Plan, pack light, travel, hike, raft… a gap year rehearsal

Since our last trip into Sarek it has been quite hectic, to say the least. It’s hardly possible reaching the kitchen from the bedroom. Maps, gear, boxes and dust scatter the house. Our cat is roaming around the house, but seem not to find her peace. There is a growing suspicion towards the 2-legged-ones. What the heck are you guys doing? Are you moving out? Or you going to leave me behind? This leads to more scratches after the usual evening coddling.

Packing for a general rehearsal on hiking and packrafting in the Alps - click for more details

Packing for a general rehearsal on hiking and packrafting in the Alps – click for more details

This isn’t preparing for a regular trip. This swallows every second of free time. We’re 6 weeks away from a gap year of a packraft-thruhiking adventure on 3 continents. With legs hanging we shoveled to our bosses for an aproval letter for a career interuption. You enter the office and close the door behind you. They already know how late it is. We’ve been there before. It’s times like these, when unknown facial expressions uncover. Thank you Els and Tim, loving bosses, for aproving us to live our dream.

Climbing up to the snowy pass, on a quest for the Lech River.

Climbing up to the snowy pass, on a quest for the Lech River.

We are in an unceasing quest of organising, checking, testing, evaluating, discussing our gear. Yeah I have been spending hours, days, weeks, months bent over maps. That’s fun and quite easy. Mapping, planning and organizing is 1. But gear considerations is the uttermost important part of the preperation. And small 3-4 day mini-adventures to keep the quest and finetuning going. i have been promising gear reviews here. They will appear. Deadlines, I hate them.

Scouting for a packraft put-in along the Lech River

Scouting for a packraft put-in along the Lech River

Since 2 years we made a complete switch from classical backpacking to lightweight. Pack light. The key issue for the plans we have in mind for the gappy year. Previous backpacking trips in wilderness areas made us realize we need something to overcome that frustrating problem. Besides that we didn’t want rivers, lakes or fjords to be an obstacle anymore. During 2 months Arctic Scandinavia and 5 months Patagonia, we will haul our Unrigged Explorer Packraft. Volume, weight, durability, funcionality. Always a discussion. We’ll need a framed pack for the mentioned packrafting destinations. There going to be streches of hiking/rafting on which we will need to carry gear and food for 14 days without resupply. For the 3-month thru-hiking of the Nepalese part of the Great Himalaya Trail we’ll exchange the packraft and framed pack, for a frameless pack, filled with crampons and ice axe, and a multifuel stove.

To river or not to river... packraft considerations

To river or not to river… packraft considerations

We are proud to anounce that 2 cottage manufacturarers have taken partnership with us, by providing us significant discount on their gear and food. We are not active on a search for sponsors or partners, but if you feel like 2 fools living outside for a year on some remote parts of the world is a good test case for checking functionality/durability of your cottage gear in development, just shout. We’ll glad to be a field rabbit.

Sean at Oookworks is finishing a nest for our Twing Tarp, which we will use as the only shelter for the whole upcoming year. When it arrives in the coming week you may expect an update on the blog for a first review.

The nice Dutch people at Globetrotter Outdoor Foods are helping and providing us discount on huge amounts of home-made dehydrated food for the Arctic and Patagonian part of the year. Our food drying machine just can’t handle the job alone.

In the coming 6 weeks there will be maps apearing on the site, giving you some insight on what we have planned. Please come back and have a look. If you are familiar with the areas, please give feedback.
Just like in the past we look forward on meeting new people on the way. Fresh ideas will spark alternatives. Beside that weather conditions will determine our plans. That’s for sure. Thank you weather for being bad at times. It will force us to change intentions and provide us with memorable experiences in the other option. Flexibility. You bet!

Bivaouc along the banks of the Lech River

Bivaouc along the banks of the Lech River

We look forward to a physical and mental challenge. A battle. Sometimes it’s going to be tough. Pffff what’s tough. Tough is battling to survive. Like millions of people do every day. Spoiled Western tourists. Do something extra-ordinary with your life. Hike, pack, raft… but take time for the people too. We are investigating local volunteer options in Bolivia, Peru and Colombia. That’s where we hope to end our trip between May and August 2013.

The trip report from our last general rehearsal 4-day trip has been put in video. It somewhere summarises what you might expect us doing for the upcoming year, when it’s gonna be quiet on the blog, but a little bit louder out there. That’s what you get when I get out. I can be loud. Necessary for trying to overrule them wild silences. Please push play. And have a look in the album.

Patagonia Chile – Torres del Paine (video)

When going trough the pictures for my recent blog on winter hiking in Patagonia, I discovered some vids I shot with a point-and-shoot camera. I didn’t remember shooting most of this vids, but I was quite surprised I had a total of 45mins of footage only on Torres del Paine from 2 seperate visits in 2008 and 2010. I stripped the footage down to a 5 minute impression of what you can expect when walking Chile’s world reknown Torres del Paine Circuit. I messed a bit with moviemaker and this was the result.

Music in the vid is copyrighted and from the fabolous Belgian indie band Tomàn. You can buy their music trough indie label Zeal Records.

Indian Summer in the Swiss Alps (a GoLite Pinnacle Pack field test)

[edit 2013 – the GoLite Pinnacle is not fabricated anymore, they changed the name to GoLite JAM]

The European Alps prepare themselves for the harsh winter to come. Farmers and their cattle already descended into the lower valleys. Wildlife roams below the edges. Tourists are long gone. Late autumn is a delight to go hike in the (Swiss) Alps.

Hohtürli

Hohtürli - Blüemlisalp

For us it’s a no brainer to plan a hike in the Swiss Alps. A 7.5 hour drive takes us right in front of the massive wall that forms the Bernese Wall. Folding open the map, eyes closed, we point out a direction from our starting point Kandersteg for a 4-day hike. A persistent and (for the time of the year) unusual south Foehn provokes a real indian summer in the northern Alps, unfolding clear blue skies and summer temperatures into the valleys.

We both are childishly eager to test our new lightweight backpacks: the GoLite Men’s 72L/935g and Women’s 63L/877g Pinnacle Pack! We also have the intention to test our new Therm-a-Rest Neo Air All Seoson, but short daylight hours, long hiking hours, coincidence and lazyness failed us to bivaouc so we got comfy sleeps in the empty winter raums of the widespread Swiss mountain huts.

GoLite Pinnacle 72L Pack

GoLite Pinnacle men's 72L Pack, weighing only 935g

On the first day we walk upwards trough golden larches in the direction of Wildstrubel (3243m) up in the wide Schwarenbachtal (following an, out of this world, ugly high power line cutting trough the valley). We wave hello towards the snowdusted Altels (3629m), the glaciated Balmhorn (3698m) and craggy Rinderhorn (3448m).

Lammerental towards Rote Totz (2848m), coming from the Lammerenhutte

Lammerental towards Rote Totz (2848m), coming from the Lammerenhutte

In the ascent towards the Lammerenalp we pass by the almost fully dried up Daubensee (2207m) and on our left side we see the closed hotel on the Gemmipass (2314m). We have the intention to bivaouc somewhere in the snowed and shady Lammerenalp but then we see the Lammerenhutte above a rock outcrop and head for the winter raum, arriving just before dark.

Spot Emergency Beacon, from Rote Totz Lucke with a southern view towards Valais Alps

Spot Emergency Beacon, from Rote Totz Lucke with a southern view towards Valais Alps

On the second day we follow the icy Lammerental, passing a herd of Chamois, climbing towards snow covered Rote Totz Lucke-ridge from where we have a clear view towards the Valais Alps. We are right on the border of Berner Oberland with Valais. We descend towards the Uschenentall, crossing the Talligletsjer.

Perfect fit of the WM's GoLite Pinnacle, on the Talligletsjer under the granite wall of Steghorn (3146m)

Perfect fit of the WM's GoLite Pinnacle, on the Talligletsjer under the granite wall of Steghorn (3146m)

What a beautiful, forgotten high alpine glen this is! We enjoy the silence, the icy and snowy passages and clear blue skies that lead us, passing the frozen Talliseeli-tarn towards the Usser Üschene valley. We descide we want to reach Fisialp high above the Oeschinen Lake, which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once there, we continue in the dusk light towards the Doldenhorn Hutte.

Snowy descend toward the Usser Üschene valley

Snowy descend toward the Usser Üschene valley

On our thirth day we explore the area around under the Doldenhorn (3475m) and descide to descend towards the Oeschinen Lake and try to reach the Blüemlisalphütte (2840m). The area around the Unesco protected lake is outstanding beautiful and we are astonished that on such a sunny day there is nobody around! The place is just silently empty. We can imagine how busy it could be here in summer.

Dusk at The Blüemlisalphütte (2840m)

Dusk at The Blüemlisalphütte (2840m)

In a couple of hours we reach, on a quite easy trail, just before sunset the beautifuly located hut. It stands proud above the heavily crevassed Blüemlisalpglacier and under the guarding, icy summits of Morgenhorn (3623m), Wyssi Frau (3650m) and Blüemlisalphorn (3661m).

On the firth day we descend towards Kandersteg, passing by the Heuberg (1940m), with tremendous view towards the azure Oeschinen Lake.

Oeschinen Lake (1578m) as seen from near Heuberg (1940m)

Oeschinen Lake (1578m) as seen from near Heuberg (1940m)

What about the GoLite Pinnacle Pack?

We started with a winter base weight of 7552gr (including winter down sleeping bag, crampons, down jacket,…) plus food, fuel, water,… to a total of 11kg550gr. The manufacturer specifies a comfortable to carry load of max. 18kg, which really is the max. weight we would put in this pack.

GoLite Pinnacle Pack Men vs Women

GoLite Pinnacle Pack Men vs Women

The frameless pack fits unbelievably pefect to the back spine if the load is organised bulky enough to give support enough to your entire back. The padding on the hips is small, compared to heavier “standard” packs, but spreads the weight very well towards the hips. The biggest difference with “standard” packs, is the lack of the hood, with which you would normally close your pack. Now there only remains a cord strap and clip system (you close the pack as you would close a dry bag). As the pack is not waterproof (only water resistant), you should pack your valuable gear in waterproof bags, but that’s also the case with “standard” packs. We also like the side straps which will enable us to put gear “outside the pack” in future trips. With small straps you can also make the pack unbelievalbe small like it resemble a daypack (see in our flickr photostream)! There is a big zipped front pocket for storing small, quickly accesible items like maps, torches, …

Are we happy with the pack? Ooooooh yeaaaah!

Please visit our full photoset on our flickr page for more pics on this short trip into the Swiss Alps.