Saturday, December 13, 2014

Winter is coming

November in Norway is a torturous time of year, nay a season in its own right. Waiting season. The days grow shorter and the nights longer, and our lives grow darker for lack of snow. This is the season when I pedal to work before dawn, and pedal home in equal darkness.

In the narrow, 5-hour strip of daylight, sunlight takes on an entirely different quality than during the rest of the year. It filters through the trees light liquid gold, warming nothing but the morals of those of us who are waiting for winter.

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Audun, Dad and Sebastian the dog enjoy a late season run above Bårdsgarden in Storlidalen.

We have been having alternate frost and thawing cycles. A cold ground covered in frost makes for beautiful late season biking and running, but each thaw brings cold mud and horrible conditions.

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Out for a frosty ride with Sigurd, Silje and Audun.

November became December, bringing colder temps, lots of ice and light snow cover, but still no relief from the in-between, waiting season. Last weekend, Audun and I decided to go out to the coast in an effort to find snow-free hiking. We arrived at the remote parking lot on the island of Tustna at 9 pm, many hours after sunset, and hiked in to Gullsteinvollen cabin by the light of our headlamps. Even though it was short hike, it felt like an adventure just being out there in the dark.

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In which I try to take a cool night picture without a tripod.

The next morning we awoke to realize there was snow on the peaks above us. The weather looked alright, however, and we were still hopeful that we could make it up to one of the peaks on the island. The island is tiny, maybe 20 km in diameter, and 900 meter peaks extended straight up from the sea.

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Winter in the mountains

The weather quickly turned to snow and mist, and we wallowed up to the pass between the two main ridges on Tustna in the snow, just barely able to find the trail markers.

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It was beautifully and wintery, but not exactly the hiking conditions we had hoped for. We made a half-hearted stab at Skarven, but turned quickly, regretting the lack of crampons in our arsenal.

As we headed down from the pass, the mountain seemed to have felt it won. First a gap in the swirling mist and snow appear, illuminating the fjord below us with a shaft of sunlight.

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The fjord below.

I was breath-taken. This was exactly the reason I go to these places, for the moment when you’ve struggled and are suddenly allowed to see something beautiful. These are the moments you cannot buy.

The weather grew better as we headed downs Trollstua, the cabin we would stay at for the night. I almost wanted to shake my fist at the mountain - why couldn’t it have cleared off while we were up there?

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Still summer in the forest.

The next day was much of the same, only it never cleared off. Thick snow turned to freezing rain and we arrived back at the car, soaking wet and cold.

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A situation which begs the question: is this your idea of fun?

We’re crossing our fingers that this was the last hike of the year - next time we’ll bring skis!

- The Wild Bazilchuk

4 comments:

  1. I'm curious about the cabins, do you rent them? What's in them?

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    1. Norway has this incredible hut system. The Norwegian Tourist Association (http://english.turistforeningen.no/) owns over 200 cabins all of Norway. Some are full service, so people work there serving meals, close to a simple hotel (I worked at several of those cabins during the summers when I was younger). The majority of the cabins are self-service, so you have a universal key that fits in all of the doors. In the cabins there's typically a common room and kitchen with a gas burner, woodstoves, and bedrooms with bunk beds, and a small room of provisions that you can buy (although we typically pack in our own food). The cabins run completely on honor system, so you pay per night, typically about 250 NOK (about 30 USD) per person.

      Here's a page (in Norwegian) about one of the cabins we stayed at last weekend, you can see some pictures there: http://ut.no/hytte/3.1326/ I always forget to take pictures when I'm inside!

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    2. Another reason to visit Norway! What a great system!

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  2. This sounds awesome! Love the look on your face in the snowy photo. My snow bliss face looks similar, I think.

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