Day 43, Feb 17 2016
How Norwegians mark routes in the mountains
Last night we had a wonderful surprise when we received a phone call from old friends Ted and Jo (of Norwegian ancestry). We first came to Norway and stayed in their cabin over 30 years ago.
During dinner we had a tremendous occasion when Solvbørg, who had run the mountain cabin for over 15 years (who is known throughout Norway for being a great character), offered us a mountain love song, based on her experiences of being a young girl looking after cattle in the mountains. Moving, unique and very beautiful.
In the morning she kindly gave us a gift of a small badge if we send her a postcard when we finish.
The Norwegians are wonderful at marking routes in the mountains; in summer by uniquely shaped and strategically placed stones (often accompanied by a red “T” mark); whereas in winter (usually in March) they mark the best skiing routes with “kviste” (birch twigs). Summer and winter routes very often follow different directions, but occasionally follow the same route (see photo).
We were ecstatic when we were told that today’s route was marked, which meant Conrad could relax from navigating through the mountains. Overnight the good weather had changed to mist and wind, so the birch twig markers were a godsend!
You can imagine the psychological “nose dive” when just as we were heading into difficult terrain the markers stopped! Fortunately they reappeared after 400 metres.
The markers are useful for 3 reasons:-
- They make navigation in bad weather easy
- The snow next to markers is firm (where skidoo driver placed the markers), and avoids you sinking into deep soft snow.
- In bad visibility and ” flat light” they give you some definition for defining the ups and downs of the terrain.
At the top of the mountain pass we had a 50/50 decision as to whether to keep our “climbing skins” on for the unknown and difficult to see descent (the skins would slow us down). We decided to take skins off. The right decision, because we were rewarded with the best 6km downhill run in 30 years. The snow was perfect, the angle was perfect and we just glided down to the tiny cabin of Gjendebu by a 18km lake (in record time).
The cabin was so small that once we had the wood burning stove going, we quickly had it toasty warm.
Today it just felt that luck was on our side at every decision point.