31 May 2014

Norway - Middagstiden (1072m) & Cabin Avalanche

For our second day in Norway, we opted to ski Middagstinden (Dinner Peak). With heavy snow predicted, this was a safe choice with low-angled terrain and few concerns about objective hazard. Huddled around my computer over delicious gin and tonics (imported Gin from a local Washington distillery) we felt confident in our decision.

Photo by Kelly.

We awoke to heavy snow as predicted. Our entire time in Norway the weather reports were crazy accurate actually. They could predict weather by region, by hour. With all of the crazy mountains I have no idea how, but if you're ever in Norway, trust these weather reports.

We loaded up the car and just drove 15 minutes down the road to find Middagstinden. I should say that "find" is hardly accurate, as this was our view:

Oh my, what beautiful views we have. Photo by Kelly.

Undeterred, we started our ascent on a summer road. We meandered through the "forest" consisting of well spaced trees along the flats before we began our ascent. We stopped frequently to gain our bearings, as, you know, we couldn't really see where we were going.

Seriously guys. These views were the BEST.

Good spirits despite the onslaught. Photo by Kelly.

Nick passing under the alter of nature

Our mouths are open and arms are up. WE ARE HAVING FUN!

We skinned until we reached the top of treeline and had to call it quits. Treeline is very different in Norway than in the US. When you reach a certain elevation the trees are just DONE. Looking at the mountains you see a very distinct line: up until this elevation trees grow, but after nothing grows. So, when you run out of trees, you run out of visibility.

We skied down through some fun powder but had difficulty maintaining speed due to the DEEP POW and super low-angle slope. The trees were really well spaced for some fun skiing though, and generally we had a great time. Nick tried to kill himself in a ravine, but that was only his first ravine of many for the trip, so we let him do his snowboard thing and looked the other way.

Once we reached the flats again we briefly entertained the idea of skiing another lap in the fun pow, but with snow blowing in our faces from increasing wind, it just wasn't worth freezing half of our faces off for another 700' of skiing.


The trail to the car. Photo by Kelly.

On the way back our navigation skills failed us, and we may have gotten a little lost... luckily, we could see a house in the distance, so we pointed our skicks in that direction and set about reaching the house. The house took us to the road, where we disagreed about whether to go right or left to get to the car, but our compass steered us in the right direction.

Once back at the car we confirmed: yes, it was indeed snowing. At least 6" had accumulated on the Tulle in the few hours we had been outside.

6" of Gnar in Gnarway! Photo by Kelly. Expressions by my face.

This same 6" had also blocked us in, so with Julian acting as an expert driver, the rest of us pushed the Passat until it tasted SWEET FREEDOM on the roads of Norway. All of us jumped in the car with our boots on for the short drive home. We *might* have been a little snowy.

A little snow never hurt anyone.

Once back at the house, we laid out our wet stuff and stoked the fire to warm our chilled bodies. One note about this awesome house - the entry way had heated floors and could be closed off from the main living area. Every day we would come in, unload, and lay all of our wet boot liners on the heated floor. It smelled terrible in that room - which was especially startling when you forgot about it only to be smacked in the FACE with the terrible stench anytime you opened the door - but it sure was nice to wake up to dry, toasty boots!

Langley stoking our fire

In the afternoon the weather cleared just enough for us gear back up and explore...our backyard. That's right, we left the skis behind to just play in the snow. We took lots of really fun photos of our surrounding mountains AND our group shenanigans.

Footsteps. Photo by Langley.

You can see our "town" behind. Photo by Langley.

Jumping photo! Kelly is actually the inspiration for all of my jumping pics.

Spirits are high.

The album cover for our forthcoming Norwegian Folk-Rock debut. One of my favorite shots of the trip.

Too bad I missed capturing when Kelly gave Julian a piggy back ride.

Ladies....

Nick especially had a fun time playing in the snow, and using my "fast action" camera feature I was able to capture his ridiculousness (in case you missed it, I love embracing all things ridiculous). It's been especially amusing for me to learn how to create .gif's of his antics:


Frolicking

Snow Angel

Little did we know the excitement wasn't going to stop with the snow angel creation. For days Nick had been eyeing a "sick couloir bro" across the way from our cabin. Just as we were looking across the valley a HUGE snowfield above the coulior came loose, releasing the largest avalanche any of us had ever seen in our lives.

The snow ran the entire length of the ridgeline, billowed up filling the valley below, and in fact started to creep up the mountain on the other side. It was loud and startling and stupendous.

Avalanche!
A closer look at the cloud of snow.
The group filming the avalanche.

Once the snow settled, Nick had two statements:
1) Wow, glad we weren't over there.
2) It's definitely safe now!

He was kidding...mostly.

After the excitement of the avalanche, we took a few minutes to really take in the amazing scenery just as dusk was breaking.












A small day for skiing but a big day for excitement. We definitely earned our taco feast dinner.


29 May 2014

Norway - Daltinden (1533m)

Life has been a bit hectic, so please forgive me my tardiness in posting about Norway. The trip was so fantastic and I was SO EXCITED to document it's every super-duper-important-detail that I got overwhelmed and didn't post...for a month. You'd think I would know better by now, but well, I do not.

I did have a chance to post about my initial impressions of Norway (wow!) and about our grocery shopping experience (wowza!) so check those out if you haven't. Also, if you prefer a more succinct recap of our adventures, check out Kelly's blog about our entire week in Norway (Kelly is a friend I know from Seattle and the impetus for my trip to Norway. Her friend Langley, also from Seattle currently living in Marseilles, also has a great blog where she's written about the trip).

We all arrived in Tromsø for a week of backcountry skiing on a Sunday afternoon. We loaded up our VW Passat and accompanying Tulle, packed to the BRIM with gear and people, found a grocery store, and made our way to "home" for the week in the heart of Lyngen, in Lakselvbukt. Kelly found us this little gem on AirBnB and chose this cabin due to it's proximity to close skiing in the Lyngen Alps and in Balsfjorden, Tamok, and Kåfjord too.


Home sweet haven

In what became our nightly ritual, we enjoyed ONE beer each while eating a home cooked meal and planning our next day's adventure. We were lucky - the area has a pretty great guidebook in English which is easy to understand and provides good navigational information. Because there is nothing worse than picking out a sweet ski line only to not be able to find where it starts...

Clockwise from left: Nick, Langley, Kelly, and Julian planning out our day.

For our first tour, we selected Daltinden. Close to the house and a safe choice given the moderate avy-forecastt - we all agreed it would be a good "first tour" in Norway.

Daltinden route beta. Notice the long approach.

We arrived at our destination - a school yard - and began to gear-up. At this point you might ask an obvious question: with everything closed in Norway for Easter Week, where do you possibly go when you need to use the "facilities"? Well my friends, you can go ANYWHERE YOU LIKE! I mean, I'm not recommending pooping on the front door or the school house or leaving a "surprise" in the middle of the soccer field for the spring thaw, but in general Norwegians are pretty lax about potty-breaks and all of us ladies just snuck off to do our business in the bushes while the mens exercised their rights to use the world as their urinal.

Schoolhouse gear-up.

The beautiful approach started as part of a cross-country ski course and took us up over an interesting creek crossing before we entered a beautifully long valley full of ice and snow.

Julian and Nick ready to rumble.

The valley ahead - photo by Langley.


View across the way of a rather grandiose slide path.

Another view of the slide.

If you are brave enough you can find plenty of ice for first ascents.

Nick appreciating our surroundings.

After a few hours of easy skinning we started our climb up toward the summit of Daltinden. Unfortunately, the weather deteriorated and after climbing for about 2800' we found ourselves out of the trees and into dense fog with not much to mark our trail. Oh, and it was windy.


Starting the climb. Photo by Nick.

The brief period of time we could actually see where we're going. We made it about halfway up the rock ridge at center. Photo by Nick.

Climbing.

Let's use these rocks as route markers - okay?

To make matters worse, our skins were clumping so badly I reached a point of not even being on the snow anymore - it was like walking on 6" platform heels:

Notice my skis are NOT touching the snow.

Prone to vertigo and not a fan of being lost in the mountains, I agreed with everyone's assessment and we headed down the mountain. We nearly lost one of the skins during our transition to the wind, but Owly came to the rescue and all was well.


Owly to the rescue!

Entertaining myself with some ninja moves.


I only took one photo on the way down, which is proof of the lame-ness of the skiing - at least Nick took a few. The snow was far inferior to spring corn and can best be described as soupy glop. We attempted to ski down this "pillow field" only to find it full of holes - big, scary ones. We all made it down safely and began our looooong approach traverse back to the car.

You can't tell, but it was pretty hard to see ANYTHING. Photo by Nick.

SKIING! Photo by Nick.

The aforementioned pillow field.

Safely returned to the Passat, we loaded up and went home to warm showers, heated floors, and the sweet delicious taste of our one precious beer a piece. Tomorrow - Middagstiden!

04 May 2014

Grocery Shopping in Norway

Grocery stores in Norway are expensive. Like, really expensive.

Don't expect to be able to visit them on just any day. No no. Certain stores are only open on certain days, even the "big stores" are much smaller than the ones you'll find in the states. Most depressingly, you can only buy beer - no wine or alcohol - from these groceries, and even then the beer is no more than 5% ABV.

Oh, and did I mention ONE beer at the GROCERY STORE is about $6 USD? That's $6 for an 18oz. of 4.5% beer. Yeah. Ouch.

This beer: $6.

If it sounds like I'm complaining, I'm not. I knew from the get-go our grocery bill would amount to a small fortune. Norway is one of the richest countries in the world - they're sitting on a stock of oil, and technically every Norwegian is a millionaire. Folks who live there just get used to the prices, then rejoice when they go anywhere else because, basically, everything is on sale.

Norwegians care a lot about their vacation time. It's standard for everyone to get 6-weeks. Bosses insist employees take every single one of those days. The country shuts down for major stints at a time to observe holidays - Easter being one.

The reason for my trip was to visit my friend Kelly (who has a fantastic blog - you should check it out) while she was on Easter holiday. Kelly moved temporarily to Norway a few years ago while in school, fell in love with the place, and moved there on a semi-permanent basis last December. On her first visit she experienced the joy of "Easter Holiday Week":

Easter may have just become my favorite holiday. Here in Norway we have several days off from work, it is expected that people go skiing, and chocolate is plentiful! From my observations, Easter in Norway isn’t all the much about the religious holiday, but instead about spending time with family and out in nature (many Norwegians travel to their cabins for the long Easter weekend). 
Because we were visiting on Easter week, everything was closed. And not "closed" in the American sense, but closed in the you-better-get-groceries-on-Monday-because-we-don't-open-again-until-Thursday sense.

We arrived on a Sunday evening and found a small store where we werebought provisions for the first night and next day. When I say small store, I mean that the five of us walked in there and could NOT move around. Picture your average gas station size. Only smaller. Full of hungry mostly-Americans.

We found enough provisions and were able to make a delicious dinner of salmon (fresh!), cous cous, and veggies:

Mmm, first meal in Norway.

On Monday we went skiing (which I promise to write about when I have brain capacity to process the hundreds of photos) and after we went to a BIG grocery story. You know, like a little American one.

Prepared with shopping list in hand, we wandered around looking for our 'grocery assignments'. It didn't take long for us non-Norwegian speakers to more or less gave up and just mill about waiting for Kelly and Julian to do it all though. Becuase: language is hard.

I did see and was super impressed with my first bread slicing machine experience. One could say it was the best thing since sliced bread...

Put it in the top, it comes out at the bottom all nice and sliced.
You even get a handy little shelf from which to wrap your loaf.

For their part, the Norwegian checkout people seemed pretty non-plussed by our MASSIVE cart. It took one person unloading the cart and three people bagging (and loading into multiple carts) for us to get out of there. The final bill?....

Our cart, pre-beer.
Nick in the candy aisle - WITH beer. And that was his face *before* he knew how much it cost...
Check us out checking out.
... At checkout we paid KR 4,987.00, which is roughly equivalent to $835 USD. It's been a while since I went to the store and bought a huge cart of groceries,....but, that seems a bit high to me....

Overall we spent about $1,100 on groceries for 5 people for 8 nights and 7 days (of skiing, so high-calorie intake with reasonable drinking), which works out to just over $9/meal/person. Much higher than my usual consumption rate... After consulting with Kelly (our "bank" or "sugar mama" for the week) I learned roughly 1/3 of our grocery bill was beer. That's right - we spent $330 on beer. And not just any beer, marginal you-can-only-get-this-in-Utah beer. We started the week planning for 1x beer per person per day. After our hellacious rain day (which I promise to write about when I have brain capacity to process the hundreds of photos) we upped that to 2x beers per person per day. So...55 beers total. In America, that many comperable beers would cost $73. I'm just sayin....but hey, when in Norway!

Our big haul.

We ate all but two containers of yogurt, a head of lettuce, and 4 eggs. Not bad.

We WERE able to recoup some of our money later in the week when we returned our cans for their deposit amount. Three bags of cans (I swear I don't have a drinking problem) merited us about $6. So, enough to buy just one more beer.

Kelly returning the cans.

The beer we bought with our can-ransom money.

I must say though,I clearly enjoyed my Norwegian grocery experience or I wouldn't have written this long blog about it. What can I say? Great things happen at the grocery. Those tricky Norwegians grocery stores really hooked me with the whole "scarcity ploy" by only being open for a grand total of like 10-hours while I was in the country. Plus you never know when you'll find your first bread slicing machine or get to wear awesome leggings in public in Norway! Or, see a poster for a professional all-women ice fishing team. Yes. I did say professional ice fishing team.

Kelly can I give you a hand (or a leg) with those cans???

No fish were harmed in the making of this poster.