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Seamus K - Irish tech industry expat living in Sweden.

Tag: hiking

Hiking the Sörmlandsleden with a Combat HR Specialist

This week’s Meetup.com hike was a beast. We did 24km, and we did it at a galloping pace covering the distance in about five and a quarters hours, or over 4.5 km an hour. Not bad for sustained walking on rough ground.

routeMy ambition is to start doing some multi-day hikes, and I need to eat healthier,  so I have been experimenting with alternatives to the sandwiches and chocolate I would usually bring. Most people go for sandwiches (Sweden and Ireland). But a few eat hot food. So I thought it was time I brought out my stove for its first use in the wilderness*.

On a previous hike someone showed me their preferred trail recipe – boil water, add a stock cube, stir in a can of tuna. “Yum! No, it’s fine, you can have all of it”.

In the interests of research, and my palate, I went for one of my freeze dried packets. This week it was one I picked up in the US –  Mary Jane’s Farm, Lentils, Rice & Indian Spice. For snacks I had some home made trail mix, and a RawBite bar.

RawBite vs Clif - the one on top is far betterThe RawBite’s are Danish, and made with just nuts and fruit. Compared to Clif Bars, they are cheaper, lighter (50g vs 68), have 15% more calories per gram (213 vs 250 total for each), and most importantly smell and taste much much better! Snack breaks on the walk where half of one, together with a handful of the trailmix washed down with water. Then for lunch out came the JetBoil.

Prepping for lunchI boiled up two cups of water, and one went into the food pouch.  The pouch was paper based (so you can burn it if needed) and had good tear marks. It didn’t have a fill level inside, which is always a plus. And there was no way to seal the bag once the water was in. I folded the top down twice and let is sit for 10 minutes. Then the rest of the water went into a mug to make a cup of tea. Barry’s tea, with real milk. That done, I went back to the Lentils and Rice.

Freeze dried lunchWhen I unrolled the top of the bag I was hit by a wonderful aroma. Lentils and rice are small so don’t suffer from the freeze drying process. Everything had rehydrated nicely, and the texture and taste was good. Very good. Maybe it was my hunger, and the wooded surroundings, but there was no difficulty in eating up every single bite. The spices were just right, giving enough flavour to what could otherwise could have been very bland. But it certainly could not have been called “spicy” (I bring a tiny bottle of tabasco to take care of that if/when needed).

It had cost me $8.66 in REI in Dallas. It was vegan friendly and organic. The stats are:

  • MaryJanes Outpost, freeze dried foodPrice: €7.60
  • Weight: 122g
  • Calories: 435kcal
  • kCal/100g: 356
  • Fat: 1.5g
  • Approx shelf life: 24 months

If it loses out somewhere it is that the calorie value is a low. Most of these meals I have tried are over 550kCal. For that reason it is probably better as a lunch rather than a dinner option.

When I had finished it I was able to drink my tea like a proper gentleman. Prep, cooking, eating, and pack up took about 25 minutes. And it was great to have a hot lunch on a day when the temperature was about 6°C.

One of the nice things about these hikes is the people you meet. Two weeks ago I talked to a digital artist for DICE, who designs foliage for the Battlefield series of games. He spent much of the walk taking research photos. This week there was a release manager for Spotify, and a guy who had just left the British Army where he had worked as a “Combat HR Specialist” in Afghanistan. I bet you didn’t meet anyone as interesting as that today 🙂

* I have used it in parks and campsites before.

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The need for trail equipment in Ireland

Yesterday I got into a discussion on Facebook about equipment being put on mountains to assist climbers and hikers. I clearly won the argument. Because despite being respectful and balanced, the Kerry Climbing group just chose to delete my comments. They don’t seem to like engaging with anyone who disagrees with their view point.

Trail shelter

Adirondock style shelter on a Swedish hiking trail

That view is that no one should put artificial aids in the mountains for climbers and walkers. No signs, no steps, boardwalks, or chains (used to help people on steep ground). Or rather not in Ireland. Because every Irish walker and climber who has spent time beyond the UK and Ireland has used these things. This hypocrisy is one thing that bugs me about this position. I was given a line about “Irish ethics” being different. But in 20 years of climbing and hiking in Ireland, other than a vocal minority, pretty much everyone I know would be happy with the idea of having trails in Ireland like you see elsewhere. And I have yet to see some of these fundamentalists refuse to use things in the few places they are in Ireland – like the bridge over the Dargle above Powerscourt waterfall for example.

The safety angle is the one most often cited: if you put these things in place then people who have no business in the mountains will come out, and get in trouble. Funnily enough that argument sounds exactly like the discredited “abstinence only” approach to sex education – the answer to young people having sex and getting pregnant is to tell them not to have sex.

The fundamentalists in each case are wrong. People will have sex, people will want to enjoy the mountains. So if you are worried about their safety then you have to be realistic and focus on doing what you can to reduce the risks. You recommend they go with experienced groups, who can teach them about navigation, mountain conditions, and so on. But you also lay out safe trails with transparent difficulty levels, provide signage to keep people from getting lost, and provide infrastructure to help ensure they don’t get caught out by difficult sections.

Erosion on Djouce

Erosion on Djouce from hikers.

The other benefit to all of this is the sustainability one. It would be better to direct hikers onto prepared trails that can take hundreds of walkers, than have them contribute further to erosion or have them open new paths as they try to avoid damaged areas.

The impression I get is that many of the objections are just elitist snobbery. They say “you are not fit to be in the mountains” and only those of the right calibre should use them. And this exclusionary attitude is damaging to the perception of the sport and the uplands as well. Why should the general public care about mountains and access issues if they are being told that these places are not for them to enjoy as well?

Boardwalk above Glendalough

Boardwalk above Glendalough

I am not arguing for trails and paths everywhere. I appreciate the wilderness feel of getting away from it all on unmarked routes as well. But popular areas (like Carrauntoohil), or sensitive ones where traffic has lead to damage (many locations in Wicklow) should have options that are equipped. This should be planned, and done to a high standard like the boardwalk above the Glendalough lake.

And those that then attempt to remove these items should not be praised, but should be treated as vandals.

 

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Hiking in Sweden – Sörmlandsleden stages 3 and 4.

Yesterday’s Meetup.com Sthlm Outdoor hike was on the Sörmlandsleden, the major hiking route that runs south of Stockholm for about 1000km. We just did stages 4 and 3. Which made 22km of walking. We even managed 300m of ascent. Runkeeper says I burned 2100 calories and I can feel it today. 

Sörmlandsleden 4,5The terrain was different to what we had on the previous hikes. It was rougher, and far more uneven with hillocks the sometimes rose to 70m! On those occasions when we were going up steep ground I could feel totally different muscles working in my legs. And today while I feel tired there isn’t the satisfying soreness that comes from having done 1500m of climbing.

Rougher ground on the SörmlandsledenThe weather was different too – overcast, about +4 to 0°C with occasional fine snow or rain. The warmer weather meant the ground could occasionally be mucky. For stretches, particularly along roads, there was a lot of compacted re-frozen snow which was like sheet ice. Apart from a few minor foot slips it didn’t bother me too much – I was asked whether being from Ireland was why I was why I was so sure footed on the ice. Years of experience has taught me the trick is to take small steps, and keep your feet as flat as possible (no toes or heels). With practice you can end up walking almost as fast as on “normal” ground.

Swedish winterDuring the week I had offered my help to the hike leaders, so I ended up as the back marker. It is a fiddly job, especially for someone like me who prefers to set their own pace out at the front. Instead you keep the pace of the slowest person. Making sure those that are struggling, or have stopped to go to the toilet in the trees don’t get left behind or lost. But it’s an important job and someone (with decent skills, experience, and fitness) has to do it.

We had the usual mixed group – about 1/3 Swedes and the rest expats – some very experienced walkers, and others who struggled with the pace and conditions. Maybe it’s me getting old, but I think hikes are no place for headphones. At least that person kept their spoiling of the outdoor experience to themselves. One person took a very loud phone call for several minutes. When they finished they kept working on their phone. They looked up to see me standing politely a few metres away waiting calmly.

“Am I the last? Sorry I didn’t realise.”

“Yes, because you were looking at your fucking phone” was what I thought but did not say.

Lunch at shelter by frozen lakeOne person chose to finish half way and get a bus home. One hardy individual letf us to stay the night in the shelter where we had lunch. If I had a decent winter rated sleeping bag I might consider it. But I’d like to arrive to my sleeping place at 5pm when it’s getting dark and not lunch time!

It wasn’t as much fun as the 2 previous walks I had been on. But not by much. Assuming I am in the country again next weekend I will be out for the next walk, a more sedate Sörmlandsleden stage 5, (15 km).

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Anyone for a 20km walk in the Swedish woods?

Map and Compass

Map and Compass

Here comes the weekend, and I am in Stockholm on my own – so I guess I will go walking. I have so impressed the organisers with my background, skill and enthusiasm I have now been bumped up to walk leader. That or they had so many turning up, they decided to run a second walk, and yours truly was one of the two volunteers to lead it.

This is going to be fun anyway. I don’t think I have to haul wood and hot dog for a mid walk hot meal. But in the interests of cultivating an air of Irish eccentricity, and because I fancy a cuppa, I will bring my stove, tea and milk.

It won’t be the only Irish flavour to the walk. The temperature has gone a little above freezing, and it has turned misty and damp. While the demand might be there for Irish coffees and hot whiskey, I am not sure Swedish hikers are quite ready for that just yet. Maybe next walk.

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Hiking in Sweden – Lunsen National Preservation area

This week’s hike with the Stockholm Outdoor group from Meetup.com was in the Lunsen National Preservation Area 50km North of Stockholm. It’s an area of about 35 square kilometres, mostly forested, often swampy, and about as wild as you can get this close to the city.Walk route

It had snowed on Thursday so we had great conditions with temperatures of -4C and clear skies. There was enough snow to make everything pretty, but not so much that it made the going difficult.

Like the last walk the area was very well equipped. The trails were wide and easy to find with good markings and signs. Much of the route was on the Uplandsledden which we had walked on two weeks before. A lot of Lunsen is swampy, but any of the wet stretches had a board walk. I can guess that the place would be far less fun in the summer when the mosquitoes are rampaging.

LunsentorpetLunch was had at the Lunsentorpet. This log cabin sits in a clearing, and is open to all who want to use it. Inside there was some simple furniture, 6 bunks, and a huge traditional range and oven. It has no running water or electricity though. At the back was an outhouse for those that needed it, and in the clearing there were a few well equipped fire pits and a bivvy shelter. I will freely admit that I would love to own such a retreat in the woods. That would be my dream bolt hole. I would just prefer mine not to be in the middle of a swamp.

Hot dogs for lunch.Our group had brought fire wood, and a load of sausages. I am told this is the Swedish way of doing hiking. I wasn’t too keen on the long stop though and found myself getting cold. But I was able to retreat to the cottage where the stove had been lit.

The walk leaders set a good pace again this week. It was a shorter walk though. And I was surprised to see two people in jeans. Probably worse was the one who did the walk listening to music on full ear covering headphones all the time. Philistine. They were “Beats” though, which is a clear indicator of someone who doesn’t know anything about decent music hardware.

This week I learned:

  • The furthest you can get from any road in Sweden is 67km. Compare that with the 2km distance I have been given for Ireland. We don’t do wilderness!
  • The Mossies come out from about mid May until end of August/September.
  • More than a few of the Swedes have done some or all of the Kunglseden – the 440km hike in Northern Sweden. They all recommended it, which increases my desire to spend a least a week on it at some stage. The best advice they gave me though was not to go there during the Fjallraven Classic when about 3000 people are on the trail!

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Hiking in Sweden with Meetup.com

Being in a new country makes it hard to know where to go to for hikes and walks. Good for me then that I found the Stockholm Outdoor group on Meetup and they had a walk this weekend north of Stockholm.

As my first meetup I didn’t know what to expect. It turned out to be  a pretty mixed group. The leaders, and core were Swedes who have a love of walking hiking* and seem to be the regular organisers of events. Most of the rest are expats. Everyone I talked to had some degree of walking experience. It was pretty friendly group and it was easy to strike up conversations as you went along. Much like any hiking group really.

Swedish trail walking

The walk itself was along a route through the Runby nature reserve, and alongside Lake Mälaren. For the most part we were on a way marked trail. In Sweden this means that you could be on a road, or path, and sometimes you go cross country on slightly rougher ground. But there was nothing technical or unsuitable for children lets say. The trail was marked by orange paint spots and bird houses in trees. A map would be a good idea, but it would be very hard to get lost.

This being outside Stockholm it was pretty level. We went up one or two hills, but I doubt any of them was more than 60m high. Oh, and the weather was good. Cold (about freezing), but little wind, and other than one small snow/sleet shower it was dry and clear all day.

View over lake Mälaren.The scenery was pretty good. The start was in a suburb and then we headed into the woods. Much of the route skirted Lake Mälaren, so the views were nice. We had lunch on a small hill top which was the site of some iron age ruins, and we even passed a Swedish castle on the way home**.

A highlight though was seeing all the people skating on the lake. Most were doing the same thing we were – going on a long distance excursion, just on the ice. What I learned about this type of skating was:

  • You need a big rucksack to hold a full change of clothes and foot wear in a waterproof bag. It will help with buoyancy if you do fall in.
  • Ice can hold about 100kg per cm of thickness. But generally wait until it is 5cm thick before going out on it.
  • Today it was 20cm thick, so you could have driven on it!

Skaters on the ice at lage Mälaren.It was a good day out. I will definitely try and get hiking/walking with the group again. I did miss getting to go up something, but the walk and the company were worth the trip, and I will be back.

 

* I kept referring to it as a “walk” and I kept getting corrected. Probably residual snobbery from my mountaineering days, where if there isn’t at least 500m of ascent, it can’t actually be a hike.

** My tracker say 19.25km, with 390m ascent. Which apparently was 1400kcal burned with another 300 kcal cycling to and from the station. So I don’t feel guilty about the tea and biscuits I had back home.

All the photos:

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