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Hiking deep into Nordmarka Rick Hofmijster 17 December 2016 29 January 2017

It’s another Sunday in December I set out for my second hike near Olso, Norway. This time I’m equipped with the experience from last weeks hike and with that knowledge I go out with a lot more confidence. On the map I’ve spotted a location with lots of little lakes and hills just north of Oslo called Nordmarka.

It’s 10 in the morning and I’m still home, drinking a cup of coffee and gathering some gear. Knowing it gets dark early, this time I’d figure to bring some lights to not get in trouble after sunset. Other than that, I figured it would be wise to bring some more food. Bananas, yes, lot’s of them!

Next up, the weather. The looks from my window are somewhat depressing. It’s very cloudy, but lets stay optimistic, it doesn’t rain! Checking the weather using the Norwegian website yr.no I found that it’s not that cold today. A mere minus 1 to minus 3 is considered warm. It is cloudy though and while it’s most likely not in Olso itself, there might be a very little snowfall. Not the kind of weather that makes me anxious. The chance of some snow actually excites me!

Snow starts falling while the trees offer a glimp over a part of Sørkedalen.
Snow starts falling while the trees offer a glimp over a part of Sørkedalen.

Heading to Nordmarka

Scanning the map, north of Oslo there seems to be a place with loads of relatively high hills and loads of little lakes. Even better, there are even two big lakes called Østre Fyllingen and Bjørnsjøen. “Will they be frozen?” is the first question that comes to mind. Completely inexperienced in this environment, I am determined to find out.

The area I’m looking at is called Nordmarka, the biggest sub region of the Marka area. Marka is the name for the mainly forested region surrounding Oslo. It’s popular by the inhabitants of Oslo for hiking, biking and skiing possibilities. The Norwegian word ‘Marka‘ is the finite form of the word ‘mark‘ and means ‘woodland, forest’. And while I won’t need it today, it hosts many cabins and even for overnight accommodation.

I choose not to plan out a route on forehand, but to just find the location where I can park the car. On the map I find a place called Sørkedalen which is on a little 20 minute drive from Oslo. It has a big parking area so it must be the starting point of something. From there, I had the option to follow some trails and find some of the higher viewpoints or to check out some of the lakes.

Whether I’m going to make it to the big lakes or if I have the time to check out the panoramic view points I don’t know. I’m leaving a bit late and I can see it’s a serious walk to get to the two big lakes. But I got my lights this time, so I’ll see where this journey will bring me.

In for rough start

Driving out of the city, the first thing I notice is that it’s slippery. No, I’m not on foot yet, just in the car, but the advised 60 is for sure not a good idea. Reaching the parking are in Sørkedalen I find that it’s quite busy. Of course I’m not the only one heading out on a Sunday. Though I do notice that hiking is not the only activity people are out for today.

So there I go, together with my dog, sliding down the road and following a path next to a little creek to the start of an uphill walk. It turns out to become an upward battle. The path has become so icy, both me and my dog have serious trouble getting up. Finding our grip while holding my camera is not easy, but we manage to reach a higher part where the path turned a lot more solid.

By now, most people I have seen at the parking area are gone. I feel alone in the Norwegian ‘wilderness’ again and guess what, that’s what I’m looking for. And to my delight, it started snowing! It’s just a very little, but it gives the whole hike a totally different feeling.

Making my way trough the dense forest I go higher and higher up. I reach open plains that offer some nice sights over Sørkedalen. Once in a while checking my GPS position and direction I’m being thought another lessen. Don’t walk in an icy forest while looking at your phone or camera… The forest will punish you! With a swift swoosh I make a hard landing on my but on the icy trail and yes, my rather expensive DSLR camera was hanging around my neck. While I get up quickly I rated the incident a 9 out of 10. An almost perfect landing without any pain or damage and I proudly walk on.

I’m not the only one slipping and sliding around though. My dog Tøsen has a hard time figuring out what is going on too. But with some guidance she managed absolutely fine. As for myself, on the smaller icy paths, I started walking at the side of it. The deeper snow, branches and bushes offer a lot more stable soil. And if I had no way around it, I came to the conclusion that moving forward slowly while spreading your legs a bit was the best way to go. It ain’t a pretty sight though. If anything, it looks as if you crapped your pants…

In for the long haul

After passing some very picturesque houses and more and more snowy trails, I find myself on a ‘big’ road going deep into Nordmarka. By now it’s 2 o’clock and I’m 5 kilometers in. Knowing sunset will come in quick just after 3 o’clock and with the lakes on a 3 kilometer distance, I figured it would be cool to just follow this wide path. It allows me to pick up some speed and make it to the lakes quick enough, before having to walk another small 8 kilometers back.

Yes, it’s a huge walking distances but knowing my self, I know that it won’t be a problem. While picking up the pace, I find that I still have to be very careful as some parts of this wide path downwards is still very slippery. But it’s oh so rewarding! At some places I’m served very beautiful views over the valley and snowy hills. In fact, while it can be hard to see, you get glimpses of all the lakes. I straight away have the answer to my “frozen lake” question. The answer is a full mouthed yes! Frozen and white, no matter how big the lake is.

Standing between Østre Fyllingen and Bjørnsjøen I take a well deserved break. It’s absolutely beautiful and the silence is mesmerizing. And then it hit me. The power lines crossing straight trough the valley and across the lake…

It kind of ruins the solitude I experience as it reminds me of the huge agglomerations around this area. South from here you have Norways capital Oslo and going northwest from here will get you in Hønefoss. I get it, what else? But it still feels like a smudge on this beautiful location. Ah well, Norway is huge and if I really don’t want to see this, I should move my touristic ass away from the big city and go more north.

Into the darkness

After my short break, I decide to start making my way back, following the ‘big’ road back. Darkness falls over me soon and while I consider to take a side path into the obscured trails to a panoramic view point, I realize that when I get there, it will not give me the views i’m hoping for. It will be pitch black dark by the time I’m there.

And you know what? I’m getting tired, the dog is getting tired, I don’t think I should risk it on the smaller, icy trails. No, I’m not far from the big city, but when ‘shit hits the fan’ here, it’s still a very long, long way from help. Turning on my lights and the dogs collar light while it’s getting more dark, I’m getting a finale to my hike. The moon peeks trough the misty clouds and shines it’s lights over Nordmarka.

After a good 5 hours of walking in snow and ice I reach the car. Both me and my dog are toast but very satisfied of our hike. An impressive 17.2 kilometer has been bridged and we are both still safe and alive. We head back home, crash on the couch and dream on about this wonderful experience. I guess we need a week to recover before we set out to our next adventure. Maybe next time, I will find myself a cabin. Have a nights sleep traditional style though the sight of the power lines make me feel I should do this far deeper into the country. Nevertheless, for a day hike around Olso, Nordmarka is a wonderful place to be!

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My name is Rick Hofmijster. Born in the Netherlands, I have always been fascinated by the beauty our planet has to offer. Combining sports and lifestyle I make my dream come true. Join me on an adventure, explore the regions and experience the stunning beauty of Mother Earth. What are you waiting for?