Friday, October 22, 2010

Living on the Edge

Me Enjoying the Hike to the Glacier - Photo: Frank Andreassen
Photo: Frank Andreassen
Sunrise in Lyngen, Northern Norway, over 200 miles inside the Arctic Circle - after an energising continental breakfast we were picked up by the tour group “Tromso Villmarksenter” for the beginning of our glacier walking adventure. We were driven by our guide to the Steindalsbreen glacier in a minibus and arrived at the bottom of the hill where the road ended.

We jumped out the minibus, our guide distributed the gear and we put the climbing paraphernalia in our backpacks. Our glacier guide gave us pickaxes, rucksacks, harnesses, crampons, (spikes for walking on ice, not to be confused with tampons) food for lunch and a bottle of water each.

The Abyss - Photo: Frank Andreassen
I was expecting it to be chilly, so I wore my ski jacket and layered up. However, we ascended for two hours up to the glacier with backpacks - which kept me warm enough without my jacket. We found a nice spot to sit and enjoy our lunch that was prepared for us by our guide’s wife and absorb the phenomenal view from our vantage point of the valley beneath.

After lunch and a delicious Norwegian chocolate bar, we headed to the base of the glacier and witnessed how global warming had thawed the glacier over time. Markers were placed every five years indicating where the edge of the glacier had subsisted. The mighty glacier had shrunk 10 feet in the previous month alone!      

We geared up - wore our crampons, gripped our pick axes, and became a “rope team” meaning we were all now linked together via a rope. I thought either we all make it or else... Our guide was a very competent climber who is in the process of climbing the tallest mountains on all 7 continents, so I had every faith in him and what he taught me.
Photo: Frank Andreassen

He started us off walking on the ice and then we progressed to some steeper parts and eventually we scaled obstacles, which I did with a hop skip and a jump. Our guide realised we were not all athletes, so he kept the pace very steady.

He also challenged each of us individually at the level we were comfortable with. For me, this meant he let me climb down a hole in the ice so I could get my picture taken posing, and he let me walk out on a very narrow strip of ice, less than a foot wide in places with  a huge drop on each side.

Suddenly it was time for our descent. I didn’t want all the fun I was experiencing to end so I tried rolling a snowball and letting it go down the mountain, but it turned into a very anticlimactic fail. 

We succeeded in returning to the minibus, at which point I was more than ready to get my hiking boots off after a whole day of trekking and glacier walking. All in all, it was a magnificent adventure and not as wintry as I expected the Arctic to be!   

No comments:

Post a Comment