Monday, July 20, 2009

Bodø Bunglings and Lofoten Larkings..

(Warning: Long blog, if you just want lots of pretty pictures Click Here)

After a very busy 2 days in Trondheim madly organizing our new flat it was time to board the train again - this time to Bodø. The weather had been fantastic, 25 degree days, blue skies and we had our first warm swim in the very same lake we were skiing across a few months earlier.
Now we were off for another adventure in Northern Norway, starting with the Midnattsolgaloppen (4 day orienteering competition) then 6 days to explore the Lofoten Islands - the long spit of interconnected island which extends far out from the Norwegian coast and is covered in spiky pointy mountains rising straight from the Atlantic Ocean.

So Chris, Cris and I stumbled off the train after 10 hours in a place called Valnesfjord, about 20km from Bodo. We wandered into a pretty forest filled with pom poms and found ourselves a very nice spot to camp, plus a refreshing stream to dive into, as well as our very dear friends midges and mosquitoes who came to join the party.

Camp one in the pom pom land!

In the morning we wandered along the road with our thumbs up, and it wasn't long before a friendly orienteering organisers picked us up and drove us up the valley to day 1 of the Midnattsolgaloppen.

After some waffles were consumed we prepared ourselves for the event, giving Cris plenty of tips about what he should and shouldn't do. I had a nasty encounter out by control 5 when I was swarmed by a thousand march flies after falling in a bog. Consequently I couldn't stop to look at my map (*they bit, hard) so I kept going and made a mistake.

It was pretty hot and when I finished I chugged down a lot of the free saft before we all jumped into the freezing river. Cris had a great first ever outside of Canterbury orienteering run, but poor Chris messed up and placed rather low in the mens, making it hard for him to be so competitive in the overall competition.

Cris looking confidently competitive:

We camped on the lawn where the o event started and finished, and Cris discovered a hotspot for his laptop so he was very happy. We had a nice relaxing evening, and in the morning were only woken by the sound of other orienteers arriving for the day's competition.

Chris finishing day 2.

Day 2 was a map on the other side of the valley with some wonderful views of steep peaks, the terrain marshy and moderately open. Chris had a much better run and finished 4min behind Mats Troeng. I struggled a bit round my course, mostly due to lack of motivation, and Cris went well, bar one 25 minute mistake.

When we finished we had to quickly find a ride so we could back to Bodø in time to meet Mum and Dad who were arriving at the Bodo airport at 5. We were late, surprise! But we only managed to get Mum because Dad had missed his connection in Chicago (they were on separate flights) so we had no idea when he would arrive (thanks to strict airport security policies).

Our little cabin in Bodø.

Bodø town and the peak we would later climb in the background on the left.

We left a note for him at the airport and walked back to our accommodation at Bodøsjoen camping beside the fjord. After dinner we were sitting round on the lawn by our little cabin when suddenly we spotted Dad walking across the lawn towards us. He had managed after a very messed up series of flights to make it to Bodø via a later flight.

The fact it did not get dark made it harder for those unaccustomed ones to sleep, especially because Mum was brewing a nasty cold. We had the next day to fill in acquiring groceries before heading up the hill to day 3 of the MG on an amazing place above Bodø looking out towards the sea and some very spikey peaked islands, the place from which you can view the midnight sun.

I had a very late start, so saw the others off on their courses. I was a bit concerned when Chris came back absolutely grinning after a very good run saying it was extremely rough and technical - Mum and Dad were going to find it very difficult! I headed out on my course at 10 pm and sure enough spotted Mum several times struggling a lot, and Dad was going OK.

I really enjoyed the course, it was an amazing area with a view you cannot believe, and all these dense gullies and open tops to clamber all over, all way up on a ridge line high above Bodø. We all finished eventually, in some shape or form and rather wearily made our way back to Bodø camping after midnight.

After a goodly sleep in we the next morning we walked back up the hill for the final day, which was a long again - yucky!

On the walk up to the final O event.

For four of us in the group the day's orienteering results were not quite so impressive: Chris gave a bit of last minute tuition to Mum, which helped her a lot for the first hour of her course, but her bad cold got to her after that, and Dad made it most of the way round but gave up after 2.5 hours, Cris took 50 minutes for the first 3 controls then gave up, I made it round without too many big mistakes, but it was so long and tricky for me I only scraped in just under 2 hours.

Chris, however, flew round again, making it into 4th spot overall after 3 very good runs and only day 1 letting him down a bit. He was announced as the 'best Norwegian" as he was running for Wing and there was 2 Fins and 1 Swede in front, so we were all amused about that.

Number one Norwegian!

The orienteering was finally over and it was time to move on to greater things. The next day we visited the 'Maelstrom' where at the mid point of each tide, in a narrow fjord inlet, a whirlpool is created. We didn't see any ships getting sucked down though, so it wasn't that good.

Then we walked in to a beautiful lake and camped amongst the mosses. It was a bright camp spot with little sun cover, and becolded Mum still didn't get any sleep, so was disappointed in the morning to not join us on a walking trip up Betinden Peak.

We headed up some wonderful slab rocks, then through five 'Oceans of Rock' as Dad liked to call them.The rock reminded us all of Mt Owen in its resemblance to a glacier. We crossed some snow slopes, then up onto a wonderful airy ridge to the pointed summit.

Time was a bit short because we planned to take the ferry to the Lofoten that evening, so we took the fast route running down a snow gully, then the two Chris's went back to get Mum and the car while Dad and I took a shortcut out to the road. The others arrived just as we made it down from our shortcut, so we all plunged into the clear cold lake in the nuddy - wonderful!

The ferry across to the Lofoten took 3 hours, with islands galore and a cool wind chopping up the waters. We arrived in Moskenes and the town of Sørvågen, way out near the end of the spit. Cliffy mountains rise straight out of the sea, and brightly coloured boats and fishing villages dot the foreground. Seagulls circled overhead and the great skeleton structures of the wooden fish racks could be seen everywhere.

We disembarked, and after only a few minutes found a brilliant spot to camp beside a fresh lake in a little valley just behind the waterfront. The lake was deep and clear and received the necessary swimming it demanded. We had salmon and pasta for tea at about 11 o'clock, then as the sun rose (about 1 pm) we finally got to bed (-:

Mum's cold finally abated a bit and we all decided on a walk into Munkebu hut. The mountain sides were steep and green, with heaps of awesome rock. The country was extremely steep and Milford sound like, with beautiful blue lakes dotted left and right, nestled into holes in steep sided valley and ridge lines.

The sea shone out below us making for an amazing view. Chris ran up a 1000 m peak (Hermannsdalstinden 1029) while we lounged by the hut, it took him 2 hours to hoon up and down the rocky peak and he was most happy to jump in the cold lake when he got back down very hot and sweaty.

A nice camp site at Unstad that night.

We drove some way towards the mainland through the breathtaking landscape till we reached a place called Unstad, a lonely beach covered in sheep, and we had another typically ginormous cook up for dinner. The sun came up bright and strong at about 4 am, forcing us all out of our tents, 'baking us out' as Chris likes to call it.

We slept more outside of the tents, then drove to a place called Eggum for breakfast on the beach, and to wander out to a nature reserve which we were optimistically hoping was a puffin colony, but actually seemed only to be a pretty beach with a strange stone head sculpture thing.

After that we drove further on some white sandy coastline with great cliffs rising above them and many little climbers dotted about way up on them. We visited a little fishing port on an island known as Henningsvær, then stopped for a swim in the ocean and some climber gazing. We drove through Svolvær late in the evening - the town Mum and Dad had visited on their trip to Norway a few years ago and had thought they would probably not visit again - little did they know!
Fish racks!
After some time spent hunting for a campspot we found a place amongst a pretty bog, unfortunately we each quickly developed our own midge and mosquito fan club and the whole evening was spent batting at them until the relief of the tent with mosquito nets came.

Tea time at Unstad the previous night!

July 12 was Mum's birthday, and we decided we had to climb 'Birthday Peak' to celebrate (actual name: Rundfjellet, 803 m) Cris had now caught the cold off Mum (who had caught the cold off Dad, who had caught the cold in Toronto from some evil man) so he opted not to come. The rest of us climbed steeply up the valley on a green ridge line to an amazing jagged vista if peaks after peaks.

Chris on the huge cairn on top of 'Birthday Peak'
We scrambled up up up amongst some big boulders before reaching the summit, which was topped with a humongous cylindrical cairn which Chris duly climbed, them leaped down from, much to all our horror. After a quick bite we headed down an interlocking series of snow slopes which proved a very speedy descent route. Most of the way down we all jumped in a boggy tarn which was very refreshing, as by now the sun had come out again from behind the clouds and we were all hot and sticky.

Just after midday we reached the car, giving plenty of time to complete the drive to Lodingen to catch the ferry to Bognes, then drive 2 hours further South towards Bodø. Various scenic swims and snack stops were had along the way, till we found a nice grassy area beside a lake for a birthday dinner, including a chocolate tart with raspberries, mmmm!

Today we had to get the rental car back to Bodø by ten, then we unloaded all our rather filthy gear and lugged it all down to the train station. We hopped on the train at midday for the 10 hour ride back to Trondheim. Cris and I both have that nasty cold now and we are waiting for Chris to come down with it too! Mum and Dad have a couple of days with us in Trondheim before heading home...and currently I am sitting on the train stealing Cris's laptop to write this blog about the rather fantastic trip we just had. Lofoten Islands may we return!

Practicing the fantastic 'three man' piggy back!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mission Jotunheimen

One hot sticky Trondheim day school was out and Emily and Chris were running very fast towards the Trondheim train station, backpacks swinging. Sweating heavily they hooned into the station, stabbed the reservation code into the machine and retrieved their train tickets before sprinting off to the platform. A rumble and they were off to Oslo. A chirpy looking young man with blond hair and blue eyes who could easily pass as a Norwegian greeted them at Oslo Central Station - one Cris Lovell Smith!

The train then wound its way for another 7 hours up through some spectacular mountain scenery, before a gradual descent into the city of Bergen.

We were feeling rather weary and trudged with heavy packs up towards a beckoning forest. Suddenly we stumbled upon some steep lines running up the hill - a funicular! We were saved, and after a steep ascent and wonderful views across Bergen we were able to pitch their tents in a pretty little piece of forest.

Emily was awakened by the smell of a damp Chris arriving back from a morning run.

He had been up exploring the hill above. After a rather prolonged breakfast we all headed up the hill for a view across Bergen, and a narrow green ridge which wound its way Southward.

Seal stalking on a day 1, things were already getting desperate!
A long descent down a forested path and they reached the bustling center of Bergen. A huge submarine-like white ship was anchored in the harbour and touristy outdoor cafes lined the streets.

The day was spent purchasing food and organising transport for the mission: a 7 day tramp through the Jotunheimen mountains, starting in Turtagrø and finishing in Lom.

Up early the following morning to catch the bus through the green hills. The bus ride went extra fast due to the purchase of a tub of ice cream and a nice French lady to talk to. When the bus finally pulled up in Nærøyfjord (a UNESCO World Heritage Area) all four of us jumped out of the bus and sat eating Lydiana's salty market fish, taking in the very spectacular view.

The amazing blue water was sparkling in the sun, and the steep sided valleys plunged straight into the waters. Huge waterfalls cascaded over cliff edges and sea gulls soared overhead. The ferry boat pulled away from the docks, and it was time for sandwiches on the deck.

After a couple of hours on the boat we unloaded in Kaupangea, then caught the bus to Sogndal Fjord. A fantastic grassy spot right on the fjord was discovered by the ever cunning Chris. Clothes were quickly striped to inaugurate an entire week of freezing nuddy swims to come.

Feeling very refreshed we sat round cooking dinner enjoying a magnificent view as the sun lowered in the sky. Next morning there was more traveling to by bus up a windy pass to Turtagrø where we were finally ready to start walking.

Up over a snowy past, alongside gushing waterfalls and not a sole in sight! We did see a herd of reindeer on the near hillside though. After several hours walking we dropped into another valley and sidled through some stunted forest, then hung right up a joining side valley. At about 7 pm we decided we had had enough and found a pretty spot in the forest (plus the obligatory lake for a swim).
Over the first pass.

We passed by a rather amazing hytta.

A small dark cloud passed overhead in the night, creating little spots on the the thin shell above our heads, but soon left and the sun was back up again (its normal waking time being approximately 3am).
Stunning views in the morning.
The day was spent mostly trudging through soft summer snow, admiring the peak we renamed 'Quarrelsom Peak' - maybe you can imagine why? Late in the afternoon we sidled round the shore of a very large and still partially frozen lake. We spotted more reindeer - some frolicking bravely on the ice!

Camp spot number two was an amazingly beautiful spot beside a crystal clear lake settled in a alpine valley. We had still seen virtually no one else on route, it was wonderful having such an amazing place to ourselves.

Another bright day arrived and we headed along a ridge for a few hours, until the spectacular view of the bright blue waters of the massive Gjendbu lake appeared far below us. We followed the ridge along, before woopeeing down a snow slope into Memerebu lodge by the fjord. Our nuddy swim here even received a poop from the ferry boat.

Late in the afternoon we climbed back out of Memerebu and along the famous Bessegen ridge - a place where the ridge narrows very steeply between a high lake and the Gjendebu lake below. Beyond, there is another circular lake visible which is another slightly different hue of the bright blue which characterizes the snow melt loaded lakes.

The rivers were running pretty high from the snow melt.
This was the camp spot to end all camp spots. Not a sole around, we wallowed in its natural beauty, wowed ourselves over the vertical cliff face on one side of the ridge, then trotted 30m to the other side of the ridge to plunge into the iceberg filled lake.

Chris takes a chilly plunge!
The next day was supposed to be the short day. It was the longest! We climbed Surtningssue 2368m, me terrified of a huge thunderstorm I definitely spotted on the horizon, while Cris decided he had had enough some short way from the summit - consequently we renamed this one 'Pikers Peak'. Some crappy holey snow on top slowed our progress, so we didn't reach Cris till 5 pm.
Up in the mountains!
Snow makes a fast descent.
A long descent to our rucksacks and then on to another lake for camping - it was 10 pm before we ate dinner. Never mind, it had been a cool day.

Finally we were getting into the swing of things, packs were much lighter and food supplies low, so we quickly covered the distance to Glitterheimen hut. There we were able to buy some much needed chocolate and snackie goodies.

As we crossed the large snowy plateau that took us down to Spiterstulen, a thunderstorm rumbled over the top of the Galdhøpiggen summit. We found a sheltered spot in the forest for our final camp.

We had a very steep grunt out of the valley the following morning, up to the skifield on Galdhøpiggen. There were hundreds of snowboarders doing some amazing 'aerials' on a huge jump. This field is apparently a 'summer only' field - in the winter there is actually too much snow and the road cannot be kept open.

We enjoyed a hot chocolate in the ski lodge before trudging down the ski road to our finish point - Lom. From there we took a couple of bus rides, then a train trip from Otta and before we knew it we were back in Trondheim at our comfy new flat for a much needed shower!

(For a selection of more fantastic pictures from the Jotunheimen trip Click Here)