31 March 2008

Back in the "land of the large"

Straight from the awesome mountains of Sunmøre to the flat lands of Texas.
Had a good trip, got looks of work done and spent lots of money in Best-buy. At least it wasn't mine. Also had a rather strange encounter in the Apple Shop which went something like...
We walk in and are greeted by very enthusiastic sales man
"what can i do for you guys?"
"We want to look at iphones"
"Over here, all laid out on the table"
So we look and play for a bit then he comes back and we say
"Ok cool, well take 2"
"Sorry we don't have any in stock"
"Er OK, when will they be in?"
"No idea, we hardly ever have any, and when they come in they sell out real fast!"
“So we can’t buy any”
“Buy them – absolutely not…”

OK so no point asking why he didn't share this little gem when we entered the shop... Was somewhat reminiscent of Waynes world meets the monty python cheese shop sketch

Apart from troubles with Apple, we had a good trip. One heavy night drinking jagurmaster and playing darts, but no real harm done. Flew back to the big B on Friday

28 March 2008

Easter - big spikey mountains and lots of snow in Sunmøre

For Easter we headed up to Sunmøre Alps, which is an area that lies 300 km north of Bergen, just south of the town of Ålesund. Never been there before but had heard great things from several friends, especially the ones that come from there.

Easter in Norway is amazing. Everywhere else in the World people have a holiday on Good Friday and maybe the Monday after Easter Sunday, they half heartedly exchange some sickly chocolate eggs and generally do their best to ignore the whole thing. In Norway Easter is bigger than Christmas, no seriously it is. The official holiday starts on Wednesday lunch time and because of this most people take the preceding 2.5 days off and thus get a 10 day holiday. Everything in shut - you can spot the ex-pats they are the ones caught off-guard buying frozen pizza in the garage on Saturday, because all the shops have been closed for 3 days and aren’t opening for another 2! The cities are abandoned, it looks like something out of "28 days later" (the zoombies are the hungry expats!)

So this year rather than fight it, we opted to go with the flow, take all of the official holiday and went to see a bit more of the country. The Sunmøre Alps had rave reviews so we headed up there.

Its only a couple of hundred km north of the big B but since that involves three ferries and some pretty crap roads it normally takes 6 hours. Because one of the ferries on the Sognafjord was out of action it took us 11! It was pretty late by the time we arrived. We had a cool but tiny cabin for 4 of us - me and three girls, so was trying very hard not to snore or fart through the night!

First day - tonnes of fresh snow, infact it was falling all day and there was so much that avalanche was a big and serious risk. Because of a late start, resulting from the late arrival and subsequent bottles of wine, we went to a local resort. Meet up with Arne, who is not only local to the area but also just a little bit scary! Thats only on skis, in normal life he is a very nice chap, but put a pair of skis on his feet and he makes people afraid. Ian's parting comment to me was "don't let Arne take you on any of his 'project' gullies..." Hmm I guess you get the idea.

Anyway day one was pretty mellow, lots of nice off piste and tonnes on snow. The three phat-luv ladies spent as much time digging themselves out of deep holes as skiing and the weather was pretty crappy - but at least it was still snowing. That evening Arne stayed in the hut, increasing the number of people but decreasing both the available space and my chances of being blamed for snoring!

Next day we headed to Stranda - big local resort. almost didn’t make it because an avalanche closed the access road, but they got it open. The resort was smaller than the local propaganda suggested and I was less than impressed at being snatched on to my face by a button tow. Any resort that has a 1.9 km long button lift as the only way up the mountain - does not get my initial vote.

Second attempt at the tow and I got going, Katharine had waited at the top so we followed Arne's instructions to head right and keep going. Traversed off losing as little height as possible into a hardly skied valley (blomsterdale). Bit nervous as there was no tracks, no people and we had no idea where we were going, but we had clearly gone further than recommend. A quick look at the snow and I figured the risk was pretty low and just went for it....

Had an amazing run, one of the best I have ever had, fresh snow, totally untracked, no-one around, just flying down this slope, into the bottom of the valley, turn left and keep going. The valley led us down, through some trees where we picked up so tracks that guided us back to the base of the lift. All of a sudden I went from hating the place to absolutely loving it...

A couple more runs on that side of the mountain, then meet up with Arne for lunch. He proposed the other side and a "little run" he knew. Took the lifts to the top and then traversed. All of sudden we were at the top of a very very steep slope. Katharine bailed immediately (wise girl) leaving us to it. Arne hurled himself straight down while I pondered my options. It was steep, but not too long (maybe 200m) and there was not much to hit in the inevitable event of losing control, so without thinking too hard I tried to traverse.

I immediately lost the edge and started sliding on my arse, trying to stay upright and get a purchase with the board as I accelerated. Finally got back in control and realised the only way was straight down, pointed the board and went for it... I have never been so fast on a board, as I reached the bottom of the slope I felt like a bullet from a gun – absolutely flying.

After that we did more runs around the mountain and through the trees. Finished the day walking up to the peak behind the resort, stunning views and then an amazing run down.

Next day we opted for a top-tur, so the split board got some action. Can't remember the peak but it started from a place called stranda-hytter. Pretty popular choice as the carpark was full and the line up the hillside looked like a parade - even saw another split boarder!

Long trudge up, with one nasty traverse. I ended up having take off the board and started to consider learning to ski - sad but true. Eventually we made it to just below the summit and had lunch. Hiked the last 50 m - all was in cloud, hadn't seen anything for the last 3 hours - then just as we came to leave the cloud opened and we got a stunning view of the valley and fjord 1500 m below.

Then reassembled the board and took off. Amazing run from the peak, cross the glacier and down to the valley bottom - at that point I knew why I had my board. This was fantastic and what Norwegian mountains are all about!

Slept well that night and drove back to the big B the next day as I was off to the “land of the large” on Monday. Slightly less than the 11 hours on the way up but still snowing like crazy...

Sunmøre - what a place, have to go back

27 March 2008

FlexLm - the worst piece of software on the planet

I guess the title says it all. This piece of complete and utter dog shit software is supposed to work as a license agent for various high grade applications. It is the most un-user friendly, illogical, spiteful, vile program ever written. If I ever meet anyone associated with it I will do something very nasty to them....

20 March 2008

Sea Shepherd - Modern Day Heroes

Its not very often I am seriously impressed by anyone but Paul Watson and his Sea Shepherd campaign are real heroes in my book.

To be honest he comes across as a bit of an odd ball but nobody can question either his commitment or perhaps most importantly his results. Almost 500 whales were saved in the southern ocean and the Japanese nation was exposed and embarrassed internationally for pointlessly clinging to its medieval and barbaric practices.

Shame about the country I live in...

09 March 2008

Shock horror - deep fresh snow at Voss

Been feeling like crap all week with a cold. Been sleeping a lot trying to shake it. Have my old friend Ernesto from Argentina visiting, with a Canadian PhD student called Viktor, so I was pretty keen to show them a good time and a bit of Norway at the weekend, even with a cold.

So we scarpped together enough kit and headed to Voss to check out the snow. It had dumped big time in Bergen on Wednesday but then the mercury rose to 4 degs and with heavy rain and it all turned to shit. Traffic carnage, slush and flooding everywhere. You gotta love ths city.

Anyway was not sure what to expect at Voss, its about 1.5 hours inland but not much higher than Bergen, so anything is possible. There was no cars on the road, which is always a bad sign. The Norwegians are great at predicting conditions, whereas I am shitte. So many a time we have headed up to the hills spurred on by my predictions of great things to come and its been terrible while all the locals have stayed at home by their log fires! Other days when I say its not going to be worth going there are always reports of "the best day of the year" again.

So we sat in the car park and its 2 degs and raining - not a good start! And there is no-one around. Mind full of my visitors we head up anyway and, total shock horrow it awesome. Hardly any people and lots of fresh powder. Was still finding untracked snow at the end of the afternoon. Really fun to ride with Sandy, Mrs Phat Luv got to try her new skies and once Viktor mastered the T-bar a good day was had by all.

Saturday eve we went to a party at the Rocksource Towers and then on to a club. Almost ended up in a fight with some random turks, one of whom kicked me in the back but ended up on his arse - all very bizzaar - this sort of thing just doesn't happen in Norway, people are just far to nice.

So all in all, what with good snow, bad predictions from the locals and fights in clubs it was a very topsy-turvey weekend

06 March 2008

US ski tour 2008

Awesome trip to the states - the snow was as good or dare I say, even better than predicted especially in Utah. Arrived in Salt Lake on the friday night and drove up to Snowbird It's funny, after all that time doing field work out there I never really thought I'd actually ever stay in the resort. Its a good place although architecturly it is reminiscent of a 80's James Bond villians evil lair.

Andy appeared the next morning keen for action and the guys were very pleased to have someone to show them around. There was a good covering of fresh snow and we had a great day. The next day was almost as good except Katharine got sick - not a nice way to spend your holiday, but while she was chucking it down the toilet mother nature was dumping snow big time. Had a very strange experience where the car locked itself with the keys inside, why do cars look themselves grrr! Anyway managed to break in with the help of a secruity guard, very annoying but better than the last time it happened.

Monday, masses of fresh snow so I head across to Solitude in Big Cottonwood with Andy, he was keen to show me around his favorite resort. The other guys opted to stay in little cottonwood so it was just the two of us! Great place, we did run after run without stopping. By the end my legs were jelly, my ankle hurt like hell but I had a huge smile on my face. K was feeling a bit better so we visited Andy and Helene and had a nice evening eating and playing with the kids. Tuesday we boarded all day and then went on a mega shopping trip, in which Ceclia tried to visit as many outdoor shops as possible in three hours. Thenwe drove the 5 hours to Jackson in 4 and got stopped speading. Cop was a nice guy and we managed to charm or way out of it :-)

Booked into the Cowboy lodge (yee ha) and had a mellow day skiing in the tetons the next day. Snow was not so fresh but with blue skys, great views and good company it was a lovely day. Took a day off the next day and lazed about before going on a snowmobile trip into Yellowstone the following day. The snowmobiles and the riding were not quite as wild as being in BC with the Pope 2 years ago but it was fun and good to see the park at a time when there was only 700 people rather than 70,000.

Next day we packed up and took a leisurly drive back to SLC and then flew home, just as it started dumping fresh snow for the folks that stayed on - lucky buggers. The only downside to the trip home was the invitable arseholes at Schipol secruity who confiscated the jam that we had bought in Minissota Airport as a gift for the neighbour. You can obviously do a lot of damage to a plane with a pot of jam, the spread of choice for your average terrorist!

Anyway we made it back and I went straight down with a cold - welcome back to the real world!

Awesome holiday, great snow - as good as they promised! Great places, been to both before but good to go back and board. Just makes me think that moving Utah has to be a serious option. Great bunch of people, about 22 and nobody knew everyone and they were all really nice. So thanks to Scott and Amy for all their efforts . Most of the photos from the trip are here on flickr.