Saturday, 22 March 2008

Hardanger Plateau: Under Prepared and Overwhelmed

"Under prepared and overwhelmed" sort of became team Garfjeld Roberts and Inglis running motto, as in true British Victorian fashion we set out to conquer one of the harshest regions in the World (Our second mantra, became "stumpy" - Patrick's reenactment of a man with no fingers). I suppose, retrospectively, the clue is in the name: Hard Anger. And plateau is surely a misnomer, there were definitely mountains, and on our first day we climbed over 500 metres in altitude (Its a lot). Temperatures also dropped to minus 20 C and on the top of the mountain it plummeted to minus 32. It was pretty cold and extremely windy. But absolutely stunning.

And yes that dapper man is me, and yes your right again, I am sporting a pair of trousers that stop below the knee and woollen socks. Actually quite a popular look in Norway... with the over 60s.

On our first day we simply tried to get used to cross country skiing as it has been around 10 years since either of us have tried it. It began, by trying to make it down the hill from the train tracks to the place we were staying. Luckily we managed to dawdle, so I don't think anyone noticed me falling over within a few metres of setting off (my backpack was obviously unbalanced). Our second day was spent trying to conquer the Hardanger glacier. Didn't make it all the way around because the wind was so strong we couldn't physically keep our eyes open and I did not have enough clothes on. However here is a view from the top.

Our third day was spent trekking to Kraejka, 26 km away. It was epic and we arrived broken men. Fell over lots as there was some considerable downhill to negotiate, which as Patrick and I discovered is exceedingly difficult with cross country skis. We did however make it in 4 hours, and again it was lovely. The outdoor toilets along with the bunks were probably the highlights of the "hytte" there. The former for their absolute rankness and the latter for quality design, although in the evening it became pretty frosty as the heating stopped.

Our penultimate day (aka the day that defined us as men) we trekked back, and I was quite fatigued. Patrick claims he was not, but then again he no longer has any skin on his heels, so I think it is safe to say we were struggling. There was one part where the hill we were going down was so steep we had to walk it... Im not sure what that says about our man hood? We cut our last day short as there was a blizzard (apparently three people went missing and search parties had to be sent out) and grabbed the next train to Oslo. On the bright side this meant we no longer had to subsist on ramen noodles (we shared one between the two of us every night), 5 pieces of chocolate, a slice of bread, and some cheese as our daily sustenance. And we even managed to hobble around Oslo to see the sights.

Lessons I've learned. Being at least part-British greatly increases your ego in terms of what you think you can achieve, and even the when faced with the literally chilling reality, it doesn't seem to bother you in the least, how else could the empire have been built? Frostbite is a serious issue, and my fingers are still slightly numb as I type this. Although Patrick has skin that sloughs off easier than that of a boiled tomato, he is a genial travelling companion with a disposition and temperament suited to long trips in harsh conditions, and managed to make me laugh, a lot. Norway is also really pretty but a beer costs 7 pounds. Finally wish Jenny could have seen it, and that I could have taken more pictures, but when taking off your gloves to get a picture you have to weigh the chances of loosing a finger.