www.sliabh.net

Seamus K - Irish tech industry expat living in Sweden.

Tag: outdoors

Goal #1

I don’t really do “New Year’s Resolutions”. I prefer to pick up and pursue challenges as I go along. It’s a while since I have set myself a good one – something that will take a bit of effort to complete. But here it comes. – the first formal personal goal for the coming year.

The lake in (what I call) our back garden is Norvikken. It’s a decent sized freshwater lake north of Stockholm, about 7km long, and about 400-500m wide. It freezes in winter. And when it does it is supposed to be one of the best skating lakes near the city. The kommune even clear the path all around the outside so there is a 17km distance ice skating track.

Norvikken lake

My goal is to skate the full 17k before the winter is out.

To do this I am going to need to:

  • Learn how to ice skate
  • Get the right distance skating gear (including safety equipment) and get proficient at using it.
  • Find a person/group to do this with (never skate alone)
  • Do it.

I also need the lake to freeze again. It has ice at the moment, but a recent thaw has thinned things quite a bit.

I’ll keep you posted on how things go. The first step should be the easiest. Our little housing development has 2 small playing areas – bigger than basketball courts, smaller than a full astro turf pitch. In the winter they flood them and let the water freeze. This gives a safe skating surface for the kids. Once I get some skates I can go and embarrass myself there. I may need wrist guards, knee pads, a helmet and a dignity hiding bag as well though.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

Austrian hiking – in my defence, I was a foreigner

In the run up to the Austrian presidential election the Economist ran an article on the country. Despite living there for about 4 years, much of it was news to me (Austrians really don’t mix with foreigners).

This quote did send a shiver down my spine:

“Under Austria’s Proporz system, jobs, housing and business licences were doled out on the basis of party membership. Laws are written by party-affiliated labour or business groups and handed to parliament to rubber-stamp. Even now two motoring associations and two mountain-trekking clubs exist, to ensure that Austrians need never dally with another political tribe when their cars break down or when on an Alpine stroll.”

Dear God, in the time I was there, I could have unwittingly been a member of the Fianna Fail Hiking Club!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

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.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

Freeze dried food – “Good-To-Go”

Good-To-Go Thai Curry frontIn the last year or so I have been experimenting with freeze dried food. You don’t see it too often in Ireland, but gear shops in Sweden and the US tend to stock plenty of it. It’s a dining option for people spending time in the outdoors, and certainly in the US it is also marketed as an emergency preparedness thing.

As I might occasionally need to use this stuff in anger in the hills or forests. And because it makers a change from eating in restaurants. And as gear shopping is fun, I have been buying and sampling various freeze dried and semi-dried meal-in-a-bag offerings to see what is good and bad. I posted most of the results on Facebook before now. But I will move them all to this site this week.

As I was in REI on Sunday I picked up 2 dinners from the very good Mary Jane’s Outpost range. And I spotted a new vendor – Good To Go which I had not seen before. I grabbed the “Smoked Three Bean Chili” and the “Thai Curry”. This evening as I didn’t fancy going out, I used the hotel room coffee maker to boil water and I sat down to try the Thai Curry.

What is insideThe first thing I found was that this stuff needs an awful lot of water. The pouch was big, and held about 189g of “food”. That’s more than the two Mary Jane’s which were 122g and 158g each. the instructions were to open the included sachet of coconut milk powder, then add 600ml of boiling water and let sit for a rather lengthy 20 minutes. Most others I have eaten are 5-10 minutes. There were no volume markings inside the pouch so you have to bring your measuring cup to know how much water to add.

I was a bit nervous at first that there was too much water, but when I reopened the pouch after the wait it all looked fine. And boy was there a lot in the finished pouch. I have never felt like I have eaten as much from a freeze dried meal. It just went on, and on. And even better it was very very tasty.

After it has sat for 20 minutesThe rice had rehydrated well so the grains were not crunchy. There were thumb sized chunks of broccoli to provide texture and something to chew on. The best thing was the flavours and smell. It tasted like a curry, and had a lovely aroma of coconut and spices. Texture and consistency was good throughout – there were no lumps of dry powder. This was one of the best free dried meals I have ever had. I was looking forward to each bite, and it certainly didn’t taste like backpacking food.

Each pouch cost $11.50 which is a little pricey. But as well as excellent taste and quality, you do get 760kcal of food, which is about 25% more than most of the competition. It was guten free and suitable for pescatarian’s whatever they are. The stats are:

  • Price: US$11.50 (before tax)
  • Weight: 189g
  • Calories: 760kcal
  • kCal/100g: 402
  • Fat: 28g
  • Approx shelf life: 18 months

Good-To-Go are relatively new as a company, so their range just has 4 offerings right now: Bean Chili, Green Curry, Classic Marinara with Penne, and Herbed Mushroom Risotto. The Curry gets 5/5. And I will be going back to REI on my way to the airport to pick up a few more!

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

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).

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

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.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

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!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

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:

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblr

© 2017 www.sliabh.net

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑