Stage 3 and how I ended up in Voss

So Torbjørn and I headed off into the National Park of Hardangervidda. Super excited to get up there. It’s Northern Europe’s largest mountain plateau covering roughly 3422 km2 – and it’s the largest area with wild reindeer in all of Norway. The western part is more rugged with higher peaks and deep valleys where the western part is more flat and has these endlessly long plateaus. Super beautiful. We got to see a very small part of Hardangervidda on our trip due to bad weather. We skied through a fair bit, but we didn’t see anything for the first 3 days due to a solid white-out. 

Map of Hardangervidda NP.

So we set off on the 24th of January at around 2 o’clock. We were super excited to see one another again and to be on a trip once more. Torbjørn is one of my best friends that I got to know in the military. We have a lot of things in common when it comes to adventures and how to live our lives. When it comes to chocolate, then not so much though. In 2016 we walked the 800 km Colorado Trail together and we’ve been hiking in Tasmania together as well when we both lived in Australia. I really appreciate our friendship, so I was so excited to have him on this part of the trip. 

Torbjørn in the tent!

The first day was interesting. It starts out with a somewhat big climb right outside of Haukeliseter. So the swear words came quickly. Funny, how we thought that to be tough. It got progressively worse later on! 

White-out!

The weather wasn’t on our side, we couldn’t see a single thing once we got up. When we were more than 20 meters apart we could barely see each other. So we found the GPS and moved on. This kind of weather is quite normal up there, especially this early in the season. Luckily, we’re no strangers to this, so we knew what to do. The plan was to just get as far as we could and then pitch the tent before darkness so we could work out a good routine. We are two fairly big guys (I’m 190 cm and he’s 200 cm). My tent is a Hilleberg Nammatj 2 GT – a two person tent with a big vestibule. Normally you would have a 3-person tent for this situation. I’m sure you can all imagine how we secretly wanted to punch each other in the face every time the other one moved just a bit. Oh well, that’s the tent life! 

Tent life is certainly better when your mate brings two beers!

The first night went well but with a lot of wind. We woke up, ate brekky and packed down the camp. The plan today was to make it to Hellevassbu, the first cabin on the trip. That didn’t happen. We moved so slowly in the terrain because of the weather (same sight as yesterday) – it took us a while to navigate every step and then to watch out for changes in the terrain. When it’s a whiteout it’s really hard to see how the terrain is folding out, even right in front of your face. You can go straight and then all of a sudden there’s a big drop or a hill coming out of nowhere. So you’ve got to move slowly and securely to prevent injuries and nasty falls. 

Chocolate time while waxing skis and putting on my short skins after a climb.

It was a long day, but nice to be out and together. We didn’t make it to the cabin, so we pitched the tent quite late in the dark and fought to get the tent up in strong winds. We were both completely covered in snow once we got inside the tent. It was rough but also a bit cool. 

Torbjørn. This was just before we started pitching the tent.

The next day was another interesting one. The wind hadn’t settled overnight and the sight had gotten a bit worse. Oh well, we thought, and continued. It didn’t take long before we had to cross a small stream. It seemed fine to cross after having studied it for a bit and everything else that we had crossed earlier had been absolutely fine. All of a sudden I lost my balance and fell – when I hit the ground it was a big enough push to break the ice on top and I fell in with my whole right arm – soaking wet. As I tried to get up again both of my legs went through up to mid-calf. I got myself out quite easily though. In the meantime pretty much the same thing happened to Torbjørn apart from him being wet to his knees but not on his arms. We quickly agreed to pitch the tent and clear out the situation. Get in some dry clothes and warm up our feet. And so we did. Got some warm lunch and dry clothes and a tiny nap. Then decided to push on to Hellevassbu, a cabin, and dry our clothes overnight. And so we did. It took us roughly three hours to get there as far as I recall. We had a really good and cozy time in the cabin with great food and our mood was high after a ‘fun’ day! 

Torbjørn and I in the tent getting warm again.
Porridge and coffee

The next day we had to go up and over a big mountain pass and then cross a lake to get to a cabin called Litlos. We slept in the tent right next to the cabin though. The day was good. Same weather where you couldn’t see anything and the wind had picked up again. The area was so beautiful though and after a long and tough climb, we had a very fun downhill section that went really well. The last hours over the two lakes felt like forever. We were both really tired and when we could finally see the outline of the cabin in the far distance, it felt like it never got any closer. A very long night but we got there and got cozy in the tent once again.

Litlos during sunrise

The next morning was one of the colder ones. -26 degrees and a bit of wind, so we were packed up from the start. Luckily, there was blue skies and we could see the light from the sun just coming over the mountains in the distance. So we knew it was gonna be a clear and beautiful day. As we set off, the sun had come up and the temperature was rising a bit. Most of the day was around -15/-20 degrees. This day turned out to be really really good all up until the last hours of the day.

A cold but beautiful morning!

We had an amazing day to begin with. Great weather and great conditions. We had fun and took loads of photos and filmed a bit. We were still a bit slow-going, but it was nice not to stress too much but just enjoy it all instead.

Days like these are fantastic.
No comment.

The day didn’t end up very well though. Roughly an hour or so before the days destination, one of my skis suddenly just fell off. Turned out, that the metal clip that keeps your boot on the binding had come off! I’ve never experienced that before. It was annoying cause we were so close to finishing the day, but now it would take a bit longer to walk on one ski. I@m carrying an extra binding in my sled just in case, but it takes a while to put a new one on, so we wanted to get to either a cabin or to pitch the tent. So we continued and set out for the next cabin where we thought we could stay.

For the ones who knows what it’s supposed to look like!

Half an hour later, the same thing happened with the other binding. Exactly the same thing. So now I had no skis, and still only gear to repair one of them. We tried not to think too much about the next couple of days and how that was gonna be (cause we knew it would probably suck!), but instead concentrate on todays goal and then take it from there. We were tired after all. Torbjørn had a lot of good ideas to try and do a quick fix, but unfortunately they didn’t really work out. It was ‘easier’ to just walk in the ski boots (although it’s not particularly easy). Torbjørn was a hero and took both the sled and the backpack so that it was easier for me to walk. We roughly had about 5 km’s to the cabin. It was a tough walk for sure and when we got to the cabin we realised that it wasn’t a DNT self-service cabin, which was quite obvious and we should’ve known that. It was a ‘turisthytte’ so a private tourist cabin closed for winter. At least we had some wind protection for the tent! We were really tired at this point and in need of water because we had run out earlier. We pitched the tent, had a big meal each, water and then decided to walk to Sandhaug (a DNT cabin with self-service) the next morning and then have a look at our situation there. A 6 km walk over a lake where the snow shouldn’t be too deep because of the wind coming through.

We walked like this to the other side of the lake, so that it was easier for the other one to walk without skis. We swapped during the day.

We decided to sleep in a bit because the following day hopefully wouldn’t take us too long. So we woke up at 7-ish and took off not long after. It took us roughly 2,5 hours to get there and we were greeted by a very modern cabin that wasn’t particularly cozy, but it definitely did the trick!

Torbjørn coming into Sandhaug.
Fixing one of the bindings at Sandhaug (the cabin).

We started to repair what we could and had a look at the map to figure out the quickest way out, cause it wasn’t a tough decision whether to continue or get out when you’ve only got 3 skis for two people! So we had a look at our food and made the plan. It would take us roughly 3 days to get out from there and up to a road where, hopefully, we could catch a ride from there.

Jossi and I at Sandhaug.

As we were packing for the days to come, two snow-scooters came by outside the window. There’s literally been no people up this way and in January there’s pretty much no one going up apart from dog mushers and the occasional skiers and snow-scooters. There’s no marked tracks, the weather can be nasty and the days are short this time of year, so it keeps a lot of people away. Anyway, we quickly put some clothes on and went outside to have a chat to them. Turned out that it was a police man and a local guy who had been picking up some sticks for track marking at a cabin nearby and were on their way out. It was a coincidence that they came this way, cause it wasn’t the original plan.

They were both really nice and offered to drive us out of there to the closest road – the only issue was that they were going west afterwards, where we had to go east. Hitchhiking two people with a sled and a dog was gonna be impossible, so we just had to go and then take a train/bus back east. This was a small issue, as we would’ve had to hitchhike from that point if we would’ve walked out anyway.

It didn’t take us long to pack down all the stuff in the cabin and make it ready for the next ones to come (it’s always nice to leave it clean and prepared for people who are cold). Anyway, so Torbjørn jumped on the back of one of the snow-scooters and I sat on a trailer in the back holding Jossi close. Joss wasn’t too happy about the situation to begin with, but he quickly calmed down and just chilled for the whole ride.

All four of us after a succesful ride out. This was the only photo I managed to take during the whole thing, as I had to hold Jossi with both hands. Really nice guys. Thanks so much to both of you if you ever read this.

The policeman drove us all the way to Voss. As Voss is a popular place for whitewater-rafting, I quickly contacted Mark who’s been a raft-guide and kayaker for many years, to see if he would know anyone in Voss that we could stay at. He was a hero once again and found a place for us. We stayed with a very very lovely family. Lars and Silje were so lovely and made us feel very very welcome. Helped us a lot and let us stay for two nights. We also had some really nice nights just talking and drinking a few home-brewed beers. That always helps on the mood. It’s so nice meeting so many nice people on this trip.

Doing maintenance on my MSR Whisperlite-stove.

Here we had time to fix our stuff and figure out what the plan was now. Also, it was Torbjørn’s birthday, so we had to have a cake and a beer, obviously! I bought two beers from Amundsen Brewery, a GREAT Norwegian brewery. We had a Modern Day IPA. Good stuff.

Cake and Amundsens Brewery Modern Day IPA! Congrats buddy.

We had a good time in Voss, but it was very frustrating at the same time. It’s not easy travelling with a dog and a pulk on your own. Torbjørn decided to go back to Copenhagen from Voss on the night of his birthday to get ready for his studies again. Fair enough. I had booked a ticket on a bus up to Tyinkrysset the next morning to start out from there. According to my plan I had to start in Haugastøl at the northern end of Hardangervidda, but I decided to go a bit further north. It was a really tough decision because I already had skipped a small part. I had to battle hard with personal demons in Voss. I just did not want to go back to that area all alone and have another shit-show. I think that would’ve killed all my motivation for the trip. I was a little intimidated by what has happened and I just needed to have a good time, really. I’ve been feeling so weird about skipping things cause I feel like I’m not allowed to do it and that I owe people to not do it. But what kind of thought is that to have? This is my trip, not anyone else’s – I can do exactly as I’d like to. If it’s not fun, why do it then? Obviously there’s tough times, that’s a big part of it, but it shouldn’t all be like that. I spoke to a few people on the phone and they helped me realise this. Thanks so much, you know who you are.


So that was what I did – went down to the bus the following day, thinking I was gonna go to Tyinkrysset. Unfortunately dogs wasn’t allowed on the bus which I just had not thought about at all. For some reason I just thought that it was a given. After trying to argue with the bus driver, I had to figure out what was gonna happen then. My first plan was to take the midnight train to Gol and then ski from Gol up to Beitostølen where my friend Becky lives – an area that I’m super excited to be in cause I know a few people up this way and it’s an amazing part of the world.

I didn’t know anything about tracks going up to Beitostølen from Gol and couldn’t find much information online. Becky told me it was probably gonna be really crap going through forests with deep new snow – so she offered to pick me up in Fagernes, where I could easily get to by bus from Gol train station. So that was what happened.

Getting on the train was a whole other story. No more tickets available for dogs and you had to buy a ticket for the pulk online. After a good confidence talk from Mark and Becky, telling me to just fake-cry or do whatever to get on, I went down to the station to see if it was possible to get on. I got the pulk on and then they told me there wasn’t gonna be room for me or Jossi – so I ran around a bit stressed and got hold of another lady on the train that turned out to be super nice. At first she told me there wasn’t any space, but then I tried to fake-cry and suddenly the whole scene changed and she told me to get on the train, find a seat and we’d figure it out from there! As Mark said, no one wants to see a bearded man cry. No one. It’s uncomfortable as fuck. But it works apparently!!

Jossi on the train.

So I was on the train and everything was good. Had to pay a ridiculous price for a pulk, a dog and myself though. Very very expensive, but that’s Norway, eh?

Arrived in Beitostølen yesterday night and had a couple of beers with Becky and a good chat. Thanks so much. Unfortunately Jossi hasn’t been eating particularly well lately, so he’s getting quite thin. So I’ll spend a few days here trying to feed him up before setting off again as it could get bad quite quick. Here I can get chicken fat and proper meat for him.

Jossi chilling while waiting for Becky at Fagernes bus station.

So that’s where I am now! Things happened quick and I’m really happy with the outcome. Next stop will be Heidal at GoRafting (www.gorafting.no) where Gaus, Kristin and their two kids lives – a family that I’m really excited to see and spend some time with!! But more on that later.

That’s all for this time!

Mads

One thought on “Stage 3 and how I ended up in Voss

  1. Det er så fedt at læse hvad du skriver. Jeg glæder mig hver gang til at læse det. Jeg følger dig og føler med dig. Selvom du skærer kilometer væk, er det din beslutning om hvad der er nødvendigt for at gennemføre. Du er den med erfaringerne og viden, så det er kun dig der ved hvad der er rigtigt.
    Jeg synes du er SÅ mega sej… og håber på at du nyder turen så langt du kommer og forhåbentlig hele vejen. På den ene eller anden måde.

    Like

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