Til fots i fjellet (walking in the mountains)

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ― Marcel Proust

Black Saturday! Record traffic jams!” – howls the radio towards escapees for the French Riviera and Spanish costas. I almost fall asleep cruisin’ behind the wheel on our 1100km ride to Larvik, Denmark’s ferry harbour for Sweden and Norway. Everyday Robots on endless repeat. Clichés reign. Scandinavia isn’t beach dwellers dada.

The mountains are calling and I must go (J. Muir). Bivaouc along Langvatnet. Jotunheimen NP. Norway.

The mountains are calling and I must go (J. Muir).
Bivaouc along Langvatnet.
Jotunheimen NP. Norway.

We had a great 4 week thru-hike loop prepared for arctic Norway and Sweden looping from Bodø (Norway) to Ammarnäs (Sweden) and back to Mosjøen (Norway) through some promising wild country. Personal loss wiped those plans of the table. Trip cancelled. Black summer.

““When you feel life at crossroads, you need higher perspective view.” ― Toba Beta, My Ancestor Was an Ancient Astronaut

““When you feel life at crossroads, you need higher perspective view.” ― Toba Beta, My Ancestor Was an Ancient Astronaut

But as days and weeks passed by, we knew comfort would eventually steer us back into the mountains. We filled up the trunk with gear and food and travelled north. No plans. No maps. Zero expectations.

Tinnsjå (Tinnsjø, Lake Tinn) is one of the largest lakes in Norway, and one of the deepest (490m!) in Europe. Telemark county. Norway.

Tinnsjå (Tinnsjø, Lake Tinn) is one of the largest lakes in Norway, and one of the deepest (490m!) in Europe. Telemark county. Norway.

We knew southern Norway possesses limitless oportunities for spectacular mountain hiking and harbours accesible worldclass fjords. We soon enjoyed Scandinvian’s mild 2k14 summer . Eat. Sleep. Hike. A hassle free metronome.

The no plan trick was a revelation. Not surprisingly our camera was filled with happy memories from backpacking hikes in Hardangervidda, Sunnmøre , Reinheimen, Rondane and Jotunheimen.

“The future depends on what you do today.” Damn right Gandhi!

For those with 5 minutes to waste, we would like to invite you to hit play on our holiday video.

After a 800m climb up from the Hardangerfjord at sea level we finally arrive on the plateau. Hardangervidda NP. Norway.

After a 800m climb up from the Hardangerfjord at sea level we finally arrive on the plateau.
 
Hardangervidda NP. Norway.

The Hardangerfjord is the third longest fjord in the world, and the second longest fjord in Norway. The fjord stretches 179 kilometres (111 mi) from the Atlantic Ocean into the mountainous interior of Norway along the Hardangervidda plateau. The innermost point of the fjord reaches the town of Odda. The glaciers from the Folgefonna National Park almost drop into sea here.

The Hardangerfjord is the third longest fjord in the world, and the second longest fjord in Norway. The fjord stretches 179 kilometres (111 mi) from the Atlantic Ocean into the mountainous interior of Norway along the Hardangervidda plateau. The innermost point of the fjord reaches the town of Odda.
 
The glaciers from the Folgefonna National Park almost drop into sea here.

Bivaouc on the edge of the Hardangervidda plateau, high above the Hardanger fjord. The plateau is the largest peneplain (eroded plain) in Europe, covering an area of about 6,500 km2 (2,500 sq mi) at an average elevation of 1,100 m (3,500 ft).

Bivaouc on the edge of the Hardangervidda plateau, high above the Hardanger fjord. The plateau is the largest peneplain (eroded plain) in Europe, covering an area of about 6,500 km2 (2,500 sq mi) at an average elevation of 1,100 m (3,500 ft).

Inhaling the day's last rays of light. The Oooknest from our faded MSR Twing Tarp perfectly fits under the MLD Trailstar (with some minor adaptions). Contrary to the expected we met little flying critters. Hardangervidda NP. Norway.

Inhaling the day’s last rays of light. The Oooknest from our faded MSR Twing Tarp perfectly fits under the MLD Trailstar (with some minor adaptions). Contrary to the expected we met little flying critters.
 
Hardangervidda NP. Norway.

The varying climate of the plateau has a marked effect on the flora, which is richer on the wetter west side than in the drier east; much of the plateau is covered by coarse grasses, mosses (especially sphagnum) and lichens. Hardangervidda NP.

The varying climate of the plateau has a marked effect on the flora, which is richer on the wetter west side than in the drier east; much of the plateau is covered by coarse grasses, mosses (especially sphagnum) and lichens.
 
Hardangervidda NP.

The landscape of the Hardangervidda is characterised by barren, treeless moorland interrupted by numerous pools, lakes, rivers and streams. Hardangervidda NP. Norway.

The landscape of the Hardangervidda is characterised by barren, treeless moorland interrupted by numerous pools, lakes, rivers and streams.
 
Hardangervidda NP. Norway.

Hardangervidda National Park, at 3,422 square kilometers, is Norway's largest national park. It has the southernmost stock of several arctic animals and plants. Its wild reindeer herds are among the largest in the world. We didn't met any. Probably something to do with the fact I should keep quiet a bit more often...

Hardangervidda National Park, at 3,422 square kilometers, is Norway’s largest national park. It has the southernmost stock of several arctic animals and plants. Its wild reindeer herds are among the largest in the world. We didn’t met any. Probably something to do with the fact I should keep quiet a bit more often…

“You'll never find a rainbow if you're looking down”  ― Charles Chaplin

“You’ll never find a rainbow if you’re looking down”
― Charles Chaplin

Walk. Slip. Stand. Try to walk again. Coccyx and slippery slab. No friends. Hardangervidda NP.

Walk. Slip. Stand. Try to walk again. Coccyx and slippery slab. No friends. Hardangervidda NP.

How can you resist the enchantingly microforrest around your toes. Hardangervidda NP. Norway.

How can you resist the enchantingly microforrest around your toes. Hardangervidda NP. Norway.

Jostedalsbreen is the largest glacier in continental Europe. It is situated in Sogn og Fjordane county in Western Norway. You can drive through it! Try it now before rock takes over blue ice.

Jostedalsbreen is the largest glacier in continental Europe. It is situated in Sogn og Fjordane county in Western Norway. You can drive through it! Try it now before rock takes over blue ice.

Branches of the Jostedalsbreen glacier reach down into the valleys. The glacier is maintained by the high snowfall rates in the region, not the cold temperatures. This means the glacier has high melting rates in its snouts. The Jostedalsbreen has around 50 glacier arms such as the pictured Briksdalsbreen near Olden.

Branches of the Jostedalsbreen glacier reach down into the valleys. The glacier is maintained by the high snowfall rates in the region, not the cold temperatures. This means the glacier has high melting rates in its snouts. The Jostedalsbreen has around 50 glacier arms such as the pictured Briksdalsbreen near Olden.

Awaiting friendly weahter in the comfy Patchellhytta. Sunnmøre Alps. Ålesund-Sunnmøre Turistforening.

Awaiting friendly weahter in the comfy Patchellhytta. Sunnmøre Alps. Ålesund-Sunnmøre Turistforening.

Sunnmøre is the southern part of the county “Møre og Romsdal” near the Art Nouveau sea harbour of Ålesund on the west coast. of Norway  It has numerous dramatic steep mountains fringing the fjords. These starkly beautiful region is often overlook by foreing mountain dwellers.

Sunnmøre is the southern part of the county “Møre og Romsdal” near the Art Nouveau sea harbour of Ålesund on the west coast. of Norway It has numerous dramatic steep mountains fringing the fjords. These starkly beautiful region is often overlook by foreing mountain dwellers.

The curious case of the short-tailed weasel running in franzy over rock and fjell. On average, males measure 187–325 mm (7.4–12.8 in) in body length, while females measure 170–270 mm (6.7–10.6 in). To encounter a weasel when setting out for a journey was considered bad luck, but one could avert this by greeting the stoat as a neighbour, which I gladly did. A couple of hours later we climbed on the summit of Slogen, once desribed as the one of the proudest mountains in Europe.

The curious case of the short-tailed weasel running in franzy over rock and fjell. On average, males measure 187–325 mm (7.4–12.8 in) in body length, while females measure 170–270 mm (6.7–10.6 in). To encounter a weasel when setting out for a journey was considered bad luck, but one could avert this by greeting the stoat as a neighbour, which I gladly did. A couple of hours later we climbed on the summit of Slogen, once desribed as the one of the proudest mountains in Europe.

Slogen is a mountain rising up from Hjørundfjorden. Even though it is not among the highest peaks in Norway, the 1,564-metre (5,131 ft) tall mountain is rated among the top ten mountain walks in Norway. This is largely due to its beauty, view, and the fact that it's rising directly from the fjord. Sunnmøre Alps. Norway.

Slogen is a mountain rising up from Hjørundfjorden. Even though it is not among the highest peaks in Norway, the 1,564-metre (5,131 ft) tall mountain is rated among the top ten mountain walks in Norway. This is largely due to its beauty, view, and the fact that it’s rising directly from the fjord. Sunnmøre Alps. Norway.

Peering one vertical mile down into  Hjørundfjorden from the summit of 1,564-metre (5,131 ft) tall Slogen. A thrilling sight!

Peering one vertical mile down into Hjørundfjorden from the summit of 1,564-metre (5,131 ft) tall Slogen. A thrilling sight!

Isvatnet and Storevatnet lakes in the Langeseter valley with the pyramid Brekketinden summit rising above. Sunnmøre Alps. Norway.

Isvatnet and Storevatnet lakes in the Langeseter valley with the pyramid Brekketinden summit rising above. Sunnmøre Alps. Norway.

Au soleil, sous la pluie, à midi ou à minuit il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux Champs-Élysées.

Au soleil, sous la pluie,
à midi ou à minuit
il y a tout ce que vous voulez
aux Champs-Élysées.

Climb towards the alpine crossing between Gullmorebreen and Gullmoredalsvatnet. Sunnmøre Alps. Norway.

Climb towards the alpine crossing between Gullmorebreen and Gullmoredalsvatnet. Sunnmøre Alps. Norway.

Bypassing the Gullmorbreen glacier right underneath Brekketindane (1578m). Sunnmøre Alps. Norway.

Bypassing the Gullmorbreen glacier right underneath Brekketindane (1578m). Sunnmøre Alps. Norway.

By this way we sincerely want to thank the Ålesund-Sunnmøre Turistforening for building and maintaining the Velleseter hytte. Probably the cosiest hytte in Southern Norway. Takk!

By this way we sincerely want to thank the Ålesund-Sunnmøre Turistforening for building and maintaining the Velleseter hytte. Probably the cosiest hytte in Southern Norway. Takk!

Happy backpacker with a key! Velleseter hytte. Sunnmøre Alps.

Happy backpacker with a key! Velleseter hytte. Sunnmøre Alps.

Crossing into Liadalen under a ray of sun. Sunnmøre Alps.

Crossing into Liadalen under a ray of sun. Sunnmøre Alps.

Ready for the 800m steep dive into the Norangsdalen. Sunnmøre Alps.

Ready for the 800m steep dive into the Norangsdalen. Sunnmøre Alps.

Geirangerfjord. A UNESCO World Heritage site. This fjord is surrounded by the steepest and, one is almost tempted to say, the most preposterous mountains on the entire west coast. It is very narrow and has no habitable shore area, for the precipitous heights rise in sheer and rugged strata almost straight out of the water. Foaming waterfalls plunge into the fjord from jagged peaks. Møre og Romsdal county, Norway.

Geirangerfjord. A UNESCO World Heritage site. This fjord is surrounded by the steepest and, one is almost tempted to say, the most preposterous mountains on the entire west coast. It is very narrow and has no habitable shore area, for the precipitous heights rise in sheer and rugged strata almost straight out of the water. Foaming waterfalls plunge into the fjord from jagged peaks. Møre og Romsdal county, Norway.

The Troll Wall (Trollveggen) is the tallest vertical rock face in Europe, about 1,100 metres (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 metres (160 ft). The Troll Wall has been a prestigious goal for climbers and base jumpers alike. Carl Boenish, the “father” of base jumping, was killed on the Troll Wall in 1984 shortly after setting the world record for the highest base jump in history. Base jumping from Troll Wall has been illegal since 1986, altough there are still illegal jumps almost every day. Basejumping. Nah. Let’s fish.

Gone for fishing on a fresh summer evening. Ulvådalsvatnet lake. Tafjordfjellene. Reinheimen National Park. Oppland. Norway.

Gone for fishing on a fresh summer evening.. Ulvådalsvatnet lake. Tafjordfjellene. Reinheimen National Park. Oppland. Norway.

Hiking up to Hogtunga leaving Ulvådalsvatnet lake behind. Tafjordfjellene. Reinheimen National Park. Oppland. Norway.

Hiking up to Hogtunga leaving Ulvådalsvatnet lake behind. Tafjordfjellene. Reinheimen National Park. Oppland. Norway.

Rain on me! Enjoying prime summer weather in the Norwegian mountains. Tafjordfjellene. Reinheimen National Park. Oppland. Norway.

Rain on me! Enjoying prime summer weather in the Norwegian mountains. Tafjordfjellene. Reinheimen National Park. Oppland. Norway.

Incredible sollitude in the Tafjordfjellene mountains of Reinheimen National Park. Oppland. Norway.

Incredible sollitude in the Tafjordfjellene mountains of Reinheimen National Park. Oppland. Norway.

Who needs the fish? Nodre Botvatnet. Tafjordfjellene. Reinheimen National Park. Oppland. Norway.

Who needs the fish? Nodre Botvatnet. Tafjordfjellene. Reinheimen National Park. Oppland. Norway.

If there ain't no fish to bite then let them pancakes taste. Pyttbua. Tafjordfjellene. Reinheimen National Park. Oppland. Norway.

If there ain’t no fish to bite then let them pancakes taste. Pyttbua. Tafjordfjellene.
 
Reinheimen National Park. Oppland. Norway.

Real nice biking into Rondane NP on a rainy day. Hedmark and Oppland, Norway

Real nice biking into Rondane NP on a rainy day. Hedmark and Oppland, Norway

Rondane is a typical high mountain area, with large plateaus and a total of ten peaks above 2,000 m (6,560 ft). The highest point is Rondeslottet (“The Rondane Castle”) at an altitude of 2,178 m (7,146 ft). The lowest point is just below the tree line, which is approximately 1,000 to 1,100 m (about 3,300 to 3,600 ft) above sea level. The climate is mild but relatively arid.

Mountain arteries. Rondane NP. Norway.

Mountain arteries. Rondane NP. Norway.

Apart from the White Birch trees of the lower areas, the soil and rocks are covered by heather and lichen, since they lack nutrients. Rondane NP. Norway.

Apart from the White Birch trees of the lower areas, the soil and rocks are covered by heather and lichen, since they lack nutrients.
 
Rondane NP. Norway.

Morning view on Gjende lake. Jotunheimen (English: The Home of the Giants) is a mountainous area of roughly 3,500 km²  in southern Norway and is part of the long range known as the Scandinavian Mountains. The 29 highest mountains in Norway are all in Jotunheimen, including the very highest - Galdhøpiggen (2469 m).

Morning view on Gjende lake. Jotunheimen (English: The Home of the Giants) is a mountainous area of roughly 3,500 km² in southern Norway and is part of the long range known as the Scandinavian Mountains. The 29 highest mountains in Norway are all in Jotunheimen, including the very highest – Galdhøpiggen (2469 m).

“The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most.”  ― John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice

“The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most.”
― John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice

Jotunheimen contains Jotunheimen National Park, which was established in 1980 and covers an area of 1,151 km². Jotunheimen is very popular with hikers and climbers, and the Norwegian Mountain Touring Association maintains a number of mountain lodges in the area, as well as marked trails that run between the lodges and others that run up to some of the peaks.

Jotunheimen contains Jotunheimen National Park, which was established in 1980 and covers an area of 1,151 km². Jotunheimen is very popular with hikers and climbers, and the Norwegian Mountain Touring Association maintains a number of mountain lodges in the area, as well as marked trails that run between the lodges and others that run up to some of the peaks.

The walk over Besseggen ridge  is one of the most popular mountain hikes in Norway. About 30,000 people walk this trip each year. From Besseggen there is a great view over azure Gjende (glacial) and dark Bessvatnet lake. Jotunheimen NP. Norway.

The walk over Besseggen ridge is one of the most popular mountain hikes in Norway. About 30,000 people walk this trip each year. From Besseggen there is a great view over azure Gjende (glacial) and dark Bessvatnet lake.
 
Jotunheimen NP. Norway.

Rocks rock!  Jotunheimen NP.

Rocks rock! Jotunheimen NP.

Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia). Jotunheimen NP.

Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia). Jotunheimen NP.

We hike because why wouldn't we? Jotunheimen NP.

We hike because why wouldn’t we? Jotunheimen NP.

A painter's dream. Memerutunga. Jotunheimen NP.

A painter’s dream. Memerutunga. Jotunheimen NP.

Flares from aurora borealis in the Norhern starsky. Memerutunga. Jotunheimen NP.

Flares from aurora borealis in the Norhern starsky. Memerutunga. Jotunheimen NP.

Nothing beats a coffee in the morning sun under the tarp. Memerutunga. Jotunheimen NP. Norway.

Nothing beats a coffee in the morning sun under the tarp. Memerutunga. Jotunheimen NP. Norway.

Gjendebu is the oldest cabin of the Norwegian Mountain Touring Association (DNT). The cabin lies 995 metres above sea level, by the western end of the lake Gjende, central in Jotunheimen. It is accessible by hiking along marked trails, or by boat over Gjende from Gjendesheim. The cabin was built in 1871 and was at that time 45 m² and with 12 beds, today there are 119 beds.

Gjendebu is the oldest cabin of the Norwegian Mountain Touring Association (DNT). The cabin lies 995 metres above sea level, by the western end of the lake Gjende, central in Jotunheimen. It is accessible by hiking along marked trails, or by boat over Gjende from Gjendesheim. The cabin was built in 1871 and was at that time 45 m² and with 12 beds, today there are 119 beds.

Memerutunga. Jotunheimen NP.

Memerutunga. Jotunheimen NP.

Around 400km of marked hiking trails and routes can be found in Jotunheimen. They are maintained by the Norwegian Trekking Association which marks cairns and rocks with the famous red T.

Around 400km of marked hiking trails and routes can be found in Jotunheimen. They are maintained by the Norwegian Trekking Association which marks cairns and rocks with the famous red T.

Room with a view. Langvatnet. Jotuheimen NP.

Room with a view. Langvatnet. Jotuheimen NP.

Urdadola runs into Langvatnet. Dusk. Jotunheimen NP.

Urdadola runs into Langvatnet. Dusk. Jotunheimen NP.

Despite it's moderate altitude in comparison with other mountain ranges, northern latitude give Jotunheimen typical high alpine climate. Gulf stream bring lots of precipitation that is released especially on the western parts of Jotunheimen. Rapid weather changes are possible and winter conditions are not impossible even in the middle of summer. Jotunheimen NP.

Despite it’s moderate altitude in comparison with other mountain ranges, northern latitude give Jotunheimen typical high alpine climate. Gulf stream bring lots of precipitation that is released especially on the western parts of Jotunheimen. Rapid weather changes are possible and winter conditions are not impossible even in the middle of summer.
 
Jotunheimen NP.

Snoholtinden as seen from Olavsbu, Jotunheimen NP.

Snoholtinden as seen from Olavsbu, Jotunheimen NP.

It's been a while since the last blogpost so thanks a lot for your patience.

It’s been a while since the last blogpost so thanks a lot for your patience.

It’s oh so quiet!

You’re right. Blogging has been at low ebb over here. It’s part rat racing, part lazyness and part other pursuits. Such as writing for printed magazines, both in English and Dutch.

Offline writings... Sidetracked and Op Pad.

Offline writings… Sidetracked and Op Pad.

I’ m quite proud being invited  to contribute to the first printed edition of the inspiring Sidetracked adventure e-zine.

This brand new magazine swirls around the world, across land, sea and air. It takes us underground, underwater, and soaring high up into the sky. Extraordinary men and women head to the very ends of the Earth in search of inspiration and their own limits. And Sidetracked brings their stories home to us, curated in these beautiful pages. –  Al Humphreys

Please order your copy over here.

Sidetracked volume one

Sidetracked volume one

Closer to home I’ve also been published in the low lands major outdoor magazine Op Pad, which has 130.000 printed subsribers. It’s available on most newsstands in both Holland and Belgium during May 2014.

Op Pad - the great himalaya trail

Op Pad – the great himalaya trail

In both magazines I’ve been writing the article and providing photos about our traverse of the Nepal Himalaya along the Great Himalaya Trail, back in the fall of 2012. It has been a rollercoaster of trial and error with editors of both magazines to get things finalised. It has been a steep learning curve to get things professionaly printed on paper, but I’m very happy with both results, so I hope there’s more to come.

And have you been out there or are you completely pale from screen gazing?

Well it hasn’t been a spectacular outdoor past half year since the gap year, but we get out from time to time on micro-adventures of trailrunning, hiking and paddling close to home. Dreamers on lower clouds, but dreamers nevertheless.

 

Packrafing the Lesse. Belgian Ardennes. March 2014.

Packrafing the Lesse. Belgian Ardennes. March 2014.

 

Across Sarek. Swedish Lappland. April 2014. #moreonthenextblogupdate

Across Sarek. Swedish Lappland. April 2014. #moreonthenextblogupdate

2013 rear view mirror

A belated happy new year to all our readers. Hope you will have a ball in 2014!
Never stop moulding your dreams! Even more, try to make some of them come true!

Inspired by Dave’s post and with my head plunged in my pics for upcoming talks this weekend, I decided to bring up some memories from last year in chronological review. I cheated on April (2 pics) and September (pic from 2012 because lack of pics for 2013).
[edit 26012014] I noticed David also made a similar calender post! Go have a look![edit]

January. Packrafting Rio Limay. Patagonia. Argentina.

January. Packrafting Rio Limay. Patagonia. Argentina.

February. Packrafing Rio Yelcho. Patagonia. Region de los Lagos. Chile.

February. Packrafing Rio Yelcho. Patagonia. Region de los Lagos. Chile.

March. Valle Hermosa. RN Jeinimeini. Future Patagonia National Park. Aysen. Chile.

March. Valle Hermosa. RN Jeinimeini. Future Patagonia National Park. Aysen. Chile.

April. Glaciar O'Higgins. Southern Patagonian Ice Cap. Aysen. Chile.

April. Glaciar O’Higgins. Southern Patagonian Ice Cap. Aysen. Chile.

April. Autumn glow in lenga forrest. On the border between Chile and Argentina. Lago del Desierto. Patagonia.

April. Autumn glow in lenga forrest. On the border between Chile and Argentina. Lago del Desierto. Patagonia.

May. Tayrona National Park. Carribean. Colombia.

May. Tayrona National Park. Carribean. Colombia.

June. Cordillera Blanca. Ancash. Peru.

June. Cordillera Blanca. Ancash. Peru.

July. Nevado Ishinca (5500m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

July. Nevado Ishinca (5500m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

August. Sierra Nevada del Cocuy. Colombia.

August. Sierra Nevada del Cocuy. Colombia.

September. Self portrait. Suorvajaure. Stora Sjöfallet. Laponia. Sweden.

September. Self portrait. Suorvajaure. Stora Sjöfallet. Laponia. Sweden.

October. Mont Blanc. Haute-Savoie. French Alps.

October. Mont Blanc. Haute-Savoie. French Alps.

November. Mont Blanc. Haute-Savoie. French Alps.

November. Mont Blanc. Haute-Savoie. French Alps.

December. Adventures in your own backyard. Kalkse Meersen. Belgium.

December. Adventures in your own backyard. Kalkse Meersen. Belgium.

We need to step out once in a while…

Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.M. Corleone

Back from the gap year. We have to adapt to our new but well-known environment. We observe. Everybody rushes. Ok, not everybody. Most of us. Ha! I’ll never ever be my former self again! I ain’t no fool! Not even 3 months later and it’s all down the gutter. We live a rat’s race. Face it. We’re sucked in again. Damn!

Mont Blanc massif as seen from Col d'Anterne (2257m). Haute-Savoie. France.

Mont Blanc massif as seen from Col d’Anterne (2257m). Haute-Savoie. France.

I knew we ran that race, but didn’t realize. I didn’t understand. Now I do. By taking distance it all became clear. I reckon. How important it is to step out once in a while. To breathe again. To take distance. To observ.

Following fresh Chamois footsteps into Réserve naturelle de Passy. Haute-Savoie. France.

Following fresh Chamois footsteps into Réserve naturelle de Passy. Haute-Savoie. France.

Last week of October. A last minute trip with little or no preperation. Time to let the beast set free. We bite a piece out of our oven fresh Pain au Chocolat while we gaze in the sun. The air crackles in the valley floor of Le Grand Massif. Kids on bikes in shirts and shorts race by. Autumn or even Winter is the last thing on our mind. We buckle up our backpack. Up it is. Into Réserve naturelle Sixt-Passy. It feels like summer has just began.

.

We had the vague idea of backpacking the tour des aiguilles rouges, with an aproach from Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval instead of the posh Chamonix. But as always we’re flexible.

 Shoulder season footwear. What works for us in snow when it's not extreme cold? Trailrunners, gore-tex socks, minimalistic gaiters and lightweight rain pants.

Shoulder season footwear. What works for us in snow when it’s not extreme cold? Trailrunners, gore-tex socks, minimalistic gaiters and lightweight rain pants.

A predicted cold front ruins indian summer on our first night. Change of route became inevitable. Costume switch. All white and foggy. It’s magic. We traverse in the snow towards the Anterne lake and it’s namesake col. Mountain extravaganza. The Mont Blanc massif plays hide and seek. We’re sucked in. This is my home. No rats here…

Alpine ibex. Réserve naturelle de Passy. Haute-Savoie. France.

Alpine ibex. Réserve naturelle de Passy. Haute-Savoie. France.

Snug in summer outfit. Réserve naturelle de Passy. Haute-Savoie. France.

Snug in summer outfit. Réserve naturelle de Passy. Haute-Savoie. France.

Sh*t with a view. Summit of Mont Blanc (4810m) visible from the pit toilet at Cabane de Willy. Réserve naturelle des Aguilles Rouges. Haute-Savoie. France.

Sh*t with a view. Summit of Mont Blanc (4810m) visible from the pit toilet at Cabane de Willy. Réserve naturelle des Aguilles Rouges. Haute-Savoie. France.

Melting in the sun. Off to Col du Brévent. Haute-Savoie. France.

Melting in the sun. Off to Col du Brévent. Haute-Savoie. France.

Aguille Verte (4122m). Massif du Mont Blanc. Haute-Savoie. France.

Aguille Verte (4122m). Massif du Mont Blanc. Haute-Savoie. France.

Ready for the freezer. Aguille du Tour (3529m), Aguille Verte (4122m) and Les Drus (3754m). Massif du Mont Blanc. Haute-Savoie. France.

Ready for the freezer. Aguille du Tour (3529m), Aguille Verte (4122m) and Les Drus (3754m). Massif du Mont Blanc. Haute-Savoie. France.

Alpenglow on Aguille Verte (4122m) and Les Drus (3754m). Massif du Mont Blanc. Haute-Savoie. France.

Alpenglow on Aguille Verte (4122m) and Les Drus (3754m). Massif du Mont Blanc. Haute-Savoie. France.

Le Lac Blanc. Aguille Verte (4122m),  Les Drus (3754m) and Les Grandes Jorasses (4208m). Massif du Mont Blanc. Haute-Savoie. France.

Le Lac Blanc. Aguille Verte (4122m), Les Drus (3754m) and Les Grandes Jorasses (4208m). Massif du Mont Blanc. Haute-Savoie. France.

Indian summer in the Réserve naturelle des Aiguilles Rouges. Glacier du Tour fills the horizon. Haute-Savoie. France.

Indian summer in the Réserve naturelle des Aiguilles Rouges. Glacier du Tour fills the horizon. Haute-Savoie. France.

 European larch turns the Alps into painter's dreams. Vallée de Chamonix. Haute-Savoie. France.

European larch turns the Alps into painter’s dreams. Vallée de Chamonix. Haute-Savoie. France.

Autumn glow. Icy Mont Blanc (4810m). Haute-Savoie. France.

Autumn glow. Icy Mont Blanc (4810m). Haute-Savoie. France.

Rochers des Fiz. Réserve naturelle Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval. Haute-Savoie. France.

Rochers des Fiz. Réserve naturelle Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval. Haute-Savoie. France.

Rock faces rock!

Rock faces rock!

Cascade de Sauffaz. Réserve naturelle Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval. Haute-Savoie. France.

Cascade de Sauffaz. Réserve naturelle Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval. Haute-Savoie. France.

Peru – Cordillera Blanca – “Porque está ahí”.

“Because it’s there.” – George Mallory

6AM. Sun rises. We strawl trough an awakening Huaraz. It’s extremely busy as usual. By the time we reach Jaime’s shoe repair shop, our senses have run overtime. Colourful locals splurge on empenadas, mariscos, pollo a la brasa, chifa, papas rellenas, jugos naturales. Quechua Indians surely have heavy stomachs, even in these wee hours. Huaraz is not the most attractive city (it has been completely rebuilt after the massive landslides in the wake of the 1970 earthquake), but its bustling, Andean athmosphere with the mezmerizing backdrop of the Cordillera Blanca, will keep you hypnotized for well a while.

Gearing up at Jaime's shoe repair shop in Central Huaraz. Ancash, Peru.

Gearing up at Jaime’s shoe repair shop in Central Huaraz. Ancash, Peru.

We just came down from the Yurac Yacu community where we teached kids and adults basic computer skills, so we gasp for some adventure. We sort out all gear for a 10-day assault on some carefully, selected Peruvian peaks. The plan is plain and simple: freshen up some mountaineering skills, acclimitise on some 5000m peaks and do an attempt on 6032m Toclaraju. As reported before, the season is not as it is supposed to be (and isn’t so for a couple of years now), so we cancelled the initial plan to climb Chopicalqui, after the unfortunate dead of 2 Peruvian guides on Alpamayo early in the season and reports of avalanche danger and waist-deep snow near Chopi’s summit.

Hambre amigo? Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Huaraz. Peru.

Hambre amigo? Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Huaraz. Peru.

The Cordillera Blanca is a compact range of only 180km stretching north to south, forming a barrier for the Amazon moisture, causing a desert-like effect stretching towards the west (Cordillera Negra), forming the highest, glaciated, tropical range in the world (9° south of the Equator!). It has 25 peaks over 6000m (20000feet) of which Huascaran (6768m) is the highest. The range is known for its excellent climbing conditions and ease of access.

Flores de senecio on the way towards Yanapaccha basecamp. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Flores de senecio on the way towards Yanapaccha basecamp. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Jaime cooks the most delicious food in our makeshift 4900m high base camp (under our MSR Twing tarp), while Roger's hunger builds up.

Jaime cooks the most delicious food in our makeshift 4900m high base camp (under our MSR Twing tarp), while Roger’s hunger builds up.

Once again we team up with our friend and guide Roger Reyes and his brother Jaime for a perfect outing. We met Roger in our first trip in Northern Peru in 2008 and since then have climbed together and became close friends to the family. I have set up a website to connect hikers and climbers directly to the guide, as it is well known that guides are underpaid by agencies in Huaraz. So grab yourself a sustainable bargain, if you’re looking for any form of climbing or expedition support in the Blanca or Huayhuash.

Knot and rope technique rehearsels. Yanapaccha basecamp. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Knot and rope technique rehearsels. Yanapaccha basecamp. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Practice makes perfect. Yanapaccha (5460m) plays hide and seek in the fickle weather. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Practice makes perfect. Yanapaccha (5460m) plays hide and seek in the fickle weather. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Our first objective is Yanapaccha, at the head of the LLanganuco Valley, well-known for its twin lake and a popular day excursion from Huaraz. We leave in the lousy taxi of Señor Zorro de la Montaña (the mountain fox). It would soon become clear why. The road up to the popular lakes and Portachuelo Llanganuco Pass (our drop-off towards basecamp) is a complete disaster. In Huaraz there is a strong call for government investment in the Huascaran National Park, making it more accessible for tourism, but all money flows to the southern gringo trail, which attracts 90% of tourists in Peru.

Yanapaccha base camp makes for excellent training grounds. Ice walls on the glaciers nearby. Manageble crevasses. Boulders and rockwalls. And a technical climb to its summit for desert. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Yanapaccha base camp makes for excellent training grounds. Ice walls on the glaciers nearby. Manageble crevasses. Boulders and rockwalls. And a technical climb to its summit for desert. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Up you go. Climb that ice, baby! Yanapaccha glacier. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Up you go. Climb that ice, baby! Yanapaccha glacier. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Your turn, amigo! Yanapaccha glacier. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Your turn, amigo! Yanapaccha glacier. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Preparing crevasse rescue. Yanapaccha summit (5460m) top left.  Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Preparing crevasse rescue. Yanapaccha summit (5460m) top left. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Although the weather stays cold and lousy for the time of the year, we enjoy ourself to the fullest. We cover an array of essential skills. Mountain hazards on snowpeaks, rope team travel, climbing knot techniques, belay systems, self arrest, top rope management, vertical ice climbing, full crevasse rescue techniques. What a luxury to have Jaime cooking excellent, fresh food at this altitude. Time flies by and before we know it, we’re on Yanapaccha’s summit mushroom enjoying the Blanca’s highest peaks around us.

Hang me out to dry! Having fun in a crevasse of  Yanapaccha's glacier. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Hang me out to dry! Having fun in a crevasse of Yanapaccha’s glacier. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Uuuuuuuunnnnnggg. No honey you are not too heavy, but if you ask me to pull you out of the ice... Yanapaccha glaciar .Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Uuuuuuuunnnnnggg. No honey you are not too heavy, but if you ask me to pull you out of the ice… Yanapaccha glaciar .Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Well, there are less hostile places on earth to enjoy a holiday. Yanapaccha glaciar .Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Well, there are less hostile places on earth to enjoy a holiday. Yanapaccha glaciar .Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Finally out of the abyss! Yanapaccha glaciar .Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Finally out of the abyss! Yanapaccha glaciar .Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

 Thank you, good night! Yanapaccha basecamp. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Thank you, good night! Yanapaccha basecamp. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Around 6AM, at around 5200m,  the first rays of light makes the first 65° wall towards the summit more visible. On all fours. Up it is. Nevado Yanapaccha (5460m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Around 6AM, at around 5200m, the first rays of light makes the first 65° wall towards the summit more visible. On all fours. Up it is. Nevado Yanapaccha (5460m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

The quadruple summit of Nevados Huandoy (center pyramid is 6395m) and right the popular Nevado Pisco Oeste (5752m), which we climbed in 2008. Shot from the upper slopes on Yanapaccha. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

The quadruple summit of Nevados Huandoy (center pyramid is 6395m) and right the popular Nevado Pisco Oeste (5752m), which we climbed in 2008. Shot from the upper slopes on Yanapaccha. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Reaching the summit ridge of Nevado Yanapaccha (5460m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Reaching the summit ridge of Nevado Yanapaccha (5460m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

After a technical, nightly climb, we made the summit of Yanapaccha (5460m) on the morning of the 4th of July. From left to right: Chopicalqui (6354m), Huascaran Sur (6768m) and Huascaran Norte (6555m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

After a technical, nightly climb, we made the summit of Yanapaccha (5460m) on the morning of the 4th of July. From left to right: Chopicalqui (6354m), Huascaran Sur (6768m) and Huascaran Norte (6555m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

The Nevados Huandoy group (left), Nevado Pisco (center right) and Nevado Piramide (5885m) to the right. Shot from under the summit ice mushroom of Yanapaccha (5460m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

The Nevados Huandoy group (left), Nevado Pisco (center right) and Nevado Chacraraju Oeste (6112m) to the right. Shot from under the summit ice mushroom of Yanapaccha (5460m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Back in basecamp after  a fluent climb. Yanapaccha (5460m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Back in basecamp after a fluent climb. Yanapaccha (5460m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

All we need! Crunchy, guacamole sticks with tea and coffee. Life is good. Thanks Jaime! Yanapaccha (5460m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

All we need! Crunchy, guacamole sticks with tea and coffee. Life is good. Thanks Jaime! Yanapaccha (5460m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Huge stands of Thamnolia Vermicularis lichen, on the way down from base camp. Sampling for the Adventure & Science project. LLanganuco lakes far below. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Huge stands of Thamnolia Vermicularis lichen, on the way down from base camp. Sampling for the Adventure & Science project. LLanganuco lakes far below. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

After 4 days on Yanapaccha, we move towards Ishinca valley. We climb up Urus Este (5420m) in good weather and hope that weather will hold for an attack on 6032m Toclaraju. It’s strange, it’s mountaineering high season, and Ishinca base camp is almost empty. Not even 5 groups around us. A Slovakian team just returned from the summit of Toclaraju. They are exchausted and unhappy. Conditions were bad above 5800m, lots of snow and only clouds and wind. They achieved summit but didn’t have any views. They long for a shower and hot bed in Huaraz. As more clouds roll in, we weigh our chances and the next morning the weather is shitty. Or we climb to high camp or we cancel our bid and put our bets on another 5000m peak. Ishinca (5530) wins. Mind games. The day after. We climb Ishinca in perfect conditions while bad weather swallows Toclaraju. Back in Huaraz, we hear more bad news. Our 2 Argentine neighbours in basecamp, which I spoke to the day before on the go or no go for Tocla, choose to climb to high camp of Toclaraju. An avalanche ended their dreams on their next day bid on our intended route. Mind games. Respect them mountains. May they rest in peace.

If you’re on facebook, we have a page now where I update pictures on a regular basis.

Regrouping for part 2. Ishinca Valley. Fickleness in the weather continues. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Regrouping for part 2. Ishinca Valley. Fickleness in the weather continues. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Unusual, few teams in Ishinca basecamp (4400m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Unusual, few teams in Ishinca basecamp (4400m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Over boulder fields towards the glaciar of Urus Este(5420m). From left to right: Ishinca (5530m), Ranrapalca (6162m), Ocshapalca (5881m) and Vallunaraju (5686m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Over boulder fields towards the glaciar of Urus Este(5420m). From left to right: Ishinca (5530m), Ranrapalca (6162m), Ocshapalca (5881m) and Vallunaraju (5686m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Climbing up Urus Este (5420m), while clouds swallow our next objective Tocllaraju (6032m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Climbing up Urus Este (5420m), while clouds swallow our next objective Tocllaraju (6032m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Amigo Roger and Katrijn on the summit of Urus Este(5420m). Azure Laguna Akilpo below. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Amigo Roger and Katrijn on the summit of Urus Este(5420m). Azure Laguna Akilpo below. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Alpenglow on the cloudy, fluted west wall of Tocllaraju (left, 6032m). The aim was to climb to high camp the next day. Once again bad weather would set in and ruin our plans. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Alpenglow on the cloudy, fluted west wall of Tocllaraju (left, 6032m). The aim was to climb to high camp the next day. Once again bad weather would set in and ruin our plans. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Dark falls over Tocllaraju (6032m) and Ishinca (5530m) basecamp. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Dark falls over Tocllaraju (6032m) and Ishinca (5530m) basecamp. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Alpine splendisism around Ishinca high camp (5000m). Ranrapalca (6162m) north face. A 1km high mixed line of ice and granite. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Alpine splendisism around Ishinca high camp (5000m). Ranrapalca (6162m) north face. A 1km high mixed line of ice and granite. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Last patches of flora at 5000m altitude. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Last patches of flora at 5000m altitude. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Urus Este (5420m) as seen from Ishinca high camp.  Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Urus Este (5420m) as seen from Ishinca high camp. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

“The mountains are calling and I must go” (John Muir) – Ranrapalca (6162m) and Ocshapalca (5881m) northeast faces from the upper slopes of Ishinca (5530m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Avalanche gazing on the upper slopes of Ishinca (5530m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Avalanche gazing on the upper slopes of Ishinca (5530m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Happy descent from the summit of  Ishinca (5530m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Happy descent from the summit of Ishinca (5530m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Sun on Ishinca's summit, but not on our first aim Tocclaraju (6032m). The Cordillera Blanca is a barrier between the Amazon bassin (from where all moisture comes) and the Pacific, causing big climate differences between eastern and western summits in the chain. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Sun on Ishinca’s summit, but not on our first aim Tocclaraju (6032m). The Cordillera Blanca is a barrier between the Amazon bassin (from where all moisture comes) and the Pacific, causing big climate differences between eastern and western summits in the chain. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Solid grounds after a full east to west traverse of Ishinca (5530m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Solid grounds after a full east to west traverse of Ishinca (5530m). Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Azure reflection. Rocky grounds after succesfull climb of Ishinca (5500m). Urus Este(5420m) and Urus Central(5495m) rise up behind. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Azure reflection. Rocky grounds after succesfull climb of Ishinca (5500m). Urus Este(5420m) and Urus Central(5495m) rise up behind. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Walk out via the beautiful Cojup valley. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Walk out via the beautiful Cojup valley. Huascaran National Park. Cordillera Blanca. Peru.

Pachamanca is a traditional Peruvian dish based on the baking, with the aid of hot stones of lamb, mutton, pork, chicken or guinea pig, marinated in spices. Other Andean produce, such as potato, green lima beans or “habas”, sweet potato, occasionally cassava or yuca, and humitas (sweet treat) as well as ears of corn, tamale and chili, is included in the baking. The word is made of two Quechua roots: “pacha” earth and “manca”, meaning “earthen pot” (cooking vessel). Huaraz. Ancash. Peru.

Central market. Huaraz. Peru.

Central market. Huaraz. Peru.

Pioneer Brad Johnson wrote Classic Climbs of the Cordillera Blanca, the holy bible for climbing the nevados.

Full photoset of our mountaineering adventure in the Cordillera Blanca.