When an Alaskan says you are going hiking in Norway, you should be nervous. Alaska natives are built to traverse snow, scramble up mountains, and never slip on ice. Thus, I was nervous about the little hike my friend had planned for my last full day in Norway. I was even more nervous when I asked my Norwegian host about hiking with Harrison and he responded with “Harrison is a super intense hiker and I am not”. Yikes! I was now even more worried about the next day’s adventures.
My Norwegian host did try to reassure me by saying that hiking to the top of Ulriken would be just fine and I could totally do it. “Uh huh, sure” I thought, totally unconvinced this was a good idea. My host knew I was from Florida and had even lived in Florida, so he could understand that my experiences with hiking were few.
My experience with hiking in the snow and ice, um, never.
The day came and I dressed in as many layers as I could pile on, so I resembled the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (or woman). I packed my water, some snacks, and donned my waterproof hiking boots. “Here goes nothing” I thought to myself when we finally embarked on the journey to the mountain.
We bussed over to the base of the mountain and began to ascend. At first we were just walking up a snow-free road, albeit a very steep road, but then we hit the snow/ice line and it became apparent that this was going to be the crazy hike I had imagined. Harrison could scamper over the snow like a champion, not slipping and sliding, but just walking along as if there was no ice. I, on the other hand, kept faltering and losing my footing convinced I was going to just tumble back down the mountain from whence I had just walked up. Luckily, Harrison had the forethought and experience with people from warm climates to bring metal crampons for my boots so I could confidently step on the ice and to to prevent me from sliding back down the mountain.
The truth is that the metal crampons only work confidently if the person wearing them is confident, which I was not. I was not about to trust these silly little metal crampons that attach over your boot by rubber straps and have metal spikes under the ball of your foot for securing your step to the ice/snow. All I could think was “yeah right, some tiny metal spikes are going to help me ascend this crazy sheet of ice called a mountain”.
Amazingly, the metal things totally work when you trust them, dig them into the ice, and walk on the ball of your foot when it gets super slippery. I started out a timid hiker, but by the end I was running up the mountain with abandon (ok maybe that is an exaggeration, I am still a Floridian climbing up a flipping snow mountain). However, I did not fall down the mountain and felt a bit like a mountain goat with the ability to traverse the snowy, rocky landscape in a surefooted manner. Holy crap, metal crampons are my new best friend!
It should be noted that Harrison did the hike in trail running shoes, not boots, and he never donned metal spikes. Those Alaskans certainly do have the training to traverse icey mountains. Also, Harrison had an amazing ability to guide us up the non-ice trail, which often meant going a bit rogue along a path he was forging that had us scampering up rocks, over tundra, and had me pulling myself up by trees and plants. However, with my metal spikes, I never fell down the mountain!
The hike was totally worth because the views atop the mountain (at 643 meters above sea level) looking out over Bergen and the snowy landscape were completely amazing. Also, I felt like kinda like a bad ass that I had conquered the snowy mountain. It wasn’t the most strenuous hike I have ever been on, but it was the one with the most snow and ice! And I made it to the top all on my own (with some coaching and encouragement from Harrison).
The best part was we didn’t have to hike down the mountain. There is a tram that goes to the top so we just rode back down and met friends in town for a lovely thai dinner. I know I am such a cheater, but I did climb up the snowy mountain.
All snow hiking photos can be found here.