19 Aug 2007

We did it!

Having said goodbye to the Yims early on Saturday, we did not want B boy and Christopher to spend the day worrying about starting a brand new school on Monday, and were therefore looking for a distraction for both of them. We asked my sister if Benjamin could visit his cousin Mathias, and since older brother Joakim was away at a weekend soccer camp, Mathias was only too happy to have company.

Christopher, meanwhile, was enticed into joining our second attempt to conquer Gaustatoppen, the highest mountain in the county of Telemark, some 2.5 hours drive from here. My parents also joined us for the trek, and we set off immediately after Mike returned from dropping off HY and kids at the airport.

Gaustatoppen is famous for offering an impressive view from its summit. Under ideal circumstances, this view encompasses some 60 000 square kilometres, roughly one sixth of Norway. While driving towards the mountain, we did notice cloud cover, but nothing like what we had experienced on our first attempt to do this trek two weeks ago. In fact, in between clouds, the sun would actually peek out for a while. We were optimistic!

As we reached the starting point for our trek, we quickly realized that we were not the only ones taking advantage of the good conditions of the day. The parking lot was full, and a steady stream of people could be seen walking up a very well-marked path. Clearly, hardy Norwegians do not consider this hike to be much of a challenge, as several young children, some even younger than Christopher, were bouncing up the path next to their parents.

The path started out easy enough, in lush green landscape with a few rocky outcrops here and there, and the odd sheep with accompanying bell. Nothing much to it. Sure we had to jump a stream or two, but it was all in a day's work. Our destination for the day was the radio tower visible in the far distance in both pictures immediately above and below, and at this pace, we believed we would reach it very quickly.

As we came around the bottom of the mountain, however, the path changed to become more rocky, and only continued to do so for the remainder of the trek. Christopher loved jumping from rock to rock, but this was a little harder for older hips and joints, so we saw quite a few hot and flustered faces on our way. The pace slowed quite a bit, but we still soldiered on.

My father - an ironman who gives the impression that he could run up the side of Mt. Everest without losing a stride - showed his impressive Norwegian genes and tackled the rocks with the energy of a much younger man. We expected nothing less, as this is the same man who often plays 2 x 18 holes a day in the summer, and has been known to ski 50 km cross country in the winter time.

My mother, on the other hand, is from Denmark. For those familiar with Denmark, that should say it all when it comes to mountain trekking. For those of us who are not, suffice to say that the highest "peak" in Denmark is 170 metres. Although she has lived in Norway for several years now, this was actually her first real climb, and with Gaustatoppen's 1883 metres, she picked quite a big one to start with! We were all surprised at how rocky the trek was, but she persevered without complaint and made everyone proud!

Seeing as our pace had been slowed by the rocky nature of the climb, we decided to stop for lunch half way through our hike. Cheese sandwiches, hot dogs, and grapes provided a great break for us. Not to forget the chocolate. There can be no trip for our family without chocolate, and we had brought a double dose this time. Chocoholics should take note that chocolate tastes even better in fresh mountain air! Hae Yung should also pay attention to the very snazzy coffee cups used by my parents for the first time on this trek, and visible in the picture below. They worked perfectly, and were just the right size for a quick cup of coffee on our way up.

The Norwegian Trekking Association keeps a staffed cottage close to the summit of Gaustatoppen, where people who are hiking over several days can spend the night. Those of us simply doing a day trek can also purchase a cup of hot chocolate and deliciously home-made waffles to get a little sustenance before starting the trip down the rocky path again.

I had wondered whether those working at the cottage cafe had to climb up the mountain every morning, only to hike down again at night. Can you imagine climbing a mountain as your daily commute?! That's a little different from the DVP...However, the girls at the cottage actually hike up once and stay for two months at a time. That makes more sense, of course, but it does mean that they have to hike up with a 15 kg. backpack on their backs, so they have clothing to last them those 8 weeks. Still, I cannot imagine a more beautiful place to work and I am sure they think it is absolutely worth it.

The weather had been steadily improving during our climb up, witnessed by our gradual shedding of clothing, and when we finally reached the cottage, the sun was shining and the views were truly spectacular. I got quite a zen-feeling looking out at the amazing vistas. Everywhere you turned, you could see rugged snow-covered mountains, glaciers, mountain lakes, valleys with huge rivers running through them and little towns perched on hillsides.

The peak at Gaustatoppen is another 20 minute hike from the cottage, and consists of climbing a ridge of fairly large rocks. Since the difference in height between that and the cottage is minimal, many hikers simply make the cottage their destination, and I would not recommend the actual peak for those with a fear of heights, as the drop on either side is steep in places. As such, we left Christopher and Mormor at the cottage while Mike, Bestefar and I hiked the final few metres. I was happy Christopher had not come along because I found the final stretch quite challenging, but at last we did it!

It was another great adventure, and best of all, I woke up today without feeling sore! Maybe the morning runs up those pesky hills around here are actually doing some good! Speaking of which, I should probably go for one...!


morag said...

What an amazing journey. I'm glad you made it to the top. I love all the detail in your blog. It makes me feel like was on the trek with you and breathless up the mountain. The pictures are just incredible. It was a great way to keep everyones mind off school. Good luck with that!

Family Adventure said...

Morag, it was an unbelievable experience standing at the top looking out. The views were just astounding. You would have loved it!

Hae Yung said...

Warning for anyone visiting Norway, take hiking boots. You need it. At least I had my rain boots. The view looks amazing, wish I was there to see it in person. I am glad that the weather was on your side and you were able to enjoy the view. I am also very glad that your parents are using the present. They are very sweet to use it. My kids are missing Norway and their old friends and new friends they made. They said they also miss the baby.