Last summer my friends Jen and Lesley and I spent an incredible week in Norway, trekking over snow covered mountain passes and wild camping on the shores of stunning glacial-melt lakes. Like any good adventure we had our fair share of ‘mishaps’ along the way. I took the opportunity to write about one particular incident for a travel writing competition in Outdoor Adventure Guide and couldn’t believe it when I won! A story of mine printed in the same magazine as an article by Alastair Humphreys. This is the stuff dreams are made of!
My story has been published in the June edition and you can also read it here.
The Besseggen Ridge in Jotunheimen National Park, Norway rises threateningly in front of us. A scar on the perfectly clear blue sky above. We begin to trudge up it to its jagged summit which stretches as far as the eye can see along Lake Gjende.
Day one of our trek and our bags are back-breakingly heavy with camping gear and a week’s supply of provisions for three hungry trekkers. We soon have to stop to remove layers, sweat pouring off us, tricked by the snow on the surrounding peaks.
The ridge is a long day walk but we started in the afternoon, planning to camp half-way along and hoping to avoid the crowds. Instead the crowds bounded down the slopes towards us. Whole families in the latest outdoor gear, dancing over the boulders looking like they’d just been for short stroll in the park, not just finished 14 miles of strenuous scrambling.
On the ascent up the ridge we encountered the first of what turned out to be numerous ‘technical’ sections. Fixed ropes were there to help us up the climb whilst our bags tried their very best to pull us back down! My travelling companion Lesley chose this moment to reveal that she didn’t really like heights. She didn’t really like them at all.
Our little team of three quickly fell into a pattern, with Jen offering support to Lesley and me blazing ahead with the map, trying to find the path of least resistance across the treacherous terrain.
The path wasn’t marked but feeling confident in my sense of direction and following my nose like a bloodhound we began the descent. On one particularly steep drop I decided to be safe and slide down on my bum. As I lowered myself reaching my feet desperately to the small shelf below I was resting solely on my bag and at that point I knew that I had gone wrong.
On arrival at the ledge I tried to stay calm as I called back to the girls, who had now completely disappeared, that I was ok. After removing my bag I looked down at the sheer drop below. ‘What a pickle’ I thought. ‘Good job my mother can’t see me now.’
Not fancying the adrenalin rush that teetering on a ledge the width of your foot hundreds of feet above a mountain lake can give you, Lesley and Jen took the long way round. Meanwhile I enjoyed the view over the sparkling snow-capped peaks thinking if there’s a good place to plummet to an early grave then this is it, a bloody picturesque place to do it.
About 15 minutes later my friends finally popped out about 10 feet below me on another ledge which certainly couldn’t be described as roomy but from where I was balanced looked positively gigantic.
Every time I made even the slightest movement the girls below were showered in small boulders. Worried about dislodging something bigger and more damaging I tentatively lowered my bag down. Jen making it extremely clear that should I lower it too fast then she would be making no attempt to stop it from hurtling hundreds of metres down the cliff face.
With my bag safely down I gingerly began the difficult task of rotating 180 degrees so that I could climb down myself. Feeling incredibly clumsy in all my waterproofs and heavy boots I very carefully began the delicate descent.
After a few hair-raising moves I joined the girls below and was quickly reprimanded for having such a cavalier attitude. I was banished to the back of the group for the final descent to the camping spot.
The days fears were soon forgotten however, as I edged my way back to the front of the group. But this time Jen and Lesley firmly found their own route. I had learnt an important lesson. Always stick to the path!
To read about preparations for my cycle across Europe click here.
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