Back to an outdoor related topic. But this one might be new to most people reading…
We had a shorter than planned stay in Sweden over the Xmas holiday but whilst we were there I had my second try at Tour Skating (Långfärdsskridskoåkning).
It’s ice skating using big skates on natural lakes and covering quite long distances. If you can skate even reasonably well then 30 or 40 kilometre trips are easily doable, but double or even treble that distance is mentioned. Unfortunately I can’t skate very well at all and the ice thickness was marginal so we stuck very close to the Sommarstuga (Summer Cottage).
What made me think it was particularly worth a mention was that, rather like winter mountaineering and walking, there are changes afoot in the gear.
||Up until recently you’ve needed a pair of specialist boots that clip or slot in to the bindings on a pair of touring skates. But now with a simple addition to the front binding along with a back binding just like that on a snowboard, they can be fitted to standard walking boot.
You can see the additional part in the picture. It is the top section with the grey EVA padding to hold the toe in place. Standard skate boots clip under the two black prongs that you see low down against the toe, stopping side to side movement.
||I used them with just a pair of Montrail Stratos XCR (pictured). Although as a novice I could probably have benefited from stiffer boots I could still get about on them and they had no problem staying in place in the skates.
Even when I fell over and put a dustbin-lid sized set of cracks in the ice with one elbow.Which certainly added some extra excitement to the day.
Might have to get some elbow pads for next year.
||It’s tempted me into buying a pair since it made more sense than buying specialist boots and borrowing a spare set of skates (borrowing footwear is tricky with my size eleven and a half feet).
The simplicity of them appealed very much.
The other essentials are things called Isdubbar (which I notice the Wikipedia article has as “Ice Claws”) and throw line.
These are for emergency use, should you manage to elbow your way right through the ice.
Imagine floating in a hole in the ice, and trying to claw your way out back on to it. Pretty tricky eh? But using the Isdubbar that you cunningly hung around your neck, you take one in each hand and jam one spike into the ice and pull yourself up a bit. Stick the next one in a little higher and slowly hand-over-hand your way to safety. The throw line is a little more self explanatory and is simply thrown to you by a friend who pulls on the other end – just the same as in kayaking.
Things much like ski or walking poles are usually taken but these are more like James Bond’s ski poles. Instead of a hard, blunt tip these things have a shiny metal spear that’s enough to despatch any henchman with ease. They’re used partly for balance and propulsion and partly to check the quality and thickness of the ice ahead of you.
Finally you make sure you have a change of warm dry clothing in a properly waterproof bag inside a rucksack. This is partly to act as a float if you fall through (hopefully a rare event). So the specialist skating sacks have groin straps to prevent them floating up from your back. And partly it’s to give you something warm to change into pretty sharpish!
I can’t believe that I’m writing this, but Joe H died a few days ago.
He had a very rare and apparently essentially incurable form of cancer that he fought with incredible humour and blogged with characteristic wit for around three months. As I said to him a couple of weeks before he died, I can only hope to write half as well as he did.
Even though I knew it was a possibility, it doesn’t feel like it hurts less for the forewarning.
||Joe, along with Loz, Steph, Bob and Gray was one of the original 10 Trinity Street “household” from the second year of our degree course. The final Trinity Street party in 2007, nine years later, Joe attended “virtually” via a colour print-out of himself drinking a beer whilst he actually drank in Paris where he’d moved a few months earlier with Emilie.
He was a good friend from very early days in the first year at COGS at Sussex University. One morning he returned to lectures after a weekend at home seeing old friends and family and had that doubt that so many people starting university have; whether he should have come to university, leaving all his old friends behind at home.
But as it happens, I was asking him all about how his weekend went and saying how he seemed to have great friends at home like I did. It made him realise he wasn’t the only one to be feeling that way, and that there were good people at Sussex that may well prove to be just as much part of his life as those back home. So he stayed and so they became. As I know because he told me that story years later.
||He was blindingly, startlingly smart. He would understand things before almost anyone else in a lecture and would happily take the time to talk anyone else through it. In pub conversations he could get to the end of someone’s obscure line of reasoning and have a reinforcing point or a rebuttal ready before others had even understood the point.
But always with the same humility. He would battle to understand someone’s opposing view even if he could see it was nonsense. As someone, in one of the many, many comments on his blog summed up so well; it was almost as if he wanted to apologise for inconveniencing you by his having cancer.
And yet he could get so passionate and so angry when he felt people were behaving stupidly or unjustly. I often felt that an element of that anger came from frustration at not quite being able to understand why people were being that way. Joe simply wasn’t used to being unable to understand something. It was just something that so rarely happened to him.
I have many happy thoughts connected with Joe and only one sad; that’s he’s gone.
||The world is missing something important without you Joe.