Distance: 175.6km / 109m
Elevation: 2,019m / 6,624ft
Oh boy. Norway is just one challenge after another and we love it. We did think we were much better prepared for it, after last week's tunnel fiasco, but again, Norway completely caught us by surprise – up a mountain!
We left Voss and headed into the Hallingskarvet Mountains for a tough day of climbing. We were going from 50 metres to 1,310 metres, over 80km with two peaks. We ambitiously thought we could reach the top in a day, camp, then descend the following morning. Try three days up the mountain...
The route started off well. We had maybe 20km on single-lane, quiet, tarmac roads. Then the gravel set in. It was still cycleable, but made us much slower. We eventually reached a tiny village – if you could even call it that – called Upsete, where the gravel track suddenly turned into a hiking path. We parked the bikes and did a quick reece. The trail went vertically up and over a mountain ridge. There was no way we could push the bikes. Lucky for us, there was a train station in Upsete, so we heaved the bikes back there and waited for a train. Luck must have been on our side at this point, as we only had to wait fifteen minutes for a train – only six run a day. The train took us over the first peak of the climb, to Myrdal.
Myrdal was around 50km in, 770 metres up, and it was around 5pm when we arrived – yet we were still determined to reach the top. So we pushed on. At about 60km, we hit our next big hiccup: an avalanche. Well, it was more likely snow that hadn't cleared from winter. Anyway, it was completely blocking our path, with a slightly scary drop to the left. People were clearly getting across safely, as there were footprints going over it, but were they taking bikes?
We did a test run with a couple of bags each. It didn’t feel so safe, so we brought them back and decided to camp by the river and discuss options instead. Option 1: catch another train. Option 2: cart everything over the avalanche in the morning when we weren’t so tired.
Day two. We found ourselves back at the avalanche, expertly manoeuvring all twelve bike bags, two half-full water pouches and two bikes over the snow. It took four trips each to get everything over safely. It was definitely worth it, as the views from here on in were spectacular. There were glacial waterfalls, lakes and rivers everywhere we looked.
We thought we were set for the summit now. What we had yet to learn, was that they’d be five more avalanches (snow blockages) that we’d have to cart all of our stuff over (remember four trips each). On top of that, the higher we went, the bigger the gravel stones got – we often had to get off and push. It took us seven hours to do 14km. Tough is an understatement.
We fancied ourselves as Masters of The Snow at this point. Turning a corner, however, we were quickly put back in our place. The road was supposed to hug the edge of the glacial lake, but all we could see was snow and a sheer drop into the water. That was it. We had literally reached the end of the road at 1,143 metres, just shy of the 1,310 metre summit. Not wanting to waste the beautiful view (and it was 6pm), we decided to set up camp.
Day three up the mountain happened to be my twenty ninth birthday – and what a birthday view. We didn’t want to leave. Yet determined to reach the top, we headed to the nearest train station, 4km back over two avalanches, to catch a train one stop to the top. Then we'd cycle the 26km down the mountain.
We weren’t so lucky with train times this time, as we had to wait four hours until the first service of the day. We lazed around in the sun, chatting to the local track workers. Finally on board, the conductor just so happened to asked our plans. That’s when we learned that the road down was mostly closed due to snow blocking the tunnels. She said it would be nigh-on-impossible to cycle down safely. Not ones to ignore local knowledge, we stayed on the train one more stop to the bottom. We were gutted we didn't make the peak, but the sneak peak between the tunnels on the train ride down, confirmed we'd made the right decision. The road looked pretty treacherous.
And so came the end of our adventure in the snow, having reached neither peak. All was not lost though, we were still at 988 metres, so had an epic downhill to 170 metres. Plus, we got to have some beers for my birthday – and even better, we treated ourselves to a hotel with some birthday money. Still, we would have traded it all for one more night by that glacial lake.
Also so this week – as if that wasn’t enough – we wild camped in an old VR park that turned out to be open; we gave our legs a rest and went canoeing; and we made a plan of attack to ensure we catch our flight for the wedding on June 21st. With 550 kilometres to go and only 9 days left, we better get our skates on.