Giants of the Gullfjellet (1/2)

I had this stunning experience in mid-summer during a lone hike on the Gullfjellet (Golden Mountain) in Bergen, Norway. It was neither the highest mountain I climbed, nor the most difficult or dangerous hike I ever had, but I never felt an intimate and undisturbed connection with a mountain like I did there.

It’s been two days since I left the busy city of Bergen, but after the first few miles the wilderness took over completely. The dimensions of the natural area let me feel myself alone all the way to the top ofthe Gullfjellet. It was the Midsummer’s Eve, the longest day of the year. After walking 11 hours across the mountainous landscape I had to set an alarm on my phone to wake me up for the sunset short before midnight. The reliable mechanism started the alarm exactly at the set moment, but for me it took a while to bestir myself to zip out my sleeping bag. I opened a small hole on the tent door and stuck my head out to the freezing cold of the snowy peak. The sun was just hitting the distant horizon turning the water of the nearby fjord to a red glowing river. The water surface waved and sparkles danced on it like little fairies. This land of ice and rocks suddenly filled with warmth from its bottom to top. The cold didn’t feel so terrible any more. But after staring for a few minutes and shooting some photos the cold felt quite terrible again, so I sprinted back to my sleeping bag and closed my eyes with the thought that it was worth getting up.

But let’s get back to the beginning. There are two things that Norway has plenty of: water and wilderness (no I didn’t think about oil, you industrialist). When I talk about water in Norway I do not only think of its several hundreds of kilometers long seashore but also the amazing amount of rain falling from the clouds, the snow covering the top of the mountains, the lakes sitting in the bottom of valleys, the springs flowing between them, the thin soil filled with it like a sponge and the moisture in the air wrapping the landscape in mist. Above all other regions of Norway, it rains almost the most in Bergen, the beautiful city surrounded by fjords in every direction. In the light of this you might understand how much I was surprised about the bright sunshine accompanying me on my three-day lone hike to and back from the Gullfjellet – the Golden Mountain – including most of the night as it was around midsummer with an almost consecutive sunset and sunrise. The longest days of the year was that let me walk over 12 hours a day and still pitch my tent in broad daylight in the endless wilderness that covers most of Norway making “Gå på tur”, which could be translated as “let’s go for a walk”, one of the most popular sports there. From the youngest to the oldest Norwegian people spend most of the free-time – some of them even their work-time – in the wilderness. I joined this numerous group of people with the aim to climb the highest mountain around the city through a number of smaller peaks and walk 70km (44mi) in three days. This joining was rather metaphoric as it is quite easy to get left alone in the wilderness even around one of Norway’s largest city, making you feel like it’s only you and the nature, which is a rather rare gift in our modern world.

Minutes after I finished the meeting with Bybanen Utbygging, the client I worked for on the light rail train developement of Bergen, and the reason I was originally in Bergen, I was walking with my backpack towards Floyen, a national park on a 600m (2000ft) high plateau just next to the city. I could have used the funicular, but climbing the thousand steps was a good warmup for the three-day hike. Shortly after the first dozen of steps I started to take my clothes off in the 20°C (68°F) heat following the example of the lightly dressed trail runners passing by me one after the other. I could even felt bad seeing that my ‘expedition’ is just an evening training for some Norwegians, but this hike was just the beginning of my exploration to the great mountains east of Bergen. While I was wondering about my future expeditions I arrived on the top of the steps and watched back down on the bay of Bergen only for a moment to check how high I am, before I threw myself into the wild landscape of Floyen. Surprisingly this relative easy part was where I first started to feel the difference between the usual 12kg (26lb) backpack I take to our hikes with my girlfriend Kata and the 18kg (40lb) one I had to take on this lone hike. I understand that some soldiers can walk even with 35kg equipment through rough terrain, but I have to admit that it took me a time to get used to the weight after a lot of stumbling between the rocks. After one of these stumbles I ended on my bottom, which was even more frustrating as someone just appeared from ahead. He was large and bearded with long hair and wore a fur of a wolf. He walked easy through the rocks despite his size and packs.  The man told me with a natural voice that ‘you go to do it with style’. Like he would exist in this world only to give advice. I murmured something about my bag and said thanks before I quickly got on my feet again and went on to the North. But his words echoed in my mind for a long time even after. It helped me to think over my situation and decide that I will slow down to a stable pace and rest more if I have to. And for little surprise it helped. I continued my trip with more stable steps, slowing down or stopping at the exact moment I felt my movement uncertain and soon I got used to the weight and could enjoy the landscape again. Thank you Mr. Out of the Blue.

There is this special feeling when you are really alone in the nature, which I always look for when I am hiking. It is not that easy to find as most natural areas even the high mountains are already accessible through paved roads and cable cars, but it is something that I found the most frequently in Scandinavia. I was left alone with my thoughts, which was mainly around finding my way through the landscape. The compass showed me the general direction, while the track was more or less signed by stoe piles, but I had to concentrate the most on where I put my foot at the next step. One little deviation from the route, a moment of loss of concentration was enough to find myself off the track in the middle of a sinking wet field. In skiing it is called off-piste, in hiking it is called neck-deep in the mud. It was not because it rained, it was because I was standing in the middle of an invisible, boundless river flowing down under the top layer of the soil and vegetation, so every time I stepped on the dry looking surface I had a fair chance that I will sink into the cold water again. I was two hours ahead of my schedule so I didn’t worry about time, but I wanted to save some of this advantage on the next day, so I didn’t stop at the previously  designated tent site, but continued until I watched the next valley. I didn’t want to descend there that day so I looked for a dry spot for my tent, which took quite a while. It was a small bumpy spot but it was sunny even in the evening, looking down on the long valley, protected from wind by a small hill. Everything promised a good night sleep.

Except for the cold. I knew it is cold out in the nature during the night, colder than an average urban citizen would ever think. From the 20°C (68°F) day-time temperature it dropped to zero before I could say ‘it’s getting cold’. But despite the tent and the sleeping bag and the thick inflated sleep pad, it felt like I’m in a fridge and trying to take a nap. So I took on my underwear, as well as the thermo liner (, which is the second best technological innovation after fire) and by the morning it was only my nose hanging out of the sleeping bag’s hood and it too got really cold. My poor poor nose. But who cares about the ice-cold-blue nose tip when the valley underneath is filled with an ocean of fluffy white clouds wherever you look. I was sitting on that green island in the white sea of mist in the light of the rising sun. Not even a herd of white flying unicorns could have added much to this moment. So it took me quite a while to pack my stuff and start, but since I had little to fear about arriving late as the sun was up pretty much all the day, I didn’t hurry much. Especially as I had no clue about where should I descend to the misty valley.

Following a creek mostly takes you to the valley the fastest but not the smoothest. But since I didn’t know the smooth way I chose the fast way and I started to descend in the cutting of a small creek fighting myself through the walls of bushes and rocks. The water in my shoes didn’t concern me much, it warms up quickly when I walk and not much later it also dries out , unless it gets a fresh portion of water of course. It took quite a while to reach the level of forests, but I didn’t notice the pass of the time during the fight with the unfriendly vegetation in my way (let it be mentioned that I am no friend of anyone stepping on me too, so I can understand the bad manners). Although, since I had not much chance to fight myself through the trees as well, I started to walk along the border of the forest till I found the trail. – CUT – The new scene was placed in a misty forest jumping out of a Grimm storybook. The tall pine trees dimmed the sunshine to half-light. Everything was covered by grass or moss. The air filled with moisture. I think I saw a little elf jumping out of its lair, but its the green dress blended in the underbrush and I lost its track. I met some sheep on my way down, but they didn’t talk to me as I expected. Unless we consider the nervous bleating a way of talk.

I didn’t waste much time in the valley. There was a nice lake, but it was too civilized for me at that moment, so I quickly passed it and started climbing up to the Livarden on a steep 600m (2000ft) high slope. It sounds difficult, but in fact it was a good opportunity to rest my mind a bit. One step after the other up on the clear track was quite relaxing in fact, especially as it was still in the morning. I only had to concentrate on not to mix the creeks with the trail, since both were used by water and people too, but only one of them lead up to the Livarden.  The last part of the ascend lead in a large cutting bordered by steep hillsides. Like most of the valleys there its soil was also filled with water. Getting tired of squelching up in the valley I decided to climb the hillside. Now let’s make it clear: diverting from the track leads to a time-consuming, tiring, uncomfortable and dangerous hike in the vast majority of the cases, just as it did this time. But: it can be also an exciting adventure if you don’t try to save the time and energy needed for the safe execution. So I arrived to the top of Livarden tired and wet but satisfied. Beyond the top the landscape was covered with spots of snow and I catched the glimpse on the Gullfjellet, which in spite of its modest 900m altitude looked really like a mountain.

I met an old couple, they were going to the opposite direction, so we could help each other with the navigation. They talked english well as most of Norwegians and were very nice too as most of them are despite the rumor about them being very closed people. Or maybe they are just as closed as I am, so understand each other well. So after a few kind words we said goodbye and I started my way towards the blue-white monument in the distance. The first part of the journey was over.

Are you interested in the second part of the story? Click here to get there.

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One thought on “Giants of the Gullfjellet (1/2)

  1. Pingback: Walking pace | GABOR|GEREB

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