Norwegian Adventures of a Pensioner

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It has long been one of my ambitions to explore and climb some of the thousands of peaks in Norway so when my long time sailing pal Charles Wood announced that he was off on a three month sailing adventure well into the Arctic Circle on his 44 feet sailing yacht I jumped at the chance to sign on as crew in the hope that from time to time I could hop off the boat and up into the hills in the Lofoten Islands and elsewhere.

I managed two or three peaks in the Islands sometimes being able to start of at 8pm or later when the yacht reached land, summiting in sunshine after midnight and getting back to the boat before breakfast before it was heading off to the next destination. My first real change for a significant peak over 1000 metres came in early July when we were storm bound in Bodo 67 degrees North and I managed to team up with 30 or so members of the local trekking club on an 8 hour accent of Midtitinden: 1058 metres of fairly easy walking with some rock scrambling near the top. This contact led me to being able to tag on to a 5 day trek over the Jotunheimen organised by the Norwegian trekking association and taking in the two highest peaks on the Norwegian mainland. They even gave me a special rate as the start of the trip coincided with my 67th Birthday and all travel in Norway becomes half price at this age. Never the less, because of a train derailment on the main line between Trondheim and Oslo, I had to mainly rely on hitch hiking several 10kms South to Lom to meet up with the other 9 members of my trek. Fortunately the Norwegians are a very generous nation of lift givers even to a scruffy looking pensioner that had not had a decent wash for a week or two; during my time in Norway I actually got more lifts from lady drivers than men.

Due to my unconventional mode of transport I reached our agreed meeting point 12 hours early at 4am so spent what was left of that night sleeping under the stars on a comfy bench outside the famous Lom bakery and coffee shop, and so was first in the breakfast queue when them opened at 8.30am. I filled in my day making some new Norwegian friends in the bakery, admiring the stave church in the village and being first of the day on the 100m plus zip wire which skimmed me across a raging torrent of glacier melt water hurtling through the village—more about glaciers later.

When my companions of the next 5 days turned up at 4am from the bus from Oslo, our first item in the agenda was to look around the very interesting Lom museum whilst waiting for out mini bus to take us to our start point the Juvasshytta lodge. There we could admire the view up our first objective Galdhopiggen whilst eating an excellent three course meal including Reindeer meat. The four mountain huts we stayed in were all to a higher standard than my alpine experiences with one even having the luxury of a sauna and swimming pool attached. The four ladies and six males of our group were called my our 64 year old Danish leader to a brief meeting after dinner for formal introductions, each of us outlining our mountain experience and he went through our next days agenda.

After a superb breakfast when we were able to make up our own packed lunches for the 9 hour day ahead of us we set off at 9pm up a marked rocky trail for 90 minutes when we came to the Stygghobreen glacier. Here we fortunately roped us as nearing the end of the easy 2 km plod across the glacier I became complacent stepping on a snow bridge which promptly collapsed leaving me dangling over a somewhat deep crevasse. I managed with the help of the rope to quickly scramble out with no damage done and was rather more careful with where I put my feet till we unroped on a rocky ridge leading us the last kilometre up to 2469 summit reached in bright sunshine before 1pm.

After 50 mins or so of photo taking and admiring the superb views from the top of Norway we set of a different way down the mountain on a mixed snow and rock route to reach our second lodge Spiterstulen in about 5 hours. Unfortunately one of our lady companions Marion suffered serious foot wear malfunction during a steep part of our descent so missed possibly the best mountain of our trek—Glittertind (2452m)—whilst she got a lift down to the boot shop in Lom. She managed to rejoin us for dinner at Glitterheim lodge complete with new boots.

Our third days trek south to Memurubu lodge was much the longest in distance but due to easy going and only one serious climb we could afford the luxury during a late lunch stop to swim in a beautiful turquoise glacier lake—well, three of the group went in with me ensuring the my new found Norwegian friends that "the English always swim with socks on as the ‘beach’ had sharp pebbles on it." It was rather cool in the water but not nearly as much as when I toppled of the boat at 70 degrees north into the Arctic Sea a month before.

The best climbing day was saved 'til last with the ascent of the Besseggen ridge: more like Crib Goch on Snowden than Striding Edge on Helvellan with Sea Eagles soring overhead and a dozen or so large Reindeer nonchantly trotting across our path as we descended towards our final destination Gjendesheim. This day was made all the more enjoyable as we were able to offload weight from our heavy rucksacks onto a boat sailing the length of lake Gjende.

My experience of the Norwegian highlands, and the camaraderie of our group excepting me readily, make me want to return for further exploration in the future.

- Michael Hetherton

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Report Date: 
Thu 29 Aug 2013 (All day)

Comments

Sadie Pattison's picture

Wow, a very eventful trip!

Wow, a very eventful trip! Glad you made it back in one piece!

Kim.E's picture

Legend!

I've said it before and will again: you're a real legend Mike. What an adventure.

LynnHump's picture

Brilliant!

Brilliant!