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

Night Train To Trondheim

Immigration process was slow, so slow in fact that I wasn't able to make into town by 2100. Especially waiting I line to get my Corona test too ages.
Luckily I got a gas canister in a hardware store. It's a rather bulky one but it will get my food warm.

While writing these lines, I enjoy the views from the night train to Trondheim. It's 0400 and still quite bright. In fact, it never got completely dark. The weather is gorgeous - fingers crossed it will stay like this for a while.

Somehow, I have a difficult time realizing that, if I get a lift from Lassemoen to Skorovatn this afternoon, I will hit the trail this afternoon already. This moment seemed so far away until this very moment. But now it's really happening! 
Trondheim
Trondheim
One hour layover
One hour layover
My ride to Lassemoen
My ride to Lassemoen
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Day 47: Flashbacks

Skorovatn to Holmtjonna

Distance 20km


The ride from Trondheim to Lassemoen is incredibly scenic. Along fjords, lakes, waterfalls and through forest. Still, I am not in the mood to enjoy the view. Too excited, too nervous. Usually I don't have such strong feelings. This time, the circumstances are different though: I'm not starting a new hike, I'm resuming one. One I know is challenging in terms of its remoteness, weather and unmarked, non-existent trails. When I start a new hike, I don't know what is expecting me. Something, which makes it easier for me.


I wish, the train ride would last forever - enjoying the comfort of civilization. But no, the diesel engine is pulling me mercilessly towards the north. 


So here I stand on the platform, looking a little lost even though there's no need to: My plan is straightforward: walking 2 kilometer to the road leading to Skorovatn and hitch a ride. I settle in for a long wait. Not much traffic going to this sleepy village. Luckily I guessed wrong and only 15 minutes after arriving at the road, I'm riding shotgun in a battered Saab. 


Nothing has changed in Skorovatn. The weather is still cold and windy, the bear still there. After taking the mandatory photo and eating the mandatory ice cream, I hit the trail. It's amazing how quickly I'm back in hiking mood. It seems like the 9 month break never happened. 


Initially along a marked trail, I eventually veer to the east, finding my own way. While the terrain is not especially steep or otherwise difficult to hike, it's not always easy as many lakes and little cliffs (or drops), which, even though they are just 2 meters high, force me to take a lot of small detours, making navigation tricky and progress a bit slow. I pass the odd cloud berry. Gosh, how I missed them. 

It's mostly wet under feet. Nothing different than last year. It's windy, no rain though, so I keep walking until my legs say it's enough. At 2200 I'm all set. Dinner eaten and tent pitched. And me ready to sleep. 


Lost at Lassemoen station
Lost at Lassemoen station
Mandatory ice cream
Mandatory ice cream
Defunct mine
Defunct mine
Looking back at Skorovatn
Looking back at Skorovatn
One last look back
One last look back
Sketchy bridge
Sketchy bridge
Spectacular sky
Spectacular sky
Loving the colors
Loving the colors
Ready to sleep
Ready to sleep
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It Ain't All Shit

Who would have thought... I'm writing these lines on board Lufthansa 2456 from Munich to Oslo, trying to kill the 2 hours flight time. It's still over an hour until touchdown and I can't wait to get rid of my face mask, which apparently is not mandatory in Norway! Yay!


The flight is delayed due to some baggage loading difficulties. Estimated time of arrival 1925. It took ages to load the bags. On a positive note: I spotted my backpack and it still looked in a fairly intact shape (I never like checking in my bag as I know how it gets treated from the ground staff 🙄).


Throwback to this morning: My sleep is light and I wake up early this morning. As my flight won't depart until 1300 and my backpack is completely packed, I decide to go for one last, short 45 minutes run. On the one hand it will calm my nerves (which are tense as, I'm telling you!), on the other hand I want to enjoy the feeling of not carrying a ridiculously heavy backpack (thanks to 10 days worth of food) one last time. 


Like last time, Fredy gives me a ride in his crappy (no offense ;) Volvo. But... It takes us safely to the airport. Checkin and security are straight forward. Faster than I was expecting. The first flight to Munich on the other hand is rather underwhelming. Stuck in a narrow regional jet, a family of around 10 from a country surrounded by Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt (I'll let you figure that one out), think they own the jet. Booked in economy class, they try to sneak their way into business class, ignoring the repeated request from the flight attendant to wear the mask properly and fasten their seat belt. With some satisfaction I see three armed police officers awaiting our arrival in Munich. 


Anyway, back to the future: once in Oslo, I'll have to do another Corona test and wait for the result until I will be allowed into the country. Don't ask me what I have to do if I test positive. I really have no idea and don't want to now to be honest.

However, after testing negative yesterday evening it would be some pretty bad luck if I return a positive test. 

It will get a bit stressful afterwards as I need to take a bus to Jessheim, where I have to get a gas canister. With most shops closing at 2100, the lengthy immigration process and the flight delay I won't have any time to waste. 


With a gas canister in my backpack (hopefully) I will take the bus back to the airport, where I catch the north bound night train. Then finally I will have some time to let the fact sink in that I made it to Norway - it ain't all shit after all 😆

Somewhere over Germany
Somewhere over Germany
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New Year Same Shit

New year - same shit. Not exactly the words I was hoping to continue my blog with. However, the once more extremely uncertain Corona situation makes planning challenging. Not knowing if I can fly to Norway or not has an adverse effect on my motivation. Obviously, you might say I should stand above something like this. It’s easier said than done.

Anyway, eventually I have to start planning. In fact, it’s high time when I finally find the motivation to book my flights (which get cancelled and rebooked several times), go through the trail notes (which are not many because they stop once I cross into Sweden) and get my gear ready. All this despite not knowing if Norway will open its borders by mid-July.

If everything works out as planned, I’m flying to Oslo on the 20th of July, where I have to get, time permitting, a gas canister (which I can’t carry in the plane) and then board a night train to Lassemoen (because of my late booking flights to Trondheim, which would be considerably closer, are prohibitively expensive). After completing the 12-hour train ride, it’s a short hitch to Skorovatn, where I finished my hike last year.

The first 250 kilometres will, as it currently looks like, be the most challenging ones. Basically no visible path and no markings. Similar to Børgefjell National Park last year. From there it will be easier hiking. Flatter, marked trails and open areas will eventually give way to forest. Less views but more sheltered. Which I don’t mind, especially since I plan to hike well into October.

Besides the remoteness, river crossings and challenging navigation of the first part of the trail (Norway), the second part I have to keep an eye out for wolves and bears. However, after talking to many locals last year, it seems like these animals are rather shy and I would be more than lucky to actually spot them. Still, I will take the usual precautions like not leaving food lying around my tent etc.

My goal is the southern terminus of E1, which is either Varlberg or Halmstad (depending, which website you take as reference) or around 2000km.

 

If I don’t make it there, it’s no big deal at all as it’s an ongoing project anyway. Now, all I can do is playing the waiting game and keeping my fingers crossed for open borders.

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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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