Lyngen Alps Norway – Sjufellet (1086m)


Well it had taken me three days of constant travel but I’d made it – the Lyngen Alps of Northern Norway.  It was Easter Sunday and I was 69 degrees north of the equator – nearly 500 km above the arctic circle – and Heikki, Mika, Kari, Aaro and I were about to go backcountry skiing.

We were all a bit groggy from the travel, so we took a leisurely breakfast and didn’t get the snow tires rolling until late morning.  Mika, who lives in the Lapland region of Northern Finland and knows these mountains, suggested that we start our weeklong ski adventure with a trip up a relatively tame ascent/descent of Sjufellet (pronounced shoe fillet) up the Tomko Valley.

Making our way up the hardpack

The ascent started through some scrubby birch (I think they are birch) trees on hardpack snow.  A long traverse to the right took us to large moderately-angled bowl.  The snow was starting to improve, but not by much.  We’d transitioned from hardpack/ice to breakable crust.  As any free-heeler can attest, breakable crust is our kryptonite.  A steeper slope up some maybe better snow led to the summit.

I arrived at the top last, huffing and puffing wondering on what do I blame my poor performance.  I certainly couldn’t blame the altitude, we were only at around four thousand feet, so it must be jet lag.  Yeah that’s the ticket.  Truthfully, I was a bit worried about how much I had struggled on this relatively easy day.  My mojo was running on fumes.

Heikki and I have been friends for a long time and our adventures have taken us to numerous really cool places including Switzerland, France, Monaco and Iceland.  Aaro, Heikki and I had driven up from Helsinki and we’d met up with Mika and Kari when we overnighted in the Finnish resort town of Yllas.  Heikki, Kari, Aaro and Mika are all longtime friends, and I was privileged to be included in their tight knit group.

This first day shake-out climb gave us all a chance to test compatibility and with the exception of Mika, who is just crazy strong, we all seemed to be roughly on the same page.  This is a super cool outcome because what you don’t want is to have is a group that doesn’t jive – one guy way off the front while another is way off the back.

Just about ready to drop in

Ok well now came the moment of truth: how was this snow going to ski.  I pulled the skins, tightened up my boots and dropped down.  So far so good, not bad.  The first dozen turns cut well through the windblown powder, but I didn’t expect the party to last much longer – and I was right.  The lower bowl transitioned into breakable crust, but the 104mm skis were up for the task and I managed to fat turn my way back to the now leftward icy traverse.

It was survival skiing back to the car and despite a strong ski season I was beginning to feel some worrying twinges in my quads.  Crampy legs after an easy day didn’t bode well for the remainder of the trip.  I was feeling a bit worried.

By my rough calcs we’d climbed three thousand feet in two hours.  This is a quite a bit quicker than my rule of thumb of a thousand feet an hour (I apply this to everything – skiing, biking hiking, climbing), so maybe that’s why I was suffering.  Or maybe it was just one of those days, which is probably more likely.