Lyngen Alps – Part 3

Day 3

The wind storm predicted by meteorologists didn’t materialize last night. So Charles decides to take advantage of the calmer seas and motor to the island of ArnØya. According to him, it has one of the most, if not the most, picturesque village of the entire area. Sadly, we are currently sailing in low clouds and visibility is very poor.

Although we can’t see much on the horizon, the GPS tells us we are on the right direction and should get there in about one hour.

Earlier on this morning, Charles was telling us about the summer up here. It’s crazy. He says they hardly sleep during the months of June and July. Due to its northerly
location, the seasonal variations in this part of the world are more extreme and interesting than those in the Alps. I have never been here in summer, but I can imagine that an area that is a -10° covered in snow and ice in January is a lush meadow basking in +30° under
the midnight sun six months later.

Comparatively to the Alps, there is also a much more interesting variety of landscape including coast, fjords, forest, lakes, glacier and tundra, most of which can be found everywhere. While it’s difficult to avoid the crowds in the Alps, Scandinavian mountains are by comparison almost deserted.

This is the tiny little harbor on the island of ArnØya, our destination. A perfect example of what happens up here in the Arctic when the mountains meet the sea.

I wonder whether Goxsheim can travel through time. I have the impression we have sailed into the past. I have no idea when though as I can’t see any cars, or any sign of human
presence. Although we know that under the 30cm of fresh snow on the ground there is a road to cross, we are not worried about being run over. Once again, we set off for our tour in light snow and poor visibility. As we cross the road we find ourselves skinning along through private back gardens. We hope the locals won’t mind. This is Norway after all – here people claim they were born with skis on their feet.

Despite the low clouds, the views are spectacular.

After an hour of easy skinning through a couple of low angle fields and along a small ridge, as we approach a steeper section, the Norwegian weather Gods give us another small taste of their power and strength. It’s hard to understand why, but for some reasons they don’t seem too happy to have us on the mountain today. So, not feeling welcomed, we prepare ourselves for another windy and cold skinning session.

Together with the fresh mountain air and the mountain views, the sustained rhythm of movement in a long climb is one of the aspects of ski touring inducing a sense of physical
wellbeing, even in today’s adverse weather conditions. I know that some of you will find it difficult to believe but, in different ways and at different levels, everyone in the group is truly enjoying battling with the elements to see how far we can go. If we didn’t enjoy the process we would not be here.

This is one of several reasons I would always choose a day of touring over a day of resort skiing. This mental and physical healthy sensation cannot be achieved by using any other mechanical mode of ascent, chairlifts, snowmobiles or even helicopter. Getting to the top of a mountain with helicopter is cheating! Yes, climbing is hard work, true, but it’s worth it. The reward is like the Latins used to say: “Mens sana in corpore sano”, healthy mind in healthy body.

After about an hour of skinning in gale force wind we get to a point where we know it would be silly to go any higher. So we switch back to skiing mode and get ready for the

Although we only have a few meters of visibility, the snow is good. Visibility improves as we ski down. When we reach the top of the powder fields we can actually see where we are and it’s a good place to be. A low angle, wide open powder field opens ahead of us. We drop in – the snow is dry and deep. There is room for everyone so we all shoot off in different directions trying to make the most of the terrain’s natural features.

This is Captain Tim, negotiating small bushes in style, as always.

Once at the bottom, after Jorge’s lesson on how to pee safely in strong winds, we switch to touring and skin back up to the top of the powder fields for another run. Per and Jorge are leading the charge.

Despite the low clouds and the strong wind, we are going back to base camp with another great day in the bag. The weather forecast is for more snow overnight, clear tomorrow morning, so we might try to get to the summit tomorrow. But then again, up here the weather changes from hour to hour and so do our plans.

Day 4

Last night was very windy. It snowed on and off all night and we now have about 20 cm of new snow on the deck. Weather forecast for today is clear skies and no wind so we decide to stay here on the island another day. We have the same objective we had yesterday: reach the summit. We can only hope today the Norwegian weather Gods will be kind to us.

Just like what happens when you do winter camping you have to shovel snow after a storm, the same applies to the deck of a boat. Cedric and Tim are already on it, although Tim seems to have lost his shovel.

Do you see the ladder? The other main difference with sailing in the Med is that there are pretty big tides here. This morning we woke up a couple of meters below the dock.

As we skin over the powder fields, I notice that for the first time in four days the sky – although not completely cloudless – is mostly blue, and a shy sun seems to encourage us to
skin up the mountain. The elements are on our side!

Mike and Dev, proud members of the splitboard contingent.

When we reach the summit after a couple of hours we are rewarded with amazing views on the seaand surrounding scattered pieces of land.

Light in the Arctic has a quality I have not met elsewhere. It is luminous without being intense, penetrating the landscape to seemingly interminable distances with an effortless strength. Looking out at sea it’s not always easy to identify fjords and islands. The water embraces every corner of land. Details are no longer part of the landscape. There is only the water and the mountains. I let my eyes travel over the surface, slowly, from shore to shore. There is no way like that for savoring the extent of this vast water surface.

The challenge now will be skiing keeping an eye on the slope and one on the view. Our
line seems to end right in the sea. I wonder whether we should be wearing life jackets to ski this slope.

This is one of the rare shots of me. Thank you Tim!

Back at the boat we get ready to sail. The temperature is dropping so Jorge and I add a seriously warm layer that will keep us toasty during the evening sailing session.

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