Monday, 8 July 2013
The trail always wins
So my journey from my home to Alvdal Vestfjell went a little something like this: walk, tram, train, light-railway, bus, camp bed, bus, light-railway, train, train, wallet-raping taxi. It was a 24-hour whirlwind of stations, e-tickets and constant movement but the first lungful of mountain air was worth it. My annual summer backpacking trip with Thomas was underway.
Then we swung almost 180 degrees up into the wind swept highlands, each rise and saddle revealing more open terrain. The wind increased in proportion to the gathering clouds. We had made 'good calls' every day, when to rest, where to sleep, etc, and we made another at this point. We had planned to cross another saddle into another valley but the increasing headwind had us changing our minds. We searched amongst the glacial drumlins and moraines for a sheltered pitch and found one where the wind seemed to whip over the top.
with Jörgen in the far northern winter so felt a little more at ease. The wind was a bit rambunctious but the ambient temperature was warm enough in my tent. I'm not sure Thomas was as comfortable and he told of experiencing the 'awe of the mountain' at 03.00. Unfortunately I missed it as I was fast asleep. The next morning we awoke to slightly calmer conditions and even some periods of sunshine which we we soon shunned as we packed up and headed even higher, straight into the cloud.
We experienced several swings in emotion over the next 24 hours. The dizzying spectacle of the cloud parting fleetingly above Bukletten (1532m) to reveal a column of cumulus shaped like a Himalayan peak, complete with wispy summit clouds and sun drenched ice cliffs, knocked us sideways. Alas the cloud was quicker to cover this freak of nature faster than either of us were with our cameras, perched as we were on a snowfield in the murk.
A low was experienced at the high point where minimal visibility, insidious wind and rocky trail conditions over a high mountain pass made comfortable travel impossible. Thomas especially wasn't enjoying the experience but for me building a little Type 2 fun into these trips is necessary. We checked and rechecked our position, cross-referencing with the GPS. Thomas marched in his synthetic parka and we were both ensconced in our hoods and gloves. We were never in danger, just aware that the situation could have deteriorated quickly had we gotten lost or injured. Luckily we had two heads, two maps and a GPS that got us down the other side, into the next valley, below the cloud and in short order, to a cafe where we consumed hot dogs and sodas.
Across the valley and up into the hills once more we searched in vain for a passable camp. We were in that zone between cosseted pine forest and pristine alpine fjells. We tried. We even started. We had our shelters out but the boggy ground and profusion of bugs had us packing up and heading for the next hytte where we pitched up on the lawn, drum tight. We ate well and even showered. We dried our gear in the drying room that was so efficient I discovered a couple of Spanish girls in there, drying their hair. Hola!
So we visited Disneyland, the actual Rondane mountains, for one brief day. The trails were well worn and the scenery was indeed dramatic and worthy of photography. We saw more people, hawks, fledglings, a lemming and even sunshine. The wind didn't abate though, a constant headwind down the Illmanndalen. We swaddled ourselves in windshells, hoods and sunglasses. Then, just as we felt we could charge onwards forever and the giants of the Rondane revealed themselves, our journey ended at the Rondvassbu hytte and gravel road.
So we left the Rondane National Park wanting more. Plans and schemes for the short and long term, solo and together, were formulating in our heads already. The trail had won. It survives in it's often harsh environment, drawing people back again and again. It excites, it scares, it creates wonderment and memories. It had drawn us together once more, nourished our bodies and hearts, despite the wind and rain, and sent us on our separate ways in the search for more.