Embrace Winter for New Adventures

The passing of September and the arrival of October can signify dread and a sense of despair in many as daylight disappears and the weather changes. However, one of the secrets of ‘surviving’ this new season is to embrace it. Don’t look at the negatives, on the contrary, the perceived negatives are actually positives. Seasons exist for a reason.

Lethargy, low mood and the perceived feel to hibernate are all characteristics we feel during the winter months and first off, don’t fight it, accept that winter brings an opportunity to recharge, relax, read a book, catch up on some movies, light a fire, get a blanket and yes curl up on the sofa and relax. There is no harm or guilt in this.

SAD (Seasonal Effective Disorder) is something we all can feel and yes, some feel it considerably more than others, particularly if Serotonin is reduced and this is often treated with drugs. But light, or the lack of it, is a great contributor. Top tip – Look at changing the bulbs on your lights to ‘daylight’ balanced and when required, adjust brightness throughout the day to help simulate the natural passing of light. It’s a great and easy way to help simulate the variable light intensity changes in one normal day.

Mindset is a key factor to a successful winter and once you get the mind tuned, you will soon appreciate and embrace the possibilities that the winter season can bring, especially as a runner or someone who enjoys outdoor life and activity.

As in all things, we are individuals and as such, we all treat circumstances and changes in different ways. I personally see winter as an opportunity to do things I could not do in spring and summer. I see the challenges that winter will bring as a test, both physical and mental and I look upon it as an opportunity to learn and adjust. Resources and circumstances do go a long way in making my ability to adapt successful, so, to start off, look at these aspects and put yourself in a good place before the cold, wet and dark hits.

In a discussion with a friend over a glass of wine, I was surprised to hear our discussion begin to deteriorate…

“I just hate this time of year. The daylight is leaving us earlier and earlier each day, the light is already arriving so late in the morning and I can feel the damp starting to creep into my body. It will be only a matter of weeks before I am in perpetual cold and dark, I cannot wait for spring!”

It is easy to see from the above quote that before winter has begun, my friend is defeated. I smiled and laughed with him and turned the conversation around.

“Yes, the darkness is coming as is the cold, the wet, the snow and the ice,” I replied. “But what a remarkable opportunity this brings. Just think about it. Cozy nights at home with candles and a movie. Adventures in the snow. Running with a head torch. Learning a new skill. Reading and yes, I could go on and on. Winter for me is just a wonderful opportunity and I cannot wait for it to begin.”

I already felt like a winner as mentally I was prepared and excited for the opportunity, whereas my friend, was already starting the hibernation process.

EMBRACE THE WINTER

I strongly believe that embracing winter and making the most of the season starts with mindset. With a good mindset as outlined above, you will already be in a great place to start.

Marino Giacometti, founder of skyrunning also made the summit on race day – ‘for fun!’

As runner’s and outdoor enthusiasts, we are all at different abilities and yes, we all have different reasons why we do what we do. A great example being an elite runner may well look at winter as an opportunity to address weaknesses and maybe spend more time in a gym working on strength and core.

Monte Rosa Skymarathon

A running enthusiast may well just want to tick over, keep fit and maintain a healthy weight during winter months. And then there is the outdoor enthusiast who may well accept that running is something that will go on a back burner for the coming months and accept that walking, indoor cycling, skiing, gym work and so on is the way forward. Whatever group you fall in, take a couple of hours with a pen and paper and self asses how the last year has been and what you want to achieve the following year, this will help provide some specific goals over the winter to keep focused. This planning and assessment can be as simple as complicated as you wish.

As an example, mine is to embrace the season and the weather and to seize every opportunity. I will hone my head torch running. I will practice my ice and snow running. I will experience my first snow shoeing and I look forward to multi-day snow adventures that will carry me from one point to another in a self-sufficient way. But I also want to write more. I want to read a couple of books that I have never found the time for and I also want to embrace the downtime to rest and recover. My connection with nature and breaking from the digital world is integral to a healthy existence and that cannot stop just because the season has changed.

CLOTHING

We have all heard it before, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” It’s true I am afraid. Clothing is one of the key essentials that makes any winter adventure not only bearable and enjoyable. As outdoor people, we have never been as lucky. Technology in apparel has now progressed to a level that we can be warm and dry in super-light products. The downside of course is cost and yes, gearing up for winter can be expensive.

Layering is key with apparel, starting with warm layers against the skin, insulating layers on top and then waterproof and windproof layers as the final touch that will protect from the elements. Merino is great as a base layer and I have a long sleeve top and legs as a starting point. Now of course, I may or may not use them as this depends on the outdoor exercise I am doing. As an example, I would wear the top if running but not the legs. A mid-layer is more often than not either Primaloft, down or synthetic. Each has its place but if you could only choose one, Primaloft (or similar) would be the most versatile due to its ability to retain warmth when wet and still be lightweight. The outer layer should be waterproof and windproof with taped seams and again, it is essential to have jacket and trousers.

The above looks at the core, but if you are like me, the extremities are my most vulnerable in winter and after getting frost nip both in my toes and fingers on the summit of Monte Rosa several years ago, I know need to ensure that I have multiple options for keeping my feet and hands warm. I use Merino base layer socks and gloves which are very thin. For my feet, I then add thicker Merino socks over and inn certain scenarios I have even used Gore-Tex or Neoprene over socks. For my hands, mitts always provide the most warmth and I will use them as first choice. If I need finger dexterity, I often purchase gloves several sizes too big that will allow for multiple layers to retain warmth.

A hat, buff and glasses add the finishing touches. A good hat is one of the easiest ways to retain heat inside the body. A Buff is perfect for around the neck, pulled over one’s nose and mouth to keep out cold air or you can use as a hat. Glasses are an essential to keep out the elements from my eyes and particularly essential if doing any outdoor activity in snow.

Finally, footwear is an absolutely key element to make any outdoor activity successful. There is no one-stop solution here and as a runner, your everyday trail shoes may be ideal for a bulk of your runs, however, specific conditions require specific shoes.

 

Mud/ Wet – You need an aggressive outsole that will grip and gain traction not only of sloppy wet mud but also on tree routes, rocks, gravel and a multitude of other surfaces. Top recommendations are VJ Sport and inov-8 who have been producing shoes to handle the elements for years. Personal favorites are the XTRM (here) and X-Talon(here.)

Snow/ Ice – In soft snow, the shoes that you use for mud/wet will usually work fine providing adequate grip. However, ice brings new challenges and many runner’s avoid ice at all costs. However, products exist that allow for running in such conditions. Firstly, you can micro-crampons (Snowline or Nortec as examples) that simply adapt any running shoe for ice.

I personally prefer a specific shoe, such as the VJ Sport Xante (here) which as all the attributes of my favorite trail shoes and the added grip from 20 studs. Or the Arctic Talon (here) by inov-8.

Xante

Arctic Talon

As a final note on footwear, I use boots and more substantial crampons when venturing in to more alpine and challenging terrain. Read about a trip to the Atlas Mountains here. There is no one answer here but if moving fast and light, the new inov-8 Rocltite Pro G 400 (here) is a great cross over and then I use two specific mountain boots, La Sportiva G5 (here) or the Trango Extreme (here.)

There is no one solution here and having the options to adjust clothing based on weather conditions is key.

Top Tips:

  • Carry a pack that will allow you to carry options of clothing. For example, it may well be dry when you leave but rain could come at any time, make sure you have waterproof layers with you.
  • Take off and add clothing as you exercise. When it’s cold, we often start with many layers as the first 15 min can feel uncomfortable. However, our core soon warms up. Take the layers off early to avoid sweating. Sweating is not your friend in cold climates. Be prepared to add and take off as required. One of the many reasons many people do not, is because it can disrupt the flow of exercise, however, a little time stopping pays dividends in the long term.
  • Avoid getting base or mid layers wet.
  • Carry an extra base layer.
  • Protect extremities – hands, feet, nose, ears and lips.
  • Protect skin with sun block as and when required and post-exercise use a moisturizer – winter is hard on exposed skin.
  • Start easy and build into any outdoor activity allowing for a gradual warm up.
  • Have appropriate footwear.
  • Don’t forget to drink.
  • Take snacks/ food and even a flask or consider the option to obtain hot drinks.

SAFETY

Even at the most basic level, winter brings extra challenges and risk. A simple road run has increased danger due to increased challenges not only for you as a runner, but for those who are sharing the outdoors with you – drivers! Reduced visibility, challenging conditions under foot and on the road can make that simple road run feel like an assault course, so, accept that sometimes staying indoors and or going to the gym is a better option. But we don’t want to be forced to stay indoors and why should we? If you have the correct apparel and footwear, all is good, yes? Well, nearly… Running on the road and I would most definitely consider adding the following:

  • Wear bright clothes or wear a reflective vest such as the Ultra Performance (here) which is minimal and light.
  • Add a flashing light to your arm and ankle. Example here.
  • Use a head torch.
  • Take a phone.

Moving from road to trail and the risk from traffic is reduced greatly especially if one can start immediately on trail with no road running involved. Therefore, the need to wear reflective clothing can be reduced. But the risk of falling is greatly reduced and depending on where you are, that risk can be potentially life threatening. So, adjust safety measures based on:

  • When you are running.
  • Where you are running.
  • The duration of the run.
  • If running alone.

Running for 1-hour on a local trail is very different than a multi-hour adventure. I personally have a standard kit list and I take the basic on every run. It’s an overkill for the 1-hour runs and for the longer sessions, I add to it as required and dictated to by location and conditions.

  • Spare Merino base layer.
  • Spare gloves.
  • Lightweight waterproof jacket.
  • Lightweight waterproof pants.
  • Space blanket.
  • Head torch.
  • Mobile phone.
  • First aid.
  • 500ml water.
  • Snack

The above, is my absolute basic kit that will go in a lightweight pack.

I then add equipment based on:

  • What am I doing?
  • Where am I doing it?
  • When I am doing it?
  • What are the options exist to cut short my adventure?
  • How remote will I be?
  • What are the risks involved?
  • What weather can I expect?
  • What is the worst-case scenario?

The above is a great start point. Even a local run has great risk if one is alone. Imagine running in the forest with snow on the ground, the temperature is just below zero and you are at least 30-minutes from anyone else. If you hit the deck, sprain an ankle, break a bone or whatever, you are suddenly stationary in subzero temperature. This is high risk.

Adapting to the environment, conditions and challenges is not something to be feared. It is actually fun! I go back to the mindset approach at the beginning, I see this as an opportunity, an experience to learn and a great potential to be taken out of my comfort zone.

What equipment/ advice can make a run/ adventure safer and address the list of questions above?

  • If possible, share any trip with another person. It’s more social and you have a backup.
  • Check weather conditions.
  • Tell a friend/ family member where you are going and when you will be back.
  • Have a phone and if necessary, an additional charger. It’s worth considering purchasing a phone that is not a smartphone – battery life is usually amazing.
  • Carry a tracker such as Garmin InReach or Spot.
  • Think layers and have base layer, warm layers, waterproof layers, hat, gloves and buff. On a personal note, I take spare gloves, socks and a base layer should I get wet and need the comfort and warmth of dry layers.
  • Know where you are going and have a map and compass. A GPX file is also a great option for watch/ smartphone.

Specific equipment:

  • Carry micro-crampons if you think snow/ ice is high risk.
  • Carry a bivvy bag which can be a life saver if stuck in a remote location with an inability to move.
  • Goggles are better than glasses if you are in a blizzard or strong winds.
  • Carry an ice axe if venturing anywhere with winter conditions.
  • Hand spikes for ice (more details below).
  • Snowshoes (more details below).

In many scenarios, common sense comes in to play and quite simply, a little extra weight and safety is far better than the alternative. Accept in winter that you will move slower and in a different way.

WHAT OPTIONS EXIST IN WINTER

This question can be asked in two ways, firstly, one’s head can be lowered, shoulders dropped, hands below the waste, a look of desperation on the face and, “What options exist in winter…?” The person asking this question has already decided that the answer is none!

For me, the way to ask this question is standing upright, huge smile on my face and the question, “What options exist in winter?” Already has me ready and primed to list a plethora of activities to keep even the most hardened sport enthusiast occupied for quite some time.

  • Night running.
  • Snow running.
  • Ice running.
  • Road running.
  • Climbing
  • Ice climbing.
  • Hiking
  • Fastpacking
  • Snow shoeing.
  • Learn something new.
  • Spend time with family and friends.

And the list goes on! Location, finances and available time all have a bearing on what is and what is not possible. One thing is for sure, possibilities are endless.

Night Running.

Quite simply, you need your run apparel and appropriate equipment as listed above. Importantly you need a head torch. Not all head torches are the same and an investment in the right kit early on saves money later. If you are running in the city with a great deal of ambient light and just the odd foray on trail, you may well get away with a budget torch and something around 200 lumens would work. However, if you are heading into the pitch black, running in forest, venturing into the mountains and pushing the darkness envelope, you are going to need a specific tool for the job. As an example, Norwegian lighting company Moonlight (here) provide head torches from 700 to 7000 lumens. Be specific on your needs and requirements and importantly consider autonomy, beam direction and spread, options for spare batteries and the option to keep the battery in apparel while still using the head torch, especially important in very cold environment when warmth will make the battery last longer.

Snow Running.

Layer up so that you have the flexibility to reduce heat and get warm as required. In many scenarios, particularly soft snow, a good aggressive trail shoe will work. However, consider the risk of ice so carry micro spikes. If in the mountains, knowledge and experience of snow conditions would be advisable. Be prepared with additional equipment such as poles and ice axe. Needless to say, gloves are really important.

Ice Running.

Use micro spikes for specific shoes as mentioned previously to ensure that you have grip and traction. In some places, Norway and Canada a good example, summer lakes freeze over and they become an incredible playground. Caution, safety and experience is required and if you have never run this way before, take advice from those that have. Importantly run with hand spikes (pictured below) available at all times should a disaster happen – these help you get out of a situation.

  • Measure the ice.
  • What is a safe thickness? 4 inches or more is ideal.
  • Check the ice colour – clear blue or green is good.
  • Fresh ice is best.
  • Know rescue techniques.

Climbing.

Mountains in winter offer an incredible playground and if you are new or inexperienced, the first option would be to sign up for a weekend trip with experienced professionals. The equipment requirements, techniques and safety measures vary considerably.

Ice Climbing.

No need to venture outside. In 2019 as an example, I started on a series of indoor ice climbing lessons which has now set me up for experiencing ice climbing outdoors. There is obviously a need for specific equipment: helmet, glasses, harness, ice axes, boots and crampons. However, most places, indoor or outdoor, offer the option to hire equipment as part of the lessons.

Snow Shoeing.

Fimbulvetr Hikr-X

A great winter exercise that provides an alternative to skiing or snowboarding that is an extension of running. Snowshoes basically allow you to float and not sink in the snow. But there is a difference to snow hiking and snow running, both in the shoe used and the type of snow. Run snowshoes are smaller, allow for a more natural gait and require the snow to be har packed. Whereas in soft snow, you need a much larger snowshoe to stop you sinking in the ground. Either option provides a great challenge and workout. Of course, races exist that require snow running both with and without snowshoes, so, if you are signed up or plan to race like this in the future, seize the opportunity. Abelone Lyng (here), winner of the Ice Ultra does winter snow shoeing trips in Norway.

Fast Packing.

Peak Design Field Pouch attached to a Montane Pack when Fastpacking in Nepal.

Snow, ice and cold weather doesn’t mean that multi-day adventures need to stop, on the contrary. Find a route, plan accordingly, have the correct equipment and off you go. These adventures can involve winter camping (you need a 4-season tent, appropriate matt and sleeping bag) or you can run/ hike form hut-to-hut or hotel-to-hotel. You are only limited by your imagination. Accept that you will move slower. Nepal is a magical playground for winter adventures.

Hiking.

Wrap up and include the family. Sport and our pursuit of it can often be selfish, not purposely, but we can get engrossed in challenge and adventure and often exclude the ones we love. Share the journey.

Training Camp.

Consider a training camp, maybe this could be something in warm weather to break up the winter months. I have been organizing a warm weather camp every January in Lanzarote for over 10-years, info here.

Other options:

  • Sign up for a challenge.
  • Make it social.
  • Add variety.
  • Train in the home.
  • Rest.
  • Learn something new.
  • Enroll in a class.

CONCLUSION

Ultimately, don’t letter winter get you in a spiral of mood swings, depression and locked indoors. It’s all about the mind and understanding that the variety winter brings is actually far more exciting and challenging than good weather and dry predictable trails.

Seize the conditions. Plan accordingly. Have the correct equipment. Test yourself with something new and trust me, by the time Spring comes around you may well be a little disappointed.

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Ultra-Trail® Snowdonia 2020 Preview

Coronavirus has pretty much wiped out the 2020 racing calendar, but in recent weeks, we have seen the emergence of some events, albeit in a new format with measures in place to help reduce the risk of infection.

Scandinavia has had multiple events, we have witnessed events in France, Switzerland and even the USA.

So, it’s a great relief to see the 2020 Ultra-Trail® Snowdonia (UTS) taking place with very strict protocols and an ‘invitation’ only 50km, 100km and 165km.

Michael Jones of Apex Running Co is a runner himself, so, he has understood the need and desire to race, but also abide by government guidelines and provide a safe race – a thankless task one may think!

The 50km has a 14-hour cut-off, the 100km 33-hours and the 165km a whopping 50-hour limit. Needless to say, 3 very tough events in a tough and challenging part of the world.

Paul Tierney

The 165km event will see 10 women and 30-men toe the line with the Wainwrights record holder, Paul Tierney heading up the field. Most participants are UK based, but the event does have entries from Sweden, South Africa, Ireland, Poland, Spain, Philippines, France and Hungary.

The 100km event has 9 women listed, headed up by fell and mountain running legend Nicky Spinks. Harry Jones is the stand out name in the men’s field of 22-runners.

Georgia Tindley

The 50km event has a very interesting line-up with Georgia Tindley, Carla Molinaro and Kasia Osipowicz the leading names amongst a field of 14 women. Damian Hall fresh from setting a record on The Pennine Way heads up the men’s field of 22.

Kasia at Snowdon Skyline

UTS Facebook HERE

UTS Instagram HERE

UTS Twitter HERE

The events, are designed to bring Alpine style racing to the UK on a scale of the UTMB. Each of the three events are extremely challenging and bring 3300, 6700 and a whopping 10,000m+ of vertical gain for the respective 50/100 and 165km distances.

Originating in 2018, the 50 and 100-mile races were an instant success and with huge demanding, three races are now on offer providing a distance and challenge that all can undertake. But as Jones’ says, ‘Beautiful beyond belief. Savage beyond reason.’

The UTS 165 is the stand-out and flagship event offering a stunningly brutal and beautiful tour of the Snowdonia National Park. Starting in Capel Curig, the route takes in the most notable peaks of north Wales.

UTS 100 has technical trails, epic views and is a highlight tour of north Wales.

Arguably, the UTS 50 is an entry level race but still requires respect for the challenges that Wales and its mountains can bring.

Route information is available here and relevant GPX downloads are available.

Race director, Michael Jones of Apex Running

 

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Exploring Norway – Møre og Romsdal

Norway has long been a desirable location for the mountain enthusiast. One only needs to add the word ‘Norway’ to a Google search engine and you will be rewarded with photos that make the jaw drop. 

At roughly 33% bigger than the UK and 1/3rd the size of USA, one begins to understand the scale of this Scandinavian country and its 5.3 million inhabitants.

Just think about it, Norway is 33% bigger than the UK, but the UK has 66.6 million inhabitants.

Needless to say, outside of Oslo (681,000), Bergen (271,000) and other key locations such as Trondheim and Stavanger, open space and amazing landscape is available for all to explore.

In a series of articles and posts, we intend to introduce you to the magic of Norway. 

Norway is the longest country in Norway and therefore, travelling anywhere is not a quick process. It has 60.000 miles of coastline, towering mountains and dramatic fjords. Remarkably it has 2-300 peaks over 2000m+, Galdhøpiggen the highest at 2469m closely followed by Glittertind at 2464m. There are over 1000 peaks over 1650m, so, if you love mountains, Norway should be at the top of the ‘to-do’ list!

We started with HARDANGER (HERE) and followed up with JOTUNHEIMEN (HERE).

In this article we explore Møre og Romsdal 

Image galleries HERE

The list will grow as we progress through Norway, but expect additional posts on: 

  • Stavanger
  • Senja
  • Tromso
  • Lofoten Islands
  • Lyngen
  • Svalbard

And more…

Møre og Romsdal 

 The name Møre og Romsdal was created in 1936. The first element refers to the districts of Nordmøre and Sunnmøre, and the last element refers to Romsdal. The three districts still have their own identities in many ways. Due to its difficult terrain, Møre og Romsdal has been very dependent on boat traffic, and its main car ferry company, MRF.

In terms of distance and travel, the entry to the Møre og Romsdal region is roughly 7.5-hours of driving from Oslo and 9-hours+ from Bergen. Møre og Romsdal is served by nine airports, of which only four airports have regular domestic flights. The largest airport in the county is Ålesund Airport, Vigra, which offers the only scheduled international routes from any airport in Møre og Romsdal.

The area is vast with 26 municipalities. Travel around the area, at times, can be lengthy and time consuming and if travelling by car, the need to use ferries may be required. We will look at the following areas: 

Stranda

Stranda is a municipality in Møre og Romsdal county, Norway. It is part of the Sunnmøre region.

Romsdalseggen

Romsdal is a traditional district in the Norwegian county Møre og Romsdal, located between Nordmøre and Sunnmøre. The district of Romsdal is named after the valley of Romsdalen, which covers part of Rauma. 

It is a popular area and in the months of June, July, August and September, you can fully expect routes to be popular with hikers, climbers and tourists. July and August being the key months due to more stable weather.

PRACTICALITIES

First and foremost, this is an introduction to Møre og Romsdal and we hope that you will read this article, digest the information and then plan your own adventure. There is much to explore in this area and countless trips will be required.

Møre og Romsdal ideally requires a vehicle, especially if you wish to travel say, from Romsdal to Stranda. However, you can take mini-breaks and stay in one area. Romsdal being a prime example, there are many route options.

In regard to accommodation, the best options are camping or using a hotel/ cabin. Remember, the word ‘cabin’ in Norway will often refer to an individual building (amongst many) on a campsite (different to a DNT Cabin). A cabin may well combine the best of both worlds, a cross between camping and a hotel. Please check details for each cabin, often, you need to bring your own sheets (silk liner for sleeping bag?) and towels. Trollstigen Resort (here) is an excellent example of what is on offer. On a personal perspective, camping is preferable with the option to stay 1, 2 or maybe 3 nights in a hotel (depending on the trip) to shower/ freshen up and then camp again. Also helps keep costs down. Although wild camping is allowed in Norway, some areas have less options than others. For example, on arrival in Åndalsnes the option to wild camp was limited, so, we stayed on an official site called Soggebru Camping which was a short drive from Åndalsnes but much quieter than others on offer.

OVERVIEW

Looking down on Åndalsnes

Åndalsnes is the start point for our journey and provides a central hub from which to explore. However, if you have a tent, the opportunity to wild camp is a ‘must do’ for several of the routes. (More information to follow below.) 

Dramatic landscape of Stranda

In Stranda, we used the option to stay one night in a hotel (Strand Hotel), this allowed us an opportunity to shower, launder clothes, have a good dinner/ breakfast and we then resumed wild camping. 

Climbing to summit Slogen.

Our final location Urke Møre og Romsdal, we camped at Urke Camping which provided access to Slogen and Saksa peaks. However, should you wish, there is an excellent hotel called Hotel Union Øye or there is a DNT Cabin (self-service cabin with provisions) that is ideal for the ascent/ descent of Slogen, Patchellhytta cabin.

Proposed Trip:

As mentioned, Møre og Romsdal has many options here are our ‘must do’ routes.

Areas to explore: 

  • Romsdalseggen (inc Blånebba)
  • Romsdalshornet
  • Store Venjetinden
  • Trollstigen
  • Trollveggen
  • Stranda Fjord Trail Race route.
  • Saksa
  • Slogen

 Schedule:

Day 1 – Travel to Åndalsnes and overnight.

Day 2 – Åndalsnes and the complete Romsdalseggen (inc Blånebba) out and back route. Drive to Vengjedalssetra Valley and wild camp. Camp near Venjesdalsvatnet lake or take the small climb to Litlefjelletand have a stunning wild camp with the Toll Wall facing you-

Day 3 – Store Venjetinden and wild camp as previous night.

Day 4 – Romsdalshornet and then drive up the impressive Trollstigen route, options for sight-seeing and walking if required. Wild camp.

Day 5 – Trollveggen via out and back route. Starts at the tourist center. Onward drive to Stranda for night in hotel.

Day 6 – Stranda Fjord Trail route and wild camp.

Day 7 – Drive to *Urke Møre og Romsdal and then climb Saksa.

Day 8 – Slogen climb and then overnight camp or onward travel. 

*options for camping, cabins, hotel or DNT cabin.

Please note: 

Some roads on this route are one way in and one way out. They often have a toll charge which is payable via a bank card. Many also need a mobile phone. A system is used in Norway called Vipps it may be worth doing some research to see if you can use this system, as I understand it, you need Norwegian bank account and phone number.

THE ROUTES 

Romsdalseggen

Romsdalseggen Ridge

This route is often undertaken as a point-to-point starting at Vengjedalssetra and finishes at Åndalsnes. To do this, the best option is to take the bus which leaves 08:30 or 09:30 (June 15 to August 30.) If this is your plan, you are strongly advised to book in advance.

However, our recommendation is a full day out, starting and finishing in Åndalsnes. This is a tough and challenging day and includes the highest point Blånebba. 

The route includes, Mjølvaskaret , Mjølvafjellet 1216m and Halsaskaret ridge.

The route starts in Åndalsnes next to a parking ground and immediately rises up with the first highlight being the Rampestreken viewpoint. This is a metal platform that allows you to walk out with stunning views over Åndalsnes (weather depending.) Romsdalstrappa rock steps lead upwards and finally everything opens up. A stone cabin Ottarbu is situated on Nesaksla should you need shelter in bad weather. From here, the route becomes more challenging and exposed depending on experience. The ridge narrows at Mjølvaskaret. Mjølvafjellet follows and now the terrain is more challenging with fixed chains and some exposure. Halsaskaret ridge is steep in places and in the wet, care is needed.

Progressing along, follow directly ahead to Blånebba. Any turn to the left here will take you to the valley where the bust takes the point-to-point hikers. The terrain steepens and is extremely rocky, Blånebba is the high point at 1320m. It is possible to explore here, look around and of course take photos. At all times take care.

The return route is via the way you came and although backtracking, it has a very different feel. What was down climbing is reversed and vice versa providing a great stimulus. The route is 20km+/- and the time it will take depends on many factors, for example we had rain and snow. However, a good pace and 4-hours would be achievable with photo stops. 

Store Venjetinden

Wild camp close to Vengjedalssetra, we suggest you go near Venjesdalsvatnet lake, there are some great camp spots at the top closer to Romsdalshornet and you have access to water.

The route to Store Venjetinden on the face of it looks like a straight out and back. Starting just off the road the start of the route is easy to miss due to overgrown trees. Expect your feet to get wet early on. 

You start climbing right from the start and continue to do so all the way. You need to feel comfortable moving over rock. Much of the rock is loose here, so, at all times take care. Snow may very well be present the higher up you go, so, be prepared with micro crampons and ice axe.

The higher you go, the more challenging the route becomes and some scrambling and climbing skills are required. At all times, keep asking, ‘can I go down the way I have come up?’ There is no shame in turning around.

The views on a clear day are remarkable providing stunning vistas over all the surrounding area. 

The route down is the same as the way you came. Again, care is needed on all the loose rocks. 

Romsdalshornet 

You can access Romsdalshornet route from the same wild camping place next to the Venjesdalsvatnet lake. However, if you are going to have a clear and calm night, we strongly recommend that you start the climb to Romsdalshornet and wild camp close to Litlefjellet. There are a couple of small pools here and stunning views of the ‘Troll Wall.’ Amazing at sunset and sunrise.

In the morning you can start the upward climb to Romsdalshornet which requires some climbing and scrambling at easy level until you arrive at the base of the horn. Continuing on very much depends on skill level and if you have climbing and mountaineering experience. Most people use ropes here, however, someone like Kilian Jornet considers this an easy scramble. 

“Fortunately – for most people – it is experienced as more demanding and dramatic from a distance than when you actually start climbing. From afar, it looks almost impossible, but as you get closer and closer, more and more formations appear and you see that the mountain is not so steep. Romsdalshorn is still a real challenge for most people. And an experience of a lifetime.” – Fjellguide.no

Trollstigen

It is a popular tourist attraction due to its steep incline of 10% and eleven hairpin bends up a steep mountainside. Visually spectacular, there are options to stop and soak in the views. Should you wish, there is a trail that starts in the valley and goes all the way up. Stigfossen falls is a highlight of the region which drops 320 metres down the mountainside. 

Trollveggen 

Trollveggen is the main reason why you would take the hair pin bends of Trollstigen. At the plateau once you have finished driving upwards, you will see a large parking area to the left. Here is a tourist center, cafe and several options for viewing platforms.

It also provides a wonderful out-and-back route to Trollveggen.

The Troll Wall is the tallest vertical rock face in Europe, about 1,100 meters (3,600 ft) from its base to the summit of its highest point. At its steepest, the summit ridge overhangs the base of the wall by nearly 50 meters.

The wall has an incredibly history of climbing, however, it is extreme and requires great skill. The route we take is a run/ hike and depending on time of year and conditions, much snow can be encountered. 

The route is an uncomplicated out-and-back over initially easy terrain, however, there are some significant boulder fields to cross and in the latter stages, a great deal of potential for snow. Be prepared for all weather.

The route is not long, at most 12km however, the terrain can be slow and all the way out, you are climbing. The return is much quicker. 

Stranda

The journey to Stranda should not take to look from Trollstigen, expect 90-minutes, however, you will need to take a ferry on the final leg. After many day’s camping and the mountains, now is a good time to spend a night in a hotel.

The Stranda Fjord Trail Race has several route options 25km, 48km and 100km. Our recommendation is the 48km and there are options to make this a fastpack over 2-days or, you can cut the route short finishing at Stranda. Slogen which appears in our schedule later was also part of the 100km route, so, you get the best of both worlds. A GPX track is available here. 

The routes here are stunning and challenging. Be prepared for tough terrain, changeable weather and stunning views. There will most likely be snow at times.

You have the option to start in Stranda adding km’s or take a bus to the race start point at Opshaug.

The early sections of the route are easy and at times runnable. Forest trail opens up with stunning views of the Fjord. Eventually, the trail will become steeper and steeper and you will climb an almost vertical wall of green moss. 

Once through this, the terrain turns to rock and boulder and you will climb and climb all the way to Fremste Blåhornet 1478m. At the summit, you will turn around and retrace but instead of turning right and taking the path you came up, you will continue on. Heimste Blåhornet is the next peak. The terrain is at all times challenging and although the route has markers, you are advised to follow a gpx.

Lofonmfjellet is the next significant peak at 1178m but what is between is no means easy, the terrain constantly asks questions of you. 

Rodsethornet 1085m follows. This section has some great ridges and exposure with stunning views below. 

Now you make your way back to Stranda with approximately 30km covered. You have the option to end the day, or continue on for the additional loop which takes in 3 significant peaks at 1230m, 1144m and 849m. 

Note – This whole route is a challenge!

Saksa 

The drive from Stranda to Urke Møre og Romsdal takes approximately 1-hour and the final section is stunning. Please note it is a dead end at Urke, you need to return via the way you came.

There are many possibilities for wild camping in this area, both in the valley and when out on the trails. We decided to stay at Urke Camping as it was very close to the climb of Saksa.

While Saksa may be one of the lower peaks in the area, it’s a wonderful little climb up and down that can be fitted in to any day. On a clear day, the views apparently are magnificent. For me, it was wind, rain, mud and pretty much no visibility. 

The route is like a classic VK winding up the mountain, at times on good single-track, other times, Nepali steps. In the wet, the trail gets very muddy and the rocks slippery. The final push to the summit is steep but there is little difficult terrain to worry about. 

Slogen

At 1564m, Slogen is a straight up climb from sea level and as such, this route brings its own challenges. You can break the climb up by staying at Patchellhytta Cabin, however, our choice was up and down in the same day. 

We chose the steeper and direct route starting near Øye.

Early climbing is in forest and once out of the tree line, the views and trail open up. At times it is steep but not technical. Eventually you will arrive at a ’T’ junction, almost certainly a snow field will be ahead of you. Here you go left to the summit. Notably, right will take you to Patchellhytta Cabin – this will be the route down.

From this ’T’ to the summit, the challenge increases as does the difficulty. For our ascent, snow had fallen over night adding to the challenge. Experience and comfort with some mountain exposure is recommended but not essential. Moderate climbing and scrambling skills are required; and the challenges increase closer to the summit. As always, self-check and ask, ‘can I go down what I have come up?’

Even though it is not among the highest peaks in Norway, the mountain is rated among the top ten mountain hikes in Norway. This is largely due to its beauty, view, and the fact that it’s rising directly from a fjord.

At the summit, there is a box and you can sign the book. On a clear day, views are amazing. 

On the descent, continue in a reverse direction as to the way up. At the ’T’ continue on along the ridge and follow the markers. In the distance you will see Patchellhytta Cabin. 

At the cabin, turn right and then follow the trail back down to the main road at Skylstad. The route down is rocky at first and then transitions to forest trail. If there has been a great deal of rain, expect mud and slippery conditions. 

It’s a stunning round trip route. 

As a recommendation, start early. We were on the trail up by 6am. 

RECOMMENDATIONS 

Never underestimate the mountains and the environment in which you are exploring. Snow can be a factor on all of the above routes and in July, we had some snow on every route. In particular Slogen. It is advisable to have micro crampons and an ice axe as a back-up for some of the routes.

Weather is crucial and many of the above routes would become very dangerous in bad weather. I cannot emphasize enough that grip is essential! You need an outsole that works on wet and dry rock. Running shoes are very personal but recommendations are VJ Sport MAXx and XTRM, Scott Supertrac RC2 and inov-8 Roclite. 

Be prepared, Norway can throw 4 seasons at you in 4 hours. 

  • Suitable pack
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Warm insulated layer
  • Warm trousers
  • Waterproof jacket/ pants
  • Food for the duration of the hike and some contingency
  • 1,5 ltrs of water (which can be replenished on all the routes via streams/ waterfalls)
  • Take water purification tablets as a just in case and consider a water purifier such as MSR Water purifier
  • Map/ Compass
  • Charged mobile phone with a suitable App such as ‘Footpath’ (here)
  • Cash/ Card
  • Garmin InReach or similar
  • Bivvy bag
  • Sunglasses
  • Suncream

Plan your routes, be realistic on timings and always start early. One of the huge advantages of outdoor activity in Norway is daylight. In June, July, August you have plenty of light.

CONCLUSION

Møre og Romsdal  has a great deal of variety and has something for experience and relatively inexperienced.

We touch on the possibilities available and trust me, you can spend months and months here and still have plenty of routes and options to keep you occupied. 

This article is created as a gateway to the area knowing only too well that it will whet your appetite for other adventures.

A car is advisable to get around and facilitate more exploration but of course, it is not essential. 

In comparison to our other articles on Exploring Norway, Hardanger and Jotunheimen, Møre og Romsdal is more extreme and on a par with Jotunheimen.

We cannot emphasize enough the role of weather and the impact it has on all of the above recommendations. The mountains will always be there, cancelling a planned route or turning back is acceptable and wise.

PERSONAL NOTE 

Special thanks to Abelone Lyng who has extensive knowledge of the area, her experience was invaluable in planning routes and making a workable itinerary.

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Episode 195 – John Kelly #thegrandround

Episode 195 – Is all about the epic Grand Round by John Kelly and the show is co-hosted by Damian Hall.
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NEWS
FKT’s posted on last show:
  • * Franco Colle new FKT on Monte Rosa from Gressoney
  • * Nadir Maguet – Gran Paradiso FKT 2:02:32
  • * Erik Clavery GR10 9 days 9 hours and a few minutes
  • * Davide Magnini Ortles FKT 2:18:15
  • * Kim Collison 24h Lakes achieves 78 Peaks
  • * Sabrina Verjeee Wainwrights (wishes not to claim)
  • * Dylan Bowman Loowit Trail 5:11:49
  • * Josh Pulattie Oregon Coast Trail 12 days 10 hours 25 min
  • * Candice Burt Tahoe Rim Trail 2 days 12 hours 47 min
  • * John Kelly Pennine Way 2 days 16 hours 40 min
  • * Sarah Hansel (57:43) & Joey Campanelli (41:00) for Nolans 14
  • * Tom Hollins Dales Mountain 30 (130 miles, 30 summits) 41 hrs
  • Adam Kimble new FKT on Tahoe Rim Trail, USA
  • Damian Hall new FKT for the Pennine Way, UK
  • Adam Jacobs new FKT for Hertfordshire Way, UK
  • Carla Molinaro new FKT for the JOGLE, UK
  • Beth Pascall new FKT for the Bob Graham Round, UK and set 5th fastest time.
  • Rhys Jenkins sets new FKT on the Wales Coastal Path #fkt! 870 miles. Time TBC but 20 days 9hrs 35 mins – 2hr 20mins off the record.
  • Lindsey Ulrich new FKT Pacific Crest Trail
  • Marilyne Marchand-Gouin new FKT Clorado Trail
  • Mikaela Osler new FKT Colorado Trail
  • Wouter Berghuijs new FKT Via Alpina Switzerland
  • Christof Teuscher new FKT Eagles 33
NEW UPDATE:
Pau Capell runs UTMB in 21:17
Finlay Wild runs the Ramsey Round 14:42
Carol Morgan 24hr Lakeland record with 65 tops
Wonderland Trail in the USA, Kaytlyn Gerbin set a new female FKT. Dylan Bowman (16:58) set the FKT only to have it broken 1-week later by Tyler Green, now 16:40:55
Kirsty Hewitson Steve Parr Round 62 fells 117m
Diego Pasoz on the Via Alpina new FKT
Dan Lawson JOGLE 9d 21h 14m
Ryan Sandes 13 Peaks Challenge 13:41:10
Donnie Campbell continues his Munro challenge
Kilian does a VK in less than 30 min and then follows up with 10km on the road in sub 30 min
Check FKT website for latest updates https://fastestknowntime.com/
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In other news…
Rondane 100 – Read the report here
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RED-S here
Scott Kinabalu Ultra RC shoe here
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INTERVIEW : JOHN KELLY
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