Monday, 30 April 2012

24 Hours – A short film what I did make….

Tis true. This here twerp tried to make a short film and the amateurish (or just terrible) result of this can be found here and below.

Time-lapse Capturing a time-lapse on Stone Arthur

I took myself off to the Lakes in July last year with aim of filming and putting together a short film on wild-camping that would be beautiful and engaging but sadly my lack of planning, camera skills and the weather meant we have this to endure instead! My plan was for this to be more documentary style but the weather and poor sound meant all of my piece to camera segments had to be abandoned. I managed to get a couple of time-lapses and some set pieces that I have tried to cobble together but my next attempt will be much better – promise!

I wanted to learn a bit about filming and and editing and to that end I guess I’m better informed but there is clearly a long way to go! I do think I’m better informed now and will approach my next trip slightly differently with a view to getting the shots I need rather than the ones I can. I have been experimenting with time-lapse photography since Norway and I hope to incorporate a few more of these in future shorts.


24 Hours - A Micro-Adventure In The Lake District from Marcus Gough on Vimeo.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Meet Lolli

A Trail…Star In the Making?


Guys, this is Lolli our 16 week old English Springer Spaniel. She’s a darl but incredibly hard work! I’ve wanted a puppy since I was a child but never really thought it would be possible for us to own one given our hectic lifestyles and heavy workloads. Nevertheless an opportunity came up and it was impossible to resist!

In the short time we have had her she’s grown an awful lot and changed dramatically, its been hard to keep up:

Lolli_wants_food Lolli’s first day with her new humans.

Its all a steep learning curve but I think for our first dog we’re doing pretty well and Lolli seems eager to learn new things.

3 weeks ago Lolli had her final jab and we went walking together for the first time. It’s early days by all accounts but I have no doubts that she will love joining me on some long day walks and eventually some wild-camps. Her breed is an energetic one and I’m told she will go for miles. I cannot wait!

Obviously we’ll need some new gear (crying shame) and needless to say preparations are already underway with the purchase of ‘our’ new shelter – the MLD Trailstar. Lolli loved the photos on the website and made it perfectly celar that she just had to have one! She fell in love with Orikaso fold flat bowls so I subbed her on those whilst her new shelter also means I needed a replacement walking pole to erect it (see this post for why) from Rotalocura.

I’ve got a head full of ideas for some custom gear: ultralight dog blanket, sleep mat and backpack. There’s a whole new world of gear to research so I’d better get on….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Lolli wondering why she can’t eat grass

Seriously though guys, any advice on lightweight doggy gear will always be gratefully received and James I’m looking at you here for some guidance too!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Norway, HardangerJokulen: Day 7

Saturday – our last day out in the wilds of Norway….

By 5.30am I had given up on getting back to sleep. I had woken  feeling cold at 2am and wishing it was morning already. Paul was snoring away and didn’t seem like he was remotely cold – I was jealous. I’d made the mistake of just sleeping in my thin Embers base layer and a 100 weight micro fleece and, given the amount of ice crystals on the fly sheet, this just wasn’t enough. Paul had slept in his down jacket but I’d not wanted to do this until I absolutely had to. The problem is I find myself unwilling to move out of the foetal position and desperately trying to maintain heat inside my sleeping bag! Reaching out for my jacket didn’t feature in this plan and this meant I hadn’t made the sensible move to put it on – twerp. I could stand it no longer - the jacket went on and I scoffed a boost bar!

By now it was only just getting lighter, although it had not been totally dark during the night owing to the bright moonlight. I reached over, put some music on and began thinking about all of the missed photo opportunities I'd suffered whilst wondering just how doomed my camera really was. I tried to block this last bit out by concentrating instead on eating and drinking hot things! By 6.30 I caved and started to make a brew.

Opening the fly revealed a rather crispy, fresh topping to the undergrowth – like a nice salad. The subtle blast of the JetBoil igniting woke Paul with a bit of start *grins*. I barely had time to fetch Paul’s coveted Hurtigruten mug before boiling water was being spat and sprayed all over the porch. That bloody JetBoil always makes for a rude awakening.


As soon as the water was in my mug and the teabag stewing I made the move to don my trousers, wet socks and ice-cold shoes and went and stood outside to take in the last sights of the trip. I wasn’t disappointed by what I found and I just stood listening to the rushing water and watching the light slowly reaching over Middalen across the river. It looked like another clear day and would be a nice one to finish on, especially if it warmed up a bit! The tent was literally covered in a thin layer of sparkling bling and I felt better that I it was indeed a cold night – as opposed to me just being a big wet fish.

My iPhone was my only camera now and I had to take whatever I could get out of it. Never mind.


We had a few hours to kill before our train was due in Finse so there was no rush to move on but Paul was packing away with gay abandon, which I noticed by the sheer noise of him scuffling about. I didn’t want to rushed by this so went off to try and get some more photos whilst absorbing every last sense of the place whilst I still could.


It became apparent that the clear sky wasn’t going to remain for much longer. To the west the clouds seemed to appear from nowhere and were heading at us with some speed. It made for a nice photo but that was about all the good I could find in it.


The wind was definitely picking up and beginning to gust a little so naturally packing away  now seemed like a grand idea! Seconds later I joined Paul in the tent who, by now, was all packed up and exiting! He was as surprised as me to see the clouds rolling in and was as keen as I to make it to Finse in dry clothes! It would also be nice to remember our last morning on the trail as it was now as opposed to the thick clag that we had started out in 7 days earlier.

Once again it was no time all before the tent was down and bags were shouldered. Whilst I took a few more photos Paul wandered off in the direction of the high wooden bridge over the river. By the time I was ready to leave I couldn’t even see his dark shape on the landscape.


As I walked on with increasing pace it really did feel a bit gut-wrenching to be leaving this all behind. There’s something about self-reliance that instills a feeling of strength and pride as though you’re basking in your own independence.

I paused to look back at our abandoned pitch spot to see the cloud had made good progress in taking over the entire blue space above me in just a matter of minutes. I couldn’t tell if it meant rain or snow but it felt cold enough to be the latter – which I secretly didn’t mind hanging around for. That would be an epic way to end the trip.

I followed the tussocky and rocky river bank to the bridge where Paul was waiting patiently. We took a few more photos before agreeing that this was now well and truly over and this last few miles would most likely end in us getting wet. Nevertheless this wasn’t a problem as by now we were seasoned pro’s at being wet and uncomfortable but it would be nice to arrive in Finse and not have to get changed. This was particularly the case for me as I had taken the gamble at putting on clean trousers and base layers for the benefit of our fellow train travelers later that day. If they ended up wet I’d be slightly unhappy!


We walked on along the track at a pace that was fast but comfortable. From here Finse was clearly visible on the opposite bank of Finsevatnet. Seeing it getting gradually closer was somehow crap but good all at the same time.

The southern bank seemed popular with other campers who had come in a group with bomb-proof tents and gear. We wondered what they might make of our lightweight approach, given that a hunter passed us by showing a face that was showing us nothing short of contempt!

The group of campers were clearly feeling the cold and they milled about camp, walking on the spot on tip-toes. There were quite a few of them and we could only assume that the they were ‘conserving heat’ with so many bodies inside so few tents…


By now we were approaching the dam wall on the south east side of the vatnet with the wooden face of the hotel staring right back at us. There were more groups on the dam wall heading our way and it looked as though they were in the for the same start as Paul and I had experiences almost a week ago. Poor little sods!

This was not how I envisaged the end of this epic trip would be. I don’t know what I expected but this felt numb and almost senseless. We nodded as we passed the young looking group who all wore smirks as we did so. I was confused by this. It could have been the stench or our gear but either way we were entertaining for some reason. I made a vow to check my face when I got to a mirror but was 99% sure it was a response to Paul – which is quite normal.

Once across the dam wall the track turns to a wider gravel path for pedestrians and cyclists, of which we saw plenty starting out on the route from Finse on the Navvies Road (Rallarvegen) to Flam. The Norwegian flag was flying high at the colossal DNT hut on the peninsula of the lake and our decision to stay out last night seemed like a good one as scores of people poured out of it’s doors.


By now it was around 9.30am and we slowed our pace as we walked along the small breezeblock apartments that lined the track. Life would be hard out here in winter but its something I’d love to experience just once at very least.

Thoughts soon turned to our large suitcase that we’d pretty much abandoned in the drying room of the hotel. We hoped it would be there, primarily as the thought of a night out in Bergen with walking shoes, trousers and a merino base-layer seemed a little off to us! The track began to climb up to the long train platform and the signpost we’d taken photographs of at the beginning of the trip came into view. The place was fairly empty with only a few people inside the station and a small group of cyclists about to set out. They were embarking on their journey as we were just finishing ours. It hadn’t rained and we were dry so the Gods would not win today. There was nothing to say to each other that hadn't already been said so we extended arms, firmly shook hands and turned and headed for the bar!


The hotel was busy with people eating breakfast or preparing to leave for their own adventures. It was a little early for a beer so we waiting 5 minutes before flipping a coin to see who would go get them in. I lost (as usual) so went off to do the honours whilst Paul found window seats looking out across the lake and the glacier.

It was the sweetest beer we’d tasted and despite Paul’s dismay at the absence of cider, he seemed to find it agreeable too. The suitcase was exactly where we left it so there nothing left to do other than stow our packs, change our shoes and socks and board the train.

As the big red carriages drew to a stop on the platform we took one last pause to look around and wave to the webcam before the whistle was being blown and the doors closing behind us.

It had all started here when we stepped onto this platform 7 days ago and now it was over. We’d had such a great many laughs, mini-adventures and soakings! More importantly we had some stories to tell and we’d start by finding some poor Norwegian buggers once we arrived in Bergen!


Monday, 9 April 2012

Norway, HardangerJokulen: Day 6

Finnsbergvatnet morning tent

Friday, and an absolutely incredible Friday it was too. We'd been in the wilds of Norway for 5 full days and living the dream. Yes, home had seemed far away and an absent comfort at times but there was no denying that it had been an absolute privilege to be here. The freedom of wild camping in Norway was refreshing and almost alien to us. Despite being in charge of our own destiny it felt as though we should be up and moving once we'd eaten and had the first cuppa of the day - it took some effort to shake this feeling and we were envious of the Norwegians and their utopian outdoors world!

Whilst perfectly clear it was also incredibly cold and overnight the temperature had dropped considerably leaving a shimmering layer of frost all over the tent fly. I had a bad back from too many hours on my Neoair and needed to get up to stretch a little and was almost frantic with the need of some toilet relief! Exiting my bag was shiver inducing and I bounced about on my mat trying to get my trousers on whilst making a right old racket. Paul soon stirred and we both exchanged grunts as I unzipped the fly, donned my cold shoes and headed on out to a brisk but bright paradise.

The small tarn next to the tent had a good layer of ice all over it which gave a good indication of how low the temperature had dropped over night.

Frozen bog

It was glorious - Nuff said. Not a cloud to be seen, the sun just popping over the shoulder of Finnsberg and casting long distorted shadows across our soft, flat, green mattress. I turned to look at the lake and listen to the sounds of the cascades as the sun tried to warm my back. The sun was neve goig to be enough however, so I was still relying heavily on my Flash jacket. Did I mention I love my down jacket?
Frozen bog flora

I fetched my sleeping bag and draped it across a large boulder to take advantage of the sun and light breeze. Whilst back at the tent I'd tried hard to disturb Paul's sleep but it was a wasted attempt at evil. I decided I'd make the most of the tranquility and wandered over to the shoreline to skim stones. This was nice but quite difficult, as the wind whipped up the waves which would swallow (what I considered to be) my greatest ever skims.

Bog flora

I sat for a while wondering what was happening back home and specifically what were people doing instead of this? Most likely colleagues would be making their various ways to work, probably stuck in traffic and counting the hours for the weekend to begin. My weekend had began six days ago when we flew out to Olso, had an epic night out with some incredibly hospitable locals and now was sat enjoying day seven at the shore of a remote lake at around 1200 metres.
Then my thoughts swung to Charl, what was she doing and what about friends? It's very easy to get lost out in a place like this - mentally rather than physically that is. At first apprehension and excitement combine to leave a mindset that is cautious and aware, whilst prolonged thoughts for loved ones and home are ever present in the background. Then instinct kicks in and thoughts of home become concentrated towards the end of each long day. I'm not normally an emotional character but out here I wasn't just treasuring the freedom, beauty and experience of each passing day - I was truly appreciating what love, friendship and companionship really meant. What is was to understand how it feels to need something and more importantly someone. Make no mistake, being out here was a dream come true. However, I couldn't stay here indefinitely regardless of how much food or equipment I had. Survival is but one facet to human life and I hadn't been able to bring the one thing that I needed just as much as the essentials……Charlotte. If I cold get Charl out here doing this, I'd be made and I set about the impossible task of working out how I could make this incredibly unlikely scenario a reality - whilst firing up the JetBoil.

With the blast of pressurised gas igniting my thoughts were returned to the 'here and now' and I wondered how far we might travel today bearing in mind how close to Finse we now were. Paul must have tuned in to my frequency as he emerged from silnylon grunting and scratching. We drank some tea, checked out the map and, with our routine now at military precision, packed away with effortless speed. We decided we'd take a nice stroll north, enjoy the weather and make the most of the chance to stop and drink tea out of the rain. The option was there to continue on to Finse which was more than reachable before sun-down but this wouldn't be necessary or worthwhile considering out train wasn't due until 12 the following day.

Clear blue

I was now using only one pole and it must of been a sorrowful but entertaining sight for anyone watching - my splintered pole hitching a ride in my pack! I wondered whether this was a sign from the Gods that new poles were available and waiting to be tested. You never can tell the true message of the Gods at times but I was certain that I was on the right track this time!
We passed a raft of clear, dark blue tarns as the track weaved its way north. It was roasting in the sun and starting out in two layers quickly became very unnecessary. We stopped to take photos every few hundred metres and the irresistible urge to drink tea by the water got the better of us.

Calm vatnet

We remembered our adventurous but miserable first days out on the track and praised the DNY hut system like a biased parent or lover! It was all going to work out OK this walking in the wilderness lark. We'd came with an open mind and would leave with it full of experience, memories and aspirations. Paul wanted to come back in winter and we tried to picture how very different and hostile this place would be. There was no way we had the skills to tackle something like that but we never say never any more and we promised to look at winter skills courses and weigh up the possibilities over a beer in due course.

Base layer time

Anyways, we quickly blocked the thought of sipping on an ice cold beer and concentrated instead on lunch. I attempted to record some audio of us reviewing some gear and talking about our experiences thus far but we quickly found this to a painful and unwarranted assault on a potential listener. Delete.

Lunch panorama

We were climbing up gradually now and we agreed that a bite to eat would be our reward for reaching the high-point and with any luck we'd be able to see the glacier whilst we ate. This prophecy came true and we were soon boiling water next to the clearest, coldest mountain tarn we'd seen - at least since the last one! It was couscous and chorizo for me whilst Paul lived another dream with a Fuizion meal and didn't he let me know it! There were groans and sighs of enjoyment which I easily ignored by talking over them and giving the impression I hadn't heard them over all of the other noises like the…………noises - all of the wild noises!

Blue tundra

The reality was it was quiet. It was peaceful, warm (provided we kept out of the breeze) and most of all it was a great vantage point to look out across where we'd been and where we were headed. From here we could see endless crevasses like deep cut wounds on the blue/white glacier. The map showed there was a hut out there somewhere and from here we knew the trip to that hut would be epic. This gave way to the (quite obvious but better avoided) observations that we'd seen nothing of what this small corner of a beautiful country had to offer. There was nothing for it - we'd have to come back and purely in the interests of……

Tarn glacier

We soon started to feel the cold having been stopped in just our base layers so it was nice to stow everything away and get back to walking in the warm sun again. From here we had a short, easy decent but made difficult by our eyes always being distracted by the jokulen to our left. We'd both wanted to get up close and had originally hoped to do so via and outlet to the north east called Blaisen. Our last minute decision to take an anti clockwise route had meant that we'd not had that opportunity when we'd first envisaged. Looking back it would have been miserable but in these conditions it would be incredible.

Tarn glacier2

Even if we had the time, it was quite a way from our current position so we trundled on talking about the possibility of camping just below it - weather, time and suitability of a pitch permitting. The landscape was easing up a bit now and climbs or descents became less obvious and smaller bodies of water seemed to open up everywhere. Most of the route had now become almost exclusively rock with the track staying hard and dry nearly all of the way. Had the weather in the east been like this the whole time whilst we'd been punished over in the west day after day?We decided it was best left unanswered and continued our way along in relative silence. Feet were beginning show signs of fatigue and the unfamiliar hard ground wasn't helping at this stage in the game.

A larger body of water opened out upon what had started to be termed the 'moonscape' and we saw two men in the distance fishing off the rocky outcrops of the vatnet. It was odd to see other human's again but nice to know there hadn't been an apocalypse in the 5 days since we'd seen another soul. Perhaps there had but nobody had told these two dudes fishing like they hadn't a care if they caught anything or not!

Paul on moon

Given that we were still a ways out from Finse, we wondered if these two had come from a private hut nearby but we soon spotted their shelter off in the distance on a dead-flat silt marsh just below Blaisen. It was so flat and green we made a bee-line both thinking (but never saying) that this would make an incredible pitch. The area was massive and was showing all of the signs of being soft if not a little damp! Jumping the river at its narrowest point I ventured on to find it exactly as expected - bouncy, a little water-logged but almost measurably flat. It seemed to hold a peg well but for some reason Paul hung back taking photos and didn't seem too interested in stopping. I rejoined the path where Paul then decided he might want to take look himself - how very rude! I decided to stand my ground and dropped my pack, pulled out a jelly baby and propped myself against a perfectly shaped rock. As Paul began to make his way onto the silty bed it became apparent how easy it was to lose sight of the sheer size of this place.

Paul siltmarsh

We pondered making our way over to Blaisen but also liked the idea of a pitch that could see the glacier and Finse from the same spot whilst making for an easier departure in the morning. The map suggested that the river weaved its way down to a flat area about a kilometre further along. It was indicated as marsh but we decided to take the risk anyway. We'd have a shorter trip in the morning to catch our train and it would have the views we wanted - provided we could find a decent spot.

Blaisen pitch dilemma

From here Finse was just visible with the railway tracks carving a clear scar on the landscape. It really was blue as far as the eye could see with no signs of any changes on the horizon. We dropped down passing tarn after tarn - each as pristine as the next. Paul walked on ahead as I stayed back at a gushing stream to record some audio on my zoom H1. There wasn't an awful lot of point in this but at the time it seemed like a great idea!

Finsevatnet finse

I caught up to Paul who was now traipsing around in tall, almost orange, grass but not looking satisfied. Paul's pitch finding face and stance is really quite a beautiful thing and should be witnessed at least once! Its beautiful because he's bloody good at it. He can spot a patch at just the right size for a Scarp II from a remarkable distance. It's not just that but his hit rate for a spot that is level, has views and will be remembered is commendable.

Paul, I hereby salute you. For this…and only this. Oh and your incessant pestering that I should come to Norway with you for a wonder. I understand that this is partly because you wanted to share this incredible place and the experience and partly because the last time you came here alone you nearly died and might have made a few silly mistakes in your calculations.We'll say no more about this as not to detract from the praise I've just given only a few sentences earlier! Moving on.

It was now 3.45 and the sun, although still definitely up, was making a rapid descent in the direction of the hills to the west. Even now the temperature was noticeably lower then just 3 hours earlier and we both wanted the tent up and a chance to relax and watch the sunset over the Jokulen one last time. By 4.03pm the tent was up on a spot that can only be described as 'money'* by all accounts. It was the only soft, flat spot on the bend of a fast flowing river of rapids and only around a metre or so higher than it.

Blaisen sun

To the west was the glacier and to the north-east was Finse. To say we were connected with the surroundings wouldn't do it justice and needless to say there was no petty squabbling about sides this evening.

Final pitch finse fetene

We sat around by the river washing socks and feet but the grey, silt-heavy water was genital shrinking cold so we soon thought better of that and cooked food instead whilst watching the sun sink lower behind the hills to west. For a brief moment the wind died down and everything was bathed in a silent cast of orange.

Dinner styygelvane

Sunset middalen

We looked back over to Finse and from here there were no signs of life, no sounds, no movement and very much like an abandoned mountain village. We sat out in down jackets until the sun totally disappeared at 7.09pm. Then, something really cold happened, and we retreated to our sleeping bags like a proper pair of girls! Out here there is no hiding from the cold or the wind. It finds you wherever you hide -  except of course inside a cumulus sleeping bag and topped with a Western Mountaineering Flash down jacket - seemingly.

For some reason Paul was eager to do some more sound recording so I pulled out the H1 and Paul lay there just talking at it - summarising the high and lows of the trip. It made for a monotonous hour or so of recording but I let him carry on seeing as he was so content just muttering away  - poor little sod!

It was hard to accept or comprehend that we'd spent the last 6 days wondering about in the Norwegian wilderness and even harder to think that by this time tomorrow evening we'd (most likely) be drunk in a Bergen bar regaling some polite, but clearly unimpressed, Norwegian folk about our trip. We lay in our bags talking through the days and nights and vowing that we'd be back. Paul likes to look forward a little more so than me and he masked his sentimental thoughts by banging on about an Epic night still to be had in Bergen. To be fair I was looking forward to it too but I find it harder to re-adjust when faced with the bold assertiveness of civilisation. My thoughts were far from Bergen and were, once again, back home and looking forward to seeing Charlotte.

I caved before Paul and had to make a hot drink. Paul tried (and failed) to take a decent shot of Finse which by now was well lit and looking very appealing. They had beer over there for christ's sake and we were freezing our nuts off making hot chocolate! We must have been mad just sitting there watching the lights whilst sipping on our drinks in the freezing air when, just 30 mins or so away was a small place serving beer in glasses!
By 9pm it was already frosty out and I opted for one last toilet break before hitting the sack for the last time. Earphones were pressed into place and I hit play on Bob Marley's 'Legend' album before realising that it wasn't fitting of my mood or the place and opted instead for Lykke Li. I found it hard to settle even with a soft voice to send me off. Paul, on the other hand, had peaked a little early with his sound recording efforts and was already curled up in a ball and starting to impinge on my tent space. I decided to stay away a little longer to ensure there would be no spooning!

The wind was picking up again and it was getting colder at an astonishing rate. Arms were moved inside the sleeping bag and the draw cord cinched down nice and tight to avoid any drafts. This was clearly what was needed as the next time I woke was to the sound of a small bear snoring…..

*google it.