A peak in a Norwegian landscape; Johan Engebratt takes the final steps.
Check this out, a peanut in my glove!, says Øyvind Gjersvik. He shakes the misplaced nut out from his ski glove and puts it in his mouth. We laugh. “Perfect since we were going to make a short meal break anyway, before the last bit up to Ronsfjellet”, says Øyvind.
We some drink water and have some snacks from our backpacks. Øyvind who guides us is raised here in the area and knows the mountains like his back pocket. His main occupation is as an industrial climber on an oil rig in the North Sea and therefore he has many days off per year. He also has time to run guide operations through his company “Meløy Adventure” and thus gets between fifty and eighty ski days a year.
We are in Meløy municipality on the southern side of Glomfjorden. There are only a few hundred vertical meters left to the top of Ronsfjellet. We try to take in the view towards Bjærangfjorden and beyond towards the sea. The east wall at Kjeldalstinden looks mighty big and steep from our position on the slopes of Ronsfjället.
“The peaks around us extend up to, and just above, 1,000 meters high. Several of them can be skied all the way down to the salty and cold sea water in the fjord”
From the very community of Glomfjord —it is both a fjord and a village with just over a thousand inhabitants— it’s an hour drive to Ytre Kjeldal where we parked our rental car and started this ski trip.
But the distance as the bird flies from here to Glomfjord is not that far. However, the car journey went, among other things, through the nearly eight-kilometer-long tunnel that goes under the big glacier Svartisen, and then road 17 snaked along Nordfjorden, and then to road 452 along Bjærangfjorden.
Finally, we came to the small collection of houses and farms that are Ytre Kjeldal. And while we’re on the subject of driving - Glomfjord is two hours’ drive south of the larger town of Bodø.
- Time to ski now, stop staring at nature, says Øyvind Gjersvik.
We have reached the top of Ronsfjellet. Downhill is a good north-west slope where a somewhat annoying crust layer makes the experience 96 % from perfect. Then over to the next section north-east down to Reindalen which is a wonderfully large bowl where we ski down towards the actual Reindalselva, a run of a total of just over seven hundred vertical meters.
Øyvind takes us further up to the next run. We have to climb and walk the steep way up from the frozen lake, which is troublesome in the less than perfect snow conditions. But when we get over the crest and glimpse Reindalstinden on the other side, we let our pulse come down and put on the ski skins.
The daylight vanes bit by bit and darkness spreads over the mountains here in northern Norway. This far north, early February days are very short.
Before we put on the headlamps to walk the last bit up, we look north towards the dark waters of Glomfjorden. On the other side, the small communities from Reipå in the west via Ørnes to Glomfjord in the east light up. Above Glomfjord, we also see the slopes of the small ski resort curling down like small white snakes through the dark forest.
The ski resort above the village of Glomfjord is about as far from Norway's largest ski resort Trysil as you can get. A simple facility with two lifts operated on a non-profit basis. The moon has found its way over Glomfjorden and the light reflects in the waters, but the beautiful northern lights that can sometimes be seen at these latitudes don’t seem to want to come forward and treat us to their shimmering green sky dance.
“Even during the Second World War, people sat up in the mountains, scouting, under cover of darkness”
In September 1942, “Operation Musketoon” began when twelve commanders from England, Canada and Norway were set ashore by the French submarine Junon in Bjærangfjorden, i.e. the same fjord where our car is parked. At that time, this was serious - Norway was occupied by Nazi-controlled Germany and fought for its freedom.
There was no question of going country skiing in the mountains to enjoy skiing and romantic nature views. The aim of the operation was to sabotage the Glomfjord power plant, which produced lots of energy from the glacier Svartisen's meltwater. The twelve young men made their way over the mountain and sabotaged the turbine hall and piping. After the campaign, the occupants gave up the planned expansion of the aluminum plant in Glomfjord. Four of the twelve soldiers passed over to Sweden to the east, one of them died from a bayonet-slash from a German soldier and the other seven were captured alive, but were put in the concentration camp Sachsenhausen and in October of the same year executed with shots to the neck.
We ski down to the fjord in the light of our headlamps. The snow is a bit poor at the bottom, but it is a fun and quite a risk-free ski adventure. With his usual skill and experience, Øyvind shows us the way down. He has also arranged a RIB from his guide company to picks us down by a pier. We cross the black fjord water, and glide through the thin ice sheets that lie here and there, floating on the surface.
- I have cooked halibut for you, welcome inside where it’s warm!
The welcoming committee on the bridge is Swedish Helén, who originally comes from Eksjö in Småland, and her magnificent dog Taiga who is an Alaska Husky. When we step inside, it turns out to be an old fishing shed - ancient life jackets hanging on the walls, fishing gear with buoys and nets from the ceiling. In one corner a wood-burning stove, in the other, a bar. The fishing company “H.J Kristensen & Sønner's” repaired fishing nets in this cottage as early as 1930.
“We eat halibut that Helena's husband Fred Inge caught locally in the fjord, a fish of 35 kilos”
“Irish coffee, anyone?” Helén asks. Served with the white, tasty fish there is some garlic sauce and oven-roasted root vegetables, as well as a salad with fresh pomegranate dressing. Helena tells us that she met her husband, who is from Bodø, in Qatar. She worked as a lawyer, he as an engineer with Norwegian Hydro. They wanted to try something new and moved together to Vassdalsvik to try a new life. Helén loves life in Vassdalsvik:
- From our large pier we can look out over the fjord, sit under warm duvets and drink hot chocolate or a glass of wine. If we’re lucky we can see the Northern Lights when it gets dark. In the fjord water anything from dolphins, toothed whales and otters can appear, in the sky we sometimes see white-tailed eagles. This is a magical place for us!
It has been a long day of skiing: twelve hours plus; it is with quiet tongues and heavy eyelids that we stumble into Meløy Overnattning, after the feast at Helena’s and the hour-long car ride home (Øyvind's father assisted in case you wonder how that worked, logistically).
The next day starts with a late, extended breakfast with coffee that gets up to three or four refills before we take a look at the mountain map and plan the trip up towards Istinden which Øyvind promises to be “easy and with a wonderfully beautiful view of Lofoten's pointy mountains”.
We start the actual summit trip towards Istinden, which lies above Glomfjord's ski center, at an easy pace to say the least. The ski resort is located at 141 meters above sea level. The slopes are empty and snowy, the recent weeks have taken a hard toll on the snow, from rain among other things. Neither of the two lifts is running this weekday and therefore we march upwards in the piste right of the large cliff Glomvasshågen that separates the T-bar and chair lift.
We reach Øvre Glomvattnet and move further on up the mountain. The top of the glacier Glombreen is bulky and relatively flat, making it hard to orientate as a newcomer. We have Istinden with its 1,194 meters high as a benchmark because it is located at the far end and another easily recognizable peak is the Sphinx which is a pointy and snow-free mountain ridge that protrudes basically straight west from the chair lift's mountain station, above the Sphinx is also the slightly rounded top of Tverrfjellet, which is close to the 1,000 meter mark.
As we approach the actual Istinden, I see two large and floating creatures in the pass between Istinden and its neighbor Lille Istinden. To the north, on the other side of the pass, the mountain drops steeply and mercilessly down. The white-tailed eagle couple doesn’t’ stay for long - they won’t find any food on the mountain today.
From the top of Istinden, the view is one of that beautiful Norwegian fjord and sea-views you can only get in this country. The soft light this early in the season in February also adds something to the experience. We see the fjords, the sea far away in the northwest and the mighty wall of Lofoten. When the sun begins to give way, the moon takes over - just like yesterday at Reindalstind. We remove our ski skins and put the tech bindings in ski mode and push out downwards. It’s four hundred super nice vertical meters of unforgettable cruising and we aim for Tverrfjellet. After a couple of high fives, it is time to go upwards a bit again. Up towards Tverrfjellet is a short trip with the ski skins.
“It was right here at Tverrfjellet that the Norwegian super film company Field Productions shot some of the scenes to ‘Supervention 2’”
Jesper Tjäder was one of those who showed their aerial knowledge on the great jump that was built and then beautifully filmed with Glomfjorden in the background. In addition, the film is perhaps best known for Tjäder's loop rail which was filmed on Juvass's summer ski resort. Øyvind Gjersvik, our friendly guide conscious Glomfjord ambassador had a finger in the pot, he says:
- The whole gang from Field stayed with me at Meløy Overnattning when they came here. I had been saying to Filip Christensen, Field's founder, for five years that they had to come to Glomfjord and film. He had shown lukewarm amounts of interest, but then they suddenly came! Everyone was very happy with the result!
When on top of Tverrfjellet, the sun is gone, but the moonlight and our headlamps allow us to evening ski all the way down to the seat lift's top station and further down to the valley station. We call Øyvind and tell him about our wonderful ski day. A day where we haven't seen any other skiers:
- You could stay a whole winter here skiing without ever seeing any traces of other skiers.
He may be both a local patriot and a high-level seller, but we are prepared to believe him. The number of skiable peaks around Glomfjord and Bodø is so large that the possibilities are enormous, the possibilities of variation endless. But it is time to leave the small Glomfjord for a valley as lonely as grand. Tomorrow we'll head for Beiarn. Our ski adventure around Bodø has only just begun.