Rondane Rundt by Rouleur

Wild reindeer, elk, wolverines, lynxes, the occasional bear and maybe, if you’re really unlucky – or lucky, depending on your at-oneness with nature – a wolf or two.

It’s a list of wild critters designed to strike fear into the hearts of committed urban dwellers whose only experience of The Great Outdoors is glamping at a festival, or petting a sheep at the local city farm. These are serious beasts. They might trash your tent and nibble your food supplies, should you be foolish enough to camp on their turf. Heck, they may even nibble you too…

Thankfully, Henna Palosaari is from Finland, so is well versed in dealing with the copious wilds of her home country. Nothing fazes her. It’s all one big adventure. So when she suggested to her good friend Constanze “Coco” Maier, that they go bikepacking for three days in Rondane National Park in Norway, the fact that her pal had zero experience of cycling bar riding to school in Germany as a kid, was a mere sidenote. How difficult could it be? With Henna at the helm, her years of experience in the saddle would see Coco through the tough three days ahead. So, Henna, how long have you been riding, exactly?

“I started last summer” is her bombshell reply. Rather than dip her toe in the water, she went all in with a 5,000km trip around Finland lasting 41 days. Covid restricted her usual work in the tourism trade in Iceland and Scotland. The summer stretched ahead, suddenly freed up and available for exploring. So that’s what Henna did.

“I bought a bike. I have spent a lot of time outside, I know how camping works, but then what about bikepacking? I just googled the stuff I needed to get, and off I went and learnt on the go. With 41 days in a row, you get the hang of it fast.”

Coco will also need to learn quickly. Rondane, first designated a National Park in 1962, covers an area of 963 square kilometers in the heart of Norway. It is decidedly mountainous, with ten peaks reaching over 2,000 meters. This will be no walk in the park, national or otherwise. Waterfalls, lakes and forests abound, and let’s not forget the bears and wolves…

Henna’s route covers a 225km loop spread over three days. Norwegian specialists Fara provided their F/Gravel-R model for Henna, and F/All-Road for Coco, both with full sets of luggage. That’s the equipment well sorted. As for the fueling strategy, it’s predominantly dehydrated goods topped up with copious snacks along the way.

“We had rice bags that you basically add water to and heat up,” says Henna. “We also had soy crumble, and pasta bags – it’s like camping food but from the grocery store. Whatever food I get in the wild after a day in the saddle, I am happy.”

Sounds delicious... Now the only hurdle to overcome for Henna’s Big Adventure is getting Coco round the 225km and back to base despite a complete lack of riding experience, road or gravel. It’s a big ask, isn’t it?

“She’s not a cyclist at all, no. This was my idea! She knows the stuff I do, so knew she was probably going to be suffering. I was like: no, I’ve made it really easy, it’s going to be fine. She’s only really ridden a city bike before. But with her snowboarding experience, she’s used to speed. She does a lot of sports usually, but she had been partying the whole summer... She is very stubborn, though.” Each evening, Henna and Coco would mull over the day’s events round the fire whilst ‘enjoying’ a sumptuous meal of dried something-or-other. Wild animals were, thankfully, absent from their chosen overnight pitches, sensibly staying up in the mountains. Sheep were plentiful; wolves, not so much. But it was a tough three days nonetheless. Here is the Rondane Rundt, in their own words.

Read the full article by Rouleur online:

Words: Ian Cleverly
Photos: Emil Nyeng

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