Archive for April, 2009

Day 120. Mehamn rest and weather day

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Distance 0km | Time 0hrs | Ascent 0m | Descent 0m

Day 120. Out with the skis after a loyal 2684kmI had a very long lie until 1000 until I was woken by a journalist from Finnmarks newspaper. He wanted a photo and interview. We agreed he would return in an hour.

I got up had a breakfast of bacon and eggs and just managed to finish it before the Finnmarks newspaper journalist returned. He took some photos and explained that another journalist would phone later.

I started on the blog as I had 2 big days to write up and photos to sort and label and that would probably take 4 hours.

The phone went and I expected it was the journalist. It was a journalist but a different one. She was from Fjell og Vidda, the prestigious magazine of the DNT, the Norwegian trekking association. It had some 200,000 members who received the magazine. We arranged a potential interview later in the summer as I paddled past Trondheim.

Then the Finnmarks newspaper journal rung and I gave a telephone interview. All this excitement was eating into my blog writing time and I didn’t get one day out of the way until mid afternoon.

I then put my skis together and went to enquire about posting them back to Oslo. It was easy enough but I had to go to the airport to get a plastic bag for them. This was fair enough as parts of them were covered in sticky wax.

Day 120. In with the bycycle allbeit chinese for the next 350kmI then went to pick up the bicycle from Vidar. He had a few to rent out. It was nearly new and looked the part with 24 gears. But it was Chinese and there were a few bits on it which were wobbly already. It would do the distance but I won’t be speeding down any hills in case the front forks shear.

In the evening I wrote up the last days skiing and today. I had wanted to leave tomorrow but there were still too many things to sort out and emails to send.

The cycle to. Kirkenes I reckoned would take some 5 days. It was 350 km. However the roads I would be going over were still very wintery and would go through mountainous regions. I would have to take a tent still if I got caught out. All this would have to go in my rucksack as there were no panniers. It could be a painful experience.

It was a dull day really. The weather was likewise dull with occasional drizzle which made it easier to do the office work.

Stats from the ski leg of the journey

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Details of each stage of the skiing leg of the journey: 1st January – 29th April 2009

  • Duration: 119 days
  • Distance: 2,684 kms
  • Time skiing: 754 hours
  • Ascent / descent: 46,160 meters

For a detailed breakdown see the Skiing Stats page.

Day 119. Kinnarodden to Mehamn

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Distance 22km | Time 6hrs | Ascent 460m | Descent 460m

Day 119. A beautiful morning to wake up to on Kinnarodden beachWhen I woke at 0700 the tent was hot. I open the zips and looked outside. It looked like summer had arrived overnight. The sky was completely cloudless and uniformly dark blue. There was not a breath of wind and the sun was blasting down. Even the seagulls on the beach were lazily walking up and down in front of the tiny waves.

The only thing which was busy was a small ermine stoat, completely white except for the black tip of its tail. It was frantically bobbing in and out of the driftwood as if on an important mission.

Day 119. Looking from the tent across the beach to Kinnarodden headlandIt was difficult not to become lethargic also given the weather and temperature. I got a few fish boxes together and made up a table a chair. Then I set out a celebratory breakfast spread. Fresh bread, butter, smoked salmon, slices of cured lamb thigh, prawn salad and blackcurrant syrup. I spent a while eating it in the hot sun with waves barely licking the light sand.

Day 119. A celebration breakfast on Kinnarodden beachAfter breakfast I pulled my mattress out of the tent and lay on the grass while I digested in a morning siesta. It was quite remarkable how much difference there was between today and yesterday regarding the weather.

After a good lie in the sun I eventually packed up my tent and belongings and finally managed to get going at 1200. There was just the odd wisp of mackerel cloud formations in the sky.

My first task was to climb off the beach onto a raised beach which was now flat moorland. This meant climbing a large snow drift. I was then onto this dry moorland for a km before I thought about putting my skis on again to climb up into Sandfjordselvdalen valley.

Day 119. Winter is losing its grip in the spring looseningFor the most part the stream here was open. The torrent had carved a slice in the snow and ice which once covered it. Under the snow pack hundreds of smaller rivulets would be flowing to feed this larger stream, each melting the ice which it once was. This was the Vaarlosening, the spring loosening, where the solid ice of the winter melts and breaks up. Soon these streams would be in spate.

The climb back up the valley was wonderful. The mackerel clouds had disappeared and the sky was blue again. Ptarmigan flew from outcrop to outcrop as I chased them up the valley while the reindeer ran with there unusual gait up the sides of the valley.

Day 119. A final look at the plateau out to Kinnarodden headlandIt was not long before I was up on Bjornvikstuva hill again. I turned and had a last look at Kinnarodden and the blue ocean around it while I took off my ski skins. From here there was mostly descent down into the long valley with lakes and across the final plateau above Mehamn. Again this area was teeming with reindeer who were making the most of the reindeer moss, a type of lichen, which was becoming exposed on the rocky outcrops.

It was with a feeling of sadness that I skied down the last slope through the willow bushes to the final narrow strip of snow beside the airport until there was nothing but heather beside the road. The skis came off here for the final time.

It was a km walk back to Vidar’s hostel. En route I passed row upon row of cod drying in the breeze on huge racks. These many hundreds of tons of fish would be dried and then mostly exported to Spain where they form the principle ingredient in Bacaloa.

I walked to the shop to get dinner and then returned the km after getting it. From tomorrow I would allow myself to use a bycycle as after 119 days the ski tour was over. It had been a total of 2684 km with 46160 metres of ascent and descent. In total this had taken 754 hours of skiing. So an average of about 3.5 km an hour.

I cannot begin to summarize the tour but in a nutshell it has everything a ski tourer is looking for. Variety, challenge, superb nature and interesting people. It also offers and a return to our nomadic DNA which is just buried under 50 odd generations of sedentary dullness and often superfluous refinement.

I had just made it really before winter finally lost its grip entirely and spring set in seriously. As I go further south again to Kirkenes by bicycle I will be curious to see if there was any leaves on the trees. There were no trees around Mehamn as it was too far north.

After supper I had a shower and brushed my teeth with a new full length toothbrush, the half sized one being symbolically cast into the bin.

It had been a really good day. It was a pleasure to wake up on the beautiful beach I was on with little hurry. It was also a treat to feel the real warmth of the sun again for the first time really this year. However the day was tinged with sadness about packing my skis away.

Day 118. Mehamn to Kinnarodden (north tip of Norway)

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Distance 29km | Time 10hrs | Ascent 860m | Descent 880m

Day 118. Crossing the Nordkinn plateau on the way to Kinnarodden headland just visible in the distanceI did not get to bed until quite late as I had the bog and other messages to write. It was 0200 eventually, but still light enough to read outside. It was a nice day when I woke in the morning but I was quite tired I still had to shop for my trip out to Kinnarodden headland, as I had no food to see me through.

After buying a few luxury items of food and packing I did not set off until midday. It did not really matter as although the sun sets around 2200 it remains light throughout the night as the sun just hides below the horizon for a few hours.

Vidar had explained the route and given me a map. He was keen to help. It seemed quite simple but he doubted I would be able to ski all the way.

Just after I set off a friend phoned from Radio Scotland. We did a telephone interview and it was broadcast later that afternoon. It seemed odd to be talking to Bill while skiing up a snowfield in the high Arctic, while he was in a studio in Glasgow. It was broadcast later that afternoon on a prime time current affairs program.

After passing the tiny Mehamn Airport I started up the slopes of Rundhaugen, a hill to the south west of the town. It was covered in snow still, but with many willow bushes sticking through. At the top of Rundhaugen I reached the edge of the plateau again.

Day 118. Approaching Kinnarodden with the Barents Sea at the base of the cliffsThe plateau here was still mostly covered in snow. The interior to my south was plastered in snow, while the headlands sticking out to the Barents Sea to the north were generally bare of snow. There were many herds of reindeer up here. Curiously the herds here seemed to be quite small each with 10 to 15 beasts.

Crossing the plateau to the south west I reached the entrance to a valley with a line of small lakes up it. Vidar told me, and on the map it looked very gnarly to the north. There were large cairns making it easy to follow. It was cold in the valley, well below zero and the snow was firm.

After a couple of smaller ridges between lakes I left the valley at a pass by its upper west end and got a view of some very remote coastline to the north out to Maghetta headland. However, I still had the hill of Bjornviktuva to go over, before I reached the valley I needed to get to so I could avoid difficult terrain. From Bjornviktuva I could see Kinnarodden headland in the distance.

After this hill was a lovely descent into a valley called Sandfjordselvdalen. It was full of ptarmigan and reindeer. The reindeer were wary of me and ran off. I was conscious they were fat with calf and tried not to disturb them too much. This valley was full of snow and a couple of frozen lakes it was still a bit of a winter’s Shangri-la.

The valley however veered of to the west here and descended to Kinnarodden beach where I would spend the night. I had to climb up to the final ridge which went out to the headland. There was little snow here and what was about up the shallow ridge was hard, so I walked. Once up however by a lake the snowfields returned and I could ski across. The plateau on this headland also had a lot of reindeer.

I skied over the last hill called Reipnakktinden and on the descent down the north side the snow just vanished so it was skis off for the last time. Before me in the overcast evening was Kinnarodden just 2 km away.

Day 118. The cliffs on the north east side of Kinnarodden headlandThe trouble is there was a deep valley whose sides were covered in boulders between me and my ultimate goal. Vidar told me it was best to go right along the north east edge where it was firmer ground. It was by far the best and I even went further and went along the edge of the firm cornice. Below me the cliffs descended in a steep sweep down to the sea.

The sea was quite calm with little swell. There was just a slight chop where the current was flowing past Kinnarodden headland. I had expected it to be worse given the weather just 36 hours ago. I would have paddled round without and hesitation. There only problem was it was still so cold with masses of snow up to the waters edge. It had better warm up considerably in the next 3-4 weeks.

There was the odd snow flake in the overcast sky and it was a bit breezy as I started to climb up the boulders on the north side of the valley. I had to go slowly as I was worried about the metal bar in front of my ski boot. I could not damage this as it was essential to attach the boot to the ski. If it broke or bent it would be a walk, rather than ski, return to Mehamn tomorrow, and that could be difficult if the snow pack melted and softened.

I was excited and wanted to go quicker to get to the point I had spent the last 118 days striving towards. As I climbed to the top of the headland the cairn started to appear. It was not the end though as I had seen the headland continued for another few hundred metres until the cliffs started.

So I passed the cairn and continued across the boulders. Above me were spirals of seabirds soaring in the updrafts created by the headland. Occasionally I passed the top of a gully on the west side where the steep basalt columns had weathered more and allowed me to peer down to the gentle swell washing over the rocks below.

Day 118. The end of the road with the top of Scandinavia in the waves belowSuddenly the headland narrowed to a small point. There was nowhere further to go. Beyond were cliffs on three sides. At the bottom of this cliff was a large rounded rock separated by a narrow channel. I stood staring at the rock for a good minute transfixed by it almost frozen in the position I was in. It was the top of Mainland Europe.

There was no outpouring of emotion or excitement as I had read and heard is sometimes the case. I still had a difficult 6 km to go and it was bitterly cold in the breeze. I was rather pleased though, there is no denying that.

I must say Kinnarodden is quite a spot. Very wild, remote and rugged. Not many people come out here. It is not like its rival Nordkapp which I could just make out in the overcast evening some 50 km to the west which had a road, massive parking space and visitor centre and other fanfare. This here was a reflective undisturbed pristine headland, one for the connoisseur.

The reason I chose Kinnarodden over Nordkapp was partly for this reason. Partly also because it is part of the mainland while Nordkapp is on an island. Finally, partly because I did not want to use any transport, for any reason, on my ski trip up Norway, so would have had to walk illegally through the horrific 8 km of the tunnel to get onto the island. It was not that it was easier. Quite the opposite in fact as it probably added 200 km and and extra week onto my tour.

After reflecting and taking a few photos for a good hour I was getting cold. I still had to camp. I had been told about a wonderful beach nearby. But it was across 3 km of rough bouldery terrain to reach the west side of the headland and then along a rocky shoreline for another 3 km

The journey to the west of the peninsula was pretty much retracing my steps to the boulder filled valley, crossing that and then descending down to the shore on a steep snowfield. The walk along the shoreline was much harder as it was covered in enormous amounts of driftwood and snow. Curiously there were also millions of small fish washed up and dead among the driftwood. As I walked along here the sun went down a blaze of orange so bright it turned the boulders and logs on the shoreline orange. Mercifully I did not damage the bar on my ski boot during this walk, which is testament to how strong it is.

Day 118. After reaching Kinnarodden headland I headed to very beautiful Kinnarodden beach to camp the nightWhen I eventually got to the beach, which I call Kinnarodden beach, it was worth the difficult walk. It was a pearl. Nearly a kilometre of light coloured sand between two steep imposing headlands and cliffs. Behind the flat wide beach was a kilometre of sandy heather and moorland. I found a nice sandy snow free place to camp and put the tent up around 2230.

After fetching water from the stream at the west end of the beach I contemplated making a huge pyre with the hundreds of tons of driftwood lying about. I was tired however and once in my solidly put up tent decided to stay in it and dine in my sleeping bag.

It had been an unusually rare day.

Day 117. Hopseidet to Mehamn

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Distance 31km | Time 7.5hrs | Ascent 430m | Descent 450m

Day 117. Climbing up onto Nordkinn plateau from Hopseidet and looking east down HopsfjordenI had a long lie on the floor of the workman’s hut. The weather was still unpleasant outside with frequent snow squalls coming through the whole time up the fjord. Quite a lot of snow had fallen in the night and it had turned the whole landscape white. The weather forecast said it would brighten up at midday and I opted to lie in and trust them.

As it happened the weather forecast was spot on again. Just before midday some blue sky appeared and I got ready to go. I left at midday. Just outside the workman’s hut were very fresh otter tracks left in the snow.

I pretty much headed straight up the hill hoping to intercept the road above me. On the way up I came across a herd of about 50 reindeer. Despite the fact these reindeer are domesticated they are still very wary. This herd was no exception and ran off when they saw me arrive.

Once on the road I followed it as it climbed westwards and then northwards for about 4 km. During this distance it climbed to over 200 metres. Up here it was full winter again. I put my skis on.

It was superb conditions. The base layer of snow was frozen firm and there was a light covering over the top of this. Even with the skins on I was gliding very well. By now the sky had cleared up completely and there were just a few lingering clouds in the otherwise blue sky.

I headed off to the east of the road across some tarns and then up a hill. While crossing one tarn I crashed through the new crust on top of the slushy snow which was accumulating on top of the ice. I nearly went in up to my knee. Luckily my gaiters kept it out of my boots.

Day 117. The Nordkinn plateau was plastered in deep snowThe hill after the tarns is where I picked up the old defunct telephone poles again. These poles headed over to Mehamn and I just had to follow them. The route climbed up to around 300 metres in the end to reach the top of the plateau.

To the south and east I could see how the plateau was as flat as you get in nature, but then how it just dropped off steeply into the sea for 300 metres, although I could not see the sea, just the edge of the plateau.

Day 117. Looking from the Nordkinn plateau north to the Barents sea-and-kinnarodden-headlandAs I skied further north along the line of poles I was astonished to see just how much snow there was. It almost felt I was skiing across a glacier as the landscape was very smooth and there were no rocks or bare patches. It would be a while before all this melted to reveal the sparse heather and abundant rock underneath.

Eventually I decided to take my skins off as the gradients were so small. Immediately I started to go faster and glide on the most imperceptible descent. It was very good skiing conditions. If I could have skated with these mountain skis and a rucksack I would have been really flying. But it was too exhausting to keep it up for more than 30 seconds.

After a few hours of this very nice skiing I came to a small rustic hut. It must have gone up when the telephone line was built and it looked over 50 years old. It was called Futelvstua. There was an outer store full of snow and wood. There was and inner room with a very efficient stove and a third room with 4 bare beds without mattresses.

I got the stove going with the huge amount of wood at this cabin. Someone was obviously stocking it with wood. There was a visitors book and it seemed the hut was well visited by skiers on days trips from Mehamn. I had a late lunch here with the last of my dehydrated meals.

From the hut northwards along the telephone poles the going got even better as there was now a slight downhill bias. Within an hour I had reached a point on the plateau where it looked like it would get a bit gnarly if I carried on north. As it transpired this was wrong and I should have continued.

To avoid this bit I thought could be gnarly and difficult, I cut off west and made a long diagonal descent down to the road. It was a superb descent and the icy surface was firm and fast. In the space of 15 minutes I had gone about 4 km towards Mehamn. I passed two herds of reindeer on this descent and I was going so fast they did not have time to decide to run before I was gone. Eventually I reached the road at Ostebakken where there were some 5 Lapp cabins for their reindeer operations here.

I descended on the snow covered verge here for a few minutes until I rounded a corner and the fishing town of Mehamn came into view some few kilometres to the north. Beyond it was the sea. It was not a fjord but the Barents Sea in the Arctic Ocean. Beyond Mehamn were a number of headlands and I knew the furtherest of these was Kinnarodden: The top of Europe.

It was a quick hour down to the outskirts of Mehamn. En route I passed the scooter track coming down from the plateau to the east, and where I should have come down. At the outskirts of the town I took my skis off and walked the 2 km to the Youth Hostel owned by Vidar, who sent me the maps.

Vidar seemed quite a character and very lively and jovial. It was easy to see he was a hard working outdoor adventure entrepreneur and was quite well know in the area. He was extremely knowledgeable about the area and the route I would have to take tomorrow.

His Youth Hostel was very comfortable. Beside it he had 5 new Robuer, or traditional fisherman’s houses, which he rented out. I checked in and he gave me a beer as a welcome. He said I had earnt it. He also lent me a map to Kinnarodden and explained the route. It would take two days to make the round trip.

The only problem with the youth hostel was it was at least a km from the kiosk/shop which I had to walk to to get supper and breakfast. I would have to go back again tomorrow to get more supplies when the real shop opened for the final days. In the evening I wrote the blog and crashed out excited about tomorrow.

I plan to go out to Kinnarodden and camp there at a beach famed for its white sand. The beach is in a bay called Sandfjorden just to the west of the headland.

It had been a very good day. The skiing was wonderful and I had at last reached the town of Mehamn, the place to launch my final bid to Kinnarodden headland.