Yesterday I planned to attempt to get to the summit of Lønahorgi (1410m above sea level) packed my backpack making sure I had food, extra clothes and my Spot emergency beacon. The route would have cellular cover most of the way, phones can quickly run out of battery due to cold temperatures and *eh* Instagramming…
The planned start was at 09:00 and expected return 19:00, usually this hike should take 6 or maybe 7 hours however that would be spring, summer and autumn when the trails are mostly clear of snow.
This is not the case now, which was also the reason for me buying new boots for winter hiking and mountaineering.
What actually transpired
I got up promptly and was out of the door at precisely 09:08, a mere 8 minutes behind schedule… still a bit groggy from the whole getting-up-early I walked up to the trail head, which thanks to recent housing developments has moved further up the mountain. The only consequence, however, is that I’d be walking on paved roads for the first hour of so.
Armed with an old pair of trainers now pulling approach-shoe duty since I walked quite determined but slightly worried. It was not cold enough… hang on I hear you exclaim!
Let me explain:
When it is just cold enough, so it snows but still quite mild, say from 0 to -5C, the snow that collects on your clothes will melt and eventually make you damp and miserable. But what about GoreTex surely that is waterproof, yes.. however in winter I prefer good old canvas style materials (Fjällräven’s G1000 to be exact) with good ventilation but even when treated it is only water resistant. Even GoreTex lined clothing would make you damp, but from sweat rather than snow/light rain… because even with their good marketing and claims of “it breathes” it does, however only when compared to a full rubber suit. In short, there is no perfect option, the choice you have is 1) well ventilated but get wet from rain or snow that happen to melt -OR- 2) stay dry from snow that melts and rain but get damp from sweat and condensation.
I reached the trailhead at Tråstølen and changed from my trainers to my new fancy La Sportiva boots (link to me unboxing them, no affiliation) and then set off. Now off the paved roads and on a mix of snow covered trail and access roads with the snow being so deep that it really did not matter which was which.
However the snow was firm enough so that I just needed to kick steps, basically just jam the toe of my boot into the snow walking like you would a staircase… albeit slightly more strenuous. After a good while of this I arrived at a short flat section at Slettafjellet and with the flat terrain the snow also changed consistency from firm to not so firm, so a few steps and suddenly one of my feet were up to its knee in snow. I walked gingerly towards the control hut for the ski lift, so I had a hard surface with less snow.
Once reached I pulled out the shoelaces from my old hiking boots and used them to secure the integrated gaiter in my hiking trousers to my boots. Doing so ensured that if and when it happened again, I would not end up with a shoe full of snow when I tried to extricate it from the depths of the newly created shoe-size snow cave.
That done I now confidently continued to head up, the wind picked up and snow continued to fall. A new addition, however, was the thick and dense fog making visibility less than great. On the subject of not being able to see too clearly, I also need to remember to pack something to wipe my glasses with on my next outing. Glasses fogging up because I exhale hot air (compared to the surrounding air) … and please… no “He is full of hot air” jokes. It would be way too easy and not at all creative or inventive.
As I continued to head up, the snow got deeper and looser making an effort required to take a step that much more exhausting but not so much so that I considered giving up. That honour fell to the fog, wind and snow that combined made it an all-but white-out. I could still see the tracks of others and a few meters in front of me. With the dull lighting conditions as well making it that much harder to make out contours in the terrain.
After a while of this, a decision was made, that I would get to the top of Horgaletten which is my usual day hike and only about 120 meters in altitude away at this point and about 400 meters in walking distance.
I was maybe 5 minutes away when two dogs came running at me full tilt, they stopped just short of me and apparently wanted to play and get head scratches. They were well behaved and waited until I got down on my knees and threw a snowball at them…. all bets off they ran at me and they, of course, got head scratches. Their owners following behind on skis going down and the dogs followed.
I reached the top of Horgaletten and took a 5-minute breather before heading down again via the same route. Changed shoes back to my trainers at Tråstølen and continued home… 5 hours later it was where I was.
A side note is that going up, the time I had estimated from the trailhead to Horgaletten was spot on, 3 hours. Which is about 1 hour and 15 more than what I use when there is no snow on the trail.
Next attempt will wait until I get a pair of snowshoes. In the meantime, there are other trails that I can hike that while they have snow.. they have less of it.