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MASSIV: Post-expedition debrief

The good news is that the so-called “Post-Expedition Melancholy” did not kick in. The better news is that seeing the wife and kids again possibly exceeded some pretty high expectations.

Celebrating our reunion with champagne and sushi probably helped. And yes – the kids got a non-alcoholic version.

However, no expedition is fully finished the moment you reach your destination or home. First of all, there is an important expedition de-brief, and furthermore, for the geekier of us, there is a plethora of statistics to be gathered, compiled and displayed. I’ll leave the latter for a separate post as I fight my way through Excel.

Post-Expedition tasks not to be ignored

After any hike, trip or expedition lasting more than a few days, there are a few mandatory tasks to keep in mind to avoid or minimise the risk of damages and health issues following the toll any such undertaking takes on the body and equipment.

Body Maintenance

First of all, leave some time for recovery. This does not mean hitting the couch and staying there, but gently decreasing the load on the body, and avoiding further tough tasks such as long or strenuous runs.

Vitamins for the win!

Second, giving yourself a vitamin boost is strongly recommended. If this is new, consult a physician or a specialist. Here’s what works for me, based on a close follow-up with my physician and nutritionist:

  • Magnesium against muscle cramps
  • Calcium to strengthen the bones
  • Vitamin D to strengthen the bones
  • Vitamin C to boost the immune system
  • Cod Liver Oil to reduce inflammation
  • Creatine to help the muscles recover more easily

Finally, I’ve also set aside between 10 and 30 minutes each day for the first 7-8 days for yoga, or more appropriately – stretching. I find this significantly more boring than watching paint dry. It is, however, a relatively small price to pay following any great adventure, and, more importantly, a seriously good investment to prepare for future adventures.

Gear Maintenance

Any activity lasting multiple days will likely strain your hard-earned gear and equipment. Shoes and boots have been constantly damp or wet, clothes are dirty, water reservoirs need cleaning, and there’s likely to be mud, sand and stains on everything from hiking poles to sunglasses. Leaving this unattended tends to be quite expensive in the long run.

So – properly wash and care for boots and shoes. Wash everything that you brought, even things that may not have been used, immediately. Let everything air dry properly. Especially boots, shoes and smelly jackets. Wash and dry hiking poles, and give the shoes and boots a proper shine and impregnation immediately. I also wash my water reservoir and thermos, first with baking soda and then with proper soap.

Anything with scratches, tears or other signs of wear that could impact future performance needs to get tended to right away before they either get worse or forgotten. Or both.

Packing List review – lessons learned

The final thing I do is a proper review of what I packed. Did I miss anything? Did I pack anything that was never used?

In this case, I spent weeks planning and preparing, soliciting advice from other hikers more experienced than me, weighing everything I considered bringing, and had a keen eye on reducing weight without negatively impacting my safety.

My Osprey Talon 50 backpack has a separate room at the bottom that I use as an emergency compartment. It contained my emergency shelter, in case I would have to unexpectedly spend a night outside, my first aid kit, a warm and packable down west, and some emergency kits for outdoor survival like matches, extra shoe laces, toilet shovel and paper and a few other things. Fortunately, I never needed to use any of these, and I don’t think I even had to open this compartment. This means the hike went reasonably well.

From a clothing perspective, I used and needed everything I brought but did not miss anything. This is a first for me on longer trips, and I am beside myself with joy that I hit the mark so well. I could probably have benefitted from bringing one extra pair of boxer shorts, though.

As for unused items, I came home with three things I never used, wore or consumed: Two bags of Twinings tea and my mosquito head net. The head net will probably stay home next time. Two extra tea bags is within what I consider negligible.

Health Stats

Finally, I also take some time to review how my body has responded to any prolonged period of stress or hard work. Did I have any aches, pains or worries underway? Or after I got home? Are there any lessons to be learned from any of this? I find these useful questions to ask.

As far as this expedition is concerned, I’ve found, much to my surprise, that things worked out far better than I dared dream of. I’ve had no blisters, much thanks to bringing my Topo mountain running shoes for the lighter sections of the trail and thus giving my feet a break from the heavier and more constrained Alfa Impact mountain hiking boots. I’ve also used blister bandages as a preventative measure from day one. What I have noticed, though is some significantly thicker skin on my big toes, pinky toes and heels. And I have not dared try on my hiking boots since returning.

From an ache and pain perspective, I’ve had two or three minor muscle cramps following the 6-hour bus ride home after the final day. Going for a mountain run(!) before getting on the bus was probably not a good idea. Sitting with my legs bent in a static position for six hours did not help. For this reason, I started taking magnesium immediately after I came home, as described above.

Other than that, there are no aches or pains. I have some bruises around my hip where the hip belt sat, but given the less than 8kg weight of my backpack, this is negligible. A couple of blue toenails, but they’re all still attached, which is also better than expected.

I’ll return with a separate post on the statistics of my MASSIV adventure. For now, I can reveal that the entire expedition was over half a million steps and more than 400km in total. I’m pretty happy with that.

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Gunnar Florus Mountaineer