Saturday, 16 July 2011

Today was not a good day to die

Two great adventures, two days in a row. First running 18 km on Kungsleden, then hiking 23 km to see two glaciers. Including the first day's run and hike, my legs covered a distance of 56 km within three days.

No wonder then that today's hike was tough going. My thigh muscles were aching and my calves were stiff. Still, I soldiered on, up towards a 1600-metre top that J wanted to climb. He was very tired too, but also as stubborn as I was.

The mountains in the distance were as beautiful as ever. The immediate area around us, less so. Large stones, patches of moss and grass, a flower here and there awaited us as soon as we got over the tree line. The only things to break the monotony were the ever melancholic song of the plover and the Long-tailed Skuas that flew low over our heads as a warning to stay away from their nests. Ahead of us loomed a wall of stone: a 1400-metre top that was to be our first goal (and only one, if our legs gave up).

A short break for sandwiches gave us some strength. Soon we were crossing a scree slope, rocks of various shapes and sizes that always cover the ground after you've reached a certain height. The slope doesn't have to be steep to cause problems; balancing on these rocks is an art form even without the incline.

50 metres from the first top, we heard a not so distant rumble. To our left, over the Norwegian mountains, dark storm clouds had gathered. There was no mistake. The rumble was thunder. We looked at each other. Then we tried to figure out in which direction the clouds were heading. It was impossible. They seemed to float motionlessly above the highest tops.

A decision had to be made, fast. Continue towards the top and risk getting caught up in a thunderstorm on our way down, or head to lower ground as soon as possible? After a brief discussion and some disappointment, common sense prevailed and we decided that we weren't ready to die.

We picked a different way back and had to fight our way through thick bushes, brushwood and marshland. There was no trail to follow. The whole time the clouds were gathering and moving closer, threatening us. We felt exposed and vulnerable, like human lightning rods in a barren landscape where vegetation was as high as our knees.

Suddenly, we saw the ski lift towers a hundred metres in front of us. Between them grew nothing. It looked like a motorway by comparison. We almost ran down the mountain the rest of the way. A half kilometre from the flat, the first drops came.

17 km were added to my already tired legs' kilometre collection. Tomorrow, we leave the beloved mountains and the mammoth road trip home begins.

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