Sunday, 11 December 2011

Lesson learnt in Gribskov

I had been hoping to get away for a couple of days but various distractions put paid to that plan. However, a window of opportunity opened, or was blown open with the passing of the last big storm. I was keen to try out a different clothing arrangement, and with very windy conditions predicted it seemed like the ideal time to head out.

I learnt a number of lessons this trip, which are;

Lesson 1; Mapping
I had spent some time the night before the walk downloading the walking route maps (Vandreture) from the Danish Nature Agency (Naturstyrelsen) for the Gribskov area and carefully printed them on waterproof paper. As I alighted from the train at Kagerup station I realised that the maps were still sitting on the dining table at home, so I set off with only a general idea of where I was going. Now such unplanned trips can be exciting and provide interesting insights into the area as you wander aimlessly along considering which way to turn next in order to get to your planned destination. Fortunately when all else fails I can turn to Google Maps on the iPhone. I enjoyed the wandering and ultimately arrived at Mårum railway station as it became dark. So the first lesson is if you need maps for a trip it is always a good idea to take them.

Forest and lake

Lesson 2; Food
Recently I had made some of Mike Clelland's Super Spackle using his recipe in Ultralite Backpackin' Tips, now those who have seen the pictures of super spackle will know that it has a marzipan like consistency which is high in calories and deliciously tasteful, though so rich that even a person who loves sweet things could not eat a lot in one sitting. So I put some in a ziplock with the intention of eating it with a spoon. Problem, no spoon was packed, and aside from possibly using a credit card as a spoon I was pretty limited, though I did find a bottle cap does work as a spoon. Now some will say you could carve your own spoon, that implies you are carrying a knife. The second lesson is if you are carrying spackle and intend to eat it, or of your having a lovely warming lunchtime pasta then packing a spoon (or knife to carve a spoon) is recommended.


Lesson 3; Clothing
I had been reading Dave Chenault comments on the Rab Boreas on his excellent blog Bedrock and Paradox and whilst I will never be able to attempt some of the wild adventures that he does, I find his insightful comments on the clothing he uses and abuses as informative. As well there is Mike Clelland's you tube video on clothing tips to further inform. Mike's premise is that you can keep adding layers on top of the previous one, that is you do not remove a layer of clothing before adding a new layer. I had chosen to go wandering on the day where the wind speeds were predicted to gust to 20 metres per second with temperatures between 0 and 5 degrees C, resulting in wind chills being well below zero. Informed by David's and Mike's suggestions I was wearing the following setup on my upper body:
Base layer: an original smart wool hoody (I had forgotten how much better the hood is compared with some of the newer merino hoodies), over which I layered a lightweight MacPac fleece, next came a RabBoraes Pull On, finally there was the Rab Demand. I was also wearing a Possum Merino hat and a ChocolateFish TeMata Tuara. I was soon too warm and the first to go was the hat, followed by the Rab Demand (as it was not raining) For the remainder of the day I found that these three layers kept me comfortably warm when walking. Even when stopped for lunch, sitting inside the DuoMid, I never needed to add the insulation layers I was carrying.
The Third lesson is; a breathable windshirt (Boreas) works in cold windy conditions and as part of a layer system works for me.

Gribsø from the picnic shelter

Lesson 4; Make your pack your own.
Over the years I have tried many packs, some very heavy and some very light. Lately I have settled on the Aarn Packs, not so much because of the way they balance the load between front and back (though I do feel for big loads this is very effective) but more because of the comfort of the harness system. Recently there have been a number of discussions concerning the design of harness systems and again there has been some excellent comments on the angle of shoulder straps and the design of hip belts over at Bedrock and Paradox as has there been by Chris Wallace on BPL. Recently I acquired an Aarn Peak Aspiration, because of its lower volume, certainly not its weight. Interesting design features of the pack include 2 horizontal aluminium stays and a single vertical stay, as well as a thin deldrin (or equivalent) hoop. I quickly removed the horizontal stays and the vertical stay was removed soon after I started walking, the resulting change in comfort was impressive especially given that I had 8 kg in the pack. Prior to the walk I had already removed much of the excess straps and the next item to go will be the pack lid, I have not used a lid on a pack in over 3 years and see no need for one any more (knife is coming out). Interestingly under the lid there is a roll top closure as well as a strap linking the front pocket (feature I like) to the frame of the pack. So the ultimate weight of the pack will be about 1.2 kg (2.6 lbs) still too heavy in my view. Hopefully, I can find someone who will the help me remove the pack fabric and replace it with dyneema or equivalent as I feel the frame, hip belt and shoulder straps works for me. The fourth lesson then, is once you have purchased a piece of gear do not feel constrained by the manufactures design, make it your own by modifying it in which ever way it suits you.

The walk: It was a pleasant walk through the windswept forest as I passed Gribsø, Maglemose and Hvildekilde. The forest was empty of animals, birds and people but still had a variety and colour that was indicative of forest in winter.

There are many places still to wander in the forest and I will return with a map and a spoon, but as always I will focus on the wandering and not on the destination.

In case you are wondering about the wind, the following short video clip maybe informative.