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Editor’s Note: Here at Amundsen, we consider ourselves lucky that we get to field test our own products. Products created – and field tests performed – always utilizing the knowledge and experience of Roald Amundsen and the people and traditions he himself learned from. For this round we gathered a small crew from the office consisting of Jens Christian, Erik, Trygve, and myself Jørgen. We picked up some factory fresh Amundsen mountain mucks and set out to walk from Montebelluna, Italy, to Oslo, Norway. Below, we recount our journey over the majestic Dolomites and through the impressive black forest — from the warm mountains in the south to the cold beaches in the north.
Wanderers know when to stop. To look around, and smell and feel their surroundings. Montebelluna smelt like pinecone, pancetta and red wine. This peaceful village below the Italian Alps was the first scenery of our adventure. In a gray industrial area on the outskirts of the village, the smell of oil, grease, fresh leather and scorched rubber set the mood in the factory of one of Italy’s best shoemakers; Monte Sport. Run by the five endearing Torresan sisters and their cousins, the Pincin sisters. In their client portfolio they have brands like Hermés and Prada, in their toolbox they have old men with strong arms and dirty nails, grindstones, heavy duty sewing machines, stamps and polishing machines. This is authentic craftsmanship; no robotics, no assembly lines.
This is authentic craftsmanship;
no robotics, no assembly lines.
One of the sisters, Claudia, turned off the pre-war polish machine, and handed us the first pair of the Amundsen Mountain Mucks. It almost felt as good as becoming a parent. No, I take that back. As good as getting your first car is more accurate. The point is, it felt extremely good. On the train ride from Montebelluna to Cortina I looked at the newborns, carefully placed on top of the huge backpack on the floor in front of me. We talked a little bit about why the mucks turned out exactly this way. We owe it to the Inuits. Their way of making clothes and boots is a manifestation of their knowledge, experience and total comprehension and respect of the animals used, and a conscious acknowledgement of their environment.
Schwarzwald. Or, to non-germans – The Black Forest – upon arrival quite understandably the inspirational geographic for many a Grimm brothers fairytale. To arrive here just after sunset, following the vastness, the solitude and the violent silence of the Dolomites, was like stepping through the door to a crowded dinner party where the other guests must have been talking about you. In the dense, dark forest, the alpine wind was reduced to a shy whisper. Distant birds, it seemed; were cautiously signaling our arrival to one another; gossiping in the branches. Earthbound wildlife, visible only indirectly; through the rustling of the lustrous ferns covering the forest floor as they made their escape, were a welcome novelty to us at this point, even if they made it clear they didn’t feel the same way. The moss clad boulders, strewn about as if some oversized spitfire had thrown them into the forest in a fit of cosmic rage – and the majestic oaks, the pines and the beech – were confining our fields of vision and our attention spans radically, as opposed to our horizons in the Dolomites; which were limited only by dirty shades. But after a while, as the feeling of change was not as urgent, and our senses got accustomed to the new surroundings, we found the forest pathways to be far more forgiving than the rocky trails of the Alps. After a while there was no need for the eyes, the brain and the feet to correspond anymore, at least not explicitly, and we got into the rhythm. And this is one of the reasons we walk. Walking leads to wandering, wandering leads to oblivion.
Stepping into the cabin was like entering a set from the first season of Twin Peaks, and I suddenly realized that the tiny old woman could well be the crazy, murderous grandma’ from Mulholland Drive. The cabin seemed impossibly larger from the inside than from the outside, and the silence was deafening. The only noticeable sound was the slow (too slow) sound of a pendulum clock swinging somewhere on the second floor. The old lady led us down a long, dark corridor, decorated with wall-to-wall flowery carpets, vainly illuminated in one spot by two oil lamps hanging opposite one another on the walls. Without a word we were assigned each our own room, and with only silent gestures to one another signifying the creepiness we all felt, we locked our doors behind us. I couldn’t find a glass anywhere, and not wanting to walk in on some obscure ritual or risk my life going down to get one, I fished up a half-full bottle of wine from my backpack, took a sip that would not be considered classy anywhere on the planet, and put it on the bedside table. I removed my mucks and went to bed, repeatedly rustled by a childish sense of terror, until I finally drifted off.
Walking in the woods is easier on the mind than walking in the mountains. The dangers are few, and the strain is modest. If you find a path to stick to, you hardly need to focus at all – and that’s when walking becomes wandering. If you put one foot ahead of the other for a sufficient amount of time, it eventually becomes a meditative act. A couple of hours after we left Twin Peaks and the old lady behind, we fell silent and got into the rhythm again. My mind drifted off to the German Philosopher Martin Heidegger, who lived, thought, walked and wandered in Schwartzwald over long stretches of time long before us, and wrote at length about the human condition – about being there, in the world. His writings often touch upon the notion of authenticity – the evaporation of your everyday concepts, a temporary state in which you are no longer bound to your familiar anchor points. The freedom from social bonds and polluting thought, from yourself, and from everything that has come to constitute whatever that may be. This state, he claimed, could be accessed through “absorbed coping” – that is; being absorbed in whatever task you are performing. In our case, that would be the adventure, the walk; the slow movement of the body – and the absorption in nature – in the smells, the sounds, the view; to be absorbed in pure, unadulterated experience. Walking, I think, is the slowest, most defiant form of absorbed coping. So, in defiance of what, exactly, were we walking?
Walking is moving at exactly the right speed,
no matter the speed.
Granted; that’s an oversimplification – but the point is; when you walk, you perceive as you are meant to perceive. It’s not necessarily that your surroundings change, more important is it that you change as you face them – at the right speed, at the right time – and that you are able to recognize this change. An oak tree in the distance catches your eye. You can’t help but keep it in your thoughts as you move a little closer. Now, you are able to distinguish the branches from one another and one of them, out of nowhere (apparently), becomes a catalyst for a feeling, a thought, an association, which again spawns a different feeling, thought, association. You’re moving closer still, and (here comes the important part) soon the Oak is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. It’s an oak, alright, but it’s this oak.
Our mucks hit sand when we arrived in Denmark. As our footsteps ticked into the thousands, we once again entered a sort of hypnotized state. Waves turned into music, dunes into paintings – at least the wine we had left from Italy kept the head going. The sand on the beach was packed rather densely. Completely effortless wandering. Why do we walk again? We walk because we have legs, feet, and a pair of mucks to stick them in. We walk because it takes time. We walk in defiance of the pace of modern society. It’s not a resignation, but a rejection of the endless needs and needless ends, the desires and demands, the do’s and the don’ts, the calculation and scheming. On a trip like this, when everything is moving at a slower pace – from your body through the terrain, to the thoughts in your mind – you slowly come to realize the relativity of your perception of the world, of yourself, and of time. And everything becomes clearer.
Your trains of thought are longer, your eyes rest upon the same landscape for hours at a time, forcing you to indulge in every detail and to see the same thing for the first time, over and over, as your perspective changes.
The homeward journey can not be marked on the map, it starts in the body and spreads to the head, propagates into the feet; now let’s go home.
More about the Mucks: Amundsen Sports
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