Wednesday 1 January 2020

Norway to Scotland by foot and bike

*This is one of many trips that didn't get posted when I all but abandoned this blog back in 2015. It's now 2020 and I'm adding in that missing content in a more photo-based blog post, this trip was from 2017*

This trip didn't go well for a number of reasons and was abandoned early on. It would have been easy to just erase this memory by not blogging about it but trips don't always go to plan and it's those trips that we learn most from.
The plan had been straightforward enough. I would hike from the most northerly point of mainland Norway to its most southerly, then cycle around Europe to the most northerly part of mainland UK. It was then, and still is, a great trip idea.

I had always been worried about the timings for this trip and the lack of slack to allow for unforeseen issues, like weather, illness and motivation (all 3 of which I experienced). There wasn't much I could do about the start date as that was dictated by the Arctic winter. Starting as early as possible, in June, left just enough time for the 7500km hike/bike, but no slack.  I knew it would be tough but in a normal year, it would be possible. Unfortunately for me 2017 wasn't a normal year and areas that should have been snow-free still had 1.5m+ of snow coverage! I knew snow was still an issue before setting off so had packed snowshoes but I still remember being shocked, on the flight north from Oslo, when seeing at least 1000km of unbroken snow right up to the tip of Norway. Even assuming the melt started immediately it would take many weeks to clear that amount of snow. 

Soon after starting I began to wonder if I'd made an enormous error with my start date! However, a local reindeer herder I met on day 2 reassured me when he said he'd not experienced this much snow for 40yrs. As beautiful as it was out there, and it was an unforgettable experience, it was soon obvious there was no way I would hike the length of Norway in the 3 months I'd allowed. After 5 great, but slow, days I made the tough decision to abandon and fly back to Oslo, where there was no snow. From Oslo I would hike north, to its northern tip, before flying back to Oslo to start the bike section. In the hiking world, this is called flipping and I hate flipping! Flipping is popular on hikes like the PCT and CDT as it allows you to do all sections in more ideal conditions. It allows you to hike the desert sections in cooler conditions, hike the snowy sections after its cleared, etc. That's great, and I don't have an issue with those that do it that way, but I like my trips to be a continuous journey from start to finish. Flipping just isn't for me and as soon as I did my motivation vanished. Also, starting in Oslo just didn't feel right. It is on a fjord, so technically it was ok, but there's a lot more of Norway further south than Oslo and a hike the length of Norway, starting from Oslo, made me uneasy. On top of all this, since day 1, I'd not been well. I was usually ok when hiking but in the morning I would have an upset stomach and just felt ill. This happened every morning. What I didn't know then is that I have an intolerance to some foods, and that food was what I was carrying on this hike. 

I did hike north from Oslo, for around a week, but when I got to Lillehammer I decided to stop and call it a day. I did that knowing this trip wouldn't be really over, I would come back. I did return the following year and hiked the length of Norway successfully, but that's for another post.

Northern Norway - Nordcape - 1 June

That 1.3m pole didn't even touch the bottom

Yes, that is the snow depth

The best form of transport out here is the snowmobile!

That's a frozen lake

Oslo - 5 June

Oslo is on a fjord but never felt right to start the northbound hike
Olso is a lovely small city and its not long before you are in the wilderness