Saturday 9th February 2002 Day One
Heathrow - Oslo - Tromso
Well after setting off from home last night at 10:30 I finally arrive at Heathrow at about 2:00 am, my first task is to locate the others, I finally find them asleep in the arrivals lounge. I don't want to wake them so I just find the nearest vacant bench and try to get some some sleep. I manage to get about an hour of drifting in and out of consciousness which I will loosely call sleep.
After we checked in around 5:30 am we walk through customs and wait for our flight. I notice that I am not sitting near anyone in my group, they are all in row 19 whereas I am in row 31, the dozy woman behind the ticket counter gave us different seats even though we submitted our tickets together.
After an uneventful flight to Oslo we board another flight to Tromso and arrive a few minutes ahead of schedule. From here we get a taxi to take us to Tromsdallen camp site, which is a few miles away. To get there we travel through a network of underground tunnels which even includes roundabouts within them.
Upon arrival at the camp site we learn that it has not snowed in two months and from looking around we realise that snow is a little sparse. We then go to the garage to fill the stove bottles with petrol. Unfortunately we cannot read the Norwegian on how to operate the pumps (yes I know it is simple to operate, I put petrol in my car every week) in the end we had to ask the woman behind the counter to do it for us, when she did the petrol squirted everywhere, we couldn't help but laugh, she didn't find it amusing though.
We then went back to the campsite and had some dinner from its small cafe, I had the chicken & chips although you would be hard pressed to find any chicken on the bone. We then prepared our rucksacks for tomorrows early start, had a shower & tried to get some sleep.
10th February 2002 Day Two
Tromso - Kilpisjarvi - Goldahytta
Woke up at 6:30 with the alarm on my watch buzzing in my ear, I then woke up the rest of the group and boiled some water for breakfast. When I came to open my foil bag full of Turmat it splits spreading its contents all over the counter, so I had to put it all in a big pan to saturate instead of leaving it in the packet. After we ate and got ready our taxi arrived and that took us to Kilpisjarvi on the Finnish boarder, a two hour drive away.
Once we got there it was snowing quite lightly and was slightly cloudy, we had a hot chocolate in the garage and then started across the lake. I was breaking train at this point and it was quite tough because of the fresh snow had made it deep. Once we crossed this first section I followed at the rear to make sure everyone was OK, this next section took a long time and was quite slow.
We skirted along the edge of the lake parallel to the tree line following some old skidoo tracks and at some points we went through the trees which was quite nice. We finally got to the boarder with Finland, Norway and Sweden which a yellow barrel thing marked the point they met. I of course had my picture taken by it with the Welsh flag, from here it was quite difficult as we went through the trees but the snow was very deep.
When we finally got to the hut (called Goldahytta) we settled in for the night and made some food which we had to melt snow to produce.
11th February 2002 Day Three
Rest Day at Goldahytta
I woke everyone up again at 6:30, but no one stirred from their slumber, we decided yesterday that if they didn't feel like it they would have a rest day, so no one moved. I decided to go back to sleep.
I woke up again at 10:00 and had my breakfast, we then went out and practiced a bit in the snow, me and Ian showed them how to turn correctly when they where on a hill and how to snowplow turn whilst going down a hill, we let them play for a while when me and Ian cut the trail across the lake which we would be traveling along tomorrow so it would make it a lot easier with packs on.
We went back into the hut at 2:00 and basically just sat around the table talking, eating, playing cards and having a game of monopoly.
12th February 2002 Day Four
Goldahytta - Gappohytta
I woke everyone up at 6:00 and we started to boil water for our breakfast, after that we set off to Gappohytta. The first stage included crossing the lake that we had partially cut the day before. Once we had crossed this it was time to go through the woods, this was extremely difficult because of the deep snow and the trees making it impossible to go strait, to cap it off it was up hill as well.
Once we eventually made it through we were greeted by another big slope to climb (great). The rest of the day was mostly made up of going up more big hills and down small ones, all the time the snow was almost up to our knees making it very hard going.
We had one river crossing to do which was a bit nerve wracking as it was not to cold so I thought that we might fall through, but luckily we didn't. Because it was so much hard work plowing through the deep snow I had to take my fleece off to cool down.
For about the last two hours all I was dreaming about was a chicken sandwich and thinking how nice it would be to eat one when I got to the hut, but I knew I would be having a Turmat instead.
We first caught sight of the hut about 2km away but there was still a big hill separating us which took some effort to get up. At the hut we started the fire and melted the snow to make dinner. Soon after dinner we decided our game plan for tomorrow and weighed up our options and decided to have another rest day. We then had an early night.
13th February 2002 Day Five
Rest Day at Gappohytta
Had a bit of a lie in this morning and did virtually nothing all day, we went over what we were going to do tomorrow and three options were decided upon dependant on the weather and our speed, we also had another game of monopoly, which by the end of I owned nearly every piece on the board. We also played many card games to pass away the time.
Later at night we waxed our skies for tomorrow, as we would be leaving very early. Just before bed we looked out of the window and we could see the Northern Lights, although they were a bit dimly lit and were not as fully developed as they were when I saw them two years ago from the same hut.
14th February 2002 Day Six
Gappohytta - Rostahytta
What a day today was it had everything, Arctic storms, avalanche threats, exhaustion and one of us falling off a cliff, but more about that later. We began the day at 5:00 when I woke everyone up, had our breakfast and left the hut at 7:00, when it was still slightly dark.
The snow as usual was quite deep making it tough going but we were making good time considering. We had a great view of the Arctic sunrise which was a fabulous red/orange colour and along the way we ran into a lemming which decided to try and hide under Potters ski.
It was a bit after this that the weather started to turn, the wind picked up as we went higher to gale force level which was about 40 mph. This I can tell you is quite painful on your exposed face which I tried to cover the best I could but still left my nose and eye area open to the elements (a couple of days later the whole of the skin in this area flaked off, which looked very nice).
The snow fall and wind in the face made it increasingly difficult to navigate as there was no reference points from which to gauge our co-ordinates. We came down a few steep slopes but mostly had to climb up them.
Once we arrived at the top of the Ice Valley we could not see the mountains on either side of us to work out whether or not they posed an avalanche threat, so we carried on regardless. Ian led and I was a few feet behind him for a while we side stepped down the very steep sections and then zigzagged down the other down hill section.
Suddenly Ian told me to stop he was about 5 feet in front of me and could not move, the snow had given way underneath him and he was over a drop, but we could not see how far it went because of the white light made it impossible to see any features. He tried to climb out of it but he couldn't because it was a vertical slope. Then he fell, there was no sound for a few seconds, then I heard a loud thud underneath me. I thought he must be seriously injured, I could see him in a mangled heap about 30 feet below me, he wasn't moving, i was wondering what we would do if he had broken a leg, would we have to camp here and send some one for help which is two days away, would we try and drag him to the next hut which would have taken a long time. I shout down to see if he is OK, he replies that he is only winded, what a relief.
I swiftly climb up higher as to avoid the same fate to where the other four are we then wait to hear more from Ian, he tells us to move more to the left, so we climb higher and move slowly to our left after a while we can see him below as he has followed along the base of the cliff until it ends, he indicated that it is safe for us to come down to where he is, as it is quite steep we side step down the majority of it.
we could see what had happened a cornice had formed over the edge of the cliff and because of the light conditions and the snow we could not see it, so as Ian skied over it , it just gave way and he fell. We talk for a bit to see how he is feeling and he thinks that he has cracked his sternum and broken a few ribs, but he is OK to carry on, but you could see he was suffering.
But even after all this the day was far from over, we still needed to get to the next hut which was still a few hours away. We continued down the Ice Valley until we come to our next obstacle, a river crossing with a snow overhang on the hill directly over it to the right which could fall at any time as an avalanche, four of them went first until they reached a safe point past the river and in the clear of the avalanche danger. Me and Ian looked up at the overhang and could see a big black cat or maybe a Wolverine walking underneath it, we hoped that it would not set it off.
After this it was up hill again for a few km's, which was tough going because of the depth of the snow. Once we made it out of the Ice Valley we turned into the valley that our hut was in. To get to the hut we skied down through the forest and then slightly up until we made it.
When we arrived at the hut the door was snowed over so I had to dig it clear. Once in the hut we were exhausted but we still needed to start a fire and melt snow, once that was done we ate and then went to sleep.
15th February 2002 Day Seven
Rostahytta - Rostadallen - Nordkjosbotn - Tromso
We woke up early again at around 6:00 for what would be the last day of our tour. We ate and cleaned the hut and set off down the valley towards Rostadallen where we would walk along the road until we could find some where to phone a taxi, but before that we got to the road there was still a 12km ski through the woods.
As we left the hut we saw a wolverine on the slope of the hill opposite. The snow through the woods seamed to be the deepest we had experienced so far making us waste a lot of time trudging through the snow. On a number of occasions we needed to cross flowing streams using small snow bridges that covered them.
About 3km from the road we came across three Norwegian fishermen pulling two pulks, we talked to them for a while then used their tracks that they had cut to get us to the road, most of which was downhill, it was such a welcome relief to ski in cut tracks, the first time all week. It must have only took 15 minutes to do the 3km.
Once on the road we proceeded to walk along it until we could find a inhabited house we could ask to phone a taxi for us. We walked along it for ages until we found one and arranged to be picked up. We then took a taxi to Nordkjosbotn, where we waited for a few hours. Before the bus to Tromso left, whilst we waited we spent a lot of money buying food and drink, the first real food we have had in days (if you call cheese burger & chips real food).
The bus journey to Tromso took about 1 hour, we noticed along the way that a lot of Norwegian houses don't have curtains (it must be a voyeurs paradise). When we got dropped of at Tromso we had to walk to the campsite and it was quite slippery because it was snowing quite heavily (their first snow in 2 months).
At the camp site I had a long shower, my first in over a week and had our usual game of monopoly and a few games of cards. We finally got to sleep quite late.
16th February 2002 Day Eight
Had a leisurely lie in this morning and went for breakfast at 9:00 to the camps cafe. what a nice change from the dehydrated mush we have had every morning for the last week, but to our dismay the cafe was closed until 10:00, so we went back for some more card games.
As soon as 10:00 came we rushed over for breakfast, Dave, Tom and myself all opted for the breakfast tray which we assumed would be bacon, eggs, sausages, etc. But it turned out to be a tray of ham, a tray of cheese, some bread and caviar in a tube which tasted more like cheap fish paste than proper caviar, we were all a little disappointed.
Later we decided to go to Tromso to explore the town, we caught a bus from outside the campsite which took us over the bridge which separates Tromso to the mainland and dropped us off in town. After walking around the shops for a while we end up at the same coffee shop we where at two years previously.
After a while we needed to get some food so we decide to go to Burger King (very traditional Norwegian cuisine). most of the employees there look about 12 years old and we reckon that Norway must have very lax labour laws.
After we ate our gourmet meal everyone went back to the coffee shop to watch a football match on TV, as this is far down the list of my favourite sports I decide to walk around Tromso town by myself. Within a few minutes it started to get dark and the shops began to close.
It did not take long to see everything there was to see, but I still delayed going back to the coffee shop as the thought of watching football did not appeal. When I did finally go back the football had just kicked off, great. Luckily they only showed the first half of the match then turned over to the Winter Olympics. When that was over we went back to the campsite and prepared for our departure the next day.
17th February 2002 Day Nine
Tromso - Oslo - Heathrow
Got up at a reasonable hour and then went for breakfast at the camps cafe. I was feeling a bit hungry this morning so I had bacon & eggs, and a cheese & ham toasted sandwich. The snow was now coming down quite heavily so we phoned the airport to make sure our plane was going to take off on time, luckily there was not to much of a delay.
We got to the airport by taxi and checked in our bags automatically using a self service machine. After sitting around for a while we board the flight for the first leg of the journey, we arrive at Oslo less than a couple of hours later. At Oslo we have a short wait and then board our flight back to the UK. Upon arrival at Heathrow I say goodbye to the rest of the team and make my way home back to Wrexham.