Its hard to believe how much work still needs to be done in the month of November on a farm in arctic Norway. The harvest has been in for over a month, but it still has to be sorted, re-sorted, shuffled, washed and re-re-sorted. There are preparations that need to be made for next year’s carrot field, walls that need to be repaired, doors that need to be painted, and trees that need to be stripped of bark. Seaweed needs to be harvested from the ocean and piled on the shore to be used for next year’s fertilizer.
Did I mention that there are only 3 of us now? It’s all fun work, and while it is all important, none of it is terribly urgent. So after a full week of working, we all three took off a day together to try out a new hike. This hike was to take us around the base of Mount Ulstinden, which you may recall from a previous post of that title. This mountian is not kidding around. I came home from that hike feeling like I had been hit by a train, and I had no feeling of sucess and accomplishment that usually surfaces after a hike of that nature. I thought hiking around the base of the thing would at least give me a little bit of my pride back. I was wrong.
Here is a map of our planned course of attack, the green line indicates where we thought we could hike. Its about 15 miles total, but we would be walking on the beach for most of it, so we figured it wouldnt take any more than about 6 hours.
We left at 10 am, and we were feeling happy and relaxed. I havent seen the sun in over a month, and I almost got to sort of see it at the beginning of the day.
It wasn’t particularly challenging hiking, but it wasn’t a stroll on the beach. We were soon clambering over boulders and slipping on moss covered rocks. A few places were entirely impossible to navigate and we were pushed into the forest. This wasn’t worrisome, we had almost 4 hours of daylight left.
We talked and told jokes, I found out that Matteo really likes riddles so we started sharing our favorites. Before we knew it, it was getting dark, and we had no idea how far away the little fishing village of Oldervik was. We reasoned that it would be better to keep going than to turn around though, so we pushed on.
But Ulstinden is a huge mountain, and darkness falls quickly in the Arctic. By 3 in the afternoon we were trying to climb over slippery rocks and cross creeks in the pitch black. there are no trails, and no roads, and no lights anywhere near. We had a head lamp, but it almost made trying to navigate the wet rocks even more difficult. We constantly had to trek into the forest to get around the places where the rock had crumbled into the ocean, and the forest was dark and wet.
The forest had no trail to follow, and really no simple way to maintain distance between the mountain and the beach. More than once we would step into a hole we didnt see, or slip off a moss covered rock we didnt know we were standing on. One time, I slipped and caught myself on a branch, and heard a distinct growl come from somewhere near my foot. The speed with which I evacuated the area would make you think I temporarily had wings.
At 5 o’clock we were all soaked to the knees and quite ready to be done walking. Fortunately we came across an old cabin situated on the shore of a beautiful sandy beach, and we got to walk on flat ground for the first time in 7 hours. While we were resting on the beach, the Auroras came out to keep us company, and it was amazing how comforting it was to have them. This is where I took this picture, which I think may be my favorite photo Ive ever taken, and made the entire hike worth it.
Shortly after this was taken was the low-point in the day. After realizing that we couldnt go any further on the beach because of a huge cliff and a not-so-small mountain, we were forced into a valley. But we reasoned that if we went back to the cabin there would have to be a road. I dont know how many horror movies you’ve seen, but this is just about how every single one of them starts.
We determined that the cabin was empty, but we failed to find anything resembling a road. While we were standing there in the dark debating what we should do, the ground under my feet gave out, and I fell arm-pit deep into a hole that could have been made to trap me, and me alone. Im pleased to say that my scream could have been directly out of a horror movie, and not even one of those cheap, low-budget ones.
Once I had been rescued from the hole, we turned on the headlamp to see that right behind the place where the hole was, was a man-made tunnel, that led in the general direction of the cabin. This is where it occured to me that, hey, this is how people die. Im not even talking about the very improbable death caused by an ax murderer, or the even more improbable death by troll. Death by hypothermia, or in my case hysteria. Fortunately, Tyler and Matteo didnt want to talk about horror movies or death, because my brain was doing a great job all by itself.
Right before I could start crying and suggesting that we write down what happened so that someone could tell our families, we found a tiny road. The effect of this tiny road was amazing. we all felt lighter than air, and the air itself felt warmer. The tiny road led to a bigger road, the the bigger road led to a paved road, and the paved road led to town. Here is a picture of me and Matteo looking all confident and cocky like we had some clue what the hell was going on the whole hike.
We fortunately know someone who lives in Oldervik, and we showed up on his doorstep, freezing, soaking, and more than a little grateful to be alive, and he let us come in a warm up, and then gave us a ride.
Here is a rough sketch of our actual path.