“Du bærer livet i sekken” (Norwegian Nordic ski traveller, 2 Apr 15)*
Ten days before the Easter holidays, a team of seven staff and cadets, took part in an arduous cross-country skiing expedition, this was to the Hardangervidda Mountain Range in Southern Norway. The aim of the venture was to introduce a fairly novice group of cadets to Nordic Ski Touring, in what is classed as one on the great wilderness areas of Northern Europe. This was our tenth ski expedition to this mountain range.
The first four days were based at the fully staffed Finse Hytta. This is probably one of the more salubrious DNT** mountain huts in Norway, more like a small hotel.
The cadets responded very well to this unique form of skiing, which involved the technical skills, snow hole construction, and general Arctic and cold climate survival. On completing the training phase, the group then with their 30lbs rucksacks headed off into this remote snowy wilderness on a 65 km ski borne expedition.
Day 1: Finse to Kreakkja – 24 km (both staffed Hytta)
Day 2: Kreakkja to Kjeldebu – 13 km, the latter being self-contained. Did our own cooking and hut chores etc.
Day 3: Kjeldebu to Snowhole by the southern edge of Brattenfonn Vatnet (lake) – 20 km (temp in snowhole was -2, outside -9) #
Day 4: Snowhole to Finse – 10 km
The brilliant sunshine gave us some wonderful views of the surrounding snow covered peaks. The route was straight forward enough, mostly over fairly easy, undulating terrain. However, the steepish downhill sections did provide a number of interesting falls, mainly involving cadets being totally submerged in powdery snow!
All enjoyed the creature comforts provided by the brilliant DNT mountain hut system, but there was still the prospect of building a snow hole on the penultimate day. Our first attempt during the training phase proved to be a reasonable easy undertaking. For the real thing, it was pretty much the same, as our shovels sank into the soft snow with ease. However, during the construction, we did hit some rock at the back of the cave, but with a little improvisation, we managed to work around this by elevating the floor and scraping away about a foot of snow from the ceiling. A few hours later all were in our comfortable ice bound abode, cooking a well-earned evening meal. Soon afterwards sleep just seemed to come naturally.
On our way back to Finse, we had the great privilege of seeing a herd of reindeer, galloping through the deep snow, with the Hardangerjokulen glacier as a backdrop. Quite a sight, never realised that these animals could move so quickly in this sort of environment.
The weather and snow conditions were generally were very favourable. The lowest temperature was –12 degrees Centigrade, but with the wind chill factor it was recorded at –27 degrees Centigrade.
This was a successful expedition, which I believe all found to be an enjoyable challenge, especially as none had ever done this type of skiing before. Hopefully it was educational, and that the team leaders quiz (won by Henry Radcliffe) gave a little insight into Norway, its people, history, geography and the great outdoors. This was probably our youngest team ever. They were well motivated, very fit and well organised.
For a group who had never cross country skied before, certainly with 30lb rucksack on their backs it was quite an achievement. Many Norwegians that we met were equally impressed. I have no doubt that most will remember this unique experience for some time to come. Really a rare and unique experience for UK based pupils.
*The quote from above is from a Norwegian that we met at Finse. It has a very profound meaning, especially when skiing in this remote part of Norway. “You carry your life in a rucksack”!
**DNT – Den Norske Tourisforening (The Norwegian Tourist Association)