preikestolen mountain cabin

January 15, 2009


Preikestolen, or the Pulpit, has long been on The Chef’s wish list of places to visit. Now, with the opening of the Norwegian Trekking Association‘s blond-wooded, airy new mountain cabin 2 hours’ walk away, Preikestolhytta, there’s more reason than ever before to go.

We’ve even extracted a promise from Inspector Gadget to take us this year. It’s his childhood stomping ground after all. Here’s a closer look at Helen & Hard‘s creation. Want to join us?


December 8, 2008


The flurries of snow on Friday piled up higher up the fjord, so conditions were perfect on Sunday. Bright sun and snow-covered trees, and at -10C cold enough to form ice crystals in your nose when you breathed in. But we all wrapped up warm, so we were still toasty by the time we got to Raasjøstua for waffles and coffee.


Special K taking in the view before she made a new friend with an electric bottom warmer.


A tactical planning error resulted in a dusk home run, which was surprisingly fast, pleasant and quiet . The moon was rising in the rosy sky, and we were almost alone in the forest.



November 26, 2008


A cold bright Sunday, but not a single flake of snow to be seen within three hours’ drive of Oslo. So we bundled up and made for the much closer Østmarka with Special K and our new outing accomplice Red. Four hours, a lake, a long walk, three goats and some ice skaters later, all were happy. But… is it greedy to wish for snow?


November 18, 2008


It was enough to make Mr. Snow quite ill with envy. ‘But I’m Mr. Snow!’, he cried jealously, when he realized that I would go on the first cross-country ski trip this season – without him.

The exciting thing about going into the Norwegian mountains is that you never know if you’ll make it up, or even down again safely, certainly with the ice we encountered in combination with countless sharp bends. But our super-cautious driver got us up and down all in one piece, while our organizer made sure we had not just a cosy bed each, and not just food, but plenty of goodies and wine with which to replenish tired skiing bods.

This picture is of the lake our cabin was adjacent to, taken just before we turned again back home. I love how the red roof edge contrasts with the blue grey of the sky, snow and water. The upturned boat also made me wonder when it will be used next on the water. Not until next spring?


The winners of this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition have been announced. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like I’ll be in any of the cities the exhibition is going on tour to soon, so I had to content myself with browsing their online gallery.

As always, lots of stunning images ranging from arresting to meditative, of plants and animals, the natural and man-made environments. It was hard to choose a favourite but having seen a family of ducks valiantly battling the current to swim upriver this summer, this photo by Dan Mead of an ostrich family heading straight up a 100 metre high sand dune at a 30 degree incline caught my attention. I don’t think I would have managed the same quite so quickly or gracefully!


November 3, 2008

I’m not the biggest Sigur Rós fan around, at a push preferring the big orchestral sound end of their music spectrum to the plinky ethereal end. But when Icelandair’s fabulous inflight entertainment system offered up the film about their free homecoming tour that Mrs. Cap’n had waxed lyrical to me about, it was too good a chance to miss.

After having toured the world, the band returned to Iceland and performed a series of free, unpublicised concerts in a string of small towns and villages. When so many of us live in man-built environments, the concerts and the footage of the surrounding nature showed a people who live very much according to the whims of nature’s forces. Their reactions to the music – sometimes bemused, sometimes delighted – were itself a delight to watch.

Starting out slowly, the film steadily draws you in. The concerts it showed were said to unite Iceland in a common experience, and the film certainly reinforces the impression of a very special people in a very special place that seems almost other worldly in its remoteness. I’ve even (almost) developed an appreciation for the plinkiness of the music. Anyone who can make a xylophone from bits of slat or dried up rhubarb branches must be a genius.

going to the dogs

November 2, 2008

The clocks went back while I was swanning around Iceland and Boston, and winter is definitely on its way. No more peeking under our bedroom blinds at 11 pm to still find a light sky, and this week the studded tyres will go on my bike.

On the plus side, snow has started to fall in the mountains and with that, the full plethora of winter fun can begin! In March, I read a hilarious article about husky sledding in Norway, which made me never want to try it myself (and doubt the wisdom of living here at all). How could a trip with a guide and an organized cabin stay end up with breaking into a stranger’s cabin and stuffing your 10 year old child through the window? The article below and the accompanying photo series by Marcus Bleasdale describe the perfect holiday from hell.

Going to the dogs

by Jon Ronson, the Guardian, 1st March 2008.
Sliding across a frozen lake in the Norwegian wilderness, the stars twinkling above you as a team of huskies pulls you onwards sounds lovely, wouldn’t you say? You might even think it sounds idyllic. Well, let me tell you: it was horrible. Here is my cautionary tale.

It’s October and my thoughts turn, as they do each year, to finding a way to stop us from going skiing. I don’t like skiing. I especially don’t like what it does to my wife, Elaine. She becomes a different person. A frightening, over-daring side of her comes out. She bombs down black runs like a lunatic. It’s like The Devil In Miss Jones but with skiing instead of sex. Last year she crashed straight into a ski school full of children. My son Joel and I watch her climb into the chair lift and give each other sad, scared looks that say, “It’s surely only a matter of time before she skis off a cliff and dies.” So I try to find ways for us not to go skiing, although I’m resigned to the fact that we’ll have to do something in snow.

And then I have a brilliant idea. An overnight husky safari! It’ll give Elaine all her skiing kicks (sliding in snow, etc), but the huskies will be in charge and they know what they’re doing, so we’ll be less likely to die. “Plus,” I think, “it’ll be nice to have dogs do something for me for a change. Usually, with dogs, I do all the work, throwing sticks, etc. I like the idea of them pulling me up a hill. It’ll be an adventure but I won’t have to exert myself. I’ll just be standing there on a sled.”

The travel company says it has a great husky safari in Norway. I furrow my brow. “Norway?” I think.

I have a saying when it comes to Scandinavian holidays:

“Norway? No way.” My antipathy stems from a skiing holiday we had five years ago in Trysil. We paid a supplement to hear traditional Norse tales in front of a bonfire in the snowy wilderness. The bonfire turned out to be in the car park of a plastics factory. Snow or no snow, it was an industrial estate. They are a no-nonsense people, the Norwegians, and I like a bit of nonsense when I’m on holiday.

Read the rest (at your own peril) here.


October 20, 2008

Two Sundays ago we left Little N and Smiley E to man the snowman front while we went on a big person’s walk up to Hallingskarvet. This mini mountain range between Geilo and Finse had been teasing us from the kitchen window of the cabin. For such a massive object, it was surprisingly agile, darting in and out of cloud cover, and occasionally positively looming over the horizon. A nice and easy walk up, if a little squishy in places. We were a little high for many trees but the wind and snow patches reminded us what time of year it is.

mr. snowman

October 15, 2008

Not to be confused with Mr. Snow, this is the first snowman of the season, made with the first snow of the season by Inspector Gadget on Little N’s instructions. We were all up for the weekend at Ustaoset for some together time halfway along the Bergen-Oslo train line. Two eyes, a nose and a leaf mouth, check, winter is on its way!

2700m sleep lab

October 1, 2008

I confess, I have made fun of Inspector Gadget’s Mammut gear in the past. Silly name, silly logo, I thought. Silly me. Because now, they have come up with a really funky advertising campaign. First I saw of it was the Sleep Lab at 2700 altimeters. 60 Mammut employees trekked up, all carrying their gear, and snuggled in at -15C to test sleeping bags.

I have to say, that looked a lot cozier than the underwear test, shown below. Great pic, but quality underwear or not, brr!