All photo's are Copyright of Scott Swalling or the tagged Photographer. (Background photo Scott Swalling Photography).

About Me:

24Hr MTBike racer and general bike rider, climber and mountaineer. Good coffee drinker and cake eater (any cake, seriously, don't leave your cake laying around). Also, I like to try new things that challenge me.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Norway Dog Sledding 08

We had decided that we would go dog sledding one day.

So off we set to the creatively named "Hemsedal Huskies", a little family ran business in a beautiful part of the Hemsedal area, in the forest and bordering a number of frozen Norwegian lakes that we would soon be sliding across under the power of our 6 dog teams.

We arrived and got fitted out in ridiculous looking clothing that not only protected us from the cold, but also the dogs wee and flying poo. Johan the owner/operator was fantastic and very funny with a sharp wit and easy going manner about him. He put us all at easy and then introduced us to the 38 barking huskies. Their all mad I tell you, take a look for yourself.

"You can't touch this" and "Look deep into my eyes, you are..."

As Johan proceeded to sort the teams he would pick a dog and ask one of us to get them. He asked Nik and I to get two dogs, I had spotted the brute of the pack earlier so Nik let me go and grab him. He turned out to be quite a calm animal once he knew he was going for a run. Nik's was also calm, so calm in fact that he took a very tactful pee on Nik's leg. Thanks to Johan for the suits.

Tim and Claire were getting to know there team and have the dog with the devil's eyes, but he actual is a bit soft, like the rest, just excited.

We were soon fitted out with a full team, 6 dogs per sled. I tucked in under the blanket with the camera and we were pretty much off.

Its starts of with the continued barking and carry on from the dogs that had started the moment we arrived. But soon as we enter the forest proper they calm down and start doing what they and run and run.

The forest is a wonderful place to be and what a way to travel, it beats snow mobiles and cross-country skis any day, plus the dogs are good company and the pee master and the brute, lean on each other nearly all the time. Which keeps me amused, how lazy are they? As we weaved through the forest Nik has mastered the driving of the sled and I have almost got use to the jarring bumps and occassional drops that the passenger experiences.

I have the camera so I snap away, forward, back, left and right and managed to get some good shots and one of Claire, Tim and their team as well.

After a few short stops and a few little lake crossings we enter a large lake crossing and the view is amazing, the next lake crossing is even more so (picture below). It is at this point that we stop for a chat about the area and the ice and Johan show's us how to break through the ice. We all succeed, fatty here does it first time. But we are only breaking through the first few centimeters, there is then a layer of water and then even thicker layer ice below. So we are told anyway.

We change drivers and head off, now I get to see what the driving of a sled and 6 dogs is like. These dogs really just do their thing when they have a lead team, it is your job to keep the sled upright and at the right pace. No free rides here, up hills you get off, run and push, downhills you keep tension on the ropes, but don't slow the dogs down and you don't run them over.

We bounced, weaved and slid our way across the lake crossings and back into the forest. It was starting to get dark now, but I really didn't want this to end. But the track got a bit twitchy now and I managed to hold what could only be described and power slide, my mind focused a bit more as I didn't want to hurt any of these dogs or Nik.

After some more bouncing, a branch in the face and a lot of weaving we returned to yard. It had been an amazing 3hrs, I knew I would enjoy this, I knew we would all enjoy this, but as much as we did was an extremely pleasant surprise.

We gave the dogs lots of big thank you hugs and pats, the dogs returned the hugs and started barking lots again. We thanked Johan, climbed out of our fetching outfits and headed off back to Hemsedal, with massive grins on our faces and ready for a nights skiing and with a memory that will last a very long time.

Ice climbing Norway 08/09 Part 1

As previously written, a few of us went skiing and ice climbing in Norway of new years 08/09.

After skiing for several days in Hemsedal, it was time to turn our minds to ice climbing. Nik and I have done some Scottish winter climbing, but this is different to winter ice. Picture a waterfall snap frozen and you have a pretty good idea of winter ice, it has a wide and varied grading system and the grade of routes is based on their condition in optimum conditions. This does however mean that the route can change grade in thick or thin conditions.

The first day we climbed we had hired a guide, Lelsie Ayres. We meet Leslie just down the road from Hemsedal in Gol, and he took us to an amazing little ice crag, which only saw 3 other climbers visit why we were there.

The reason why we hired Leslie was to teach us more about the characteristics of this type of ice and what to look out for good and bad. He also instructed Claire and Tim and some of the more basic requirements of ice climbing and ice gear and it's uses.

We top roped a WI4 and then a M5, which had a bit more ice on it than normal, so this must have drop the grade to M4. Whilst we all hung around at least for second or 2 on the long WI4, I managed the M5 clean, which surprised me more than most. Everyone had climbed both routes better than expected and had enjoyed the day. Claire had continued her battle with the cold, but seem to be on the winning end this time.

This was New Years Eve, and a cold day at that. We returned to our apartment, ate and started some light drinking. We tried ever so hard to stay awake but around 11:20pm we decided it was New Years somewhere in the world at that minute pop the champagne, consumed it and feel into a deep and well deserved slumber. The skiing had ruined us all! :-)

The next day we headed off to Rjukan, the heart of ice climbing in Norway, with easily over a 100 ice falls to climb. We took a route that would take us over the eastern edge of the Hardangervidda. The Hardangervidda are the disolet highlands North West of Oslo and North East of Rjukan and Vemork. This is the area where many Norwegian soliders hid from the Germans during WWII, especially those that supported or carrried out the attacks on the heavy water plant at Vemork, just up the valley from Rjukan. Google "Heroes of Telemark" and ignore the movie references. ;-)

At one point on this slow but beautiful journey, I asked Tim to stop the car so we could admire the beautiful scenery and read a memorial. The memorial shows the map with the path that a number of the Norwegian soldiers used to escape across the Hardangervidda and regions between here and the border of Sweden to safety, a distance of 600km's after the attack on the Vemork plant. Many others chose to stay behind, they not only avoided capture but played havoc with the German's until the end of the occupation.

Hopefully this picture here shows the map clear enough to understand the magnitude of this feat in the depths of winter.

We continued on to Rjukan with a few other stops to enjoy the magnificent scenery that this part of Norway has to offer.

Part 1, end.