Hilde’s Birthday Present
Our friend Hilde was turning 50 years old, and Anne and I wanted to give her an invitation to a very special day on the Nigardsgbreen glacier. Hilde and the rest of the family (husband Trond Arne and children Oscar, Amund and Ludvig) had never been on a glacier hike before and our birthday gift seem to be very well received. Anne and I wanted to offer an icing on the cake; to give them a chance to try climbing with ice-axes and crampons.
We looked for the right opportunity in August 2017, and the 26th looked like a very promising day. Anne had rigged a lavvo at Jostedalen camping. We still had fond memories from our last get-together in a lavvo – back in 2015. Unfortunately, Oscar was not able to join us today.
It was fairly late on Friday afternoon when we arrived in Jostedalen and joined Anne. We enjoyed a nice meal and the company before we called it a day. Tomorrow would be a big day!
The weather was on our side the next day. We could not have asked for more! We drove up to the Nigardsbreen glacier parking. Arco (Hilde and Trond Arne’s dog) had to stay in the car. We found a good spot for the car in the shade. We decided to take the boat instead of walking along the lake (which is not so exciting – unless you’re a tourist). And to avoid any queue, we were out quite early. In fact, it was only us in the boat.
Then followed the walk up to the glacier front.
Crossing the swaying bridge in front of the glacier is always fun.
The glacier guides were already busy creating a new route for the guided tours. They change routes every 3rd day or so, after the old route becomes unfit for travel.
Being the Park Ranger in the Jostedalsbreen National Park, Anne knows everyone working up here and the Sherpa guides smiled (like they always do) at us when we passed.
After following the “main track” up the glacier front, we started looking for glacier “features”, and it didn’t take us long before we found one.
It was time to practice some ice-climbing, but we didn’t find the perfect place. And as the clock was ticking, we settled for a very gentle “wall” – that at least had a couple of vertical meters. While the others grabbed something to eat, I went to the top to put in ice screws. I then rappelled down to the others.
Then Anne climbed up, inspected my anchors, was satisfied and rappelled back down. A variation to the “comrade check”. Safety first! Then Amund followed, succeeded by Ludvig. He didn’t have very good boots for crampons, and struggled a bit. But he got up. And back down! At this point, I would like to thank our friends Lena, Terje, Jannike and Mara who borrowed us the equipment we were short of.
Then it was Hilde’s turn. I am 100% sure she loved every second of going up and going down.
Last one out was Trond Arne. Of course, this small “wall” was no measure, and I was a bit annoyed that we didn’t find a proper one. A higher one. But they all got the feeling of “listening” to the axe, making different sounds depending on how good or bad it hits the ice. And they all felt that “sensation” of going backwards out, not in control of their own abseil. Everyone had to stretch their arms out, and not hold on the rope. Of course, both being Police officers, they are not easily intimidated.
But no matter how tough you are, walking on a glacier always brings the smile out on people.
On the way down, we met Arve Tvedt – working on the ice route. Arve was one of the snowmobile drivers who drove us out from Longyearbyen on my Svalbard expedition with friends back in 2013. We had a nice chat about the polar bear moment when he picked us up 11 days later. The snowmobile drivers arrived at Fredheim just minutes before the polar beer did…
Back at the parking, Arco was very, very happy to reunite with his family. Back in our lavvo in Jostedalen, it was time to have a fiest! We had a very nice evening. Birthday present delivered!