water per second through a concrete gully. No man can drink that fast.


Just a few more white crests before the current spits me out in the small and quiet lake. This morning we started our packraft course by practising different paddlestrokes. After the basic paddlestrokes our instructor, Jurgen, took us to the grassfield to practise with throwbags and to explain how to rescue someone. Of course we not only practise on dry land. The sun starts to shine forcefully on our drysuits, we’re allowed cool down in the water. In the afternoon we use the boats again to put into practise what we’ve just learnt. Not only the paddling part, also the swimming part we’ve just learnt.


Kanupark Markkleeberg is situated near Leipzig. It used to be an open coal mine like more that can be found in this part of Germany. The coal mine has been flooded with ground water and converted into a recreational area. The Kanupark was meant for the Olympic summer games of 2012, but those were eventually held in London. Now the parc is a training location. It consists of 130 metres of training course and 270 metres of competition course. The training course is mainly in use to learn how to kayak, the competition course is used for commercial rafting and by playboats.


The training course is well suited to learn how to packraft. It is well equipped with eddies, stoppers, drops, etc. The competition course is mainly about surviving. There’s one point where one can rest in this 270 metres of constant boiling and pushing water. Good for a well-filled day of water fun.


*) Licking the lens is a well-known trick to have fewer drops of water stick to the lens.

Thigh straps for packrafts

In order to get better control of our packrafts we mounted thigh straps. 01 Good (but a bit old) manuals how to make and mount thigh straps can be found at: The Roaming Dials – Thigh straps how to and Things to luc at – Pimp my packraft. 02 Contrary to what’s written on those websites, we did use Alpacka’s grab-loops. We’ve talked to EU’s only retailer who ensured us that the grab-loops (when properly glued) can hold 175 kg. They mounted multiple thigh-straps and never had a problem with them. Make sure you use the correct glue and you glue it the proper way! 03 In 2012 we’ve mounted grab-loops as well, see article: Adding tie-downs to a packraft. For the current grab-loops we used the same procedure, except for one minor thing: Just before applying the grab-loop to the boat, we heated the grab-loop a few seconds. The glue becomes a bit sticky again and will immediately adhere to the boat. This will make life easier while working in the front of the boat.

GR571, Vallées des Légendes

Whit Sunday. The weather is forecasted to be 29C and sunny with a chance of showers. This time we don’t take a tent with us, but a tarp. That should suffice for these temperatures and some rain.

We ascent to Les Tartines and look at the confluence of the Ourthe and the Amblève. At a junction a farmer is taking a nap in the grass. We say hello and ask for confirmation of the way to Oneux in our best French. He points in the direction we were heading and says: “Un bon kilomètre, … et demi peut-être”. We thank him, he sits in the grass again and continues to doze.

A view at Comblain-au-Pont (Rivage).

The GR remains at altitude today with beautiful views over the Ourthe and Amblève valleys. The weather is muggy and we’re sweating when we arrive at Martinrive around three o’clock. Too early to call it a day. “Fortunately” the camp site has been closed six years ago and the grass is leg high. We continue to walk to Aywaille, where we enter in the mids of a bicycle festival. The camp site is fully occupied but there’s always a spot to put a small tent.

Camp site Domaine Château de Dieupart.

The next day starts with some showers. We just packed our bags and wait. The rain makes the temperature drop and refreshed we start to ascent again. Slowly the day turns muggy again, just like yesterday.
In the forest a trailrun is taking place. The trailrunners started at the same time we started our ascent. Thirty-three kilometers of running. We’ll see them again a few times this day.
As a bonus we make a small detour through the Ninglinspo valley. We follow a forest to the start of the valley. A forrest full of horseflies and other not-so-nice insects. From the beginning of the small valley the route descends again: 350 meters in three kilometers, just next to the creek or sometimes through the creek. The closer to the village we come, the busier it gets. The peak of tourists is of-course at the end of the valley in the village of Nonceveux.


There is a camp site in Nonceveux, but it’s the second time we think it is too early to stop. Along the Amblève we continue our trail to Fonds de Quarreux. There’s a small and quiet camp site named au Moulin du Diable. The name refers to a local legend: The Fonds de Quarreux are the large boulders located in the Amblève here. The miller, Hubert Chefneux, was promised to own a beautiful mill if he would give his soul to the devil. The wife of the miller worried about her husband’s soul and hid herself in the mill with Notre-Dame de Dieupart’s medal in her hands. That made the mill blades halt. The devil went outrageous and casted down the mill: The large boulders fell down to the Amblève one by one.

We think the devil is still present around there: at three o’clock in the night he awakes us with thunderstorms and hail the size of large marbles. Our tarp passes this twenty-minute test without problems. In the morning we see the devil in the forest on the other side of the camp site. He looks at us with a bit of a grimace:

Diable du forêt.

The GR571 leaves the Amblève now and ascends next to the Chefna creek. We like this little valley just a bit more than the Ninglinspo. Less tourists, the trails are just a bit smaller and windier and we’re there at the right moment: in the morning after some nightly rain. The sun is still low on the horizon and the forest steams mysterically. It’s a beautiful morning.

Valley of the Chefna.

Valley of the Chefna.

We walk to Coo. Though both guidebooks don’t mention a camp site in Coo, there is one present. We pitch our tarp and start to cook when suddenly the sky turns black. We grab our saucepan from the fire and sit under the tarp. For twenty minutes the wind tries to grab our tarp on all sides possible. The thunders roar and lightning crashes above us. We hear trees squeak in the wind. When it is over, the camp site has no electricity anymore. A tree fell into the electricity cables, which broke. The Amblève has risen ten centimeters in these twenty minutes and is brown-coloured now. After our meal we help the camp site guard drinking Bellevaux Blanche. It would be a pity if the beer would warm because the fridge is out of electricity.

Cascade de Coo.

Panorama of Coo and the resevoirs.

This is the first part of three of the GR571. The last day we walk at altitude from Coo to Trois-Ponts with nice views on the route we’ve walked. In the forest we see what the storm has done: innumerable amount of blown away branches and more fallen trees than we’d expected.

Point de vue de Ster.

In Trois-Ponts we take the train back to the starting point. We’re hungry for more GR571. Nice, quiet, beautiful sceneries and close to home!

The train of Trois-Ponts.

Click here to see all photographs.

Op pad met rugzak en tent
Sjef van de Poel
Uitgeverij Elmar
ISBN 90-389-1339-7

GR571, Vallées des Légendes Amblève, Salm, Lienne
Topo-Guide du Sentier de Grande Randonnée
ISBN 2-9600450-6-8

Bogs, moorland and a dinghy on the Dee

“We had an early departure and are being helped by a nice tailwind. Our navigation computer indicates that we will arrive at Aberdeen about fifteen minutes before schedule”, says our KLM captain. In reality we arrive five hours later on Aberdeen airport: the Scottish weather covered the airport in a thick blanket of fog, divirting our flight to Glasgow. From there it takes another three hours to get to Aberdeen by bus.

The weather is actually quiet nice here. Aberdeen is covered in fog, but the rest of Scotland is sunny. A day later than planned we get off the train in Aviemore. It’s starting to get sunny while we walk to the start of the Lairig Ghru.

Lairig Ghru.

The Lairig Ghru is one of the paths crossing the Cairngorms from north to south. The next few days we will be walking through the Cairngorms to the source of the river Dee. Then we will inflate our packrafts and paddle back to sea, about one hunderd kilometers.

“You are going to do what? Walk from here to the Dee and then paddle back to sea? Haha, I feel better already!”

We end our day just after the Pools of Dee in a drizzle. When dusk arrives around nine o’clock, we see two women and a dog approach. They left Aviemore this morning to walk to Devil’s End and back. Perhaps a bit too far for one day, they tell us with a smile. “No, we’re not going to camp, tomorrow we’ll have to be at work.” They have enough energy bars and a good torch with them. As long as they will have left the Pools of Dee behind them before the dark. From the Pools is a good path back to Aviemore. The only thing lacking are dog cookies. Dog Skye hasn’t been eating all day. They ask for our plans and burst out laughing: “You are going to do what? Walk from here to the Dee and then paddle back to sea? Haha, I feel better already!” When we get into our sleeping bags, they’re walking back to Aviemore.

Scottish grouse.

The famous day two, when the muscles speak up, is being accompanied by the famous grouse. We see the Scottish grouse everywhere, but in real life they’re a bit less elegant than shown in the whisky commercial from 2008. Today there’s not a cloud in the sky and this night we look a bit more red than usual. No, we didn’t take suncream with us.

A number of times we meet people of the National Trust for Scotland. When, after leaving the Cairngorms, we arrive at Mar Lodge we meet someone from the National Trust who is doing the maintenance of the estate. He takes the time to have a chat with us. He asks for our plans and tells about last winter. The enthusiastic way of talking displays a pride for Scotland and a pride of his work here. He wishes us good luck and success and goes his way on his quad.

Mar Lodge.

At Victoria Bridge we inflate our packrafts. For one second we were doubting our schedule. We lost half a day by the divirsion of our airliner, but the beautiful weather guided us through the Cairngorms faster than expected. It should still be possible to reach the sea. The Dee at this point is wider than we expected, the water level is high enough and even where the river is wide there is a nice current. When paddling you don’t notice the current that much, but it is secretly helping a lot. In no-time we’ve passed Braemar, where we have to land. Just after Braemar a wild fence has been put over the Dee. In our guidebook it was written that a kayak-sized hole would be present in the fence. It has been repaired, no hole anymore. We land our packraft, lift our gear over the fence and drop in the Dee again.

Unexpectedly fast we arrive at Invercauld Bridge, class 3 according to our guidebook. As we’ve been taught, we get out of the river to scout the rapid. We discuss which line to sail and try to imprint the marks in our heads: “Just right of the big rock in the beginning, that’s the gate. Then follow the large V of black water and stay right of the white water.” Later this week we can do some more rapids. We enjoy each of them, they’re not too difficult.

Packrafting river Dee.

“Hi there, how are you? Was it you, camping on the riverbank a few hunderd meters back? Beautiful spot, good choice!”

At the start of the Dee, the river is tranquil and wide. After Ballater the river becomes narrower and more rapids emerge. That’s where the fishermen are, in almost every bend there are one or two fishing. The banks of the Dee is decorated with a lot of small fishing cabins. Some shiny new, others almost taken back by nature and all have a woodstove. Because of the large amount of fishermen, we find it difficult to find a spot for our tent. When we finally pitch our tent after a cold, rainy day, we’re really glad to sit in a dry environment and have dinner. It’s the disadvantage of bad weather, we take almost no break and don’t eat many energy bars. Having the shelter of a tent and dinner simmering on our stove is real happiness then. Though the wind is blowing hard and we’re sleeping on bumpy patch of ground, we both sleep like a log.

We thought we wouldn’t be noticed in a green tent, pitched behind some bushes. The next morning we start to paddle and within a few minutes we meet the first fisherman of the day. “Hi there, how are you? Was it you, camping on the riverbank a few hunderd meters back? Beautiful spot, good choice!” The next fisherman tells us exactly the same a few minutes later!


From Peterculter the Dee becomes wider again and more tranquil. Just before arriving in Aberdeen we see two otters playing in the water. It was a week filled with beautiful, rough landscapes, we’ve seen deer, many swallows and oyster catchers and lots of small birds. Although there are small villages next to Dee, civilization can’t be seen easily until you’re almost in Aberdeen.

Click here to see all photographs.


Old logging road
Lairig Ghru
Mar Lodge
River Dee tot Aberdeen

Water level Dee: 0.7 m – 0.8 m

36, Grantown & Aviemore
Landranger Map
1:50 000

37, Strathdon & Alford
Landranger Map
1:50 000

38, Aberdeen
Landranger Map
1:50 000

UK Rivers Guidebook
River Dee – Above Braemar to Potarch

UK Rivers Guidebook
River Dee – Potarch to Banchory

UK Rivers Guidebook
River Dee – Banchory to Aberdeen

In between Thai food and white skies

It’s Friday, eleven o’clock in the evening. Our airplane lands in the snow on Olso airport. Ten centimetres of fresh snow has been falling the last hours. Next day we check in at Strand Fjellstue, a nice mountain lodge with Stefan and Surina as its enthusiastic owners. They serve the best Thai food that we’ve ever tasted. Strand Fjellstue is our starting- and endpoint of this tour. We’ll be sleeping in DNT self-service cabins, a more luxurious stay than the tarp we normally use.

It’s still snowing when we want to leave the next morning. The low hanging clouds make for poor visibility, which doesn’t make the navigation easier in this sloping landscape. Stefan tells us that the easiest route to Storkvelvbua goes around Ongsjøfjellet (fjellet = mountain). A long route but easier to find in this weather. We put our skis on, cross the frozen lake and start our ascent.


At the end of the ascent we can choose to climb further to mountain pass Leppskardet or we can choose the longer route that Stefan told us. We choose the last one. The visibility is still low and we trust our own navigation capabilities and the scarce signs we find (this day we find about three signs in total). Willow branches put up in the snow show the route. It is going to be a long day, half past five we arrive at the cabin which is packed in ice. “I think I see a light indoors”, Fred says, but immediately corrects himself. “No, it’s very dark indoors.” and the cabin seems to be vacant. Till we arrive at the door and find nine pairs of skis standing in the snow.


In the cabin we find nine Norwegians, the stove is burning, water has been made and they offer us some hot water for making tea. Instead of clearing two beds for us, they show the small room for us to use. We prepare our food and over dinner we talk about the routes and about Norway. They are doing a three day tour. The day before yesterday they arrived, today they made a day trip and tomorrow they’ll return to the valley. During the day trip they did not use the willow branches for navigation and needed to rely on their GPS. We already decided to use the marked trails in this bad weather and get that as an advice as well: “Stick to the sticks.”

Stick to the sticks.

After dinner everyone is doing his or her own thing. We take a look on the map, some people play cards and others read a book. We prepare a hot chocolate and they offer us a brownie. The home-made brownie melts on our tongues. Such a luxury, such a luxury.

“There are two ways to fall: the faceplant and the bumplant.” Fred has the chance to practice both.

Just before we want to leave in the morning one of the Norwegians hurries to the cabin. “There’s a herd of raindeer in the valley. More than one hunderd animals!” The same herd we saw yesterday just outside the cabin. This herd has returned from the north early this year. It’s time for us to submerge ourselves in the monochromous world of snow and willow branches.
We cannot judge depth because of the clouds. Drift of snow cannot be seen either. As Ernst Arbouw describes in his article (page 46) in the Dutch magazine Hoogtelijn: “There are two ways to fall: the faceplant and the bumplant.” Fred has the chance to practice both.


Candlelight dinner.

We’re brushing our teeth in Oskampen when Charissa says: “Grab the camera, I see a fox!” Special for us Dutch, but as we learn later, foxes can be seen regularly here. At Strand Fjellstue they know a fox that walks the same route near the mountain lodge each day.


The last night we spend in Nordbua. Not a DNT cabin, but a cabin from the local tourist association: Gausdal Fjellstyre. There are less facilities than in a DNT cabin, but mattresses and a stove are present. What else do you need? We’ll be enjoying the last freeze dried meal with candlelight for this week here.

We want to move on fast, but to where? We hang against the wind to keep standing and feel the gusts of wind pulling forcefully on our backpacks.

From the start of the last day the snow sticks to our skis. In the morning it is +2C already and wet snow falls from the sky. We decide to go for the short route, via mountain pass Leppskardet. In the meantime the wind is picking up fast. The higher we climb, the worse the weather gets. Just under the mountain pass we’re in a white-out again: We see white everywhere, the horizon cannot be found. Claustrophobia in the wide open plain. The wind is blowing at at least eight Beaufort. The willow branches are 25 meters apart, but sometimes Charissa needs to go ahead to find the next stick. Finally we are saved by the sign at the mountain pass, completely covered in ice.

We want to move on fast, but to where? We hang against the wind to keep standing and feel the gusts of wind pulling forcefully on our backpacks. No willow branches to be found anymore. We try to find them, but fail regardless of our attempts. The map told us that the next 60 meters will consist of a steep descent and the terrain will flatten out afterwards.

We need to yell to hear what we’re saying to each other. Eventually we decide to keep our bearing to north-north-east and carefully descent inside this white cloud. Step by step we descent, watching the compass. We see some grey spots, but cannot identify what it is we’re seeing. Trees, rocks? We make a few cautious steps when suddenly the cloud dissolves a bit. We see trees and we see where we need to go to. Quickly we descent to the trees. There we find the next willow branches. Finally time for a break, the first energy bar and cup of tea of this day.

It starts to rain when we continue to follow the willow branches. In the afternoon we arrive at Strand Fjellstue soaking wet. We can dry our gear in the drying room and are offered a delicious cup of Thai soup. Despite all Norwegians we speak say it’s “a horrible winter”, we have enjoyed the last week! We’ve seen a fox, raindeer and grouses, all days we’ve dined in candle light in comfortable warm wooden cabins. Holidays!


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Strand Fjellstue (Espedalen)*
Strand Fjellstue*
*: overnight stay

2492, Huldreheimen, Spȧtind
DNT Turkart
1:50 000

Example tour by DNT