1229 – ‘Heroes of Telemark’ – Norway – Hardangervidda

Aim The aim of the expedition was to introduce a number of our senior cadets to Nordic ski-touring with the view to completing a challenging 65 km 5 day, fully equipped ski-borne expedition, using DNT mountain huts and snow holes.

Location The Hardangervidda is a vast mountain plateau (“vidda”) which is located in South West Norway. It is the largest such plateau in Europe, covering an area of around 2,500 square miles at an average height of 3,500 feet. The highest point is the top of the Hardangerjokulen Glacier, which reaches a height of 6,112 feet. At this time of the year the whole area is covered in snow and ice, periodically rock formations break up the undulating canopy of whiteness.

Sunday 25 to Tuesday 27 Mar Over the first three days we focused on improving our skiing technique and learning the required skills. In the afternoons we went on short tours around Finse.

Wednesday 28 Mar This was to be the first day of a four day expedition but because of gale force winds it was decide to delay the expedition by a day. In the morning we went out for a couple of hours to revise skiing techniques, in the afternoon we went on a short tour around Finse.

Thursday 29 Mar The weather had not improved and the wind was still blowing at gale force with much spindrift and poor visibility. We again delayed setting off on the expedition and instead did some revision of ski techniques in the morning. In the afternoon we went on a tour of the Finse bowl (10km) carrying nearly full packs.

Friday 30 Mar At 9.30 we set out on the first and longest day of a three day expedition. The first day was a 16km ski to Getierygg Hytta to the north of Finse. Progress up hill was slow due to the lack of grip and we had to do a considerable amount of very tiring side stepping and traversing to get up the steepest slopes. Down hill slopes were equally challenging and all team members fell frequently because of the snow and weather conditions. We reached Geiterygg Hytta an hour later than predicted at around 1630. All team members were hungry and tired but had very much enjoyed the day and had worked very well indeed.

Saturday 31 Mar The weather had improved so we set off back towards Finse by another route to the east. The snow conditions were still very poor but because of the improved weather we made excellent progress. By 1600 we had skied 15km and were only 6km from Finse. Working in two man teams it took only two and a half hours to build a large seven man snow hole. When it was finshed we got into our sleeping bags, cooked our rations and settled down to sleep. It had been an excellent day and all were in good spirits.

Sunday 1 April We woke at around 0800 and it soon became apparent that the sides and roof of the snow hole had sagged considerably during the night. We decided that it would be best to get out as soon as possible. On digging out of the snow hole we found that the weather had deteriorated dramatically, it was extremely windy with very heavy snow and visibility of only a few meters. We carefully followed the sticked route and were back in Finse within three hours. The journey was mainly downhill and at various stages we could see Finse which was an instant lift for morale. All felt an enormous sense of achievement and there were congratulations all round. It was then a matter of getting our kit dried out, having a 20 Kroner shower and finally a collective meal together.

Monday 2 April At 0300 we made our way across the frozen lake to the train station at Finse and from there to Bergen and then home. The return journey went very smoothly and we were back in Shrewsbury by 1600hrs.

Conclusion All the cadets agreed that it was the best trip that they had ever been on and would certainly go back given the opportunity. All cadets had shown excellent levels of fitness and mental strength. As a whole the team worked very well and all helped to make the trip such a success.

Lt William Simper

Please pass on our very grateful thanks to the Trustees for the support for this expedition. It was a great success and some cadets gained a huge amount from this particular adventure training experience.

With thanks to:

Ulysses Trust

In partnership with:

Nuffield Trust