Tony and Tom from our Bristol store recently embarked upon a week of training with the Outdoor Academy of Scandinavia (OAS).
They tackled some of Sweden’s most beautiful yet demanding terrain in order to learn about the latest equipment from outdoor manufacturers including Hilleberg, Silva, Haglöfs, and Optimus.
After battling some extreme conditions in part 1, the guys get to know the region’s wildlife and discover a rare type of fruit…
We woke slowly and had our breakfast as before in the Altai. Hot oats and a hot drink, very satisfying when you’re camping. It was decided that due to the amount of we clothing we had in the teams, especially ours, we would head back to the lodge for 1 night to make use of the drying facilities. As the lodge was booked up and this had not been a planned stop, we weren’t going to use their beds but camp on one of their specially allocated sites they have around the perimeter.
Kye and Eva took the lead for the day, navigating and carrying the Altai, as well as the leaders bits and bobs and we all swapped tents ready for that evening. They decided it would be best to take the most direct route back, 7km straight up the track we avoided yesterday and up the trail across the bridges we took on day 2. This would give Steph maximum time to recover, her feet were still in very bad condition, a large heel blister on both.
We set off and all went smoothly. We redistributed Stephs kit to make her life easier and it turned into a very pleasant walk on which we saw the first, of what turned into many, Reindeer.
The weather had improved and we even saw patches of blue sky, but no sun yet! We stopped at one point to have a group photo taken with a quaint bend in a river as a backdrop. As we arrived at the lodge, we spotted a sheltered spot down by a river, which looked as though it was not too boggy, as much of the land was, where we could set up camp.
Tony and I had the smallest of the groups tents to sleep in tonight, the Jannu, nice and cosy, which is fine if you’re mates with the other person in the tent! It is designed for 2-person expedition use, so it has a smallish porch due to kit being expected to be stored out side in dry bags if necessary, as is the norm for that sort of use.
However, we had 2 very large packs and needed to keep them dry so opted to stash our bags in the Altai only taking into the tent what we needed to sleep in, cunning! The venting was not as good as that of the Tarra, simply as it only has a door (the largest possible venting feature) at one end, not two. With bags outside there was plenty of room to store necessities, like boots and waterproofs, or even cook in the porch, as long as you kept the door open and the stove away from the fabric.
At this point, we noted how much of a good idea it had been to split the inner from the outer to keep it dry, as this had not been done with the Jannu and it was quite soggy!
After we’d eaten we made full use of the facilities, hung up any wet kit in the drying room, had a shower and even a sauna… well, we had to really didn’t we, When in Rome… or in this case Sweden! Only problem with it was that you were recommended to use the plunge pool at intervals, which felt like it was sub zero when you’d been sat in the sauna for 15 minutes.
We had the usual re-hydrated feast for dinner, a hot drink, a drop of Schnapps, then hit the sack early, ready to recommence the trekking proper the next day.
After we had eaten we pitched down our tents and exchanged them with the others ready for the evening. So far no one had even lost a peg, which we found quite surprising. The Rep accompanying us today was from Woolpower, a company who make Merino garments, not dissimilar to Icebreaker, but Swedish! We also swapped our multi fuel stove, pans and fuel for one of the Gas only stoves and the pans that were with that.
There was a subtle difference in the pans as these were Anodised lightweight Alu’ alloy pans and had no heat sinks on the bottom. This results in them taking a little longer to boil as they are less efficient, but they are better for cooking things that prefer to be cooked slower, like porridge for example.
The heat sink spreads the heat out more but gives you less control over the amount of heat experienced by the pan, as it is so efficient. Things burn a little easier. The reason the pans are Alu’ alloy is that although not as light as Titanium, they heat more evenly as it is a better heat conductor.
The Optimus gas stove also has a cunning four-season mode where once you have lit it, you can open out a little stand on the valve that you screw the gas cylinder to at the end of its hose, and stably stand the cylinder upside-down. his pours the gas a liquid to the burner, which has a pre-heater loop, like a multifuel stove, to turn it in to gas.
This helps in low temperatures where the pressure in the cylinder can be reduced so much that the gas can’t be forced up thought the valve when it is on top, as with conventional stove designs. This is unique to this stove although it can be done if using a gas cylinder on a suitable multi-fuel stove, just without the convenience of the stand.
It must be noted however that the stove needs to have been lit the correct way up to start with to heat the preheating loop before you turn the gas cylinder over, so the fuel doesn’t come out as liquid.
Also, as liquid fuel is poured into the hose like this, it creates a delay from when the valve is shut off, to when the flame goes out as it is being gravity fed not pressure fed from that of the cylinder behind the valve.
We now had the Keron 3GT tent, and as Steph had opted to stay at the lodge, due to her feet being very sore, we would be using this for the remaining 2 nights as the other tent, a Kaitum 2GT, would be used by her. We had to be honest, it was nice knowing we were back into an overly spacious tent, where we could spread out a lot more in its 2 large porches, one which was extended, as well as take up a third person’s worth of space in the inner.
Michaela and Holgar were leading today and we were changing direction, heading west. We would follow a trail, to the side of a bit of heath land in a valley between two mountains, to a nice opening in a vast bowl formed by a meandering stretch of river. Here we would set up camp and do some shorter mountain walks to take in the summits of the peaks on either side of us.
Stefan, the founder of The S.O.G. and head designer for Optimus, was accompanying us today.
We walked quickly, stopping once for lunch, and as the weather had been fine and there was an appropriate hollow to the side of the path, we didn’t feel the need to pitch the Altai.
Here we learnt what Cloud berries were, an orange fruit, a bit like a raspberry in form but more random in shape, which ripens after a frost. They were hard to find but on the floor around us along with huge numbers of Blueberries, which frankly you couldn’t avoid trampling on. Considering the snow we’d had, the Cloudberries were ready to eat so we gorged our selves on them.
As we walked on we saw another pair of Reindeer, a mother and her young, so as a true tourist does, I took a few photos.
Soon we arrived at the next camping spot and pitched everything up. We took a short break then packed small day packs, mine was in the form of my Exped Cloudburst 25 which had been doubling up as a dry liner, ready to bag a peak for the first time.
I planned a route for our team, but as it turned out everyone, from all the groups, walked together and we took a straight line to the top. The peak was called Stor-Ulvafjllet, and had Cairn at its summit, where we found a ‘Letterboxing’ tin and a note pad and pen for people to leave memos.
I made a small snowman and someone passed round a bottle of Jaegermeister, which we both had a swig of! The view was lovely and lots of us took pictures, then as it was getting darker, we headed back down to the tents, eagerly hunting for Cloudberries on the way.
Just before we got back, I spotted a Dutch guy taking photos of a ridge reflected in a lake, but realising he’d missed a trick, I ran round the lake and from a different angle, I managed to take a beautiful picture of the Peak we would bag the next day, and its reflection on the lake.
When we got to the tents, we had dinner in the normal manner, and hit the pillow, no energy for chatting that evening!
The Final part of Tom and Tony’s Swedish adventure continues in part 3.