Monday, 22 June 2009

There's no such thing as enough lunch (Biting off more than you can chew)

It was supposed to be another simple Topptrim mission. Our last day with a car that a friend lent us for the week. The whole team got up late and left it to me to check the maps and make the plans. I thought I'd turn a simple peak bagging exercise into a more cerebral, full day of contrasts and wonder....

Big mistake.

Instead of parking in the main car park below Svinningen (842m) I decided it would be more fun to start our day a few kilometres back down the valley, leaving our car a short walk from some idyllic fishing lakes that would provide a nice setting for a post-hike bbq and angle. Starting the walk here would involve a steep ridge walk onto Sveningen and then a spectacular ridge walk onto Svinningen itself.

The clouds and suspect weather reports that had us packing full wet weather gear vanished as we parked the car and we toiled through the muggy, fly infested forest path between the fishing lakes. Forget-me-nots and Lupins lined the verdant path. The only sign of humans were the scratches of crampons on larger rocks from winter visitors to this beautiful area, We stepped over a fallen log and suddenly the path kicked hard upwards.

It really didn't look this steep on the map but this rarely used path snaked up the ridge taking us through open rocky hillsides and copses of twisted fir trees. On one side of us was the wide, grassy, inhabited Hausdalen valley and on the other was the ancient rocky Hisbotnelva gorge, it's steep sides offering no purchase for trees and the timeless snow-fed stream cutting a deep path. After several false tops and breathers we were starting to think that actually getting to our goal of Svinningen might be just out of reach today. We sat and looked at the map and pooled our meager supplies. Whilst we had plenty of daylight the pathetic collection of a couple of Snickers, tins of mackerel in tomato sauce and some organic energy chews was probably not going to fuel four people for the further 4/5 hours we would need to reach the summit that lay just out of sight along the ridge. We decided to at least get to the top of the ridge we were climbing and then decide if we could risk it.

After another hour of hands and knees scrambling we finally got to the top of our ridge where three ridges met and the rugged summit of Svinningen stared back at us, instantly and obviously out of reach of our plans today. We weren't even that bothered. 360 degrees of unspoiled mountain views had us all sitting down, quietly smiling to ourselves.  Svinningen would still be there for another time.

We turned our attentions to the bbq that awaited us in the boot of the car far, far below us and motivated by hunger pangs we began the perilously steep descent. We all took a slip or a stumble at one point or another and were relegated to sitting and inching our way down the smooth granite slab that proved to be the trickiest part of the day.

At one point Steve and I stopped and waited for the girls. Just above us the albatross-like wingspan of a glider swooshed towards us, riding the thermals. As it passed directly overhead you could hear the straining tune of the carbon fibre and we thought about the scary fact that this challenger to the forces of nature had no engine...

Back down below the tree line we lost the comforting breeze and started to really feel the heat of the day. The stream that had been audibly just out of sight next to us all day suddenly seemed very inviting and we looked for an access point so we could refill water bottles and freshen hot feet in the glacial waters.

We found a pool just above a waterfall and spent half an hour recharging flagging batteries. The ice cold water refreshed tired feet almost instantly and I don't think there is better tasting water in the entire world. Back in the valley we collected fishing rods and bbq supplies from the car and spent an enjoyable evening watching the sun set behind the mountains. I don't think I have ever been so glad to see processed hotdog sausages. I even managed to catch my biggest ever pike, too big for our landing net so some delicate in-situ unhooking with forceps was required to allow the beastie to live to fight another day. Svinningen too would still be here.


Hendrik M said...

Nice photos and story =) How big was your pike? I caught a pair of small ones last weekend, around 40cm which also went back - though one trout of 53cm went into the smoking oven, nam nam!

Holdfast said...

Hendrik - thanks! I think the pike was maybe 50cm. It's only the third one I've caught (never did predator/lure fishing in the UK). My girlfriend is still waiting for me to catch my first trout :-)

Hendrik M said...

Nice, 50cm is a good size for the bbq ;) I imagine that you're in a good location for catching trout, but also in the fjords it should be easy to catch cod from the shore.

Tight lines!