Less than a week after the awesome London to Brighton Bike Ride, and with my legs just about recovered, on June 23rd (just after ticking boxes for the UK's EU referendum vote, the results of which I have made my opinions clear about on Twitter ...), I met up with my parents and bro again at Gatwick Airport to head to Norway! As with the bike ride, the beginning of our trip was met with some trouble when our flight was delayed over 3 hours, leaving well after 10pm instead of the scheduled 7pm, and if not to add a little more worry, one of our bags, though thankfully not one of the more essential ones, was lost during transit... Fortunately, that bag was recovered and sent back to the UK on June 30th, though the pork pies we were supposed to deliver to our Norwegian relatives had sadly decayed into some of the most foul smelling, strangely soft, lumps of pastry I've ever seen. Sad times for the pies but let's get back on towards the trip!
So after meeting up with my Auntie Siv and Uncle Phil who we would be spending our time with for the next few days, we arrived at their home to get some sleep at 4am, just enough time for a little nap before waking up at 7am to meet up with Auntie Siv's sister Vibecke (the final member of our team) and catch a coach up north towards our base camp at Spiterstulen.
The 5 hour coach journey to Lom (which was as far as the coach would go, and an amazing little town with the best cinnamon buns ever!) was for the first half at least spent catching up on as much sleep as possible. After waking up though, I couldn't help but admire the scenery and lovely countryside along the journey. We passed huge lakes and gradually the terrain got less flat and tall hills started to appear. By the time we arrived in Lom, we were by a fast flowing white water river and could see snow topped mountains in the not too far distance. It was here that we left the coach behind in favor of a minivan which would take us up the narrow mountain roads to Spiterstulen.
It's interesting to note that the landscape changed drastically as we went higher, most noticeably in terms of the plant life. At around 1km above sea level there are no trees for instance, so as we drove further up into the mountains, the trees seemed to shrink shorter and shorter until by the time we reached our base camp at 1100m there were only the smallest of bushes, mosses and short grass decorating the landscape. That and mountains. LOTS of snowy mountains! By this time it was getting quite late, so after some dinner and a little wander around, it was an early(ish) night in our cabin ready for tomorrow's big trek!
^^^ PHOTO: The river running by our base camp (Behind the camera)
At around 9:30 the next morning, after a hearty breakfast and some final preparation, we set off across the river and began our climb up the mossy, grassy and rocky side of the mountain. Chatting to one of the experienced climbers at the base camp, he figured it'd take 4 hours to reach the summit and another 3 to get back down, and told us just to follow the "clearly marked" path of painted red "T"s and purposely stacked piles of rocks. Sounds simple enough right? WRONG!!! For starters 4 hours might have been doable for people who knew the route already and had grown up walking in snow, but the red markers were not clear to see on the route unless you were staring at them from exactly the right angle, and often you couldn't see them anyway because they were covered in snow or so worn away that they were barely legible! That's not even taking account of the weather which at times was so misty and thick that when you were walking on the snow all you could see was bright white ahead of you from the ground to the sky! It was certainly not a walk in the park that's for sure!
>>> PHOTO: A map of the beginning of the climb with the rough trail marked in red. You can see the base camp at the bottom of the photo. and the first two peaks at the top. Note: the highest peak Galdhøpiggen is NOT visible from this photo!
<<< PHOTO: Tasty springs and sparse vegetation.
Back to the grassy parts of the journey towards the beginning, it was lovely scenery, and there were even some clear fresh water springs which you could drink from. It was ice cold and tasted so good too! Eventually climbing higher and higher, the moss and grass gradually disappeared until it was just bare rocks and snow around us. The first big snowfield was a steep climb though thick cloud towards the first (sort of) plateau before the first peak. I forgot to mention that to get to the Galdhøpiggen, we would need to climb 3 peaks along the way, each higher than the rest. To put it into perspective , imagine seeing what you thought was the highest peak for miles and miles and getting to the top only to see a peak waaaay higher staring at you from behind it. That happened twice during the accent and certainly, climbing this mountain was as much of strain on your mind as it was a strain on your legs (more on that later)...
<<< PHOTO: My Uncle Phil on the first big snowy slope. You can barely see anything it's so misty and white!
VVV PHOTO: Looking down the valley before we ascended through the cloud and onto the snowy slope on the left.
>>> PHOTO: On the plateau heading towards the ridge and the first peak
Back to the first plateau: Ahead of us we could just about see the first peak and the ridge we'd need to follow to reach it. Strangely, it's very difficult to tell how big and how far away things are when there are no tree's around to give you a sense of scale and so reaching the ridge took a lot longer walking through the snow than I'd anticipated. Once we reached the ridge though, the trip got a whole lot more demanding...
^^^ PHOTO: Looking over a tamer section of the ridge at one of the glaciers
I'd LIKE to say that I loved the view looking over the ridge out towards one of the glaciers as we climbed, but my legs felt like jelly as soon as I saw it. Picture this: you are standing on a fairly narrow (maybe 10 meters wide?) ridge of jagged boulders. On your right side is a fairly steep slope of more jagged rocks, while on your left is an open cliff, dropping lord knows how far to almost certain death on a glacier. I'm so glad that the cloud was clear as we traversed this bit because in honesty, one slip could mean a very bad injury or worse and thankfully it was clear enough that we could see where we were meant to go. Needless to say, this was not my favourite part of the mountain, on the way up or on the way down!
And with a worrying more than 4 hours since we'd left the base camp it seemed like this part was as much as my Mum and Dad could take too, and I don't blame them one bit. It was here that our team split up, my parents heading back towards base camp, while my aunt, uncle, brother Eamon and Vibecke pushed on ahead towards the first peak.
After conquering the ridge the cloud came down again and we were left with a tough choice. Ahead of us we could see 2 vague tracks in the snow, once leading up the first peak, and one leading around it to what seemed like over the edge of that cliff we'd been climbing along. Needless to say although it seemed less steep I was NOT going to follow the path towards the cliff edge when all I could see ahead of us was some faint rocks in a sea of white, so instead we headed further up the mountain towards the first peak. Coming down the other side, it was still very misty so we couldn't see the 2nd peak staring at us right away, but by lord it was tall when we did see it! Soo much taller than the one we'd just climbed, and the only way up was another steep climb through the snow.
>>> PHOTO: Looking (and climbing) up to the second peak.
As we battled towards this second peak, the weather started to clear up again (it's strange and kinda scary how quickly it can change up here) and we were greeted by an amazing sight! Behind us, the tall first peak and a much clearer view of that path around it we'd chosen not to take, but also the incredible view across more snowfields and the smaller peaks around us. It was simply breathtaking! The second peak itself offered an even clearer and awe inspiring view back but heading over it and onto the jagged rock descent before the final peak, Galdhøpiggen, the mist settled back in and our final destination was hidden from us in the clouds!
VVV PHOTOs: More Lovely views
>>> PHOTO: The final climb to Galdhøpiggen. You can just about see the hut through the mist
The final climb wasn't the hardest, but it felt long. The only way up was through fairly deep and steep snow and the visibility had dropped so that we could barely see where we were going. Occasionally some light would shine through and you'd be able to see the small hut right by the summit, but again with nothing really to give you a sense of perspective it wasn't clear for a long time how far away it really was. Finally though, after a final steep climb we saw the hut in detail and just past it, the small metal monument marking the summit itself! Here at the very top, there was nothing around that we had to look up to see, and gazing through the brief clearings in the sky, the horizon seemed to stretch forever. It was truly a breathtaking moment! The time we reached the peak Galdhøpiggen was around 5:30pm.
And for a good half hour - 45 minutes, the 5 of us celebrated at the top (my uncle even cracking open a beer). The small monument at the summit had a spinning contraption on it which apparent used to be a working telescope. There were lines on a disc it was mounted on which pointed you in the direction of various places around Norway giving you a distance too as to how far away it was. The small hut there seemed to be manned by a single person selling T-shirts (which of course I purchased), postcards which you could get stamped to say you made it there (which of course I also got!), as well as drinks and snacks to aid you on the way down. We'd seen a fair few people walking up the mountain with us including a few dogs too, and sure enough some people were chilling in the hut too. Perhaps a testament to the times we live in, but the hut also had free WiFi which I thought was pretty funny. After a good rest there, we got up again for what would be a long descent at around 6:15pm. The final thing I did was to sign the Galdhøpiggen guest book:
"Today I made some tracks" - Nick Standing, Jabun.
^^^ PHOTO: Standing by the metal monument at the summit
^^^ PHOTO: Standing on the summit itself looking down at the little hut and the mountains around us!
The beginning of the descent was met with some strange and eerie vibes which would gradually increase as we continued further. As soon as we stepped out of the cabin, it seemed like the temperature had plummeted and as opposed to the attire of just t-shirts which we were wearing on the way up, we were quickly reaching for coats, gloves and all the warm stuff we could find as soon as we stepped out. The cloud had come again too and looking down the mountain all we could see was a field of white... As we headed off, the lone keeper of the hut ran out yelling "STOP STOP, that route leads to the glacier, you need to head the other way". It's a good thing he noticed too, because glaciers are no place for people without the knowledge and equipment to deal with them, not to mention it'd be a LOOOONG walk home that way. We managed to find our route again and began the descent back towards the second peak, hoping that soon the cloud would clear and we'd be able to see it.
I mentioned before that we'd climbed many steep snowy slopes on the way up, so I was very happy when my Auntie Siv unveiled her time-killing master plan for our snowy descent! Instead of walking down, we'd be wearing bin bags and sliding down, and boy could you slide down FAST with those (REALLY FAST)! There were only a few places where we could do this mind you, but it was great tuning 5 minute walks into 30 second thrill-rides! Great plan Auntie Siv :D On our descent, pretty much once we'd gotten past the 2nd peak, it was almost clear skies all the way home too which made for some amazing pictures! Unfortunately, I maxed out my phone's memory on the ascent so no pics for me, but the other members of the team managed to get some. Fun times!...
...Was what I was thinking for the first half of the trip down. After that, things started to get less enjoyable, and a lot more scary. After taking the easy route around the first peak, we once again reached that vertigo inducing ridge, which was even less fun going down than it was climbing up. It was a slow and careful descent down that part of the mountain as we all had to be careful about our footing on the sharp and often unstable rocks. After almost 12 hours of walking, people were getting tired too, and the climb down was one heck of a pain in the legs... we took a long while on that ridge. Things were starting to get eerily quiet too. Climbing up there were a fair few people around as I'd already mentioned, but it being this late, we barely saw anyone on the mountain with us. Unsettling to say the least.
After passing that ridge and trying our best to keep up the pace to get home, one of my shoes broke in the snow (the soul coming away from the shoe) and I ended up trying it back on with strip of the bag I'd been using to slide down the snowy areas. The quick fix held after one time not tying it on tight enough, but I'd need to tread carefully after that. Coming over the edge of the plateau to that first steep snow climb too, a beautiful scene lit the skies as the sunset painted the tops of the mountains in front of us a bright pink. Shortly afterwards, we descended into the shadow of the mountain we'd just climbed and towards what we thought would be the final and simple last leg of our return journey.
That steep snowy slope was difficult to descend safely as it was so easy to loose your footing. I even lost balance once finding myself sliding down the mountain involuntarily in the same fashion as when I was wearing the plastic bag. A few of us tried walking on the jagged rocks instead, but they proved just as difficult to climb, so we chose to continue with the snowy path. Towards the end of the slope we finally saw our base camp in the distance and rejoiced at the thought of being home within a few minutes. The lack of trees and skewed perspective was making fools of us once again though.
Shortly after the slope we recognised the grassy and mossy terrain and small springs which had greeted us at the start of our journey. A welcome sight indeed. We even bumped into a small group of mountain sheep wandering around and grazing which was really cool. I think those were the last few photos taken before the sun disappeared and not even the tips of the mountains were illuminated for us to see by, and that's when things started to scary.
As I'm sure some of you will know, Norway is very north and on this day the 25th of June (also my dad's Birthday) , just after the summer solstice, night is practically non-existent. That is to say it's never fully dark. I'm definitely thankful that we weren't climbing in the pitch black, but certainly I would NOT recommend this adventure at twilight either.
With very little light, over 13 hours of physically demanding walking already under our belt, very little water / snacks left, and our base camp seemly so close yet so far, its no wonder that things were starting to get uncomfortable. The red "T"s we were supposed to be following were practically impossible to see in the dark and the even our team was getting hard to see too. My Uncle Phil was wearing black, as was my brother Eamon, while Vibecke was in a dark mossy green and I was in grey. The only person who stood out was my Auntie Siv in her bright pink jacket (sensible!) and patience was very quickly fracturing the group. There were a few minor arguments about which route we should take and trying to recognise where we'd come from during our ascent, and with it only getting darker and exhaustion setting in, things were getting really scary... If you were agoraphobic or afraid of the dark, this could be your nightmare and honestly, I can very clearly see where the legends of trolls come from in such conditions as this.
One foot in front of the other. Keep on going. Not long. These were the things I'm sure running through our heads at this point. Eventually we started to see some of the landmarks we recognised and we were definitely getting lower and closer to base camp. We had to be, right? The bushes grew bigger, there was more vegetation and it was clear we were getting there. Insanely enough, some people passed us who were on their way UP the mountain to climb at midnight?! They had head torches and everything! I couldn't say I'd like to do that.
We finally reached the river by base camp after what seemed like forever and my dad was waiting there with a relieved expression on his face when we did. We exchanged stories of the trip, crossed the bridge and my mum took some pictures which most likely have either the most forced or genuinely relieved smiles captured on them. The time was about 12:45am, over 15 hours since we'd set off.
I immediately got changed and took a shower when I got back to the cabin and thankfully we'd been saved some moose burger steaks for dinner which were lovely. Chatting over with the whole team together again and reflecting on the trip, we were very lucky with the way things had gone down. It there had been a storm or even the clouds had come down again while we descended, we could have been well and truly stuck and it's a miracle that things didn't change considering the rapid shifting of weather during the day. Going to bed that night, I could not look out at that twilight mountain landscape outside the window. It genuinely terrified me, and whenever I closed my eyes I could just see scenes from those final few hours of the descent, and hear the sound of footsteps echoing in my ears. I was exhausted, but I wasn't going to sleep well either.
Thankfully the crippling anxiety of the climb was erased by the morning and replaced with the most killer leg ache ever (and I thought after the London to Brighton was bad!) and sore face from sunburn too... (My parents had the lotion with them when they turned back...). Thankfully I say, hehe!? I couldn't deny that the mountain looked beautiful when I looked back up it in the well lit morning light and after packing the bags it was time to say farewell to Galdhøpiggen and Spiterstulen. My final act was to quickly send a postcard to my dear girlfriend Eva from the base camp reception, then it was back on the minibus and down back to Oslo. What a trip!
I guess that was the end of the main adventure, but there was still plenty of the Norway visit to go! The minibus journey was mainly spent sleeping, but when we arrived in Lom, it'd be a few hours until we caught the bus back to Oslo so we had some amazing cinnamon buns, went to a toilet built out of firewood with a chainsaw hanging above the door and a sink made from a circular saw blade, and lazed around for a bit. The bus journey back was filled with more sleeping too and when we finally got back to Oslo, we waved a farewell to Vibecke before taking another bus back to my uncle and aunt's house and ordered a lovely late takeaway before sleeping even more!
The next day was a great day out (again with achy legs) in Oslo city center! The main highlight of the day was an awesome 2 hour boat tour around the Oslo Fjord which was as educational as it was entertaining (a lot on both accounts!). After that we met up with Vibecke again with her 2 daughters and had an awesome Norwegian Indian curry which was delicious and very different to the stuff we get over in the UK. After that it was time to go home and catch the second half of England's football defeat at the hands of Iceland (I was playing synths for some of that though so I wasn't really tuned in). The Icelandic commentator's reaction at the end was priceless though! I don't think I've heard anyone on TV scream that high before (not unless they were in a power-metal band!)
The final day in Norway was spent walking around the local lakes near my Aunt and Uncle's house which was simply beautiful! Water so clear that you could see the fish, and ducks and geese so tame that they'd come right up to you. It was a nice contrast to the mountain of a few days ago and a lovely bit of fresh air (very hot too). After that was some last minute shopping including (and Bob, if you're reading, you'll be happy about this) some cloudberry jam and lots of other cool snacks and things you can't get over in the UK. Gosh they have so many good snacks and food you can't get here!
A final and lovely meal together (Pro Tip: Cloudberry jam on buttered brioche or croissant is AMAZING!), then it was on the bus, back to the airport, another small flight delay and back on the plane to the UK. It was strange looking down at my passport and seeing "European Union" on it, the accuracy of which had sort of changed over the 5 days since I'd left the country... gosh so much had changed since I was gone but let's leave the political commentary out of this blog post.
The flight back was incredible. I got an amazing view of the Oslo Fjord from above and an even more incredible sight above the clouds while we were flying over the UK: A circular rainbow with the projected shadow of our plane onto a cloud right in the center! Wish I'd have taken a picture of that. Well I guess the rest of the trip was fairly normal. We landed, picked up our bags (no more lost) and went home where the final bag would arrive a few days later. All in all it was an incredible trip and certainly I'd love to go back to Norway soon! A huge thanks to my aunt and uncle for putting us up for the trip as well as my parents, brother Eamon, and Vibecke for the amazing company during the adventure! What an excellent adventure it was!
And I guess that's all the stories of adventure in June told now! I hope you all enjoyed it and hopefully I can go on some more adventures soon so I can share more stories with you! Holiday's over, now time for some usual JabunAudio news:
Firstly, I'd like to say a massive thank you to everyone who's supported Better Than The Book on SoundCloud since I launched the page a few weeks ago! So many amazing comments on the music, a lot of which have compared the tunes to that of my heroes such as The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Blink 182 and Green Day (Someone even said my voice sounded kinda like Mark Hoppus'! Wow!). Anyway, I'm very pleased to say that the Better Than The Book SoundCloud Page recently exceeded 100 followers. Exciting times! Thanks again everyone and I hope to bring you some more Ska-punk anthems soon!
Next and finally this week, on Tuesday evening I attended a quick, fun and very spontaneous live stream with Hikarian Animations, whom you may remember I worked with on the "Tales of Zale" series. This one wasn't Tales of Zale related however, though there was some awesome related stuff shown off during the stream. This time we were joined by our usual host, Sif, another regular, Victor (TheSilleGuy), myself obviously and another great animator Grant Wooley who was a pleasure to meet! Surprisingly enough we managed to keep on the topic of animation for quite some time before meandering off to talk about Pokemon Go and the Danish intro to Steven Universe. Great fun and if you're interested you can watch our approximately 1 hour long international meet-up on the YouTube link below. Be prepared for the usual silliness!
That's about it for this week and once again I hope you've enjoyed the accounts of my June adventures. I'll actually be away again next week (such is my busy life) so I'm not sure if I'll be writing a post next week. Certainly it'll be late if I do, but hopefully this post was long enough to satisfy your JabunAudio thirst for the time being. Until next time, I hope you all have a great few weeks whatever you get up to (It's the holiday season after all) and as always, thanks for supporting JabunAudio and my other related projects. See you in 2 weeks and take care!