Project E1: Section hiking Europe


Like numerous other trails I hiked, E1 has been on my radar for quite a while. Actually, since I learned it more or less passes through the region I grew up - Zürich Oblerland. And this revelation happened just three years ago, in 2017, shortly after returning from New Zealand. During summer 2019, my intentions of hiking E1 are getting more and more specific and later that summer I decide to hike E1 - a European long distance trail leading from the North Cape all the way down to Italy. The trail in Italy isn't completely marked yet but I hope by the time I arrive down there, the Italians will have finished their siesta and have marked the trail.

Unlike Te Araroa, I will hike E1 in sections instead of finishing it in one go, keeping my current job rather than quitting it. Several reasons led me to this decision. One is its whopping distance of 8000km, which makes it hard to thru-hike. Not impossible as hikers have achieved it but chances are high I'd hit snow at one point (most probably in the Swiss and Italian Alps), not to speak of unpleasant wet winter weather in Germany. Not exactly, what I am looking for ;)

Another reason: After hiking Te Araroa in one go, I had a hard time finding my way back into normal life. Hiking in sections will make the temporary return into normal life easier (hopefully), especially because with the next section already awaiting me, I will have something to looking forward to. 

 

I can stay away from work for a maximum of 90 days in a row in order to stay current in my job as AFISO. Thanks to my flexible employer, I was able to work out an 80 percent contract, which allows me to take 3 months off during summer, while working 100 percent the remaining year. This gives me the opportunity to hike roughly two to three months every summer for the coming years.

 

My plan is hiking the first half of Scandinavia during summer 2020 and the second half the following year before resuming my hike in Denmark in 2022. You see, it's a long time project and plans can and possibly will change. Even if I cannot cross Scandinavia by the end of next summer, it will not be an issue. I'm not in a hurry.

 

Like during my last hikes, my Spot tracker will record me progress here. Feel free to have look and virtually join my hike!

 

Planning

Section 1: Far North

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Blog

The Day After

46 days - nearly 7 weeks on E1. From Nordkapp to Skorovatn. Halfway across Scandinavia. 1500 kilometers, 3 countries and lots and lots of experiences. Mostly great ones, but obviously some not so great ones as well. 


While the first two days, with the combination of sea and mountains, are scenery wise a spectacle par excellence (especially with the midnight sun) the following week gets pretty flat and monotonous, not to say boring. Together with the mosquitoes, I'm not enjoying the stretch from Olderfjord to Kautekeino that much. In fact, I get somewhat dubious about the sense of my hike. Why am I going through all this trouble? As a result, I do long, hard days to get over with it quickly. Luckily the beautiful weather is somewhat keeping my hiking spirit up. 

Once past Kautokeino, together with the change of landscape, my attitude changes as well. I start to enjoy the hike and appreciate the scenery.

With rockier, more undulating terrain going gets harder, or maybe I should say more interesting. Every day is different from the other. The landscape, the country, the people. The cool, funny but taciturn Finns, the welcoming, relaxed Swedes the polite but slightly distant Norwegians. However, many days are passing by without seeing any soul at all. 

After crossing the challenging, rocky Caihnavaggi Pass, I get slightly overwhelmed by the feeling of remoteness. 300 kilometers without much civilization and possibilities to bail out of the trail in between should anything happen. A feeling that flares up when I cross sketchy bridges and am close to hypothermia while walking through an early autumn storm. Just me and my backpack. 

These experiences make me enjoy the pleasant moments of the trail even more. Be it the lovely stroll through Padjelanta National Park in beautiful weather or my two off trail days in Naurstad.

These two days make me realize how much I miss the coastline, the sea, which I haven't seen for weeks. 

The trail continues Inland though . While going gets generally easier, I feel like idling, like being stuck. Not a nice feeling that luckily vanishes once south of the polar circle. Before I realize it, I pass Umbukta and approach Bjorgefell National Park. The last big challenge - or so I thought.

It's also during these last few days, when I have the privilege to enjoy Norwegian hospitality, which boosts my trail experience even more - actually it is these experiences that are making trail life so special - adding a lot it to my addiction to this lifestyle. 


I never set a point I aim for or a distance I want to walk for this section. Yet, I have to admit, the region between Royrvik and Skorovatn struck me as a good place to finish section one already during my planning. I've had it in my mind for quite a while during the last few days. 

The next 250 kilometer stretch from Skorovatn to Meraker, again unmarked, will be interesting not to say challenging again. In combination with the unfavorable weather forecast I decide that Skorovatn is a good place to finish indeed. And a good place to start next again next summer - with a clear goal: reaching the terminal of the ferry taking me from Sweden to Denmark. Wherever exactly that might be. My planning isn't that advanced just yet. 

Hopefully, the corona panic will have eased until then, making traveling a bit easier. Even though I think I haven't broken any rules regarding quarantine restrictions, the uncertainty about border opening and closing was another unnecessary thing to deal with and it's not something I feel like discussing here too much. 


So better let me focus on the "now". I walked quicker than I thought. Much quicker. 

This leaves me another 3 weeks to explore spectacular Norway. Unlike after Te Araroa, I am not feeling an emptiness. In fact I can't wait start exploring. Especially, when hearing that you need wear face masks in public transport and in shops, I'm in no hurry at all to return home (at the moment I have no plan on how to get home anyway. Plane, train, bus? I will see.) 

As a landlocked Swiss mountain boy, I want to explore the sea. To be more specific: the coast between Bodo and Trondheim. An area that was recommended to me by several people I met on the way. 

Being away from civilization most of the time, I never really had the possibility to plan my remaining days in Scandinavia. 

That's why, after doing my first laundry in three weeks and having my first shower in two weeks, I decide to have a planning retreat. 

And more or less by chance, I find this spectacular place, where I am currently writing these lines, called Granneset. A restored farmhouse from around 1850. Not too far away from E1 in fact. Maintained by Statskog, available to use for free by everyone. Absolutely amazing. Exactly the place was looking for. How long I am going to stay? I don't know. 2 nights, maybe more. Doesn't matter. It's perfect for planning, relaxing and just being sheltered from the rain and wind. Things that were scarce on E1. 



My retreat
My retreat
Master bedroom
Master bedroom
In-room stove
In-room stove
Entry hall with an open fire place
Entry hall with an open fire place
Kitchen and dining
Kitchen and dining
What a great place
What a great place
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Day 46: Section One Complete

Hovden to Skorovatn

Distance: 42km


A wet, rainy night, a lazy start into the day. With the weather forecast not too promising, I decide to take the easy way and follow the road instead of navigating on unmarked trails again.


With this decision made, it's clear I would reach Skorovatn tonight and with the terrible weather for the coming days, it's also clear that Skorovatn will be the endpoint of section one of E1. Roughly half way through Scandinavia and roughly where I was hoping to finish this year.


However, I am not there just yet. A road marathon is still waiting for me.

After getting completely soaked after two hours, I am thankful for the sun warming me up during mid day. 

I feel good as I am thinking of the past great 7 weeks I had on the trail.

It's along backroads. Very quiet. Very pleasant to walk. As I approach Skorovatn, I'm feeling a bit sentimental. Sad it's over but also slightly relieved. Especially, because I know I will be here in 9 months time, continue my hike. Fit and motivated to tackle the next challenging section. Of course with Corona, work and my health permitting.


Weather is deteriorating quickly. With the store in Skorovatn closed (I'm 45 minutes too late...) there's no ice cream, no trumpet to celebrate. So, after taking some mandatory end-of-section-photos, I find a sheltered spot behind the church to pitch my tent. Right after attaching the rain fly to the last peg, rain starts. 

So I celebrate my last evening with some crumbled cookies and a sip of Norwegian river water with a big smile on my face. 


Happy to see the sun
Happy to see the sun
Nice views once more
Nice views once more
Happy-last-trail-day-face
Happy-last-trail-day-face
Approaching Skorovatn. The mountains in the background have to wait until 2021
Approaching Skorovatn. The mountains in the background have to wait until 2021
Skorovatn!
Skorovatn!
No ice cream tonight :(
No ice cream tonight :(
I'll see you again, Mr Bear!
I'll see you again, Mr Bear!
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Day 45: Wet, Wet, Wet

Storelva to Hovden

Distance: 30km


Yesterday evening has been another one to remember with great, interesting food (fermented fish, moose heart and a sausage with something in it they wouldn't tell) and nice talks.


While in the begging of my hike, back in Finnmark, it seemed like this long-distance hike would be mostly about scenery, rather than cultur and social interaction (which made Te Araroa so special to me). Nothing bad, just pure hiking.

This has changed, especially since Umbukta, when the Norwegians caused me all these great trails moments. Be it the lake side cabin in Umbukta, the coffee and biscuits on a farm or now this wonderful experience.


It's raining when I pack my tent. Second day in a row. Still, I can't complain about the weather. While initially along a trail, I soon go off trail, using my map to navigate around Namsvatnet and later Storgollomsvatnet. Like for the previous section to Storelva, the official trail notes are a big help. Without them I'd be somewhat screwed. I read them carefully and plotted a rough route. A route, which takes me through the swamps, even though I have to backtrack a few times as I get stuck in the forest or rocky terrain. You can find the route I walked in my 'follow me' map. Most probably there are better routes but it took me to the other side of the lake in 7 hours.

7 mentally challenging hours, requiring a lot of capacity for navigation. I am relieved once I can follow a road all the way to Royrvik, where I camp on an island right before entering the town.


A tough but rewarding day. Happy I made it through Bjorgefell, which was not as challenging as expected. After hiking all the way from Nordkapp, there wasn't anything completely new. Terrain is neither steep nor rocky. All river crossings fairly straight forward. Instead of poorly marked trails further in the north, there are no markings at all in Borgefjell. Maybe that's even an advantage as you are not constantly looking for markers. 

That said, it's no section for beginners at all. Navigational skills as well as the ability to deal with bush bashing and constantly wet feet are essential. 


Bridge from nowhere to nowhere
Bridge from nowhere to nowhere
Lots and lots of wetlands
Lots and lots of wetlands
A last look back to Namsvatnet with Storelva clearly visible in the background
A last look back to Namsvatnet with Storelva clearly visible in the background
Hard work at times
Hard work at times
A typical view today
A typical view today
Done for the day
Done for the day
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Day 44: Hang Over In Storelva

I've pitched my tent for quite some time, when the first two members of the fishing group arrived. Wonderful people. Working colleagues on a fishing trip into the wild. Pretty much the first thing they did: frying a fish for me! They than took me for a ride on the lake. My first ever fishing experience. Dispite not catching any fish, I thoroughly enjoyed the spectacular scenery. 

During a great evening around a warming fire, they were spoiling me with slow cooked lamb, more fish and potatoes - in firm of liquor. Strong stuff! In fact so strong, I hardly made it back into my tent, which is 15 meters away from the fireplace.

Already then I knew: I won't make it far tomorrow. 


And that's exactly what happens today: Zero walking. I'm in no hurry so why not enjoy such a beautiful place and atmosphere for another day? Especially after checking the not very promising weather forecast. 


I fall asleep in and once I wake up and make it out of my tent I soon get offered fresh fish, potatoes and bacon for breakfast. 

Wow, Norwegian hospitality at its finest!

The remaining day I spend mostly around the fire. Not doing a lot. Just enjoying the scenery and not walking through wetlands. 

With my lazy day and all the good food, I should be fit enough for the 20 kilometers bash through wetlands and scrubs. Let's just hope the weather is not as harsh to me as predicted. 


Dinner in the making
Dinner in the making
Out on Namsvatnet
Out on Namsvatnet
My first ever fishing experience
My first ever fishing experience
"Cash"
"Cash"
Aqua Vit
Aqua Vit
Better to stay put
Better to stay put
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Day 43: Bye Bye Nice Weather

Raentserenmejkie to Storelva

Distance: 25km


Not much wind but rain overnight. Persistent rain. Also by the time I'm ready to leave. For the first time since Nordkapp, I have to leave my camp in rain. Incredible, how lucky I have been weather wise. 

Everything takes a wee bit longer, as I pack my backpack inside my tent. A bit cramped but doable.


My walking day, another one without any trail nor markings, starts with following a reindeer fence. These fences, while making it easy to navigate, really spoil the scenery. Eventually, I leave the fence and cross a snowfield while climbing over a pass followed by long descent to Namsvatnet. Terrain is never steep and once over the pass easy to navigate, as I am following the true right of Virmaelva. Sometimes closer to the river, sometimes a bit further away. Continously trying to find the easiest way, which is, once the vegetation gets denser and denser, through wetlands. Rain is easing as I approach Namsvatnet. Finally.

After fixing my sandals twice within 15 minutes (they start annoying me...) I approach Viermahytta. A tiny hut. It looks full, even though no one is inside. I enter the hut anyway. If it's just to escape from the cold weather for a few moments. It's 14:00 and as I am in the hut. Rain starts again. That's the sign to call it a day. I will spend the night in the tent outside. Not as comfy but still beats a cramped, probably reserved hut.


For tomorrow: I'm not sure yet, if I should walk out to the road (20 kilometers through wetlands) or take a boat, which I'd have to order. Weather is crap again tomorrow, however the boat is,  if I am able to reach the ferry man. 

My route leads me straight over that snow field
My route leads me straight over that snow field
Shallow descent towards Namsvatnet
Shallow descent towards Namsvatnet
Approaching Namsvatnet
Approaching Namsvatnet
40.0 kilometers walked in a bit more than a day
40.0 kilometers walked in a bit more than a day
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