Okay so the title is a little white lie, I wasn't literally lost in the mountains. It refers to the feeling of isolation on my recent trip to Rundtjønnhytta, the tiny cabin in the middle of the Geitfjellet mountain range.
I talked about the cosiness of staying in a mountain cabin, but this can only be fully appreciated when you understand the context. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the context:
It's quite a sight, in every direction around the cabin.
Having learned the very basics of cross-country skiing just a few weeks ago, I was apprehensive to say the least about attempting to ski around terrain like this. Turns out, I was right 🙂
The conditions varied hugely. In some parts, the snow had compacted right down in the sunshine with icy tracks to speed along. Just a few metres away was deep powder, plunging my leg down 20cm into the snow. I spent more time on my bum that on my feet, but it was all good fun.
As I was practising the sideways step technique of climbing a hill in skis, the bugger snapped! No more skiing for me.
Thankfully, my guide Kristian, sensing a likely issue, had brought along some snowshoes, so it wasn't the end of the adventure! Actually it was just the beginning, as the next day we headed out on a 4km tur. Now 4km doesn't sound like much, but in variable conditions like these with steep hills and snowshoes my only means of transportation, it was the toughest 4km of my life!
But oh so worth it:
I'm finding it really hard to put into words just how I felt sitting there looking across the valley. I was exhausted, cold and thirsty, but full of warm feelings of achievement and wonder. I could have stayed there all day, were it not for the chilling wind 🙂
Mother nature is in charge
I quickly understood the three dangers of being out on the mountains. Firstly, the weather. During our ski trip, the sky changed within minutes from a bright blue to dull grey, it started to snow, and suddenly I became disoriented. The points of reference just disappeared.
Around the same time I discovered snow blindness. When the sky turns white and the only contrast you can see in any direction is one person twenty yards in front of you, your eyesight can be in real danger. Luckily the conditions only lasted a few minutes, otherwise we would have been forced to return to the cabin pretty quickly. Take a look, there's no fancy effects in these pictures:
The third danger is avalanches. It probably wasn't the best timing, but I chose the moment I was walking on crunchy snow “with a little give” half-way up a steep hill to ask Kristian if there are avalanches in the area.
“Yes, there's often small ones on slopes just like this”
That soon shut me up, I don't think I made a sound for the next hour…
But in all seriousness, there are extreme dangers of being unprepared in these mountains. Even experienced skiers and hikers get into serious trouble up here, so if you're going to experience the Norwegian mountains – and I highly recommend you do – then please do so with a highly experienced guide and appropriate equipment.
The nomadic Sami life
Although Grong is north of Trondheim, it's still a 1,000km drive to Tromsø, the “capital” of Arctic Norway. As such, I hadn't expected the Sami way of life to be so integral to the area around Grong. But the Sami have a base in the nearby town of Snåsa, where Southern Sami is an official language.
It's incredibly quiet on Geitfjellet and at one point we heard a distant snowmobile motor. It was a Sami herder, meaning a herd of wild reindeer were close by. No sighting – but we did catch a glimpse of the snowmobile on the horizon for just a few seconds, before he descended into the valley on the other side of the mountain. It was a beautiful moment, catching a glimpse of a traditional way of life, still alive after all these years.
My time on Geitfjellet has to rank up there with Flåm and the fjords as my best Norwegian experience to date.
There's only one way to finish this post – more pictures 🙂