"The Big One" (Norway)

4:44 a.m. on July 20, 2012 (EDT)
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Store Skagastølstind (2405 m = 7890 ft) is the third highest peak in Norway, but unlike the top two it requires some climbing to get to the top. It is often referred to as Storen, "The Big One". My daughter Molly and I have both wanted to do it for a while, and finally just decided to go with a local guide, since neither of us has the full set of skills and gear to do it on our own. Problem: we had to just pick the day in advance and hope for good weather -- and the weather in western Norway is notoriously undependable. You pays your money and you takes your chances...

We god rid of our car at the end of last year, so for me it was a combined train and bus trip to get to Turtagrø, the mountain hotel that serves as a base camp for this and other climbs. While it is a bit pricey even compared to Norwegian huts, for a reasonable fee it's OK to camp out nearby and using the showers etc. So I pitched my tent across the road, took a shower, whipped up a quick meal, then hung out in the hut's mountaineering library for a while.
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As a warm-up, on the next day I hiked in to Fannaråkshytta, the highest hut in Norway, right on top of Fannaråken (2068 m), a big bread loaf of a mountain with a small glacier on one side.

Along the way I encountered a lot of butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris, tettergras in Norwegian). The pale leaves are sticky on the upper surface and trap and digest small insects as a source of nutrients.
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I also ran into a traffic jam on the trail.
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As you can see the weather wasn't the best. The route follows a a service road for some hydroelectric words up a valley, then climbs quite steeply up a ridge, rounding off only as you get near the top. 
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In places there was some first-class trail work -- most trails in Norway are worn-in rather than built, but some of the busier ones get special attention.
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Looking back, I could just see the green waters of Lustrafjord at the bottom of the valley.
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The whole upper part of Fannråki is basically a pile of frost-crushed rock, with only lichens and moss for plant life. Here the trail work consists of pushing the big rocks aside, leaving a treadway of smaller rocks.
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The hut looming out of the fog...
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...and later when the clouds lifted for a bit. The trail is copiously marked so people can find the hut in the fog.
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There are actually four building up there, one where the staff lives and serves meals in a comfortable common room, another with bunkroom style sleeping space, and a couple others used for storage. 
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The hut was pretty full, with a lot of kids, including a few small enough to ride up on their parents' backs. After supper the clouds lifted enough to take in a few views. Here's the Sognefjell area in mid-July. A hotel down there somewhere offers groomed cross-country skiing right into mid summer.
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Galdhøpiggen, highest in Norway, somewhere under the clouds on the left side of the photo, Kjyrkja (the Church) in the middle of the valley. 
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And here's Hurrungane, the range that includes Storen,with glaciers flowing down its side.
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The next day I paid a nominal fee to go with a guide and a Dutch family down the glacier on the other side of Fannaråki. Seemed like a very safe route but still a good idea to be roped up. We started by down climbing a steep tongue of snow off the ridge, then just a couple km of snow slog.
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Looking back at Fannaråki, the hut at the highest point on the R end, we came down the snow slope on the L.
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Molly had been peakbagging all week at nearby Spiterstulem, then hiked through so we met up after I took a short bus hop back to Turtagrø that evening. The weather was not promising but our guide Andreas though we could still do the climbe, so the next day we set off up into the clouds.
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The route goes up a valley past a couple high lakes, alongside a small glacier to a col, then out onto Storen's south face for some mixed scrambling and easy climbing to the top. The route finding is as much or more of a challenge as the actual climbing -- that's where a guide comes in especially handy, especially in this weather.
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That's Storen poking up into the clouds, col on the R.
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There's a gloomy little stone emergency hut on the col that some people use to get a jump on the climb. The route can get quite busy on nice days, but we had the mountain to ourselves. We stopped there to put on harnesses and helmets, then proceeded up to some steep, soft snow before getting out rope and crampons.
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The climbing begins with a few easy moves, then a lot of scrambling before a little more class 5 near the top. It was snowing, with enough accumulation to make the rock wet and slippery, so we climbed in crampons. Somewhere above the first climbing Molly and I were both feeling a little cold and wet, and we discussed giving up, but with some encouragement form Andreas we continued on and eventually warmed up and got to where we kind of enjoyed ourselves despite the bad weather. Here's Andreas leading the first bit of class 5.
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Molly and Andreas on the scramble.
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Yours truly belaying Andreas.
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Last moves to the top.
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Molly on top.
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Molly and Andreas just below the summit.
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The descent involved two long rappels with easy scrambling between and after, then a long slog back to Turtagrø. There's actually a person in this picture.
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Molly on rappel.

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There and back again in about 12 hours. The next morning the cloud lifted enough to give us a parting glimpse of the mountain -- then promptly closed back up again, although I think the day was much better than the one we had.
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So -- the bad news of with going with a guide is that you kind of have to do it even in marginal weather. The good news is that you can do it even in marginal weather. But now we want to go back and do it again on a nicer day. There's a 15 hour ridge traverse that ends on the summit...

10:04 a.m. on July 20, 2012 (EDT)
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Oh, what a fantastic trip. I am envious, to bu sure :) 

How old is Molly? It's great that she is into solo trekking and doing things like this with her old dad! 

While unpleasant in parts, trips in challenging weather are sometime the ones most fondly remembered. The challenge really can add something meaningful. Within reason, of course. 

10:18 a.m. on July 20, 2012 (EDT)
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BigRed, this is one awesome tr. The photos are amazing. I could only imagine what the views would be under clear skies. 

Thank you for sharing your travels with us.

1:28 p.m. on July 20, 2012 (EDT)
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Shame about the clouds at the summit, but a spectacular trip just the same.

Very nice - thanks for sharing.

10:46 a.m. on July 23, 2012 (EDT)
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This is my favoritr TR of the year, so far.

 

4:20 p.m. on July 23, 2012 (EDT)
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I've gotta echo Gonzan envy! Very cool....

 

Red you are a monster...running marathons, reducing mountains to mole hills with your powerful climbing, having the best avatar on the internet...man, you are ready to go global!

10:16 a.m. on July 25, 2012 (EDT)
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Gonzan -- Molly is 21, studying engineering at my university, but leaving soon for a year of study in Grenoble, France. And in my days on the Milford Track I often observed that foul weather kind of brings people together, with a lot of joking, laughing, sharing, and helping each other.

Patman -- You're no slouch yourself. Seems to me I recall a certain Grand Canyon trip of yours that involved a lot of miles and extra weight and not a whole lot of sleep...

4:10 p.m. on July 25, 2012 (EDT)
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Very, very nice, BigRed.

You do realize that you risk all of us coming to visit you in Norway when you post awesome trip reports like this, right?

5:21 a.m. on July 26, 2012 (EDT)
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I'd love to show you around! My friend Christophe kind of grumbled when I told him about our Norway Hut-to-Hut website (shameless plug there, not that we're making any money on it) -- he likes the Norwegian mountains because they are much less crowded than the alps, and he wants them to stay that way. But outside of a couple of more the more popular areas, there's still plenty of room. What with the prices and the kind of weather we're having this summer, maybe there are good reasons for that!

Another report coming shortly...

4:45 a.m. on July 27, 2012 (EDT)
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I just joined Trailspace a week a go, and look what I got in my first Trailspace News email! A great account of our great hike by my great dad :)

For those interested, I also wrote about the trip (perhaps with a little big more dramatic flair ;) ) on my blog, wildbazilchuk.blogspot.no. Some of my pictures are snitched from Dad though...

I look forward to see what other cool stuff pops up here!

9:04 a.m. on July 27, 2012 (EDT)
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Very cool, Welcome to Trailspace, Molly! 

ps- I activated the link for you

11:48 a.m. on July 27, 2012 (EDT)
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Welcome to Trailspace, Molly. Your reputation precedes you. :-)

6:37 p.m. on July 27, 2012 (EDT)
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Red, every time you post a picture or TR, Norway moves a notch up on my To Do list. Most certainly an enviable trip. Alicia is right, your going to wake up one morning and see tents in your backyard that aren't yours.

Big views are great, but I wouldn't have minded the fog at all. Some of my best hikes have been done in rain and fog. I think it lends a greater air of solitude that makes it really special and it made for some nice shots too.

Molly, welcome! 

Flair indeed, but you still have to give the old guy credit for that as well. :)

August 1, 2014
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