Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Billy-Goating Fjord Style

One of the things we really, really wanted to do in the fjords was hike. We both love hiking, love the outdoors, and had heard good things about the hikes here. Plus, on a practical side, we need to get some hiking practice in. Our plan is to do some serious hikes in the Alps, and we need to do some conditioning before that. Especially for me (Becca), this is important. Those who know me well know that I currently am far from my normal level of conditioning or athleticness and I'm still recovering from my double foot (feet?) surgery in April.

Anyway, we discovered some things about hiking in fjords versus just about anywhere else we've ever hiked. Namely: there's no where to go but straight up. Even in the Alps or Rockies your path goes up, but it also has down parts or straight parts in between. Here it just goes straight up, and there really aren't many switchbacks on the trails (which you also see a lot of in the Alps). You just kind of billy-goat your way up. On the other hand, you get some great views!

On our first hike, I think we climbed about400 meters (a little over 1,300 feet) up in the first hour or hour and a half. Brian kept checking my pulse when we stopped for water or to enjoy the view (or gasp for breath). I was going about 180 bpm, so it was definitely some good exercise. It's pretty much like using nature's stairmaster for an hour plus on high. This hike started up above the town and climbed to a nice view point (Panorama from right to left of fjord and Balestrand 1, 2, 3, 4). At that point you had a choice. Continue up to the peak up and over a ridge that required some technical skill and had a lot of warnings about sheer dropoffs or continue up a little more into the forest, and then come back down. We decided that discretion was the better part of valour on tired legs and chose Plan B.

Down of course was just as steep as up (so we hated it even more) but for a part of it at least, we went through a way cool forest with a mossy ground cover. Once we got 2/3 of the way down we wanted to add to the hike, so we detoured on to 2/3 of another hike, which was easier (it stayed pretty flat with some minor ups and downs) but added another 4-5 km.

All in all, not a bad first effort!

We took the next day off to let our legs recover a little and did the ferry trip down another fjord arm (see "and we only bought one...")

Our second hike started from the town directly opposite Balestrand on a small fjord arm. (picture a really thin elongated U with the two towns on either end. It was silly, it felt so close that you could just swim it (it probably was only about a few hundred meters), but you had to go all the way around the U. Not trusting ourselves to rent a boat and paddle over, we caught the bus.

Right when we started we found a fantastic secluded little spot and just sat and enjoyed the view for a half hour or so. (See...we are getting better at relaxing). We watched the ferry we had been on the day before head around the corner from Balestrand and off down the Fjaerland fjord.

Then we got going again. This hike didn't seem quite as insane (in terms of steepness of the grade), but it was still steep and we actually went higher, probably more than 600 meters (approximately 2,000 feet) up. The views along the way were incredible (here are some from our lunch stop: 1, 2, 3,) and gave us a good sense of where Balestrand sat in relation to the rest of the nearby Sognefjord.

We also were fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the rare wild Norwegian sheep. . Actually, there was high entertainment value in watching Brian try to get close to them while clearly being fairly terrified that they were going to charge him.

Again, this hike had an option to continue up to a point where technical climbing ability was recommended, so again, we went until my legs finally started cramping and then again had the fun (not!) task of going back straight down. Really, really not our favorite part. Still, we were fairly proud and pumped up and tired when we got back down.

After a brief rest by the edge of the fjord we went back up to catch the bus. Slight problem. No bus. We don't know whether Becca read the schedule wrong (very possible), the bus missed the ferry to get to this spot (also possible) or they changed the schedule just b/c they had to get home to pick up the kids (highly possible in this small of a community), but it meant we had three options to get back to Balestrand: swim, steal a boat, or walk the 5 miles back around the fjord. While walking 5 miles on a 1.5 lane road with light, but still occasionally large, traffic didn't sound like a great idea at 5 pm after a killer hike, it turned out to be a wonderfully serendipitous occasion. The scenery was amazing, it was very peaceful (except when the large trucks went by), we got up close and personal to a lot of scenary we would have otherwise missed, we met Etienne (mentioned in a previous post) and as we finished walking up into Balestrand with the sunset behind the town, we thought it was a perfect farewell to a wonderful place.

1 comment:

wadE said...

Your hike sounds very fun. I'm guessing our 6 hours in Oslo won't allow us the chance to do same :-).

If you like challenging hikes with glaciers closer to home, I highly recommend St. Mary's glacier in CO. Although there are fewer forests at 11,000 feet. :-D