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All photos: Hanne Martinsen
Devold ambassador and adventurer, Mathias Ekornås has remote places all over the world as his playground – jungles, deserts, or mountain peaks rising thousands of metres above sea level. But his top favourites are in his home country, Norway.For this active adventurer, with "fleas in his blood" and insects as his roommates out in the wild, the coronavirus pandemic has been a real test. Cancelled trips and a ban on leaving his own municipality have made high demands of Mathias Ekornås' creativity. Over the past year, Mathias Ekornås has climbed the equivalent of Mount Everest on his own staircase in Oslo. He has also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro on a four-step ladder at a quarantine hotel – with a final score of 5,459 times up and down the ladder. But the toughest test was when he climbed the Andes Mountains’ highest point in a tree.“It was brutal,” says the adventurer.
Now, however, he is very pleased that the future is looking brighter, and he is well underway with plotting new adventures onto the map. But first of all, he gives us his best hiking tips for summer excursions."I have a great love of deep forests where encounters with other people are rare, so I recommend spending the night at Grusetsætra along Flyktningeruta Spikern in Finnskogen. You can determine the length of the hike yourself; you can begin at the start of Flyktningeruta, at Namnå, or you can start at Bergersætra; or park at Birsjøtorpet and walk for an hour in the forest to Grusetsætra," says Mathias Ekornås, and continues:"From Namnå and Bergersætra it’s a day’s march to the camp. At Grusetsætra there's a primitive cabin, which is owned by the Norwegian State Forest Authority, and open to everyone. You can spend the night in the cabin or, if the weather permits, you can hang your hammock at the most fantastic viewpoint in Finnskogen, Maliskjæret, just a few hundred metres from Grusetsætra.
"The reason I love this particular hike is that you can spend so much time in the nature reserve around Grusetsætra and Maliskjæret. The forest here is older than you might be used to, with all sorts of beautiful variations in the shape of the trees. You'll be amazed to see how a tree trunk has suddenly started to grow straight ahead, before continuing to reach for the sky. It’s also a great place to sit and listen to the wildlife. The Rotna wolf territory is located just east of Maliskjæret, so there's a chance to hear the wolves howl."
Mathias comes from a beautiful small village on Sunnmøre, called Sykkylven. Just a small detour and ferry ride away from the Devold factory. Here, he has hiked from fjord to mountain ever since his childhood, and the majestic and dramatic scenery of Sunnmøre still ranks high on the list of this adventurer's best trips. "It's time to make Norwegians aware of the hiking opportunities in the Sunnmøre Alps! I'll spend this summer on a five-day hike starting in Velledalen in Sykkylven, then going up Brunstaddalen and on to Patchellhytta. I recommend booking your accommodation at this DNT (Norwegian Trekking Association) cabin in good time! You must start early on day two to reach the ascent of Slogen, one of the most famous mountains in Sunnmøre. After a gentle descent, continue towards Urke until you find a good place to pitch your tent. On day three, you can stock up on chocolate and snacks in Urke, before heading up Saksa and enjoying the view of Hjørundfjord.
Day three concludes with a boat trip to Trandal and dinner at Christian Gaards Gjestebryggeri. Day four is the last, or second-last, day –depending on how your feet are doing and how much time you have. You can either walk all the way across the mountain and on to Sykkylven through Riksheimdalen, or you can camp at one of the mountain lakes and end your trip the next day. The Sunnmøre Alps are one of the finest mountainous areas in the world and the possibilities here are endless!" - Do you have any good tips for hikes for the whole family?"For families, I recommend 'base hikes', where you have a cabin, a camp or similar as your starting point. You can enjoy some amazing hiking experiences without covering large distances. The most important thing is for the base to be far enough away from established infrastructure for you to experience being in the wilderness. A good tip for a base hike is Vellesetra in Sykkylven. It’s around 2 km from the car park, but you feel like you’re all alone in the mountains! This gives you a safe base to return to if the children become tired or the weather changes," says Mathias Ekornås.
- What are your best tips for a successful day trip?"Plan to spend more time than you would think. It's important to be able to spend time on sudden situations that may arise. You might find an anthill you want to study, or a river pool inviting you to take a dip, or a tree with perfect branches to climb in! One of the best things about spending time in nature is the infinite opportunities for play and to satisfy your curiosity." - What do you need to pack for a day trip?"Keep it simple": Stay warm and hydrated, and don't get too hungry. An extra woollen sweater and a beanie, a bottle of water and some snacks; nuts are excellent. And coffee!"
- What are your best tips for a successful overnight trip?"My best tip is to make sure you sleep well! Just because your mate says he sleeps like a baby in his hammock doesn't mean this will apply to you. Find out what works for your body and adapt your equipment to the temperature and season. Some classical impediments to a good night’s sleep are: cold, heat (especially in a tent), an uncomfortable sleeping position and mosquitoes. My tip is to try out your gear at home so you know how it works, before you find yourself deep in the forest. All equipment should be tried out before taking it on a trip." - What do you like so much about staying overnight in Finnskogen?”"The Finnskogen forest has a long and exciting history, and the forests are a little deeper and more mysterious than elsewhere. If you stay away from the most popular hiking areas, you can walk for a long time without meeting anyone." - How do you pack for overnight stays?"I keep it simple. I make sure that I don't get cold, or dehydrated and that I have enough energy/food. Then I'll add onto this, depending on the season and the purpose of the trip. What I always bring is an extra woollen sweater, extra woollen socks, a woollen beanie and a water bottle." - I'm taking my tent to the mountains for the first time. How far should I go and what should I know?""You should make sure that you can stop your hike and descend again safely, even in bad weather. This doesn't mean that you should pitch your tent with a view of the main road, but it can be a good idea to set up camp close to a self-service DNT (Norwegian Trekking Association) cabin."
- What's your best tip for a successful long hike?"My best tip for a successful long hike is to take care of your feet! This means shoes that have been worn in, taping-up your feet in advance and frequently giving your feet some air along the way.
- Why do you prefer the Sunnmøre Alps when you plan long hikes?
"The Sunnmøre Alps have everything you can dream of. Majestic mountains that plunge into the fjord, towering peaks and endless hiking possibilities. It also feels like undiscovered territory. It's not as well-arranged as some other popular mountainous areas." - How do you pack for a long hike (several nights)?"I focus on reducing weight. Only pack what you need, and if it’s possible to replenish your food stocks along the way, this will be a giant plus."- What preparations do you make?"I spend a long time studying the map, to visualise the route. If I'm not familiar with the area, I call people I know who have hiked in the area before and ask about everything from accessibility to water filling options." - How do you plan the different days? How far do you hike?"This depends entirely on the hike I'm on, my goals and who I'm with. A good tip for this type of planning is to align expectations with everyone on the hike. It’s very arduous to hike with one person who's keen to set a speed record, while the other one wants to pick cloudberries," laughs Mathias Ekornås, who has long experience from hiking with various walking groups, both as a guide and as a participant in the "71 Degrees North" Norwegian reality series.