Friday, April 11, 2014

Backcountry skiing at its best in northern Norway

With a nice day forecast and Etienne leaving at the end of the day, we took off for a not so long tour that was supposed to have a great view. Storsteinnestinden was our pick for the day. With Amelie’s knee not doing any better, she stayed at the car and we pretty piss not to join us.

There were some light clouds as we were started to make our way up but the more we were hiking up, the more those clouds were burning off! 
We eventually reached the summit and were welcomed by probably the greatest view we’ve had of the trip!
Two fjords were surrounding us and with the white peaks and the blue sky, we were pretty mesmerized!
I guess we were both pretty stoked to be up there since we took just wayyyyyyy too many pictures up there!
I would say that this kind of spectacular view is really unique to Norway and it was really nice to be able to enjoy it fully under a nice calm, blue-sky day!
As every good thing must come to an end (and especially since Etienne was taking the plane in the early evening), we eventually had to ski down!

Actually, the good thing was just starting!
There was probably about 15-20cm of really nice cold and fluffy powder and a totally untracked (apart from our own skintrack) mountain to ourselves!

So after the greatest view of the trip, we were enjoying the best turns!
I wish we would have hiked higher up to have a longer descent since all the turns were really nice and smooth.
After one of my best run of the season, we headed back to Tromsø since Etienne now needed to pack his stuff and catch a plane to head back home.
After dropping Etienne at the airport, I hit the road with Amelie to drive south towards Narvik. Anna, a friend of a friend, was living next to Narvik on the swedish side in Abisko. I was to meet her for two days of skiing in this area.

 As boring and uninteresting the drive up was in Sweden and Finland, the drive in Norway was just spectacular! With postal card pictures every town of high point, that makes it very nice to drive around here! The downside is that it really takes forever to get somewhere since the roads are so twisting!
We got to Anna’s cabin the following day and from there, we drove back towards Narvik to have a look at the backcountry. 
There is a cool little resort litterally in town. You can skin up if you like, but we used the lazy option since Anna was able to have us single ride tickets even if that kind of ticket is not really existent...
I just dumbly followed her since I had no clue about where we were going!
It was a great day with the snow really changing a lot between different aspects. After two short laps, we were at the top of a nice really long couloir that was dropping down to the road. The snow was really firm and hardpack, but it was still fairly easy go get the edges to grip.
Anna brought me not too far from her cabin for a little tour. 
We started skinning near the Låktatjåkka train station. We were just barely able to get a grip on the snow since it has been really hardened by the wind. 
We kept hiking up to a cabin were we had a nice pancake with some locally made marmelade.
It wasn’t the greatest skiing ever, but it was such a nice day that it was great to be out there and enjoying it!

Those turns were my last one of this trip since that as soon as we got back to Anna’s cabin, we started our long journey driving back to France where we still needed to find a place to live for the next year. 
Leaving Norway left me with the similar feeling as on my first trip to Alaska where my friend and travelling partner Babiche got hurt cutting our trip short.

I guess I’ll just need to do the same thing as I did with Alaska and come back!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Norway's beautiful fjords are hiding themselves!

We finally got kicked out of our nice little shelter. That was just too nice to be true I guess!

With some warm temperature, some more low clouds and rain on the forecast, we drove a little bit inland at the end of Balsfjord to a valley call Tamokdalen.

Since this valley is not directly open to the fjord and is sheltered by some mountains, the temperature forecasted there where a bit lower.
The weather was not much better than what we had experience in the past days. It was snowing at the clouds were really low. We didn’t venture too far up since we didn’t had any visibility.
We skied down on some really nice snow and since we were able to get some reference with the trees about where was the slope, we figured a second lap would be great.
As we were all stoke about our second run, we realized that a natural release just happen on the nearby slope! That cut our ambition for a third lap since the snow hasn’t stop falling.

Next day, we went give a try to an area just west of Skjold. Apparently, the weather is usually a bit better there than deeper in the valley.

There was a nice plowed parking in Skold where we saw a couple of cars where park. From this parking, you can ski the mountains on both side of the road.

We gave a try to both of them. The one on the north side didn’t had much steep and was fairly treed out. 
Sorfjelltinden, on the south side had much better terrain.

Pretty strong wind created a nice little soft slab at the top.
With what we saw on the previous day, we didn’t push any higher and lap the trees.
It was so nice to finally have some visibility that we came back the following day.
Amelie’s knee has start hurting in the past 2 days and she figure she would have a day off to rest it has we lapped pretty much the same area than the previous day.
With a nice weather window forecast near Tromsø, we drove back to get after some nice runs that are describe in the book.
I guess the weather can change really fast, since it started to rain and sleet heavily!
... than what should happen, finally happen: Etienne was sick of being wet at night and Amelie as well. I eventually rallied to their argument and we rented a cabin at the Tromsø campground. Actually, that was quite a nice discovery and certainly a plan to remember for a future Norway trip!
We packed the three of us into a tiny 2 persons cabin and woke up warm and dry!

We went gave a try to Skitntinden since the weather was (again!) cloudy and unsure!
There is only a small approach and we were suppose to have an awesome view since the peak was almost surrounded by fjords!

It has almost started to be a classic now on this trip since as we got closer to the top, weather worsen, snow started falling and visibility went to shit! 
We waited for a little weather window and headed down.
Sure enough, as we were a bit more than halfway down, the weather cleared and some better visibility showed up!
Since we got to Tromsø, we’ve been lurking at Tromsdaltinden, the massive mountain just next from town. 
We left the car in a really intense snowy episod that quickly disappear to leave place to a nice blue sky.
 After almost a week of not seeing much, we were really nice of the view we were having from the surrounding fjords.
But sure enough, as we were getting closer from the top, the clouds and the snow moved in!
Since there was some fairly high cliff bands and cornices, we stayed still waiting for the clouds to burn off.

We tried to wait as long as possible since we have already experienced too many times nice weather windows just after we started skiing down!
When we were both pretty frozen after 45 minutes of waiting so we headed down.
As we were awkwardly making our way down, we bumped into a Spaniard that was by himself and also waiting for the sky to clear.

We waited with him for another hour or so.
The wind was much calmer here but still pretty intense!
We dug a little snow wall to get shelter from the wind.
We eventually got a tiny window.
We jumped on our ski and made it quick to the bottom of the slope!
No time for picture here!
Just as we got to the bottom, the clouds move back and we were all pretty stoked to have made it down in the 5-10 minutes window!

With Amelie’s knee not doing any better and Etienne leaving in one day, it looks like even if none of us want to leave, this Norway trip might be coming to an end quicker than expected...