Thursday, 29 September 2011

Thin air

It’s pitch dark and I just know something is wrong. A creeping panic is taking over me but I’m too tired to understand why. For a few seconds that feels like an eternity, everything is silent. With raw power that I cant control, my lungs are screaming for oxygen and eagerly suck in the cold mountain air. I roll over in my sleeping bag and kneel up to focus on my breath. I’m nauseous, my head is aching, it’s hard to breathe and I’m surrounded by darkness in the middle of the night. Maybe I should not be here, but I am. Cope with it Andreas. This night was supposed to be the summit night, but this time you have taken it a little bit to far. If you just had taken it easy today you would have been in prime shape for the summit push. But no, you went half way up the mountain and then down to the base to get that heavy bag, just for training, just to get as much in as possible. Acclimatisation works hell of a lot better when not wasted, and you knew this, didn’t you? Well, showing serious signs of AMS, the only sober thing to do is to go down first thing in the morning. We will lose this weather window, but that’s just how it is. On the other hand, after a few days rest in town, the strength will be back and even stronger than before.

Lesson learned - time at first glance wasted, at second thought well invested. That’s why I’m here, for my own inner reasons of course, but also to learn from the mountains first hand. Its just always there; the fight with the ego, the fight for success in the short-term perspective. It’s curious how the ego doesn’t seem to understand that it’s not about one battle, but about winning the war in the end - if you like to use the warrior term analogies. 

The debates and the chattering in the head continue in the dark. The pain keeps on vibrating in the silence. But there is also this inner smile observing it all, taking away most of the apparent importance. Left are only the thin air, the cold and the moist steaming from my frightened breathing. 

Monday, 26 September 2011

Down south in Riobamba

Today is a rest day in the charming city of Riobamba. I’m still feeling really down and a bit sick, but I’m hoping a day of rest will set me back on track.

I would have done this update earlier, but Internet has been down in the whole country of Ecuador for the day. And then to make it even more adventurous, the electricity went out for a couple of hours.

Yesterday we took the three-hour buss ride from Quito and it feels like we are starting to have the real Ecuador experience. Lots of people we meet seem to be worried we will get in trouble with all our gear, but so far we have only met really friendly people. The only problems we have had have been to find restaurants with big enough portions to still our hunger. A normal evening we have gone to one restaurant, and when we are done we just look at each other, and one of us will say; “ok, so shall we go to the next place”… 

Life seem much more grounded and real over here than back home. The chaotic nature of the human mind appear to realise it self in the everyday life in a totally different way than the often repressed feelings in northern Europe. Traffic is flowing in a confused disorder, but everyone seems to get where they are intending to go. Life on the streets and the everyday life flow with the “anything goes” attitude. It’s poverty everywhere, that gives me a simmering feeling of guilt, but the lively eyes from the people on the streets quickly takes a way that feeling and replaces it with; sure we are rich in things and “thinks” (yes, intellectual thoughts) but these people have a richness in grasping life that we back home doesn’t even come close to.

Last night we teamed up with our newfound friend Charlotte from the Netherlands and went out on the local market to buy vegetables for dinner. It ended up being one of the liveliest experiences in our lives. In the dusky light under the market’s grand roof with no lights, the play of this Latino bazaar played it self out in the shadows. The aroma of fresh vegetables, meat, fruit and spices blended together and the only light came from the glowing eyes of the shop keepers and their children that where playing under and around the tables. The local Quichua dialect and Spanish where the only languages to be heard and there was an instant delight and laughter when I tried to get by with my 4 day old Spanish (mixed with some French) with some help from Charlotte. I chose to not take out my camera, because I could see the change in faces when Bjarne captured the moment on film. Instead I will always remember the playfulness and curiosity in the small kids when they came to meet us with high fives and questions on where we where from. 

If I feel stronger tomorrow we will try to find a taxi that can take us up to the mountains. Its been raining heavily in the last few days, so I’m concerned for the avalanche danger up high. But if we are lucky what creates fear in my mind right now will create joy while making turns in Ecuadorian pow-pow. 

Quito @ night

B-man, playing it cool

On the buss to Riobamba... 

Riobamba @ Night

Bjarne and Charlotte 

Sunday in school 

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Everyday workouts in Quito

The last two days Bjarne and me have worked the neighbourhood as good as possible for thin air. The town itself is located around 2800 meter above sea level and just being here is good acclimatisation. But a good thing with Quito as a pre-climbing destination is that there is a gondola in town taking you up to 4100 meters. From this viewpoint you can get an additional 700 meters by a easy 2h hike to the summit of Cumbre Rucu Pichincha. We have now done this hike two days in a row and have been hanging out on the summit for a few hours working on our Spanish, listening to music, talking about life and just freezing in general.

But Quito is of course not only mountains; it’s a really cool city with very friendly people. In between our workouts we have been strolling the town, eating some good food an trying to get info about further transports south.

Tomorrow is a rest and travel day south to the higher mountains. It’s going to be exciting to see the big Ecuadorian lumps of snow, rock and ice but the weather doesn’t look very good. However I have found a window in the next few days, so if we are lucky we will get into what we came here for.

I’m very tired after the long journey and the last two days. Bjarne flew in one day before me and had time to sleep in, but I really feel the lack of sleep even though the body have been feeling incredibly well on altitude. Coming from sea level to 4800 meters can feel like a shock, but so far I haven’t even got any bad signs.

Now we are of for our last night in Quito. Bjarne is keen on samba; lets see where this is going! 

First dinner in Equador

Bjarne in the gondola

"No bandidos aqui ahora" said the guard at the lift station while imitating being stabbed in the belly...

The first view of Cotopaxi and the real mountains in Ecuador

Gloria at giving us some well needed help

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Scribbles from the night

I’m sitting in the foyer of our hostel in Quito and I have been up the later part of the night due to jet lag. I like this peaceful part of the day when the world is asleep and excitement for another good adventurous day is running through my body.

Today is the first real day of a great and personally highly anticipated adventure across the Spanish-speaking world’s highest mountains. The goals and objectives are there, of course, but the most important thing is like always the unexpected subtleties of the everyday voyage.

I like this part of an adventure the most, when every possibility is open and each risk are hidden behind every corner. The future is in every beginning a mist that only extrapolation of past deeds can try to explain. But that is of course only an illusion and the mind’s way of trying to find security in a reality that is infinitely insecure.

I guess this is one of the things I have learnt to love in life – the lack of security, and as the mystics would say is “that in order to have something, nothing can ever be had”.

So now I’m standing here again in eager excitement. I feel like I am where I need to be, in the forefront of my own life. Because I have not already put a strong scale of expectations on the future, every grain of this moment feel alive, and I’m feeling ready for whatever success or failure that might come ahead. Check this life out, it’s quiet real if we only rock n roll a bit outside of the box. 

The Denali film!

Here is the edit from my adventure on Denali this last spring... Enjoy!

Edited by Bjarne Salhén on

In Quito via a night in Madrid!

A couple of days ago I told my dear friend and filmer Bjarne Sahlén that we will meet at the hostel Rabida at 18:00. Now we are sitting here on the other side of the planet and I made it here with a 5 min margin. It’s the first time in a long while that I’m feeling really excited and I’m looking forward for our three-month adventure through the Andes.

After a full day of packing back home in Luleå I flew to Madrid via Stockholm. I haven’t been thinking too much about the journey before hand and when I arrived in Madrid I realised that I had a night to kill before the flight to Quito the next day. I had never been in the Spanish capital so I jumped on a buss for an evening in town. My learn by doing Spanish course got a bit delayed as I met a couple of French girls on a bar and spent most of the evening drinking cervezas in French. But after midnight it was time for me to find my way back to the airport for some classic airport sleep.

It’s the first time in my life that im trying to speak Spanish, so I’m hoping the learning curve is going to go steady upwards. I learnt on the flight that no one in my surroundings spoke English and no one knew what a vegetarian was. But my seat neighbour worked with me for about ten hours straight and now I have kind of a foundation for the next couple of months. It reminded me of when I went down to the alp once with Bjarnes older brother Morgan and did a 21h straight French course that lay the foundation for my poor French.

Now its time to hit Quito by night and try to find some good Ecuadorian food and keep the acclimatisation going. Quito is on just under 3000 meters altitude so just hanging around here will help us get used to the thin air.

Tomorrow we will try to find the local gondola to get a view of the town and get even higher…

Check out Quito on Wikipedia:
And our hostel Rabida:

Keep on following our adventure on my blog, Bjarne's blog (, and

Lots of people on the streets of Madrid

A classic airport night on a bench

The streets of Quito from the cab

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The devil is in the detail

Departure for Quito is coming closer and closer. Tomorrow is the last day of preparation. Exciting times to come! 

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Photo shoot in Narvik

I just came back to Luleå after a week photo shoot for Haglöfs in and around Narvik, Norway. The crew was made up by awesome photographer Nicklas Blom, alpine princess Johanna T Stålnacke, telemark ace Per Jonsson and myself. We had a great time together and Niklas was happy with the photos. Mission completed for the next years summer/spring catalogue in the categories light trekking and mountaineering. We found really good scenery around Efjord, Skjomen and the Lossi hut. When we came back from work I celebrated with a two hour run up to the Third Peak up above town in a snowstorm. It felt good to feel the approach of the cold and the winter and I can’t wait to get up in the mountains again. But now its only two days of final preparation before I take off to Quito, Ecuador, to meet up with Bjarne – so after months of planning we are almost there.

Check out my amigos from this last everyday adventure:

Nicklas Blom:
Johanna Tiensu Stålnacke:
Per Jonsson: (Swedish)

On our way up Eidetind

Johanna Tiensu Stålnacke

Per and Nicklas chillin...

And in work...

Johanna rappelling 

And showing some moves

Mordor... or.. hrmm Stetind

A pretty day at the office

Below Kuinarchokka, one of the most beautiful mountains i know, but damn its a shitty ski.. 

Myself contemplating the view

A good dinner in good company

Narvik with Fagernäsfjellet high above in the clouds 

On my way back home

The view from the train

And a quick glance of Riksgränsen from the platform..