Sunday, 17 August 2008

A weekend in Voss - Part I - Baptism of fire?

We decided to have a short break out of the city before my girlfriend's job starts on Monday. We drove out on the awesome E16 about 100km east of Bergen to the town of Voss which is a host to all kinds of mountain sports both in the summer (kyaking, paragliding, parachuting, mountain biking, etc) as well as winter when it offers a whole host of ski runs with lifts across the mountains. We'd briefly visited Voss before on a holiday a few years ago and had enjoyed the lakeside setting surrounded by mountains but we didn't get out into the mountains beyond taking the cable car up to 600m, having a quick stroll around the plateau and then enjoying a coffee in the cafe with views across the valley. This time we intended to get some proper mountain walking done and our first decision was not to take the cable car out of the town and into the mountains but to hike from the town centre car park, up to the Voss Folk Museum and then follow the footpath up the side of the mountain. The young lad in the Tourist Information office had assured us that whilst he would send most tourists up in the cable car the path wouldn't be too steep for us. In reality the path gains around 500m altitude in 1km so it was basically like climbing rock strewn, root filled, muddy stairs for an hour! Welcome to hiking in Norway I thought! My legs weren't used to this kind of proper hiking and it felt like a baptism of fire. Once at the top (after sucking in lungfulls of mountain air to catch our breath) we had a quick gander around the plateau at the views of mountains above our position and across the valley before trying to take a circular route down but we ended up on the ski paths that zigzag the area. The paths are floodlit during the winter but at this time of year they are just wide, boggy scars through the forested mountain side. My unlined running shoes were soaked through and caked in mud but my feet were warm. Before long though we were lost, without a map, and heading back to the cable car station where we declined the offer of the last car down the mountain before closing and opted instead to walk back down the steep path to Voss. It took us almost as long to walk down than it did to slog up. The path is very loose under foot and at times were were using the ass crampon to descend certain rocky steps. We stopped briefly to gorge on wild raspberries and blueberries and wonder at the locals RUNNING up the path but after three and a half hours we were beat and looking forward to a night in a hotel by the lake. Hiking in Norway was going to be a lot tougher than I'd thought.

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