I haven’t had so much vacation the last few months (jumping between different workplaces) so I felt it was time for a small adventure and then the thought came, why not a northern adventure, a northern expedition where the goal is to climb Norway’s highest mountain “Galdhöpiggen” (2469m). This time I felt the urge to write in English, let’s see how that works out.
I had prepared extensively and studied the “Fjällräven” catalogue, watched the Discovery series “Beyond the limit” and the movie “Seven summits” with Fredrik Sträng. I have also made some nutritional improvements by using a few supplements (Fulvic mineral Complex and Iron formula) and I have also increased my physical fitness level a few notches for example I did 2 power walks lasting more than 2 hours (to get a feel for long distance walking) and I tried a group exercise called “Ki-Box” at the “Frisky and Sweaty studio” (very free translation) it nearly killed me/;) then I also decided to start some running exercise to get some better condition and according to the book “The dead serious mountain climber guide 2008”, you should run a little longer then the height of the mountain it’s a mental thing, then it will be mentally easier to pass that number again because you have already done it (bingo). I also tried to do some physical exercise at least 6 days a week.I asked the other team members if we should have a meeting to plan the adventurer but the interest seemed to be lukewarm; maybe I was taking this too seriously? Or maybe I did not?
I presented the idea that we could use mini skis to get down in a fun way or maybe even use a snow racer but the other members didn’t get excited by that idea, but what the heck I bought a pair of black mini skis for myself anyway.We just recently found out that the place for our base camp “Spiterstulen” is closing down the next week and also that the new snow cover is about 30 to 40 cm even down at base camp!
I think this will really increase the challenge to climb the mountain maybe I will need to buy a “Balaclava” and a pair of “Gaitors”?
I also found a really interesting book called “Damaged by Cathy Glass” that I brought with me just in case I would have any spa time or spare time (I love true life stories).
On the run
We had decided to start 6:00 in the morning but we left about 6:30 (from Helsingborg) and we thought it was approx a 10 hour drive to the final destination, which it was not (it was more like 16 hours) and we also got an extra team member who just decided to join 8 hours before departure, very spontaneous I like that, why not? So now we where 5 members trying to get along with music taste and taking turns at the wheel, with a few unplanned road deviations and one stop at a friend’s place, enjoying freshly baked buns and some hot tea. I could hardly believe that we finally were on the road to our goals, not knowing who it would be or look like although one of our team members had been there before.We had some help with the map reading from a GPS that worked well for the most part? And I also had printed out some Google maps on my work place (don’t tell my boss about that).
The traffic through Norway’s capitol Oslo was really thick but the pace was ok and just outside of Oslo, we started to see the changes in the landscape with beautiful scenery and curvy roads, we made a longer food stop in a village called “Bang” or “Bagn”? I asked one of the locals if he knew about any Pizzeria in the village but he said he was “Usikker” meaning unsure, It’s difficult for me to understand how you could be unsure in such a small village? But after asking around a little bit more we finally found the Kurdish pizzeria which sold the so called “Sadel pizza” I still don’t know what that is? It was a strange feeling to sit in that pizzeria it looked like it was from the 50s or 60s very basic decoration, and we could only order on size of pizza, “large” whatever that meant? It looked more like a family pizza in size, so we got more than enough.
Unfortunately it got dark before we arrived at our destination “Spiterstulen” or “Spritstugan” as we say in Swedish, I think we arrived approx 22:30 after a journey of approx 90 miles (Swedish miles). The final road was primitive with lot of small bridges and serpentine curves (some of our team members got a little bit afraid when I drove through the black night in 40-50 km/h), the guesthouse or maybe I should call it base camp was built in a valley with a river. The raw humid cool air blew on our faces when we left the warm comfort of our fully stuffed car (there were things everywhere).
Due to the late season there were not many guests only one bus with Norwegian school kids or maybe I should call them super kids? According to rumors they went up on the mountain top in just 4 hours? But I guess they were very lucky with the weather? Isn’t that a good excuse?
Due to the long drive I suggested that we should sleep to 7:30 at least but one of our more eager team members wanted to start before sunup at 7:00 with the motto “real mountain climbers always start before the sun goes up” (I have tried that before) But I think sleep is very vital to any adventure
and I wanted to be in good shape and a good mood since I wasn’t really sure who big this challenge would become?
Since our “mountain guide” already had left early we started to discuss which side the mountain was on? Great, so much for preparedness, but after some basic instructions and a very poor map, we started to follow a trail, feeling good that we were finally on our way to the top, but it didn’t take long before someone bumped a horn, it was the owner I think of the guesthouse who tried to tell us that we had taken the wrong route, great we really played the role of ignorant amateurs good, maybe we could get a Oscar statue for that?
It was a steep trail with a lot of rocks and small stones it was also very wet and a little bit slippery. The weather was quite cloudy with a grey sky, not the best conditions for starting my career as a professional adventure photographer and moviemaker with my new mobile phone “Viewty” which I hardly could handle since it was brand new equipment for me and the lighting conditions were really bad. It didn’t take long until we met our “lively morning bird” that had waited for us eager to continue the climb. But it didn’t take long until one of our team members stretched her gluteus muscle so bad that she had to stop because of the pain and then later climb down on her own. I think it was hard for her but on the other hand I was glad that it happened so early at so low altitude and not close to the top.
It was a strange feeling freezing on one side of the body and sweating on the other side due to windy conditions. When we looked back we saw a couple climbing in a very fast pace we thought they were Norwegians used to these kinds of conditions, they soon passed us, not good for our own confidence in our self, after a while it got even cooler and more windy and the sight got even worse, you could hardly see more then 30 meters and it was a challenge to follow the marked trail.
After a while I had to put on all clothes with the windbreaker/rain clothes outside, I even used my sunglasses to protect my eyes from the strong horizontal “snowstorm” although it was quite dark.
Then we suddenly met the other two climbers that passed us before they seemed to be heading back down the mountain, so I asked them if they already had been up at the top, but to my surprise they told me they couldn’t find it? So I asked our “mountain guide” that had been on this mountain before, but she was very unsure and pointed to the right although the marked trail still continued to the west down from the peak we stood at, so the question was what to do now? Turn right into pure whiteness maybe getting lost or going down on the glacier without ropes and sufficient equipment or to continue to the west following the marked trail? (In hindsight you may think that it was obvious to follow the marked trail but on the other hand there could have been trails to many different peaks in the same color?) Or maybe it was time to turn back the sight was now awfully bad and it was getting darker. But the couple was eager to find the peak so why not walk a little bit further. So we started to climb down again on a ridge and then up on a very icy slope not so easy without losing the grip and risk sliding down to the glacier our “mountain guide” was the only one with crampons.
After some conversation with the couple I found out that they were Polish and that they had climbed a mountain called Aconcagua (6962 m) so I guess they were quite fit for this experience.
But then we had to go down on another ridge and up again and I thought who many ups and downs are there before we reach the final summit? I also felt my chins started to ache because of the cold wind. Maybe I should have bought a “Balaclava” too? (Some people say it is good to use when you want to take out a lot of cash from the bank, but I am not sure what they mean by that?). Although I have never been better equipped before for cold mountain climbing it was a real challenge, because sometimes I could walk on the surface of the snow cover but mostly I sank down sometimes approx 30-40 cm so I was very happy that I had bought a pair of “Gaitors” and when we really wanted to save energy we walked in each other’s footsteps.
I think we were climbing up or third slope this time and it looked really high when one of the girls started to point towards a grayish building far away into the mists. Was that really a building and was this really the final summit? I wasn’t sure. It may seem strange but there is a so called small restaurant close to the top but it is only open during the summer season. It looked like an ice castle from some movie like “The Chronicles of Narnia” and it was locked of course, but it was beautiful in its own way. Unfortunately I couldn’t document it myself since my “Viewty” was deep frozen and refused to work during these conditions, but fortunately one our other members could take a few shots with his camera. So finally we made it to the top, but we didn’t stay for long just taking some top photos and sharing some old/cold pizza.
I was very unsure about our “group capabilities” to take us down again since it was getting darker and the wind was so strong that we could hardly see our own steps up to the mountain. So I took the lead down quickly, to track the trail markings still with my sunglasses on, after a while I felt that I knew the way down so I stopped to try to put my mini skis on but my hands were so frozen and I didn’t know exactly how to put them on (of course I should have tried that before) so I decided to use them as a mini snow board sitting on them and it was ok to speed down the frosty slope but down at the bottom of the slope I had to throw myself off the mini skis to avoid crashing into the rocks it was very fun and a little bit dangerous, but it worked and I was very glad that I had the chance to try my concept a little bit, it was even possible to sit on just one mini ski. I saved a lot of energy and got down very quickly which was a safety issue in this particular expedition.
After a long while we decided to take a quick stop to make some “Varma Koppen” to warm us up and get some new energy for the final climb down the mountain. Our Polish “members” politely declined our intended hospitality. But our decision didn’t seem to be so smart because we had to wait for the other climbers and my shoes and gloves were soaking wet (it is not so good to have water proof shoes once you already got water inside them) because when some snow gets in it will start to melt, so I started to freeze, and then we had problem with one of our cookers and it took a lot longer to get our “Varma Koppen” hot and then one of the girls were suddenly feeling very bad (she probably had ignored to take enough fluids and eat enough food) so then it got a little bit stressful again, at least according to me. I could clearly see how bad planning and unexpected factors could jeopardize an entire expedition. I know understood why the Polish team had continued and I remember their words “big group big trouble” maybe not entirely true, but I knew that this stop had cost more than it was worth. Fortunately we were not so far from the base camp but it had started to rain a little bit which made the trail very slippery because of the mud. I slipped, I stumbled, I fell as Elvis Presley sang. I can’t even remember how many times I did that and I thought I was the only one who did that, that was not true of course.
I also felt that someone was worried because we still hadn’t come down I thought it was the owner of the base camp but I later found out that it was the Polish team and the girl who had to go down earlier because of her injury. But since I could see the base camp and it wasn’t real dark yet, I felt confident now although I could feel the soreness in my body especially in my knees, legs and ankles.
Finally down at the riverbed it was now dark around us, We just took a quick rest at the cooking house sitting down on a bench it was easy to just stay there, but hunger and the longing to take a hot shower was strong enough to motivate me to walk the last hundred meters back to base camp. Once in the hot shower I realized that I could shower almost everything of my dirty equipment. Nice to do that and at the same time getting warm and relax my body in the artificial hot waterfall.
After that I just put everything in the drying room. Then we had a delicious meal with rice, tuna and vegetables sitting on the floor of our simple room. Even though everyone seemed quite tired we had a “circle talk” in the common room drawing up a simple plan for tomorrow (the plan was to sleep to 10:00 a clock a simple plan for most of us). Bedtime!
On the road again I
Since the journey to Lom or Spiterstulen was quite extensive we decided to drive back slowly after a late breakfast and because it was daytime we now had the opportunity to enjoy the scenery that we couldn’t see yesterday because it was so dark, while on the road we met some cars with sirens but we didn’t know what all the fuzz was about?
We also made a quick stop at Besseggen but none of us had the power to walk the ridge this day even though it was a very beautiful day with a clear sky. The wind conditions were extremely cold even for a short coffee break so we just continued our journey down south keeping our eyes open for the scenery and a nice place to stay for the night. We found a decent motel room (Valdresporten) close to a river and a nice restaurant which closed 18:00 on a Saturday (it seems that everything closes very early in Norway) but maybe it was good for our budget (since the food prices is more than double here) so we had to heat up the cookers again and make a Indian wildlife meal.
On the road again II
After the sleepover we continued our journey back home to Helsingborg in a harmonious way without any stress it was very comfortable to split the long trip in two days.
One strange thing, was that the day we came home I started to read “Aftonbladets” online newspaper and there was a story about a Dutch film team working on a version of the Norwegian TV series “71 degrees North” that died when they drove the car of a bridge down in the cool river and that happened almost at the same time that we drove home, so that explains why we met the ambulance and some other cars with sirens during our drive home.
I think this was the greatest physical challenge I have done this year, not so much because of the height of the mountain but more because of the weather conditions.
One good thing I did during this climb was that I drank a lot of water during many micro stops with some supplementary snack of nuts and dried fruit (perfect for nutritional restoration).
Even though I had my eyes open to look for Yeti, I never saw him/her but I saw some very large footprints of unexplained origin?
One important aspect during these adventures is leadership and coherent group intentions and I realize that I can learn a lot about that especially in preparation for my future adventures were I am dependent of other people for safety and good teamwork.
Unfortunately for some unexplained reason I had changed the resolution of my mobile camera to lowest quality instead of using VGA widescreen resolution so the movies were not that impressive.
The budget for this trip stopped at 1500 Skr (gas, food and lodging).
If you want to see the entire travel journal go here:
This was another www.lifeforce1.se adventure.