King of the Nordic Twilight

Posted on October 24, 2008

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(Note to the Reader: I know my blog posts in the past have been all about the pictures, but to really get the full experience of this trip make sure to read the long stories I have written. It was the things that I couldn’t take a picture of on this trip that make it such an unbelievable journey)

After the World Cup Qualifier match between Norway and Holland, I returned to Karlstad for a day of class, and then, the day after that, I returned to Norway for 6 days. My original plan was to catch a bus to Lom, a small mountain town that the map said was only 15km to the entrance of Jotunheimen National Park. From there I was going to walk to the park and then attempt to climb the two tallest peaks in Scandinavia, Galdhøpiggen and Glitterund, over a two day period, then walk back to Lom and catch a bus to Lillehammer to catch the Matchstick Production’s tour of their new ski movie, Claim. What actually happened to me in Norway was far, far different, and probably about twenty times cooler. Here is the story:

Day One: Lom to Jotunheimen

After a day of traveling from Karlstad, I arrived in Lom Friday night. The bus dropped me off right in front of the town campsite/hotel, and when I asked the receptionist if I could camp for the night, she gave me a strange look and said “Like in a tent? Uhh… Yeah. Go ahead and camp where you can find a spot.” This was the first indication that it was a little late in the season for this trip. Needless to say, I was the only person who had pitched a tent in Lom that night. The next morning I needed to pick up a few things from the supermarket in Lom, so while I waited for it to open I snapped a few pictures of the town.

Mountain in Lom

Bridge and falls in town

Soon I was off, walking along the road, and ended up snagging this beautiful pic of the valley on my way to Jotunheim.

valley on my way to Jotunheim

It was at this point in the story that my itinerary started to change. I walked for about a half an hour before a man in a Mercedes SUV stopped to give me a ride. He was headed up to Jotunheimen as well, except he was going to the Summer Ski center, known as Juvass, where his son was with a local club doing some ski race training. It was closing weekend up there, he told me, so if I was planning to hike out on Monday, there would be little chance for me to catch a ride. But since he was giving me a ride, there was a chance I would be able to start my summit attempts that day and finish a day early, and he would give me a ride back to Lom or to Otta (a more central town) on Sunday. Stoked with his help, we then arrived at the ski center, where my hiking was supposed to begin. It quickly became apparent, however, that hiking would probably not be a good idea today. Winds were super strong, carrying the freshly falling snow, which severely limited visibility. We made our way to the ski center cabin, where he helped translate my plans to one of the guides, who told me that I should not hike today, tomorrow or the next day because of poor weather conditions. With little other option, I asked about ski rental prices, and the man who drove me up did some bartering and I ended up getting both a free ski pass and a free day of rentals skis. So, unable to do my second favorite thing in the world, climb mountains, I got to do my favorite thing in the world, ski. Here are some pics from the day on the snowfield.

The ski hill

Headed up the T-bar

I was soo stoked

View from the top of the lift

Cliffs, clouds, and lake next to the snow field

So after returning my rental gear after a super fun first day of the ski season, I once again met up with the man who gave me a ride up that morning, who told me he would give me a ride to a campsite just down the mountain where the weather was a little better. Not only did he give me a ride, but once again did some bartering for me and ended up hooking me up with a free cabin to stay in for the night. He was a super, super nice guy and he was one of the first people to make this trip so amazing. Here are some pictures from the place where I stayed that night. It was EPIC.

Mountains on my doorstep

The cabins where I stayed

The cabin where I stayed

The cabin where I stayed did not have heat or electricity, but instead it had this cast-iron stove:

cast-iron stove

This stove gave me quite the experience. I had acquired wood for it, but as many of you probably know, I have been known to have some trouble starting fires. Although I worked on it a lot this past summer, my newly acquired skills were of little use here because the stove was so small. So, unable to get a fire to stay, I thought it would be a good idea to put a little of my MSR Stove fuel on the wood to get it going. The first time, with just a cap full of fuel, the fire expanded quite a bit, enough for me to feel some extra heat, and the wood got started but went out within five minutes. The second time the same thing happened. The third time I put a little too much fuel on, and then when I dropped the match on I found my head engulfed in flame, looking a lot like the dad from the Foxtrot comic after he put too much lighter fluid on the Bar-B-Q. I hadn’t shaved for a month, so most of the beard I had at the time became white and considerably shorter, as well as some of my eyebrows. My eyelashes are also noticeably shorter, and every once and a while they stick together when I blink. The worst part was that I was wearing the Alpaca wool hat from Peru that my Uncle Jim had given to me last Christmas. Burnt Alpaca wool is probably one of the worst smelling things in the world, and I got to live with it on my head for the next 4 days. I got used to it, but I definitely felt sorry for the people sitting near me on the buses the next few days.

Day 2: Jotunheimen to Grotli

The next day the man who gave me a ride said he would pick me up at 8:30 to go up or at 1:30 to go down, but he never showed either time. I still did some hiking that day, and here are some of the pictures I took of the area.

Sunrise colors

Looking into Jotunheimen

Trail and Mountains

When the guy didn’t show up at 1:30, I took to my feet once more to walk back to Lom. It wasn’t ten minutes, however, before someone else picked me up. This time it was another super nice Norwegian (I’m actually pretty sure all Norwegians are super nice at this point) who gave me a ride all the way to Otta. I had decided that since the mountain hiking didn’t work I was going to try to see some fjords, and I chose to go to a town on the coast called Ålesund for the night and see some fjords the next day. After quizzing my ride for a little bit, however, he told me that the best place to go for fjords would be Geiranger. So, instead of just dropping me off, he parked at the bus station with me in Otta and made sure I got on the right bus, which happened to be pulling up to the station right then. I thanked him tremendously just as I had done for the last guy and boarded the bus to the town of Grotli, which was as close as the bus could get me to Geiranger. Grotli, however, was not a town, but a ski station that was closed for the season. I was the only one to get off the bus at that stop, and the bus driver said the road to Geiranger was just down the road a little bit. So, once again I started walking. Here are some pictures of the area near Grotli.

near Grotli

near Grotli

After walking a ways, I came to a sign that told me Geiranger was a little more than “just down the road.” It was 37 km, actually, or about 22 miles. Once again, however, it wasn’t long before someone stopped to give me a ride. This time it was a Russian truck driver who spoke Norwegian, German, and not a word of English. When I told him I spoke French he tried to speak it but I couldn’t understand anything he said except “Vous.” Anyhow, he dropped me off at the intersection I needed, and I only had about 30 km to walk. I walked until I came to another cabin, also closed for the season, and I decided to camp there for the night because I wasn’t sure if the snow was going to get worse or not, and there was already a few inches on the ground. As it would turn out, the snow stopped right after I put up my tent, and the temperatures went up as well, so when I woke up in the morning the snow was all gone. What came with the warmer temps, however, was super strong winds, so I spent most of the night putting tent stakes back in the ground. During one of these repair sessions, however, I looked out and saw that I had set my tent up on the bank of a lake, one that was surrounded by snowy mountains. The incredibly bright moon had come out with many stars, and this illuminated the snow on the mountains as well as the water of the lake and the wispy white clouds that were moving quickly through the sky. It was probably one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen, and it was just one of those things that no words or photography can ever give justice to. The next morning I took a picture of the scene, now clouded over, but if you use your imagination you might be able to develop an idea of the beauty I saw that night.

Day 3: Geiranger to Ålesund

After my night of continuous tent repair, I found myself on top of a pass, and luckily for me the rest of the walk would be downhill (I had seen three cars going in my direction during the duration of the walk, none of which stopped). Within a few minutes of taking down my tent and hitting the road again, the view of the top of the fjords came within sight, and all I could say was “WOW.”

Top of the Geiranger fjords

Zoomed in a little bit

As I walked down the road, not only did I get to see snow-capped fjords but also dozens of rushing waterfalls with extra fuel from the warm temperatures.

Waterfall

The closer I got to the fjord, the more there was to see and take pictures of.

Bridge and mountains

I then came to the main fjord overlook area, where the ocean came into view. Fjords are really, really, really beautiful, almost as if the Na Pali Coastline in Kauai was in Colorado and had really huge, beautiful inlets.

Main overlook

Me, the pack, and the overlook

Finally, after 5 hours of walking that morning on the twisted ribbon of the Geiranger road, I arrived at sea level in town. I took as many pictures as I could, but then the rain came in accompanied by more strong winds.

Flag at Sea Level

Looking back up at the town

More of the view

I found the local tourist information office, but, like just about everything else in Geiranger but the grocery store, it was closed. The place was a virtual ghost town now that the tourist season had ended, and I wasn’t too stoked that the weather was rapidly deteriorating with hard rain and strong winds every ten minutes. After asking the clerk at the grocery store, I found out that there was a bus to Ålesund from Geiranger. Happy both with the fact that I wouldn’t have to hike all the way back up the road to Grotli again and that I could make it to Ålesund, I decided to catch the next bus.

The bus ride was epic, to say the least, with a ferry crossing and all sorts of fjord views. I took dozens of pictures, and here are some of the best ones.

Fjords in the rain

Fjord and falls

Snow poking through

Looking back towards Geiranger at the Stranda crossing

Looking across towards Stranda

The rest of the drive was soo beautiful, especially as the fjords got wider and taller the closer we got to the coast. Unfortunately, however, the bus arrived in Ålesund at night, so I couldn’t see the city in the light. I was hoping to find Ålesund as a small coastal town with beaches for camping, but instead what I got was a major shipping town, with no beaches to be found. Also the weather in Ålesund was worse than in Geiranger, with even stronger winds and rain. I found a map of the city, and the closest campground was about 2 miles away. With both the poor weather and the 22 miles I had hiked earlier in my legs, I knew I wasn’t going to make it to that campground. I found the local hostel on the map as well, but when I arrived there, reception had been closed two hours before I arrived. With little choice, I departed Ålesund after only spending and hour and a half there in the dark. I got on the night express to Lillehammer, where I was to arrive a day earlier than I had intended to. In hindsight, the one mistake I made on this trip was to not stay in Geiranger for the night, and then take the early bus to Ålesund, and then take the night bus to Lillehammer. But, after doing a little reflection, I knew that staying in Geiranger wouldn’t have been that great, both because the weather was poor and the fact that most of the town was closed down, including any chance to take a boat tour or anything like that. So, in the end, I didn’t get to see Ålesund, but then again, if the weather was better in Jotunheimen I would have never seen Geiranger and everything else anyway, so I am thankful that I got to see what I got to see.

Days 4 & 5: Lillehammer

I arrived in Lillehammer early in the morning, and after making sure I knew where the movie premier would be the next night, I took a long hike in the trail system that spider-webs out behind the city. After missing out on a swim in the North Sea at Ålesund the day before, as well as in the river near Lillehammer that morning (it was far too cold), I came across this beautiful pool just above town, and, after wearing the same clothes for the last 5 days that I had both spent a day in skiing and two long days of walking, I knew I needed to immerse myself in the extremely cold and wonderfully refreshing water. It took me two attempts with the self timer on my camera, but this was the best pic for sure.

I ended up on top of the tallest mountain near Lillehammer (a massive 726 meters) and then pitched my tent on some wonderfully soft moss for a good night of sleep after a poor one on the bus. The next day I walked around Lillehammer, the Olympic Park, and the Ski Jumps. That night I went to the premier where I met Andreas Amble and PK Hunder, two of the best skiers in Norway/The World, and they were nice enough to let me party with them until I caught the 4:00AM train to Oslo and connected to Karlstad, where I arrived with just enough time to take a shower before class. Thus ended one of the most unique, epic trips of my life, one that took me until 4:00PM this afternoon to wake up from.

Now I’m back, once again, in Karlstad, Sweden, taking an easy weekend to recover, getting used to the sun rising at 9AM, and studying for my final this week in Intercultural Communication. Since this class will be ending, I will only have one class every other week, and another class that will go on two more field trips, so thing are really going to pick up in November in terms of traveling, starting on the first weekend of November with a trip to Gothenburg to see the Swedish band In Flames end their European tour. Following that I will have some visitors from the United States, aka MY PARENTS! Then I have plans to visit a very special Swedish Family, a cruise to Lativia, and maybe a trip to Berlin and Helsinki. To see my updated travel schedule, CLICK HERE. November should be another excellent month, check back every now and then to see how I’m doing if you want to. Otherwise, keep on keepin’ on where ever you may be.

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