A step-by-step video guide to items for FASTPACKING

Fastpacking is all the rage at the moment. Runners and hikers all over the world are heading off for mini or extended multi-day adventures in a semi of fully self-sufficient manner.

I wrote an intro to Fastpacking HERE and then followed up with a more in-depth approach to Fastpacking Light HERE.

Due to requests, I have now put a video together talking through my pack and the items I use. I did forget to mention take a map and compass, so, add that to the list!

Hope you find the information useful and I know you will have your own tricks and weight saving secrets, so, let me know what they are….

Need help with packing? Lighterpack is great tool for collating information and monitoring weight. HERE is mine based on contents in the video article.

You can view them below.

In summary, pack with food for 1-day and night inc 600ml water with tent, summer sleeping bag, sleeping mat and additional warm layers 4362g.

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VJ Sport IROCK 3 Shoe Review loo

Robust, solid, great looking, aggressive outsole, Fitlock, good lacing, toe protection, red and black and the iRock 3 follows on from the iRock 2 with another winning shoe.

Quite simply, VJ Sport make the best outsole for trail and mountain running of any shoes I have used. They are what I compare all other shoes to, and still, several years on from testing the original iRock, no shoes have come close to giving the grip of a VJ.

The IRock was followed with the XTRM (review HERE) and then the MAXx (review HERE). Quite simply, when you line the iRock, XTRM and MAXx you have three shoes that cover all the needs from soft, sloppy and muddy trails to the harder, longer, more rocky trails of a longer trail and ultra-race. Be it fell running, skyrunning or ultra-trail, VJ have with the iRock, XTRM and the MAXx the perfect shoes for each terrain.

IROCK3

The IROCK 3 is a precision fit shoe with a narrow toe box. They are designed to hold and compress the foot so that there is no movement when running. Think of them as ballet shoes. You squeeze your feet in, benefit from the precision and hold when running and when done, you take your foot out and let it relax again. Of course, for some, they IROCK will just be too narrow. VJ list the fit as a 2. For comparison, the XTRM is a 2 maybe 3? and the MAXx a 4.

 14mm cushioning at the rear and 8mm at the front gives a 6mm drop.

The outsole (Superior Contact -kumipohja) is the hero of the shoe with 6mm lugs of super grippy butyl that works like a dream in wet or dry conditions.

Weighing 240g (UK8) the shoes are like Formula 1 cars for the trails and as such, they are not a shoe for everyday outings.

The upper is bullet proof with a mixture of DuPont Kevlar and Nylon and the other notable element of the VJ shoe, be that IROCK, XTRM or MAXx is the Fitlock which holds the foot like no other shoe. In addition there are overlays stitched on to add additional support.

Toe box is reinforced with a solid bumper. The heel area is minimally padded but fits like a glove and holds the foot secure.

Lacing is very secure, and the tongue is reinforced and made of a very durable and flexible material.

Solid build, aggressive outsole and great looks. This is a shoe for shorter outings, racing or training, when grip is paramount, especially in soft-ground and snow. It’s a favourite for orienteers, skyrunning and OCR.

IN USE

So, what is different from the IROCK 2?

Improved toe protection, lighter Fitlock system and improved laces. 

The IROCK3 is not a jack of all trades, this shoe has a specific purpose. 

I wrote about the IROCK 2 – “The easiest way to explain this is by looking at say, Formula 1. You wouldn’t go to Monaco Grand Prix and race in an MPV car, a saloon car or a bus, you’d have a very specific vehicle, low to the ground with incredible speed and awesome agility with incredible grip. The IROCK2 is the Formula 1 for fell and mountain running.” 

That stands true today and why VJ made the XTRM and MAXx to offer more comfort and less aggressive grip.

Road is not a friend of the IROCK, or should I say, the outsole. Too much road between trails will wear that soft rubber down quickly, so, it is best avoided as much as possible.

Needless to say, VJ’s hashtag of #bestgripontheplanet is not a lie. VJ really do offer the best grip and the IROCK is flawless in soft ground, on rocky trails and in the mountains. It makes no difference if wet or dry, they just grip like no other shoe. In mud, particularly soft mud, they dig in like football boots offering the best grip I have encountered.

Fit is precision. Once laced up and tightened. You feel the Fitlock hold the middle of the foot, add support to the arch and when switching direction on the trail, there are no question marks or doubts. The IROCK holds the foot rock solid.

At the front, the toe box is precision, but it is not super, super tight. I can happily run in the IROCK for multiple hours in comfort.

Feel for the ground is excellent and of course, the cushioning is relatively minimal keeping that all important contact with the surface so that one can respond to the terrain. Worth noting, this shoe is designed for soft ground, so, much of the cushioning can actually come from the ground that you are running on too.

In many respects, I am surprised the IROCK is 6mm drop. It works for me and I am happy, however, for a shoe designed to be fast and low, I am surprised it is not 4mm?

The fit is neutral and true to size. I am a EU44 and the IROCK is perfect in that size.

On the trail I feel the Fitlock and heel box working together holding the foot, be that in soft mud or running up rocks. The grip is superb.

Slabs of wet rock even covered in water do not make me question if the IROCK will be secure. I just run as normal and let the outsole do the work.

The combination of durability, fit, cushioning, precision and unmatched grip confirms what I said in 2017 about the IROCK 2, they are the best fell/ mountain and short distance skyrunning shoes out there!

Mud, rock, fell in wet or dry conditions, the IROCK 3 is the most complete mountain shoe I have used over shorter distances.

SUMMARY

VJ Sport have been making secret weapons for the orienteering world for many years, but now the secret is out. 

VJ are now seen at OCR races, Skyrunning, fell races and with the addition of the MAXx, we are even seeing them at ultra-trail.

If grip, foothold, precision and light weight are priorities for soft, muddy and wet ground, the IROCK 3 is for you!

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NEMO Hornet 1 Person Fastpacking Tent Review

Better wind and weather protection than a bivvy bag, the Nemo Hornet 1P is an ultralight double-wall tent that only weighs 731g. Ideal for solo fastpacking or bikepacking!

Sized for one person, the Hornet 1P will fit two people, yes it will be snug, but two people definitely can sleep with compromised comfort in this tent.

Read a guide on fastpacking HERE

Supplied with a single Y shaped pole (DAC poles) of supreme quality alloy, connection to the inner tent is made at three points, two on the corners of the top (head) end and one in the middle of the bottom (foot) end of the tent.
While these three arms are enough to hold up the inner tent in free standing scenario, you still need to stake out the four corners of the inner tent to stretch it out and make the full living space.

Read a guide on fastpacking LIGHT HERE

Top tip: Make sure you stake at least one corner first, especially in wind, before inserting the poles.
The head end of the tent connects with a ‘ball and socket’ (called Jake’s foot`) connection which is a clever design, the foot end is a simple metal protected hole. At the top of the tent, Nemo use a ‘Flybar’ which creates additional headspace with minimal weight.
The inner uses ’No-See-Um-Mesh’ on the sides for privacy. On the upper the mesh is black, so, for those warm and barmy nights when you can pitch inner only, lie back and gaze at the stars in comfort.

Join our Multi-Day Training Camp in Lanzarote HERE

A mesh pocket on the inner, near the door is ideal for wallet, glasses, phone or other essential items. One overhead pocket is designed for a headlamp and it uses a white semi-translucent fabric that diffuses light to create a soft lighting. Of all the solo tents I have looked at and used, headroom is excellent and sitting up relaxing or cooking is a pleasure. It is a roomy solo tent and will accommodate two for a cozy night!
There is one door, which opens into a vestibule providing excellent room and space  to store your pack, extra gear and space to cook. The inner can also (optionally) connect to the fly on both sides of the tent to increase inner space. Ventilation is good due to the fly sitting high off the floor. A high bathtub protects from cold.

The rain fly is nylon ripstop 10D Sil (1200mm,) it is lightweight as one would expect and provides good privacy. The fly connects to the four staked corners of the inner tent and requires two additional tent pegs for the front vestibule and on the other side, the Hornet 1P is clever in reducing clutter and maximising tent pegs for dual use.
A central door zipper is protected against rain with a storm flap. Both the inner and outer door roll back and are secured with simple fastening systems.
Extra guylines are provided to secure the tent which secure to webbing loops that are attached to the tent. In windy weather, most definitely use them.

CONCLUSION

I am really impressed with the NEMO Hornet 1P. It’s a clever design, spacious, has loads of headroom and comfortable living space and all in a compact and lightweight package.
When weight and small volume are a priority, the Hornet comes highly recommended, especially for extended multi-day adventures. We can all compromise comfort for a night or two, but for extended trips, the Hornet’s living space and storage is a real plus.
Easy to set up, the Hornet is a real winner. However, it’s not perfect. The fly sits high off the ground which is great for ventilation and air flow, however, in bad weather, it will allow increased air flow and the tent is most certainly not as warm as others.
The fly and inner are just over 500g. That is incredible for a tent that offers this much living space. The pole system is simple and quick. The tent pegs provided are far too heavy for a tent of this nature and I can only assume that Nemo provide them because they are cheaper and that helps keep the cost down to the consumer. When you purchase the tent, make sure you get some lightweight tent pegs too.
731g for a solo tent is excellent and the NEMO Hornet 1P comes highly recommended.

*****

 

“For those looking for an ultralight shelter with greater volume, Hornet™ offers the ultimate in livability and comfort. Top shelf fabrics and a minimal pole structure shave every ounce possible, while our latest updates and new patent-pending Flybar™ volumizing clip add even more room without adding any weight.” – Nemo

 

Exploring Norway – HARDANGER

Norway has long been a desirable location for the mountain enthusiast. One only need 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 pop), Bergen (271,000 pop) 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 Europe 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 are starting our articles with HARDANGER which is easily accessible from Oslo or Bergen and although based in the south of Norway, it does not lack any of the drama or mind-blowing views that northern Norway offers in abundance. 

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

  • Stavanger
  • Loen
  • Jotunheimen
  • Senja
  • Tromso
  • Lofoten Islands
  • Romsdal
  • Lyngen
  • Svalbard

And more…

HARDANGER

The fjord (Hardangerfjord) resort of Kinsarvik will be used as an initial start point for adventures in the Hardanger area, by car, it is 2hrs 30min from Bergen and 5hrs from Oslo.

Located in the west of Norway, Hardanger is a traditional district with a great deal to offer in both summer and winter. For the purposes of this initial introduction, we are looking at a 4-5-day trip in June.

June provides a wonderful opportunity as the area transitions from winter to summer, if lucky, much of winter can remain and therefore you can gain the best of both worlds. It’s worth pointing out now, that winter conditions in Norway are harsh and you need to be prepared both physically, mentally and have the correct equipment to explore safely in this area. If any of the above have a question mark, look to travel and explore in July/ August when snow conditions will have disappeared.

Areas to explore:

  • Dronningstien aka The Queens Trail
  • Trolltunga
  • Folgefonna Glacier via Buerbreen
  • The waterfall route via Husedalen Valley
  • Climb Oksen

Other opportunities:

  • Kayak in one of the longest fjords in the world.
  • Via ferrata to Trolltunga.
  • Ice climb on the Folgefonna Glacier.

PRACTICALITIES

Norway is not a cheap place and therefore one needs to look at budget when exploring any area of the country. Flights, depending on the time of year will vary in price and car hire can be expensive. However, in many scenarios, a hire car allows one freedom to explore. Train services and public transport is good. We recommend a car to explore Hardanger.

Camping is part of the outdoor life and there is nowhere better than Norway to sleep outside. Norway allows for wild camping, however, be careful, some areas, particularly Trolltunga have a camping exclusion zone. 

For the purposes of this mini trip, we used an official campsite and wild camped. Below I provide a map to show an overview of the routes and areas we explored.

Our itinerary was as follows:

  • Day 1 – Travel and overnight stop.
  • Day 2 – Dronningstien aka The Queen Trail
  • Day 3 – AM: Trolltunga – PM: Buerbreen Glacier
  • Day 4 – Waterfall route via Husedalen Valley
  • Day 5 – Oksen and travel home.

All of the above trails are not long and are all achievable in one day or less.  

  • The Queen Trail is a longer route (20km) with mixed terrain on a point-to-point route.
  • Trolltunga is exposed and with snow (time of year dependent) – a more extreme challenge, particularly if one has limited snow experience.
  • Buerbreen Glacier is a short route but has plenty of vertical and technical terrain, expect fixed ropes, some snow and water crossing.
  • Husedalen Valley, the waterfall route is a great out and back with stunning views and at times, some testing terrain. Your feet will get wet!
  • Oksen is a straight up climb (1000m+) with some exposure, challenging terrain and the potential for snow/ glacier travel depending on the time of the year. It’s an out and back route.

Day 1 base was Kinsarvik. There is an official campsite, Kinsarvik Camping AS (here) which has cabins, space for motorhomes and tents. You are recommended to book any camping, especially in high season. Alternatively, you could wild camp close to Kinsarvik.

There is a Spar supermarket opposite the fjord, and this sells everything, including camping supplies. So, this is a great opportunity to stock up on any anything that you may require.

Our day 2 and day 3 base was an official campsite in Odda, called Odda Camping (here). This area due to its proximity to Trolltunga has potentially less options for wild camping, however, some options exist in Buer close by. It was a perfect location with a fjord as a backdrop, showers (20 Nok charge) and toilet facilities. At 250 krona per night (£20) it was a great option. Odda has a developed town with plenty of facilities, so, should you need anything, it will be available in the town.

Day 4 we wild camped below Oksen. There is nothing close by, so, be prepared with food etc.

Day 5 we wild camped on the way back to Oslo.

THE ROUTES 

Dronningstien aka The Queens Trail

 The trail is a point-to-point route between Kinsarvik and Lofthus. We recommend parking opposite the ESSO Petrol Station next to the fjord, parking is free.

The actual trail starts at Røte which is 4km up a road from route 13, very close to the ESSO petrol station. However, we recommend doing this on foot. Location is shown on the map below.

For the first 4km you will have no marking and then at Røte you will see blue a ‘D’ or blue spots. This is the route to follow. 

The official route is 16km and is estimated to take 8-9 hours and is described as ‘long and demanding!’ For perspective, we did the route with an additional 4km, we had a great deal of snow and we constantly stopped for photos. Yes, we did run, and we completed in 4hrs 50min. We did not push the pace or go fast.

Recommendations are for July to September but in June you have the chance of snow, 2020 had a great deal of snow, far more than normal. For us, this was a real plus!

The early km’s are all climbing and uninspiring but there are some wonderful views. Once the ‘D’ starts, the route becomes trail and you continue to climb eventually breaking out of the tree line. The immediate views over Hardangerfjord are quite amazing and breath tanking. It did not take long to realise why this was a favourite route of HM Queen Sonja, hence, The Queen’s Trail name.

Once high, the terrain has some undulations, but it is mostly flat with all the climbing coming in the early km’s. You will see from the run route below that we had snow for all the high sections and some snow on the descent to Lofthus. We had amazing weather, blue skies and plenty of heat. You really need to be careful of snow bridges, snow holes and potential danger and hazards. Best practice is to follow existing footsteps and pay attention to markers. Some ‘D’ or blue markers will be missing because of the snow but navigation is not a problem.

At all points, the Hardangerfjord is to your right and the views are stunning. On occasion you are brought to the edge of the plateau. Take time to stop, look over and soak up how incredible the vistas are.

You will find breathtaking views of the Sørfjord, Odda, the Folgefonna Glacier, Hardanger Bridge and Eidfjord. You can also see all the way over to Kvanndal and Utne, and along the fjord to Kinsarvik. 

Water is available at several points via streams, waterfalls or melting snow. Take the opportunity to replenish bottles. 

Before the highpoint of the route, there is a little climbing with some fixed rope, it’s nothing too scary or dramatic. Just use caution.

The high point is a square pile of stones (cairn) at 1107m which has a box on so that you can sign the book inside to confirm you were there.

From here, it is mostly descending all the way back to Lofthus. You will eventually switch from blue ‘D’ or dots to red ‘T.’ The descent is steep, winding, may have snow and includes the ‘Monk Steps.’ Open expansive trail eventually becomes tree covered.

Keep descending down. You will pass through a car park for those who wish to climb up from Lofthus. Keep descending and you will pass the famous orchards of this area, you will finally join the main road next to the fjord. The route is done!

A public bus back to Kinsarvik leaves from opposite Hotel Ullensvang. Please check on timings, but our information was 1551, 1810 and 2100hrs. There is a cafe/ shop called Kompaen that serves food and drinks should you need to replenish after a hard day on the trails before heading back. Make sure you taste some local apple juice or cider.

At Kinsarvik, we had a picnic by the fjord and then headed to Odda and Odda Camping. This would allow us an early start the following day for Trolltunga.

Trolltunga

The Trolltunga (Trolls Tongue) is an iconic route in Norway. Formed about 10,000 years ago by glacier erosion it is considered one of the most spectacular cliffs in Norway. From the side, it quite literally looks like a tongue balancing 700m above the Ringedalsvatnet lake.

Considered as a ‘demanding’ route, the out-and-back can be estimated to take 8-12 hours and the typical season is June to September. Outside of this timing one must have a guide. This year, 2020, Norway has had a great deal of snow and unusually, this year’s route was pretty much 90% snow and we had strict instructions to adhere to the marked route.

Despite conditions, we found the route very runnable and the snow was perfect. We did the out-and-back in 4-hours, just under 5-hours with all the photo stops. And trust me, photo stops are compulsory!

For most, particularly with snow, this is a challenging route, mainly due to the 20km+ distance, elevation gain and at times, demanding terrain.

It is a very, very popular route and therefore is often extremely busy. However, Coronavirus greatly has impacted on tourists and visitors in 2020 and the normal busy trails were quiet.

There are three car parks with limited space, 30 cars at P3, 180 at P2 and 220 at P1, book in advance (here) and if possible stay at car park 3 (Mågelitopp.) This is closest to the trail head and costs 600 Nok (£50). Car park 2 is 500 Nok. Car parks open 0600 hrs. There are also shuttle buses from Odda/ Tyssedal to Skjeggedal and then Skjeggedal to Mågelitopp with a cost of appx 450 Nok. You may think these costs pricey, however, the money is used by the local community to cover the impact of tourism in the area.

Importantly, this is a high mountain route with highly changeable conditions. Go prepared with extra warm layers, gloves, hat, waterproofs, food and water. You can replenish water en-route from streams and waterfalls.

It is possible to start from Skjeggedal which adds 4.3km up and down to the route hiking (or you can get the shuttle) but we decided to miss this as we were adding the Glacier route to our afternoon.

Start early, if running, you have the potential to arrive at Trolltunga first and have great opportunities for photos. It has been known at busy periods to wait over an hour to get on the tongue for the ‘iconic’ photo. We actually started at 0800 and caught all the hikers ahead of us. We actually had at least 40-minutes at the tongue for photos and picnic before the next people arrived.

Skjeggedal to Mågelitopp is a steep tough climb and well-marked. From Mågelitopp, the start of the Trolltunga route is just below the car park, the route is clearly marked and relatively flat. It’s marshy to start with interspersed rocks. We had snow in these early sections, so, we were well aware that the whole route would be snow bound.

The first few km’s are arguably the toughest with 800m of vertical.

After the initial hard work, the trail rolls along, the snow conditions making our trip perfect. At all times, the views to your right are stunning with mountain vistas and the stunning Ringedalsvatnet lake.

For safety, there is a mountain outpost and two emergency huts/ shelters should you have a problem.

There is a twin waterfall, Tyssestrengene and Tyssehylen Lake to pass before arriving at Trolltunga.

The approach to Trolltunga is perfectly safe and not technical for an experienced outdoor person. However, if new to hiking and extreme environments, take a little time, move slowly and make sure of foot and hand holds. Hopefully, you may not have to wait for an opportunity to walk out on the tongue for your photo moment.

The return route is a reverse of the outward route.

Without snow, the route would be very different and in a personal opinion, less beautiful and dramatic. The snow added a real extra element to the journey, so, I would recommend attempting Trolltunga as early in June as possible.

Once back at the P3 car park we returned to our campsite for a relaxing lunch. 

Buerbreen Glacier

The reason we chose P3 for Trolltunga was to allow us to do the out-and-back route to the Buerbreen Glacier which is a short drive from Odda. 

The route is less than 6km and has appx 450m of vertical gain, but the route has a great mix of some technical terrain, fixed rope, water crossings and snow if you are lucky.

Leaving Odda, you head to Buer and continue up the road to eventually arrive at a car park. Cost is 150 Nok.

A gravel road starts the route from a farm. There is a plethora of animals around to entertain.

Entering the forest, the trail winds upwards continually with very little flat trail. Expect wet feet and the need to use ropes to ascend rock sections. If conditions are wet, take care.

Keep looking back as the views are wonderful, countered by the dominant glacier ahead. The route up does have some challenges with fixed ropes.

Eventually the trail stops with the glacier ahead. Do not be tempted to veer off the route and explore on the glacier. Needless to say, this requires a different skill level, specialist equipment and knowledge of the glacier and its conditions.

 The panorama and views at the glacier are magical.

You return via the way you came.

At under 6km, it’s a great addition to the more adventurous morning at Trolltunga. Don’t underestimate this little hike. It’s a wonderful trail and the views are magical. 

We returned to Odda Campsite for a relaxing evening.

Husedalen Valley

This route was not on our original plan; however, we were advised by locals that Husedalen Valley in June is incredible due to the melting snow and the succession of waterfalls.

Leaving Kinsarvik head up Husavegen Road and continue until you arrive at a parking area on the left. 

The route is 12km +/- out and back with 630m+. The initial km’s are gravel road, first waterfall is called Tveitafossen. 

The gravel road forks, take the right trail. You climb steeply next to a pipeline before entering forest trail.

The second waterfall is already visible, Nyastølfossen.

The views are incredible and the noise of the waterfall impressive. The trail rises steeply at times with some demanding trail. Nyastølfossen is hidden, peeping through the trees and then suddenly you get full views. Take time to stop, watch and take photos.

The third waterfall, Nykkjesøyfossen is located in a beautiful meadow. This is a popular wild camping spot with incredible views, so, keep this in mind. There is a small hut and also a public toilet here. The trail is easy to lose here but keep close to the water edge (on your right) and follow climbing and scrambling over the rocks. Eventually you will see the trail rise up.

The trail goes up again through trees and heads towards the 4th and final waterfall, Søtefossen. At times it’s easy to lose the route but in all honesty, you cannot get lost, just head for the waterfall. Eventually you can go no further as the 4th raging torrent forces you to sit down and watch its beauty.

You return via the same route.

 This route is often listed as demanding, as always, this depends on experience and fitness. Estimated to take 5-6 hours we did the route in 3h 25m with continuous photo stops.

On returning to the car, we returned to the fjord at Kinsarvik for a lunch break and then we travelled over to Oksen to wild camp.

Oksen

 The drive to Oksen takes you over the impressive Hardanger Bridge (toll payable 150 Nok) which is the longest suspension bridge in Norway at 1380m long.

Please note, once you have left Kinsarvik (or any other town for that matter) you will not pass any shops or supplies on the route to Oksen. It’s a narrow out-and-back road that passes close to the fjord and remote houses. Eventually you will drive up heading to ‘Tjoflot’ – continue along the winding road and eventually you will come to a dead end where parking is available. A fee is payable for parking.

Our suggestion is to arrive late afternoon or early evening and wild camp close to the car park or, start the climb of Oksen and after approximately 1-mile you will find a plateau with two huts, here is a good place to camp.

With either of the above options, you can start the climb of Oksen early the following morning ahead of other people arriving. We decided to camp near the car park as we wanted to do the whole climb in one go.

This route is very different to the previous day’s expeditions. It feels much more remote, exposed and has many similarities to a classic VK (vertical kilometer) route. You will climb just over 1000m+ in less than 5km to reach the summit.

 We had dry weather but cloud and strong winds. Like the rest of the Hardanger area, once above a certain height, we had snow all the way to the summit making the journey extra special.

The early climbing is through forest as the trail winds up. Once you reach the plateau where the two huts are, the trail is now open and wide. The route is well marked but be careful in snow sections, at times it’s better to deviate on to firm/ harder ground.

The whole route is steep and especially so between 400-600m+ and after 800M+ with the route flattening out towards the summit.

At all times the views are incredible and arguably the views of Hardangerfjord, Sørfjorden, Granvinsfjorden, Eidfjorden and Samlafjorden are the best in the region.

The summit is marked with a stone cairn signifying the altitude of 1241m.

Take time to explore the summit and look at the different views. There is a stunning vista of the suspension bridge too.

At the summit you have options to extend your route. This was our original plan; however, snow and weather conditions were very unpredictable, and we decided (correctly) not to take risks and continue.

Had we had crampons and ice axe; we most certainly would have continued to Ingebjørgfjellet (passing Oksatjorni) which is signposted from the summit (5.4km away). The route is not marked, so, you need map and compass or a GPS. I use the ‘Footpath’ app on my iPhone which works excellently. Maps.me and ViewRanger are others to consider.

The return to the car is via the way you came, unfortunately, due to road access and a lack of public transport there is no other option. As an alternative, it is possible to climb Oksen from Hamre, however, you need to use a different road to access this area. The route up goes via Seljesete and Seljenuten.

The route is considered demanding with a time allowance of 7-hours. As mentioned previously, with good fitness and mountain experience it is perfectly feasible to do the route in under 3-hours even with plenty of photos.

We concluded our trip with a detour travelling back to Oslo. The weather was perfect, and we were not eager to return home when another night camping was possible. We called at Vøringfossen (here) which is an impressive waterfall towering 182m high.

We then continued to Ringericke and climbed up the Mørkonga gully to then camp high next to a lake for a final night.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Never underestimate the mountains and the environment in which you are exploring. June in particular is the start of the hiking season and as such, snow can be a factor on all of the above routes. This adds an additional potential for injury and problems. Particularly as the snow is melting and this can create snow holes, snow bridges and crevices. Do not take any risks and follow established routes and existing footprints.

Make sure you call in the Tourist Office in Kinsarvik and discuss your route options and take advice on current conditions and dangers.

It may be 30deg next to the fjord and glorious sunshine, but at the summit, it can be below zero, blowing a gale and torrential rain. You must take personal responsibility and be prepared for all conditions. At a minimum please take:

  • 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 TrailShot (here)
  • Map/ Compass
  • Charged mobile phone with a suitable App such as ‘Footpath’ (here)
  • Cash/ Card
  • Garmin InReach or similar

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, it is light at 0300 and goes dark after 2200 hrs.

CONCLUSION

Hardanger is a paradise.

Quite simply, if you do the route options above, not only will you see some of the most amazing views ever, you will be rewarded with wonderful challenging days that will provide you with a lifetime of memories.

Weather, as always, is key. We chose our weather window and traveled to the area knowing that we would be rewarded with great conditions.

Of course, if you are making a special trip to the area, you will need to take the weather you are given. Although it is great to have a plan, be prepared for that plan to change based on weather conditions and personal safety. We were desperate to travel to Ingebjørgfjellet after Oksen summit but made a sensible call and retreated.  

The mountains and trails are going nowhere, always remember this!

The routes provided are achievable for all with enough allocated time based on individual experience and fitness.

Due to Covid-19, we experienced considerably quieter trails. On many occasions we were completely alone. Having spoken with locals and others, this is not normal! So, be prepared for more people when you venture to this area, especially Trolltunga.

For us, camping enhances the experience and brings you closer to the nature and environment. However, this is campervan heaven, and should you need a hotel, many are available.

Needless to say, we have picked highlights of the area and there is more to explore, but that will be another article!

This area would be fantastic for a Fastpacking trip, read here about equipment.

Also, here is a guide for Fastpacking in Nepal.

PERSONAL NOTE

I am fortunate to have travelled the world, experienced mountains, summits and trails in iconic locations. Norway may not have any peaks/ summits that can compete with the Alps, Pyrenees or the Himalayas, but what it does have is the most incredible views.

I can honestly say, our mini trip to Hardanger is one of the most rewarding ever! 

Special thanks to Abelone Lyng who was my partner in crime. Abe is the ‘muse’ in all the photos, the girl with a big smile and yes, these trails would have been a little less magic without her to enjoy the journey. She was also the inspiration for the trip and it is thanks to her we visited these amazing places.

View the complete IMAGE GALLERY HERE

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Episode 187 – Ben Bardsley, Bob Crowley and Stephen Goldstein PHD

Episode 187Ben Bardsley talks about his 2500km journey on the Norge Pa Langs, Norway. We speak with new ITRA President, Bob Crowley and Stephen Goldstein PHD updates us on Covid-19.
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00:10:54 BEN BARDSLEY 
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00:56:04 BOB CROWLEY – ITRA here
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01:39:00 STEPHEN GOLDSTEIN PHD
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I’m Ian Corless and she is Speedgoat Karl
Keep running
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the INTERVIEWS Season 1 – Episode 14 : Hal Koerner

Hal Koerner is a legend in the world of ultra-running who was one of the early pioneers of the sport. He has victories at Kettle Morraine 100, The Bear 100, Angeles Crest, Western States hardrock 100 and so many more…  He is the owner of a specialty running store, Rogue Valley Runners, located in the mountainous Southern Oregon town of Ashland. Hal featured in JB Benna’s feature-length documentary “Unbreakable: The Western States 100”. In 2014, he published  “Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning” and was released by VeloPress. The book details training for an ultra marathon; from 50k to 100 miles.
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Recorded in 2012.
Episode 0h 39m 59s
Talk Ultra back catalogue HERE
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Hosted on ANCHOR (HERE) the INTERVIEWS will also be available to listen on many other players, including SPOTIFY (HERE).
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Download links will be added in due course.
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TALK ULTRA podcast will be released as normal providing you long shows as it has always done with ideally two shows per month. The back catalogue will be released randomly via the INTERVIEWS and not chronologically.
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adidas Terrex Agravic Flow

The development and progress of the adidas brand in the trail running world has for many years been spearheaded by Luis Alberto Hernando, and what an ambassador he is!

Now, ‘TERREX’ is changing at an alarming rate and in the past 12 to 18-months there has been significant growth and development in shoes, apparel and athletes. Without doubt, adidas are now pushing hard in the trail and mountain world.

The TERREX AGRAVIC FLOW is a shoe that encompasses the road history of the brand and welcomes the development of the trail brand. The shoe clearly transitions from road to trail and back again all packaged in a really good-looking shoe. 

My pair are solar red/ core black and grey two. There is no hiding in these shoes, they are colorful!

For clarity, Adidas use three descriptive names for their shoes: SPEED, AGRAVIC and TWO.

  • SPEED offers a narrower fit and is arguably a more performance orientated shoe.
  • AGRAVIC offers a standard fit and is arguably more of an ‘everyday’ shoe.
  • TWO offers a wider fit and more cushioning for longer trail days. 

The TERREX AGRAVIC FLOW falls into the everyday category and adidas confirm, Pavement to trail and back, your feet stay cool and the transitions are seamless with a smooth roll-off and fresh energy in every stride. Foot-hugging support and sure-footed grip let you move across rocky, rooted terrain, wet or dry. I often do not like the way a brand tries to sell a shoe in a sentence or two, but I have to say, adidas sum up the Agravic Flow well in this description. 

THE SHOE

Billed as a regular fit shoe, I have to say, to me, it feels a little wider in the toe box than many other regular fit shoes. So, keep that in mind when looking at them and trying them on. I also personally feel that they size a little larger. I always use a UK9.5 but have found a Uk9 to be far more preferable with the Agravic Flow.

With 15mm cushioning at the front and 22mm at the rear, the shoe is a cushioned ride without compromising feel for the ground and the 7mm drop fits perfectly for an everyday shoe ensuring that a day on the trail will be relaxed and comfortable.

The outsole is by Continental and the German brand really do know how to make a grippy outsole. With 3mm lugs, the Agravic Flow is never going to cut it when the trail gets sloppy and/ or muddy. However, on hard pack trail the grip is superb. On rock, wet or dry, grip also excellent and importantly it gives a real feeling of confidence which allows you to run without hindrance. The transition to road is seamless and comfortable, no doubt contributed too with the BOOST cushioning.

 Cushioning comes from BOOST technology and you really feel the comfort as soon as you put the shoes on. There is also EVA in the frame to reduce weight and this in turn, provides some stability. If you have not used a BOOST shoe before, give them a go, the energy return and comfort levels are excellent.

The upper is one the stars of the Agravic Flow, it is mesh with abrasion resistant welding. It is seamless and uses a sock-like construction. If you have read my shoe reviews before, you will know I love sock-like construction and the same applies here for the Agravic Flow. You slide your foot in and immediately it feels snug. You could, if you should wish too, use the shoe without socks?

The laces sit on top of the upper and are sewn in offering 5 eyelets on either side, the middle eyelet set back allowing on option to loosen or add more tightness to the upper when fastening. There is no option lock-lace as there is only one eyelet.

The toe box, as mentioned previously, feels wider than standard and at the front there is an overlay to add a little protection and the outsole curls up to add some reinforcement. But toe protection is minimal. At the rear of the shoe, the heel box is plush and comfortable, and it held my foot well both when going up and down trails.

There is no tongue as the shoe is a sock-like, so, comfort levels are high. You see the number ‘310’ this refers to the weight in grams of a UK8.5 shoe.

Built on a neutral last, the EVA on the medial side wraps up to offer some arch support. It’s subtle, but noticeable. I wouldn’t call the Agravic Flow a support/ pronation control shoe. Equally, I could not call it neutral. It sits somewhere between but being a runner who uses neutral shoes, I find the Agravic Flow very comfortable.

IN USE

 The Agravic Flow is a great everyday shoe when the trails are hard packed, and you want comfort, support and reassurance. They are not for muddy days! The transition from road to trail is superb and seamless, you can feel adidas’ road heritage in the shoe. 

The BOOST technology is really noticeable and gives a real bounce, especially on rock, gravel, tree roots and so on. This is not at the compromise for feel for the ground though. So, when the trail becomes more technical, I was never worried about foot placement and confidence. The toe box is wider though, so, when running on very technical trail, I would prefer a firmer hold at the front. You can’t have it all and the Agravic Flow does a great job of allowing toe splay. So, it’s a great shoe for longer trail days when comfort is needed. The outsole is excellent in the wet and dry on non-muddy trail. 

The sock-like upper is just plush and comfortable. There is nothing to criticize here, I wish all shoes could be this comfortable. Quite simply, you could remove the laces and they would make a great pair of slippers – yes, they are that comfy. 

The laces work well, it would be nice to have that extra eyelet to allow lock-lacing, but that is a minor niggle. For me, the shoe does have a wider feel than standard, and I therefore found that I could compensate by adjusting the laces to hold my foot securely. 

I do feel that the shoe sizes larger by a half size, so, if purchasing online, keep that in mind. Ultimately, you need to try the shoe on.

CONCLUSION

The Agravic Flow is a great shoe that manages to mix road running and trail running seamlessly. It’s a shoe that you can pretty much put on every day and enjoy its ability to feel like a road shoe and then when on the trail, enjoy the cushioning and grip of the best out and-out-trail shoes. There is little not to like in this package from adidas.

If you are looking for one shoe that covers many options, the Agravic Flow is a great place to start. If you want a road shoe, look elsewhere. If you want a trail shoe with comfort and grip for dry/ wet trails, then this shoe ticks the boxes.

 

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the INTERVIEWS Season 1 – Episode 13 : Max King

Max King born February 24, 1980, is an American ultra-marathoner. He was the winner at the 2014 IAU 100 km World Championships and the 2011 World Mountain Running Championships. King earned the bronze medal at the 2016 NACAC Cross Country Championships / Pan American Cross Country Cup.
He has also won numerous national titles at various distances ranging from track to ultra marathon. He has also excelled at OCR becoming Warrior Dash World Champion. In addition, he has won multiple national runner of the year awards.
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First recorded in 2012.
Episode 0h 39m 59s
Talk Ultra back catalogue HERE
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TALK ULTRA podcast will be released as normal providing you long shows as it has always done with ideally two shows per month. The back catalogue will be released randomly via the INTERVIEWS and not chronologically.
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‘UNBREAKABLE’ – The Western States 100

I was fortunate to interview JB and Jennifer Benna early on in the life of Talk Ultra, you can listen to the episode 26 HERE

UNBREAKABLE for many ‘is’ the iconic Western States movie as it documented a golden age of the race (2010) featuring Geoff Roes, Anton Krupicka, Kilian Jornet and Hal Koerner who had won the race twice.

‘Unbreakable: The Western States 100’ follows the four lead men on this amazing journey. Hal Koerner, two time defending Western States champion, and running store entrepreneur from Ashland, Oregon. Geoff Roes, undefeated at the 100-mile distance, an organic chef from Juneau, Alaska. Anton Krupicka, undefeated in every ultramarathon he has ever started, a graduate student living in Boulder, Colorado. Kilian Jornet, the young mountain runner and two time Ultra-trail du Mont-Blanc champion, from Spain.

Thanks to JB and Jennifer

“UNBREAKABLE, The Western States 100,”

has been made available for free.

The Western States Endurance Run, known commonly as the Western States 100, is a 100-mile long (161 km) ultramarathon that takes place on trails in California’s Sierra Nevada annually, on the last weekend of June. The race starts at the base of the Squaw Valley ski resort and finishes at the Placer High School track in Auburn, California. Runners climb a cumulative total of 18000 feet (5500 m) and descend a total of 23000 feet (7000 m) on mountain trails before reaching the finish. Because of the length of the race, the race begins at 5:00 A.M. and continues through the day and into the night. Runners finishing before the 30 hour overall time limit for the race receive a bronze belt buckle, while runners finishing in under 24 hours receive a silver belt buckle. – via wikipedia.

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Episode 184 – Stephen Goldstein Ph.D

Episode 184 of Talk Ultra is a Covid-19 special with Stephen Goldstein Ph.D. who is currently a postdoctoral researcher associated at the University of Utah Department of Human Genetics studying viral evolution, including the evolution and origins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
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Talk Ultra is now on Tunein – just another way to make the show available for those who prefer not to use iTunes – HERE  You can download the Tunein APP HERE
 
Talk Ultra needs your help! 
 
We have set up a Patreon page and we are offering some great benefits for Patrons… you can even join us on the show! This is the easiest way to support Talk Ultra and help us continue to create! 
 
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Please read two articles that coincide with is podcast:

 Race Cancellations and Covid-19 HERE

Covid-19 : A Simple Guide HERE

 
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Please listen to the INTERVIEWS – please follow the show
Hosted on ANCHOR (HERE) the INTERVIEWS will also be available to listen on many other players, including SPOTIFY (HERE).
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TALK ULTRA podcast will be released as normal providing you long shows as it has always done with ideally two shows per month. The back catalogue will be released randomly via the INTERVIEWS and not chronologically.
 
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Stitcher You can listen on iOS HERE, Android HERE or via a web player HERE
 
 
 
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