In May 2013 we embarked upon a 25 day expedition to Norway, to climb Galdhopiggen (Northern Europe’s highest peak, 2469m), and to kayak the length of Norway’s longest fjord (Sognefjord 205km).
We left Preston on the 30th April and travelled down to Kent ready to leave the UK on the 1st May. We stopped along the way at Tyn Dwr to pick up all the necessary kit for the expedition. We then set off early on the morning of the 1st, crossing the channel at Dover and continuing through Europe to Norway; this took approximately 25 hours from Calais. We alternated drivers when necessary to allow for sleep along the way however the journey was extremely tiring and demanding on the drivers.
Eventually we arrived in Norway and were met with outstanding scenery and very low temperatures. As we got closer to the mountains, the weather began to deteriorate and heavy snow began to fall. As a result, the mountain pass to Skjolden (our initial intended destination) was closed, and in the absence of a viable alternative route we were forced to make the decision to attempt the mountain leg of the journey first and then drive to the fjord once we had completed the first aspect of the expedition. Whilst this was a significant change to the planned expedition format, having seen the conditions we were left with a frustrating but easy decision.
Having agreed upon the revised plan, in heavy snow and high winds we made our way up to Spiterstulen, a small mountain centre from where we could make our summit attempt. Upon arriving at Spiterstulen we found the centre to be deserted due to the poor conditions. We waited for two and a half days in a small, bitterly cold hut for conditions to improve, but unfortunately there were no signs that they would in the near future. The unanimous decision was then made to move to the fjord in the hope that we could return to the mountain at the end of the trip.
After sorting our kit and making our way to the eastern-most point of the fjord, we embarked upon our 205km journey. The weather at the fjord was much better and the landscape was absolutely breath taking. We paddled approximately 35km each day and completed the journey in 7 days. The journey gave us an opportunity to see some very remote areas and also explore more populated towns (of which there were very few). We wild camped along the way and made use of empty huts to sleep in wherever possible. The wildlife was exciting and varied and we were fortunate enough to see eagles, dolphins, seals and starfish all in very close proximity and on a regular basis. Living outdoors in wet conditions for such a period of time really tested our abilities as outdoor practitioners and gave us plenty of opportunities to develop our expedition skills and discover coping strategies as a group.
Having completed the fjord we made our way to Ovre Ardal for a few days to hike to see Vettisfossen, Norway’s largest waterfall, before making our way back to the town of Sogndal, where we immersed ourselves in Norwegian culture by joining the local Norway Day celebrations. We enjoyed the festivities, watched parades, met locals and learnt about Norwegian traditions. This was an excellent opportunity to experience Norwegian culture at its very best!
After Norway Day, we sorted our kit ready for another attempt at the mountain. As we drove back up into the Jotunheimen range, it was clear that the weather had improved a lot since the start of our trip and some of the snow which had previously caused issues was even beginning to melt. Due to improvements in the weather, upon our return to the mountains we were actually able to access the summer ski centre at Juvasshytta. This provided a valuable base camp location for our summit attempt. Snow quality was a major concern, as deep thawing snow made walking extremely difficult at times. Because of this we woke at 0355 and began our journey to the summit at around 0430 in order to maximise the chances of solid snow underfoot. As we walked the sun rose and the clouds cleared giving way to incredible views in every direction. The walk to the peak was simple due to the favourable conditions and the glacier crossing was uneventful as a result of the large amounts of snow covering any crevasses. We reached the summit at around 0800 much to our delight! The descent was quick and enjoyable and we were back at the ski centre by around 1030.
The following day we visited Oslo to experience Norwegian city culture and compare it to more rural areas. We then began our journey home, stopping in Gothenburg, Hamburg and Brugge along the way to break up the journey and maximise our cultural experience.
This expedition has given us an opportunity to gain experience in planning and executing overseas trips which will be valuable to us all in our future career aspirations. It has enriched our university experience by providing an opportunity to improve our practical outdoor skills in an exciting new environment, whilst applying the leadership and educational theory from our academic studies to real life situations in the outdoors. We have had the chance to experience a diverse range of cultures throughout the expedition and have been able examine the differences between British and Norwegian outdoor activities. The Crampons & Kayaks expedition has been a thoroughly enjoyable, challenging and rewarding experience for all of us and we would like to thank the UCLan Travel Bursary Scheme for their support both financially and with aspects of the expedition planning.