Category Archives: Hillwalking

Murder in the Mountains

Sunrise/sunset: 07:33/ 17:35. Daylength: 10hr01min

It crossed my mind this week that perhaps I should try a change of direction in my writing. I don’t really read enough these days (I have six unread books waiting at the moment in my bedroom) but the family Netflix account is filled with dark drama from all parts of Scandinavia. I have all the elements I need. I could set it in the blue Polar Night, when the morning never comes and have a grisly scene in the slaughter house, with a human cadaver hanging among the carcases. There could be people smuggling, with all the season workers coming in, or perhaps the victim(s) could be working in the laundries, washing all those blood stained clothes. Maybe a hand can emerge from one of those huge piles of snow that gather during the winter months, leaving everyone baffled as to when the murder actually occurred.

It’s actually been a quiet week. Andrew has been away, visiting his dad, who lives near Stavanger. Before he went, I asked him to show me how to use the TV. When I was young, the TV was simple to use. Admittedly, you had to stand up to switch it on, and indeed to change the channel, though back then there were only three to choose from anyway. Our first TV was a tiny black and white portable that, rather bizarrely, my parents won in a competition. They also won a small sailing boat on a trailer. I can vaguely remember it appearing in the drive outside our house. Of course, it had to go because they had no car to tow it with. They sold it and bought a little white mini. Anyway I’ve wandered away from the point, which was that I have spent the week alone and quite enjoyed it. I could indulge my taste for true crime and mashed potato. The candles have been lit every evening. It feels comforting to return to having some darkness at a time that my body feels is appropriate.

I went out walking again with Ann and Konstantin last weekend. We went up Falkefjellet. The peak we reached, though not the highest point, was above the treeline, which meant there was a good view all round.

The best thing about it was that, for the first time in a while, I felt I could have walked further. My springtime Fit for the Summer campaign seems a very long time ago. The summer was marred by sickness and it has felt like every time I began to work again on getting back into shape, I was hit by something that stopped me. As I reached the summit of Falkefjellet, I remembered how much I love the feeling of arriving on the top of the world. The higher mountains are now swathed in snow, but perhaps there will be time to get a few walks in before the winter really sets in.

The photograph at the top of the page is of one of the red markers on the walk, though the shape of the rock and the bloody brightness of the paint was one of the things that prompted my Scandi Noir thoughts. Here it is again, the full photo, rather than the cropped version.

Konstantin was full of facts about the wildlife and the landscape. He is interested in geology and occasionally would point out pieces of marble, or rock formations and tell us how they had been formed. For example, here’s another red marker, this time looking a little like a stone dagger, set into fractured rock.

I asked him how the cracking occurred and he pointed to another section of rock just to the left, where there was more rock in the process of arriving there. This had earth in between the cracks, which of course will hold water. It freezes in winter, driving the stones apart, and then eventually the mud gets washed away, leaving the rather mysterious looking holes in the mountainside.

It was windy on the summit, so here is a picture of Triar, looking windswept and interesting.

Konstantin was in the lead with Triar during the walk. I think they look good together!

And of course, as we descended back to the treeline, there were some wonderful views to enjoy, as well as the smaller details of unexpected plants growing underfoot, in nooks and crannies, and on the trunks of dead but unfallen trees.

Andrew was due to return last night in the evening and the airport is close to the abattoir, so rather than driving over there twice in a day, I decided to take Triar in the car, have dinner with John, and then wait. It was a little hair raising, driving over. Until now, the temperature has been well above zero, but a wind from the north has changed that, and when I left for work at 04.45 there was frost on the car. I still have the summer wheels on as I don’t use the car much and up until now, they have been fine. I will change them over next week, but for now I had to proceed with caution in the darkness. I’d had to stop when driving home on Thursday, as there was a moose that thought about crossing the road, though he looked at all the cars which had stopped to let him, and changed his mind. They’re huge when you see them close up, so I was very wary, but we made it there safely. To fill in the time between work ending and collecting Andrew, I took a quick reprise of the spring fitness project. This is how the landscape looks now, as we head into winter. If you look carefully at the second picture, you can see the white peaks in the distance, though they are rather swathed in clouds.

The plane arrived on time and as we arrived back at the house, Andrew pointed at the sky. There they were, the northern lights, greeting him on his return to the north.

Linken and Tromsø

Sunrise/sunset: 03:50/ 21:51. Daylength: 18hr1min

Today we head north again. We will be spending tonight in Skibotn and the night after, who knows where? I made the mistake of looking up the coronavirus map yesterday and saw that the north of Norway is currently lit up like a viral Christmas tree, but hopefully that and the hairy-legged northern mosquitos won’t trouble us too much. Anyway, back to this week’s news.

On Monday, Ann, Ammar and I headed out for a walk after work. We climbed a hill called Linken. I’ve been very interested to see how rapidly we have left summer behind. We had just arrived this time last year and so I missed those wild and exuberant months, where the abundance of life thrust its way into every crevice. The change arrived almost as soon as the sun began to dip below the horizon again. At the start of the summer, there was a delay. In my head, those long, long days should have brought warmth and growth, but it took time for the land to recover from the long hard winter. Now we have plummeted into autumn. The trees are only just beginning to turn, but the forest floor, so recently dominated by lime green ferns and brightly coloured flowers, is now filled with berries and mushrooms.

Ammar made the most of the blueberries.

The view from the top of Linken was mostly obscured by trees, but I managed to take a couple of photographs.

On Thursday, Anna and I drove to Tromsø so I could sit my citizenship test. I spent last weekend and took most of a day off during the week to revise. I learned a few odd facts along the way. I hadn’t realised the Viking period lasted only about 250 years. Somehow, it has always felt like something timeless. And who knew that Norway’s highest mountain is Galdhøpiggen at 2,469 m (8,100 ft) above sea level? I told Anna and she pointed out that translated, it’s name means Crazily High Peak. One has to wonder whether the map maker asked one of the locals and received a rather tongue in cheek reply, which then was preserved for all time by officialdom!

The test is thirty six multiple-choice questions and I knew I was reasonably well prepared, but because of the deadline (an appointment with the police at the end of August) I needed to pass if I didn’t want to delay my application any further. The test was meant to take up to an hour, but in the event, I was finished after only eleven minutes. I wondered whether I ought to scroll back and check my answers, but the woman who was checking our proof of ID had just arrived at my desk. I wasn’t sure what the protocol for finishing was, so I asked her and then went ahead. Walking up the stairs to get my results, my heart was in my mouth, but as I walked back down, my heart was singing. I don’t know what my mark was, but I had passed and that was all that mattered.

Having driven all that way, Anna and I spent some time exploring Tromsø. First off was this wonderful book (and toy) shop that we found tucked away in a little yard down near the docks.

I’m a sucker for all things Harry Potter, and so I was delighted to see some fabulous memorabilia.

There was a reasonable sized English section (albeit sci-fi dominated) and I took the chance to buy four Terry Pratchett books. Only a few weeks ago, I was thinking that I almost never read anything new, but now I have plenty of reading to look forward to.

We wandered around the docklands area for a little while. I don’t know much about Tromsø’s history (a topic for another day perhaps) but it really did seem to be an eclectic mix of old and new and definitely had some quirky elements.

We also found a pub. I’m not sure I’ve actually been in a pub in Norway before. There isn’t a pub tradition here in the way there is in the UK. This one had a very British feel to it and Anna and I immediately felt at home.

Anyway, I’ll have to go now and get some breakfast. The car is packed already and I’m feeling in a holiday mood. Thanks for reading. See you all very soon!

Fit for the Summer

Sunrise/sunset: Up all day.

Ann was on holiday this week and so I worked every day from Tuesday to Friday at the abattoir in Bardufoss. I was on animal welfare duty all week (which involves an early start) and as John is living over there in an apartment with a spare bedroom, I spent the better part of the week at his place.

As we set off to drive over on Monday evening, we began discussing health and fitness. Through the long winter, walking in the countryside was largely impossible. Trails were blocked with snow and even if you wanted to park and walk along the road, you often couldn’t as the car parks hadn’t been cleared and there was nowhere to stop. Looking back, I realise how unprepared I was. Next winter, I will have to find a solution other than sitting on the couch for three months, but for now, the challenge is to get my untrained muscles outside and get some fresh air into my lungs.

John suggested we walk up an unmade road close to his house that weaves up the side of one of the fells. Because it’s technically a road, it was cleared through the winter. A few weeks ago, there would have been an icy crust and walls of snow, but those have melted. There are large laybys all the way up. In winter, these were crucial passing places when the road was hemmed in, but now they are big enough to park in.

John’s proposal was that we should start from the bottom and walk up in stages, so that’s what we did. The first day’s walk was a steep twenty minute trek through woodland. It was pretty enough, even as I gasped my way uphill. A large stream, recently frozen, ran alongside sections of the track. The forest floor was still lined with snow. But it was only when we reached the end of the first day’s segment and turned round that I could see just how beautiful the scenery was.

Day one from the highest point of our walk.

Only a couple of weeks ago, the mountains were swathed in pure white. Now their rocky faces are emerging and the trees that line their lower slopes are beginning to be tinged with purple as new branches and leaf buds begin to grow.

Icy mountain stream.

We stopped to photograph the stream on the way back down. The peaty water flowing over the ice gives it a very different look from the streams in Scotland in springtime.

Highest point on day two.

On day two, we took the car up to the highest point we had reached on day one and set off from there. The trees were more sparse up here, clinging on to the thin layer of earth over the rocks. In the lower right corner of the photo, you can get an idea of how thick the snow still is. It’s treacherous to walk through. There’s a crust on the top, which occasionally holds firm, but more often you fall through and find yourself off-balance in a knee-deep, foot-sized hole. As your other foot is similarly wedged, moving it quickly to correct your balance is impossible. I haven’t yet fallen flat on my face, but that’s because I mostly avoid making the attempt.

Mountains beyond the trees.

The emerging colours are stunning. After months of white, it feels as if the world is coming to life again. The pussy willow trees are so rife with pollen that it almost looks like blossom. There were birds too, singing in the trees.

Tree in bloom.
Day three, close to the top.

By day three, my legs were beginning to flag and so we walked only ten minutes instead of the normal twenty. The sky that day was filled with dramatic clouds, and yet it was still warm enough to walk without a jacket. Then again, five degrees feels warm to me now. There’s no doubt my body has adjusted to the local climate.

The colours of spring.

I came home yesterday and walked here instead, but I confess that I love the new project John has created for me. We will continue walking up the mountain over the next few weeks, and hopefully when the trails on Senja are properly opened up again, we will be able to tackle some of the mountains there.

And, of course, I can’t write this blog and fail to mention the fact that we now have twenty four hours of daylight. I stayed up last night, to see whether there would be midnight sun, but it dipped behind the mountains at eleven fifty. Going to bed is more difficult when it is still so light. It’s also difficult when you wake in the middle of the night and there’s bright sunshine filtering round the edges of the blind and curtains. There’s no way to judge whether it’s morning or not. I have to check the clock each time. Tough to go back to sleep at four in the morning when your eyes are telling you it’s full daylight. Have a great week everyone.

Bjørndalsfjellet and Dalsnuten – Photos

Today Charlie and I tackled our first two peaks in the “10 på Topp” challenge. Ten peaks to climb in Sandnes Kommune before November. Bjørndalsfjellet is 362m and Dalsnuten is 323m.

The path to Bjørndalsnuten
The path to Bjørndalsnuten

Mountain flower
Mountain flower

Looking south from close to the top of Bjørndalfjellet
Looking south from close to the top of Bjørndalfjellet

Bjørndalsfjellet summit
Bjørndalsfjellet summit

Charlie
Charlie

On the way down
On the way down

Beside the path to Dalsnuten
Beside the path to Dalsnuten

Looking back at Bjørndalsfjellet
Looking back at Bjørndalsfjellet

Towards Dalsnuten
Towards Dalsnuten

Charlie at the summit of Dalsnuten
Charlie at the summit of Dalsnuten

Along the fjord
Across the fjord

Stavanger
Stavanger

Heading down
Heading down

Temptation.....
Giving in to temptation…

Krossfjell and Bynuten photos

We climbed Krossfjell on 30th May and Bynuten yesterday. Krossfjell is the second smallest of the hills at 258m, Bynuten is the highest at 671m. Krossfjell was a pleasant afternoon’s hike, Bynuten, at 12km over rough going was more challenging.

Krossfjell Summit
Krossfjell Summit

Native fauna!
Native fauna!

Excellent view on the way up!
Excellent view on the way up!

Flowers
Flowers

A gentle walk through farming country.
A gentle walk through farming country.

The Summit of Bynuten
The Summit of Bynuten

The view from the summit
The view from the summit!

Fluffy!
Fluffy!

Lots of yellow flowers
Lots of yellow flowers

I found this tiny red flower under a rock just before...
I found this tiny red flower under a rock just before…

...Charlie unexpectedly found a hole!
…Charlie unexpectedly found a hole!

The sky began to clear as we descended
The sky began to clear as we descended

And the sun returned as we began the long trek home. Note the rocky 'path'.
And the sun returned as we began the long trek home. Note the rocky ‘path’.

Almost back
Almost back

Getting late
Getting late

Beautiful things can even grow in cattle-grids
Beautiful things can even grow in cattle-grids

Summer passing

Summer is drawing towards its end and the chillier nights are creeping in, but there is still warmth when the sun is high. Marian and I walked today on Ognaheia amidst overwhelming beauty: sparkling dew on tendrils of spider-silk, sunlight filtering into the dark places through the shivering silver birch, the red of the rowan and the woodland toadstools against the late-summer foliage, the blue intensity of the sky going on forever. As ever it seems impossible to catch these images on camera, but I have attempted to do so and will share the best with you.

Setting out from the farm.
Setting out from the farm.

Walking east into the morning sun.
Walking east into the morning sun.

Marian.
Marian.

Amanita muscaria.
Amanita muscaria.

Standing alone.
Standing alone.

From the tiny...
From the tiny…

... to drooping splendour.
… to drooping splendour.

... the woodland floor was replete...
… the woodland floor was replete…

... with reams of toadstools.
… with reams of toadstools.

This magnificent creature joined our mid-morning snack, bringing his newly-caught food with him.
This magnificent creature joined our mid-morning snack, bringing his newly-caught food with him.

Sparkling with reflected light.
Sparkling with reflected light.

Seemingly unafraid.
Seemingly unafraid.

Late-blooming heather.
Late-blooming heather.

Dewdrops scattering sunlight.
Dewdrops scattering sunlight.

More magnificent fungi.
More magnificent fungi.

And evidence of tiny creatures we couldn't even see.
And evidence of tiny creatures we couldn’t even see.

And a final flourish of red before the end.
And a final flourish of red before the end.

Buzzing!

Spring is arriving here at last. Marian and I have finally managed to find some time for walking. As you can see from the picture at the top of the page, Bijke came too.

We took the Vestlandske Hovedsvei as it isn’t too far from home.

I actually only started taking photographs when we reached the top of the hill and sat down for coffee . . . here . . .

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I always find this landscape hard to photograph. It’s very rough terrain, but the horizon is flat. As you can see, everything is still winter brown.

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Bijke seemed to be enjoying the sunshine.

We sat for quite a while. The sun is beginning to have some real warmth. While we were sitting on top of the hill, I could hear a skylark singing.

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As we walked down this hill, there was a ringing sound in my ears.

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Not such a good photo because she was a long way away, but we did find the source of the soothing clank clank . That is one of the sounds of summer here.

As we passed by a rocky stream, above the rushing water, frogs were croaking out their spring song.

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Anyone want to live in this house? I know I do. Note the grass roof.

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Almost back at the car, our footsteps were arrested beside this tree.

It wasn’t the sight of it that caused us to stop and take a closer look. The tree was humming.

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Bees! There were thousands of them. I’ve never heard anything like it. I can see two in this photo alone.

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And then we were back at the car in the farmland at the bottom of the valley where it’s possible to grow crops.

I’m off to Yorkshire on Thursday. I’m hoping for sunshine and lambs. Not sure when I’ll be able to blog again (I’m not back until Monday) but I hope while I’m there to do some research for Christmas at Mistletoe Cottage.