Sunday, 25 January 2009

"The Darkside is always there, waiting for us to enter"

I've been waiting for a day like this. A full day with no other obligations and good weather. This time I double checked that I had packed EVERYTHING I needed and made sure I was up and out the door as early as possible to make the most of the available daylight. I've been meaning to get up and over the Storfjellet plateau since we moved to our current apartment but always seemed to run out of time or weather. I wanted to see over the other side, the darkside of the hill that we hike/run up every week. The snow started proper at 300m and it was good to be pounding up the southern-most ridge of the plateau with the sun and wind at my back.

Heading north just before I picked up the path to the Turnerhytten hut I was now off the beaten track. The wind had created an icy crust that in places allowed me to follow compass bearings 'as the crow flies'. In places I followed arctic hare tracks in the snow to the cairn marking the highest point on the plateau, Hauggjelsvarden at 673m (my Suunto read 675m which was reassuring to know that it actually worked!). I signed my name in the register (after managing to get the frozen ballpoint pen to work) and headed north following some seriously big tracks in the snow.

I hoped they belonged to someone wearing snowshoes and not a yeti. It was at this point that snowshoes suddenly made a lot of sense. I'd seen them in the shops in town and wondered if they were really needed around here but cutting across the plateau the way I was, periodically breaking through the icy crust, sometimes up to my hip, I can't help but feel I would have saved a lot of energy with a couple of tennis rackets strapped to my feet.

On the far-side of the plateau I stopped for lunch in the shelter of a huge snow drift. It was good to peer down into the next valley which I had only previously seen when driving the valley road. A whole other world of possible trails and mountains opened up and I got to see the gateway to the three-day trek to Voss that we have planned for the spring. The weather had been amazing walking this way but now it was time to turn for home and straight into the teeth of the wind. I pulled on another layer, changed my socks and put my goggles on so I could see where I was going. The first few hundred metres were so cold after my break but a few Pete Townshend arm swings and the warmth soon returned to my fingers. At this point a bank of cloud combined with the slight tint of my goggles created a surreal golden light effect that pulled me back across the plateau. Fine powder snow snaked across the crusty surface towards me as I ticked off the cairns back towards the Ulriken ridge. This was the hardest walking of the day. The snow was softening up and I crashed through the crust with annoying regularity, a couple of times I keeled over in perfect slow motion.

The day was drawing to a close. The sun's lazy, low winter arc was almost up. It felt good to have been out for so long although my feet were staring to complain at their six hour shift. I was glad I finally got to see the dark side of 'my mountain'.


Nielsen Brown said...

Pete Townshend now you are talking! Great report, never really tried tennis racquets on my feet when in Oz I was very happy with cross country skis (Langlauf skiing) something I miss here, even though I was never really that good, especially with a full pack on.

Glad the sun shone for you, been a bit grey here for a number of days (or is it weeks)

shadow said...

Yet again your cousin looks on with envy at the beautiful part of the world you are now living in - especially as I'm wading through calf deep mud to feed the livestock at the moment!

Enjoy (but do remember to pack everything!!)

ptc* said...

That top photie fair lightened up my general demeanor!

Snow shoes...must see Bobinson for lunch this week...

Martin Rye said...

Good things come to those that wait. From the photos I see you had lots good things to enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Awesome mate !
Get some snow shoes and enjoy !

Chris ( said...

Looks like a beautiful day you had up there. Snow shoes are great fun - I'd recommend the MSR Lightning Ascent.

Holdfast said...

Nielsen - I picked up the 'Pete Townshend arm swing' technique for re-warming fingers off BPL and it works a treat! Snow travel is something we're just getting to grips with and we're giving cross country skiing a try next.

Shadow - Yes, I remembered everything this time. It looks pretty now but the snow will disappear with the next thaw (a seemingly weekly occurrence here at the moment) and it'll be us up to our armpits in mud!

ptc* - Glad that photie cheered you up. It's nice to be able to return the favour for once.

Martin - It was good to finally get past that sticking point at the top of Ulriken. Seems strange that it took deep snow and a freezing wind to provide the perfect conditions for furthering my horizons.

Bobinson - Snow shoes - yet something else to add to the list! At least they make sense now. Time to do some homework.

Chris - thanks for the recommendation. Yes, it was a beautiful day and the most fun I've had in the mountains since we climbed Skarasalen in the summer.