First Summit: Galdhøpiggen, 2469 meters.

Pics at the bottom… 😉

Friday July 24th, we head off right after work. Equipment is picked up, juicy burger at our favourite grill, and then we are on our way. Taking turns driving, only 60-70 miles each to make sure we are both in top condition when we reach Spiterstølen.

Driving is smooth in spite of a rough week of work and climbing, and the miles stack up behind us. The enthusiasm grows as we are starting to see snow capped mountains up the valley. On the last leg up Visdalen we finally meet some resistance. A bunch of mad cows are blocking the road. One of them is standing in the middle of the road, giving us the evil eye, daring us to get out of the car. We are city slickers, so we don’t… Dante is going berserk in the back to no avail, and Gorm and I are chuckling to ourselves about how wimpy we are. We sit there until a local comes by and moves the cows for us. He seems to be chuckling too.

Finally up at Spiterstulen which will be our base camp, we pay the parking fee and are told to either pay a camping fee as well, or hike 2/3 of a mile up the valley and camp for free. I ask about driving a little ways down the road and camp, and the guy behind the counter tells me the folks who own the land frown upon such practices. It is late, I’m tired, and I have the god given right to camp just about anywhere in this country, so to hell with the landlords. Wer’re camping down the road. Pitching the tents (using 2 tents because Gorm is allergic to dogs) in a jiffy, and firing up the stove to get some supper in us. It is 2 minute pasta, not a big deal, but with some hot cocoa it is a sweet meal.

Saturday July 25th.

We all sleep like the dead, and over sleep by about half an hour. No worries, because we needed the rest. A hard days work ahead, and after a good hot breakfast with more cocoa we rack up and drive back up to park at Spiterstulen.

Packs on our backs, Dante binered to the belt and we’re on our way. Across the bridge and up into the mountain. The weather is not great, with a little rain floating about and fog rolling around. But we are equipped for almost anything, so we won’t let that bother us, and march on. But it is steep. So f-ing steep, and before we know it, it has become a struggle. A struggle that will last for almost 8 more hours. Luckily we don’t know that yet.

Dante is pulling like a Husky on steroids, and not always in the direction I would prefer. After a lot of near falls, I slam into the ground, and the poor guy gets a proper earful. After a little while longer he gets a little tired and it gets better. Gorm goes in front, leading the charge, and Dante is pulling an already tired Paul up behind. Every foot of altitude is a struggle now, and a lot of people pass us on the way up. Our comfort is that we are the only ones stupid enough to go up with a full kit and planning to stay the night. After about 3 hours battle with Gravity we find a fairly sheltered ledge in a drift of snow at about 1800 meters and fire up the stove. Time for lunch. Food is welcome, and even if the weather is chilly, and we’re not completely sheltered from the wind, a good break and a refill is so damn sweet it is hard to explain. Before we press on we check the map, and are not overjoyed about the fact that we are not yet half way. Close, but still. But if it had been easy, we would not have bothered driving 6 hours to do the trek…

We quickly learn that rocks are preferable before snow. The snow is rotten, wet, slippery and heavy as led. Baby steps are required every time we cross a section of snow, and we can feel our strength flow out of our bodies for every step. But we get across. Every time.

Then the surprise. We have been looking forward to a fairly easy stretch from around 2000 meters and a ways up. It looked that way from 1800 meters. Not so. As it turns out, the stretch from 2000 meters up to Svellnose at 2278 meters is the most challenging part of the trek. Steep f-ing rock that takes a lot of time and effort to cross. Big moves and balancing on sharp rocks takes all our strength. But thanks to our shiny new Scarpa mountaineering boots we get across safely. These bad boys almost make jumping from rock to rock fun. But there are just too damn many boulders to cross and it is too damn hard. Others are having some fun though, by sliding down a stretch of snow on our right side. They have been up, and are happy to be going down, yelling and carrying on while going 50 mph down the mountain side. We watch and wish it were us. Green with envy we scramble on.

But when Svellnose is under our boots, and we see the first flat part on the trek ahead of us, the energy rushes back in. Holy hell. What a rush. Just Keilhaus Peak left before the big summit. We are going to make it!

Then another disappointment. Steep down from Svellnose before we start another wicked ascent towards Keilhaus Peak. We move by will alone now. Dante is really sore on his hind paws. He prefers snow now, and leaves a little trail of blood. But we just have to push on. He’ll get socks before the descent tomorrow. Keilhaus Peak and 2355 meters is reached with nothing left in us. The wind has picked up quite a bit, and we can’t really see much. Only about 20-30 meters before the snow and the fog covers all. Not optimal conditions, but we are well equipped and square our shoulders for the last assault on the summit. Another bouldery descent followed by jumping from rock to rock across a snow covered plain is traversed before the last ascent begins. It is covered with snow. Wet, slippery, heavy, impossible snow. I ran out of water in my camelback before Keilhaus Peak, and I’m already starting to get dehydrated. But stubborn am I, and wont quit. Gorm is feeling it too, and it is slow going now. A guy passing us going down yells something about 200 meters. 30 minutes later I am swearing under my breath. ”200 meters my ass!” “Fucking dumbass!”

One step at a time. Studying the snow on the tip of my shoe, and almost stumble over Gorm who is on his knees in the path. “Chocolate” he says. And we do. Good god (I’m not a believer but use the phrases none the less) what a feeling it is to get some energy after tapping the reserves for so long. Energy I thought was lost for ever comes flooding back. We are passed by a couple going up while we chew the blessed chocolate. The best damn chocolate I have ever had! Then, after a few more paces we can see the summit cabin through the fog. It must be it! We took a knee, completely empty, only 100 meters from the summit. Now we charge past the couple from before and share a limp but happy high 5. To tired buddies have reached their target.

Inside the cabin we get changed into dry underwear and heat up a little bit. Then we run the last 20 meters to the summit actual. We can’t be bothered to snap any pictures there, because the visibility is nil. But we have a little photo session outside the cabin before we light up a Cuban cigar each and consume the last chocolate. Then we kit up again. We have to find a spot to pitch the tents.

In a brief spell of good visibility, we see the perfect spot. A little snow covered plain. When we get there, it is not really plain. More like steep. If we pitch the tents here, we are going to wake up 1000 meters below at the foot of the glacier. So we move on. Through that blasted snow. Only now it fails, and we struggle forward with snow to our knees. However we get through it, and find a place our desperation says is good enough. So we pitch for the night. Our tent stakes are useless in this rotten snow, so rocks and snow are the tools for the occasion. With no shovel (mental note for future trips added) the bottom of the tent is lumpy at best, but more likely full of holes, and rocks sticking up from the compressed snow. But it is night, the wind is threatening to pull down the tents. Moving is out of the question.

After rolling out the sleeping pad so Dante can get some rest after his supper, I start to fire up the stove. But it is not cooperating. I preheat, and preheat again, pump, pump, light, light. The piece of shit won’t burn. Frustration is sky high, and a fear is sneaking in. We only have freeze dried food. And not a drop of water. If the stove refuses to work, the descent will be pure hell. All my strength is gone, and I dare not think of a descent without food and water for god knows how many hours.

Then it lights. Hissing and spitting and screaming. But it is enough. Pumping like a maniac while the snow melts and the water is heating up. And as the words “supper ready” leave my lips, the damn thing dies. Fucking bit of luck. We have our supper. And it sure beats eating snow… I start to eat and notice something odd. It takes a while to realize just what it is. It is Dante. He is just laying there. Not begging. Not even moving. I put the food down right in front of his nose. No reaction. The boy is nackered! Pic snapped for posterity.

After supper I get in the bag, and find out it is too cold for Dante to bed on my jacket, so we have to share the pad. Tight fit, but we make it work. The bag I picked for the trip is the outer bag for my Tempelfjorden bag, and only good for temps down to 0 degrees Celsius. It is a little cold in 4-5 below even with wool underwear, socks, fleece jacket and hat. But I sleep a little here and there.

Sunday July 26th.

At about seven thirty I yell over to Gorm in the other tent, and he is awake too. So we start the day. It feels like a proper expedition now. I’m still severely frightened by the prospect of the stove not working. But I won’t give up that bastard without a fight. And I find a way to get it burning, and keep it burning until we have hot water for our breakfasts, and melted almost enough drinking water to fill my camelback. We have food in us, and at least enough water to reach the trickling streams coming out of the glaciers at about 1800 meters. Turns out we have enough water for the entire descent, although we do sample the glacier water as we pass. Socks are duct taped to Dante’s hind legs, packs are readied and we are ready for the worst task. Taking down the tents.

The wind is blowing hard, and visibility is very bad. 30-40 meters at best, and our world is a small space of black and white, snow and rock. Ice is hanging from the tent cords, and the wind is so strong we have to take down one tent at a time, lest we lose them. It works out, but by the time we pick up our packs our fingers and toes are frozen solid. Moving is sweet, feeling the heat get back into our bodies. We are ready for some more work.

Turns out that the descent is not entirely easy either. Especially the ascent up to Svellnose promises to rip the spirits right out of me. Baby steps in the blasted snow and my thighs feel powerless already. Not particularly promising. But then we reach the snow covered slopes, and we scream down the hills with Dante running full speed ahead of me while snow is thrown all over the place as I try to apply the brakes with my boots. Get up with my pants full of snow and a big shit eating grin on my face. Fucking great! And many free meters. I needed that.

The endless boulders are crossed, and after the snow covered slopes, it is my favourite part of the descent. Like walking an eccentric set of stairs as long as you plan a few moves ahead. Let Dante off the leash to avoid unfortunate pulls messing up our day. Then we step down. We suddenly find a spot with a great view. The first view we’ve had on the trip, and get out the camera, figure out the timer, strike a pose, and when we look at the picture, it is us against a white backdrop. The fog raced in and took our pretty picture away. But we are there, with black rock and white sky. Good enough.

The last bit of snow is almost one too many, as the speed gets a little out of hand, and I am unable to apply the brakes. I hit the rocks at the end pretty hard, but fortunately no harm done apart from a little pain. But I’m getting used to pain…

Then we catch sight of Spiterstulen way below us, and every step down reveals more details. When we can see cars my spirits start to rise, even though I am so tired I feel about to keel over from exhaustion. My thighs are burning, my knees lock off for every step, and I am beginning to feel the skin coming off my little toe. Unfortunately I take too long to stop and get out the band aids, and it is pretty bad. But the band aid gets me down without too much extra pain, apart from powerless limbs, a couple of spills and an emerging headache. I have never been so exited about a six hour drive before in my life. Not even two days ago…

The drive down from Spiterstulen is uninterrupted by cows or others, and we reach Lom where a double bacon cheeseburger with fries and 2 pints of soda is consumed. A little hungry perhaps? Then we drive home.

Epiloge.

Even though I thought it was going to be hard, rough and probably cold, it was much harder, rougher and colder. So much more that I thought I would have to give up. So much that I was wondering if it was worth it.

But I did not give up. And it was worth it. The feeling upon reaching the summit after all the toil up the slopes defies words, and I am greatly anticipating the next summit. It is such a great feeling after pushing yourself to your limits and beyond, and succeeding. For many people the ascent to Galdhøpiggen is like a walk in the park, but for us it felt like Mount Everest. And that is reason enough to celebrate the achievement.

Some pictures.

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