Guy’s First Arctic Ski Touring Trip. Part Four
Due to popular demand here is the next episode of Guy Oliver’s first trip to the Norwegian Arctic wilderness, in 2009. We are about to leave Rostahytta and head over the mountains to Daertahytta.
The next morning we were up early and left just before the DNT party, but before long they caught us up and we happily let them pass us. There were about 10 of them and it was much easer for us to follow their beaten trail than break trail through the deep snow. Also the weather was a bit grey and it was not long before we were into the mist, never mind, let them do the navigating. We were well into the trip now so the pulk was getting lighter and we were getting fitter and enjoyed strolling along at the back.
I had been over this route a couple of years ago with Neil Skipp and in poor visibility I took a wrong turn and crossed into the wrong valley. We were able to traverse round OK but it cost us an hour and I wanted to make sure I didn’t make the same silly mistake.
Heading up into the hills from Daertahytta in clear weather, later the mist came down and I turned into the wrong valley. Picture Neil Skipp 2007
So although we were following an excellent trail behind the guided party, I was taking no chances and was double checking their navigation. Approaching the high pass I mentioned to Guy we were too high. Sure enough when we arrived at the pass, the Norwegians had missed the pass by about 200 metres and we could just make out the cairn below us.
Crossing the high pass in 2005, Vanda & Bob, my Arctic friends of 20 years and the summit cairn.
I got quite a little buzz out of knowing my navigation was an improvement on the Norwegian guide.
We came out below the mist as we skied down the valley. In the distance we could clearly see both the huts and it very soon became apparent that there was something going on at the large hut. There were two men from Statskog, the mountain police. They were obviously being employed by the DNT to replace the old roof. I forgot to mention earlier that Statskog also own a few small huts, usually only two or three bunks, a stove and a supply of wood. But the big benefit is they are unlocked and free to use by anyone. I think we also found gas and a gas ring in one of them but that is unusual, and we always carry our own small stove and gas cylinder for emergencies.
Guy, our intrepid Arctic traveller supervising the new roof at Daertahytta.
“Sorry this hut is closed, you will have to go down to the other one” shouted the worker from Statskog. This would be a little inconvenient to say the least, the other hut was quite small and it was now occupied by the large DNT party, but needs must and with a wave to the workers, we skied the extra hundred metres or so and joined the other party. The biggest problem in a very crowded hut is cooking, but everyone was very helpful, and we managed to get a very welcome brew on. While we were sitting enjoying our well earned cup of tea the DNT guide nipped back to speak to the builders at the other hut.
After half an hour he came back and suggested we go and talk to them, he said it would be OK to move up there where there was more room. Immediately the Statskog builder saw us he apologised, “I thought you were with the big party, the bedroom is free and we will come in and tidy up the living area.” I told him not to worry, as I had spent most of my life on building sites and a few tools about the place was no problem.
This was much better, we had a bunk room to ourselves and there was plenty of room to cook and sit round the fire. The builders came in for a brew, a chat and asked where we were heading next, we mentioned we were going to Devdishytta for two nights before skiing out to meet Odd Knut. At this the two Norwegians swapped worried glances, exchanged a few words in Norwegian, then looked at us…. “There is no wood at Devdishytta!”
Oops, this was a blow. Devdishytta is a small Statskog hut with three bunks and a stove, but apparently no fire wood. This is worrying, the temperature had been down below minus 20 on some nights. That would mean well below freezing inside the hut without a fire, not very nice. Maybe we could spend an extra night here, this needed some thought.
During breakfast the following day we watched the large DNT party set off into the distance.
There was also a small group dog sledding, they were led by a young man by the name of Espen. Coincidently Espen had driven Odd Knut’s van to pick us up from the airport a week or so earlier. Now he was leading dog sledding parties for Odd Knut. I had met Espen (the name means god bear) before and found him very sociable. We took several pictures as they were hitching up and leaving.
Then we packed up and moved down to the other hut before the fire cooled down. I decided an easy day was a good idea, and Guy went out to practice his downhill technique. While he was out, it occurred to me the pulk was almost empty and we could fill it up with the old timber they were taking off the roof of the other hut. This was very dry floorboard type timber, easy to cut and chop, perfect to get a good fire going at Devdishytta, and as it was dry it wasn't very heavy. As soon as Guy comes back we can get out and cut some firewood.
Espen harnessing Odd Knut’s dogs, note, he is not wearing gloves. It was a cold morning and he doesn't even have a jacket on, the folk up here are very hardy.
The dog teams passing the other hut and heading off to, who knows where?….
After a while Guy came in with a rather soulful look on his face, he had a broken cable binding. They are very strong, his kit was all new and I had never heard of a cable breaking before. But on closer inspection we realised it was faulty. The cable had pulled out of the swage at the end. This was a bitter blow, we still had a full day’s travel of 16k or 18k to Devdishytta, and then another 6k or 8k to the car park to meet Odd Knut. How would Guy manage the last 25k with a broken binding?
Part five coming soon, check it out to see how we get on, and please click on the heart symbol.
© Pete Dutfield, January, 2021