I originally wanted to split this up into a few different “sagas” but I am gonna do this all in one fell swoop. It’s already almost August and I don’t have it in me to play around with all these photos anymore. Thus if your limited on time to look at photos come back later when you got ten minutes.
The long and short of it is that on sorta of a whim we ended up in the Troms region, northen Norway for the final week of May 2012; an interesting and unique place to wrap up an already exceptional winter here in the Boreal north.
A lot people think Norway is the birth place of skiing, and excuse me if I offend any Norwegians here, but I am now convinced it is not. I have come to believe that skis were originally invented and used for reindeer hunting in the Altai region of what is now Siberian Russia and Northern China and from there spread out to Reindeer country all over northern Asia and Europe thousands of years ago. Maybe it’s just that Norwegians put skiing on the map as a recreational sport for Europeans. Either way (I am getting sidetracked here) it is clear that the Norse people have an extremely rich history of skiing and traveling on snow in the mountains. I arrived very eager to celebrate that history and take part in it myself by shredding some fjords in the Land of the Midnight Sun.
(3,000 year old skis found partially preserved in a peat bog in Troms – sorta wide, maybe those Samis were on to something….)
As some of my good friends already know; there is nothing like old archeological hunter artifacts to get me fired up, add in ancient pow shredding devices that knarly old barbarians used for hunting and I am ready to slay some lines!
And then, with town sites like this, there is no reason to question why Norwegians shred it, or to be surprised that their ancestors have been shredding it for thousands of years.
We showed up and the weather was jacked; probably 70-80 mph winds and pouring rain at sea level. We posted up in the Scandic hotel for a few days and just chilled. As soon as a clearing was in sight we made quick to find a mountainside campsite in the fjords of the Lyngen Peninsula.
In the A.M. some blue was poking through and it seemed that Oden was on our side.
We began with an early morning hike up this river valley.
We encounter common circumboreal wildlife in the birch forest, the “elk” scatters, and we hike on.
This is our first view the peak we are going to try and ski.
And the upper reaches of the glaciated valley we have walked to.
A bit more dry-hiking and the skins are on; I am skiing in Norway!
After many hours of hiking and skinning we begin to rise above the fjord.
High above a Norwegian fjord getting ready to drop in; this is a place I have dreamed of being for a long time now.
The snow is soft and wintery
As we tip off the upper plateau and into the large face it goes from soft wind pack to full-blown-pow. In my opinion this photo takes the prize for best photo of the trip. I was in total Valhalla.
…and we shredded it all the way to the river.
Arriving back at the river I took some time to relax and soak it all in. This place crushes it! There is so much terrain, so many mountains to ride, and the lines are big. I always thought it would be sorta mellow, but not even close. There is lifetime after lifetime of skiing here and there are lines for any ability level.
After some silent meditative moments in the woods I scurried downriver to catch up with Anmei. We enjoyed a long evening hike out to the fjord by which we would set camp on the beach.
It was a stellar evening and we woke up to an equally stellar morning on a sunny beach.
The skies were pure blue and we scrambled to find some more terrain to explore.
It can get confusing in a foreign land with no plan and so many mountains on such a nice day. We didn’t have much information to work from. With an amazing sunny day passing us by, we finally settled on a trail going up a very appealing looking valley.
I am stunned by how much big, appealing terrain there is here. Drainage after drainage of steep walled couloirs. Where to go? What to do? We keep heading deeper into the range to explore.
Passing by several high quality looking steep north facing couloirs (reluctantly for me), we begin heading up a long glaciated ramp towards a lower angle chute that tops out in a high col with a view. This also seems to be the most bang-for-the-buck option in terms of a long descent. In route we pass more extra-ridiculous terrain.
Check this line out!
This is what I got my eye on.
After a long slog we reach the col and get some nice views of a fjord and some seracs.
We have lost a lot of our sun and the slopes are shading out on us. The bright sun baked out some of the cold snow, crusting over patches as soon as they lose their light. We move quick to catch good snow down in the light.
Excellent; more Norse pow turns and another beautiful tour. We got a long way to get out. My plan is to come back out here tomorrow and climb a few of these couloirs that I have scoped out now.
We get down to camp and I am seeing so many pretty mountains to ride. I am overwhelmed by our options and fired up for the next day.
It was all too good to be true. Oden has punished us for some past misdeed. We awake to greyness and rain showers.
We elect to go for a drive, have a look at more terrain, and try to get a weather forecast. I find another sick couloir and I am almost ready to climb it in some light drizzle.
We get closer and it becomes apparent that we would need to cross a small fjord in order to access that line. Bummer. The rain and wind pick up again. Double bummer. Down the road we get some weather info: several days of rain. Ok; let’s find somewhere where it is not raining. It’s raining everywhere. Initiate plan B; a road trip to Finland.
We come across reindeer carcass floating on piece of ice in the spring break up of a Finnish river. The reindeer must have fallen through the ice at some point during the winter.
We are now in the traditional lands of the Sami herders. This a “lavu”, the ancient Sami shelter.
We enjoy our relaxing tour of Finland. Then we end up in Sweden where it is sunny! We race to Riksgransen in hopes of a good day of lift-served corn riding. As we enter the mountains again it is raining. We suck it up and ride a few runs in the rain. I couldn’t really see much but now I have snowboarded in Sweden and it seems like it would be pretty good on the right day.
In Norway again, we head for some mountains around Narvik in hopes that the weather might shift. No luck. It looks like more rain for up north too. Initiate plan C; head for the Lofoten Islands where it seems like there is a chance for some holes in the storm.
Snow is more sparse in Lofoten but the weather does seem to be slightly milder than further inland. We had camped in this scenic bay the night before. The weather seems a bit unstable but there is potential for it to hold and I think I have found myself a line. Do you see my plan?
How about now?
There it is.
I’d say this little discovery is about as unique as a piece of snow and rock as I’ve ever seen for ski-board tour. Pointed double summits leading to rolling, low angle bowl turns which end at an aesthetic leaning ramp type couloir surrounded by granite walls, with views of a fjord, and, further northwards, the open Norwegian Sea.
I have my mind set on riding this little beauty and despite the fact that the winds are picking up and the skies are getting darker, I set off from camp excited for my first turns on a Lofoten isle.
By the time I reach the col between the twin summits I am getting hammered by a mix of ice cold hail and rain and am barely hanging on to my shit under a barrage of 70 or 80 mph wind gust. I am starting to realize the unforgiving nature of this Norwegian weather. We have waited several days to attempt any backcountry riding in hopes of sunny, calm skies. It seems like we are destined to be continuously challenged by the weather on this trip.
Nevertheless, high up on a peak above a fjord in the Lofoten Islands, getting blow around with skin piercing hail slapping me in the face, I am in high spirits; this is what it is all about man! I scramble all my gear together for the descent, being careful not to let anything get blown away. The snow is epic graupel; really good turns and a flowing line. It is nuking hail-rain super hard on the upper pitches. The couloir will be more protected.
I snapped this photo at the top of the couloir. I think it provides a good idea of what I was facing up there. (our camp is right down there by that road you can see along the ocean in the photo)
Despite the challenges that was a really fun and beautiful line. I have made up mind that, rain or shine, I am going to ride more in Lofoten. There is a ton of incredible terrain here and the snow, despite being melted out down low, is high quality right now; a mix of spring pow, graupel, and corn (with a little bit of isotherm thrown in for good late May measure).
After I strip off my soaking wet clothes we pack up the car and set off to look for more appealing, accessible lines and a campsite for the evening.
In the following two photos you can see what looks to me like the foundation for an ancient stone house (most likely medieval in origin).
What a spectacular place. I can only imagine seeing it, and riding it, during its full winter glory.
The search for riding terrain will resume the following day. We find a nice campsite by the open sea and enjoy viewing spectacular evening alpenglow along the sea side cliffs. Maybe this is a sign that the morning will bring clear skies?
The tent ends up getting pelted by rain for most of the night. We wake to unstable weather and a dusting of fresh snow on the high peaks.
As we pack up and make out way little patches of blue are in and out.
We wanna ride but it’s tricky to find something that is gonna work.
Ok, I think I have something that looks pretty doable on this peak.
It’s hard to get motivated when you’re in a warm car and it is cold, wet, and raining outside. But I really like the looks of this couloir and what I learned from the previous days mission is 1) once you are out there doing it things aren’t so bad after all, and 2) these sort of spring storms actually make for high quality snow conditions. Up high you have fresh, colder spring powder snow and down low the wind and the cold ocean air keeps the snow from getting too sloppy. Anmei is not really feeling the same level of motivation for self-exposure to the storm as I am. I try to get her up and running by explaining to her that once you break through the barrier of just stepping out there into the elements everything gets better. I also tell her how good the snow actually is. She is not buying it and I am off again for some solo couloir climbing in the rain while she takes photos from the road.
(see climber with splitboard at bottom left corner of frame)
Ok, nice, just as I suspected, pleasantly fresh spring pow in this thing today. In the bottom of the frame you can see the road. The snow extends most of the way there.
The col provides more spectacular views (this time looking southeast). The weather is semi-calm but dark, wet, and gloomy. Regardless of that, I am really enjoying this. I kick it up in the col for a few and soak it all in.
Here you can see the drop-in view, pow turns awaiting and the snow patch angling right that will get me almost to the road.
The short upper section was spectacular. Here I am half way down the couloir as viewed from the roadside.
I aint lying, that was high-quality stuff here on these Norse isles. I don’t care if I am wet to the bone and shivering to get these soaking clothes off. This is some of the most unique and exotic snowboarding I have ever done and I got hot coffee waiting for me at the car.
This is what it looked like on the sea shore at the bottom of that line, Oden teasing us again with little patches of blue.
We continue on with our exploration, searching for a new camp and more prospective snow routes.
A spectacular scene presents itself as we come across a pod of Killer Whales crossing a fjord.
In the photo below look for the large black fin breaching the water, located approximately a direct line down into the water from the pointed summit of the peak. That’s an Orca.
Here is a zoomed in view.
And here is an entire panorama of the scene; the spiked granite walls of the fjord, the fin of an Orca breaching the sea, and a large raptor of some type flying high above in the upper left corner of the frame.
Here is another one where you can see a killer whale fin and a portion of its body breaching the fjord.
Further down the way we find massive fish racks stacked with drying cod.
This looks like a nice line during times with adequate snow.
The time has come to wrap up a fine day of couloir powder turns, fjords, and killer whales and set another camp.
The morning brings more rain. We head out to explore an old Viking settlement, complete with a reconstructed Viking ship and house, as well as some archeological remains.
The depression seen in the ground here is the foundation for an old Viking boathouse.
And my favorite scene of the day; a Viking runestone on the shore of a fjord.
The skies show some signs of partial clearing. After our exploration of the old Viking homestead we head out for ascent of a peak saw during our hike to the Viking ship. Heavy snow flurries occur intermittently.
The storm continues to move in and out as we ascend.
At the summit we become engulfed in a blizzard. We wait for a partial clearing and drop in, very happy to be riding powder turns high above the site of an old Viking settlement in the valley below.
A ray of sun sheds some light on a sweet heelside turn above the spring green hills of Lofoten, and beyond: the dancing deep blue of the Arctic Ocean.
It had snowed pretty good up high the night before and for most of that day, providing us with a smooth powdery ride (and a tad bit of corn) all the way to the valley floor.
We hike across tundra, birch forests, creeks, and medieval stone walls to reach the trail where we had started from.
This will be our final night in Lofoten. The following day there will be enough time to ride a little something else, if all goes as planned.
Morning brings semi-clear skies and beautiful views. Our last day in Lofoten and our best weather there yet.
The weather remained highly unstable however. Nevertheless I wanted more riding. I started up some tundra above a fjord in search of a line.
As the thickening clouds descended upon me I took a short water break before heading up a couloir.
It was snowing on me heavily at the top of the couloir. I couldn’t see the fjord below, an acceptable compromise for deeper fresh snow.
The upper turns were sick! Here is a view looking down my route after a few turns in.
Lucky me; there was a photographer on the road shooting a rapid sequence of me riding down:
About 1/3 of the way down I broke out of the clouds and could see the green blue of the fjord below. I paused to snap a pic.
And then resumed the shred.
Springy Pow all the way through the apron.
I kick it in the tundra above the fjord and ponder the great worthiness of Norway for splitboarding.
No wonder some of snowboarding’s greatest, most legendary athletes originated here. For the entire trip I was simply overwhelmed by how much terrain, access, and splitboarding possibilities there are in Norway. It really is a backcountry skiing mecca, a seldom mentioned or recognized playground among the many more heavily covered locations on the planet. I definitely want to return. Probably a little earlier when there is more snow and, according to what one local told me, when the weather is more stable (in April). Plus we only explored two areas out of many many more. There are lifetimes of amazing riding in Norway. As long as you can handle the price tag for some items and as long as you show up with the proper spirit to appease Oden.
Post subject: Re: With Oden on Our Side - A Norse Splitboard Saga
Posted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 7:42 am
Joined: Thu Nov 03, 2011 10:07 pm Posts: 353 Location: Green Mountains
Where to start? Incredible. Riding above the fjords is surely on my life list. The history, the views, the riding. Wow. The fact that your epics "start on a whim" is truly living man. The far off photography on your couloir work is rad. The water fall is f'n cool too. Thanks for the stoke.