The Road through Norway, Part I: Lyngen Alps & Tromsø

PJ and I had planned to leave Kiruna after the first week of April, after which we would take the road through Norway to Oslo over the course of a week. However, due to unforeseen circumstances we had to leave earlier, as our situation at work was no longer sustainable and we decided to leave. Rather than feeling down about it all we wanted to turn something low into a new high and headed for Norway anyway, only with 10 days of extra time on our hands. So instead of heading straight south we headed north first, to the Lyngen Alps that stand high above Norway’s Arctic territories. This particularly spectacular place had bombed itself right on top of my to do list in Norway during the past few months, and now we had a fantastic weather window that we simply had to grab.

Before crossing the border we had a few days stopover in Abisko, where my good friend Matthias was at the time. He was in Sweden for a visit and as he and his girlfriend left for the mountains we decided to follow them. Because our departure was so sudden we were not exactly sure where to head first, so we needed to direct ourselves somewhere. Being in the mountains made big loads fall off our shoulders, and it was good relaxing there with friends. We enjoyed the great hospitality of some fellow husky colleagues and met up with old coworkers in town. It was simply relaxing, no big projects, just walking down to the lake, having coffee and cakes, sleeping in, enjoying the view, getting a few beers. That was all we needed for the time being.

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Once across the border we both got really excited at the sight of high peaks from the car. We stopped in Narvik to pick up some snow shoes, as we figured that otherwise we would probably not get anywhere near where we wanted to go. We checked up some possible routes and decided to aim for Koppangen, the end of the road on the western side of the Alps. Our research had revealed a possibly nice camping spot along a popular skiing route that started from the town, one with a spectacular view and the possibility to examine if we could summit some of the surrounding peaks the next day.

Upon arrival we quickly realised the terrain was much steeper than we anticipated it to be from the maps, so our eye fell on a col along the ridge of Goalborri, another mountain we had looked into. The col seemed more realistic as a goal and it offered a good view over the valley we initially planned, so if everything went according to plan we could still get up there the next day. Sun was shining and we were eager to reach our goal. After about an hour we came to a part of the ridge that was much steeper than it appeared to be. Unfortunately we did not realise this until I was almost at the top, realised I was at a 40-50% angle on an icy slope, and froze. Pj was further below and stopped too. Diligently we made our way down the slope again: slowly, steady and carefully.

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We found a way around the steep face but ended up a gradient too high for our comfort once again. It was not the uphill that was a problem, but the getting down again: the snow was so hard and icy that there was very little grip with the snow shoes, and it seemed a risky affair: a cliff awaited and there was no way we would stop before it in case one of us would slide. We would have needed at least an ice axe, and preferably also a rope and an avalanche beacon to make it there and back. We turned around and decided to head elsewhere to practice our snow shoe skills, somewhere where failure would not lead to certain death.

In a way it was good, as we starting exploring different areas of the Lyngen Alps while initially we had planned to spend our time only in the Koppangen area. The beauty of Lyngen is insane, and I for one can not find the words to describe it. It is a combination of the sharpest mountains I have ever seen, completely snow capped and rising straight from the sea, then cross-cut by fjords with bright blue waters. Even driving through them was strangely satisfying, though road travel usually makes me feel as if I’m bypassing all the fun. Everywhere I could simply sit, and stare, and not believe that what I was seeing is actually real. Every night we sat with the tent door open to have an everlasting look at the scenery.

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So again, we had no bad feelings about turning around, we simply headed elsewhere. We just did not have the gear to ascend any of the peaks and we adjusted our plans accordingly. Our first pick was Skihytta and we found a beautifully panoramic tenting spot above the cabin. Snow conditions were better there, and though it got very windy that night and the next morning, we ascended a good bit to the foot of the mountain Kavringstinden with a breathtaking view over the mountain and the Lyngenfjord. The mountain was crowded with skiers and I could see PJ getting restless inside with the idea. For sure, in the future we will be back here, armed with equipment to make a proper descent from the mountain.

Back at Lyngseidet we got in the car and moved on to Svensby, where we were lured by Barheia. Now Barheia was something we probably would not have picked from the beginning, it just seemed like a cosy back-up plan, though it turned out to be the most fantastic camping spot both of us have ever been privileged to pitch our tents on. We were surprised that absolute no one else was there, and concluded that sometimes it is maybe better to stay away from the high-profile adrenaline filled peaks that everyone seems to be aiming for today. We set up the tent – finally in the snow – threw out our mattresses and sat outside for a long time talking, surrounded by a 360° view that not even the fanciest hotel in the area could compete with. A bit of northern lights danced across the ski at sunset, but these tired bodies had long lay their heads down by the time it got completely dark.

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The next morning we went up to Barheia’s highest point, offering more fantastic views over the fjords and the surrounding peaks that made us both ecstatic and quiet inside. We threw our mattresses out once more for a panoramic lunch before starting the beautiful forest walk down to Svensby. After 3 days in the mountains we could feel a few muscles we had forgotten the existence of (during the season we only had to work pushing the sled uphill, as the dogs were doing all the work on the downhills), so we got on the next ferry and proceeded to Tromsø for a meet up with another former coworker and a day or two of relaxing.

Of the cities I have visited above the Arctic circle Tromsø is my favourite, nestled on an island between the mountains, offering both vibrant city life and spectacular scenery. We both had been here before so most things we already visited, but coming over to hang out a bit seemed a good idea anyway. The only thing we really wanted to do was a ride up the cable car, which was unfortunately closed, so we visited Polaria and the Mack brewery instead.

This morning we are driving out to Ida, who we have met everywhere from Lapland to New Zealand, for a small visit to her house in the fjords and the dogs at her work place. From there it is time to head south and leave the Troms province behind us. Next destination: Lofoten. 

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