Given that I’ve spread my blog posts across 3 different sites (westcoastpeaks.com, peakbook.org and fjordpeaks.com) for the past 20 years, it can be a bit difficult to get an overview of what I enjoy to do. So, I’ve compiled a small number of very memorable experiences on this page.
Where it all began
50 US States (1998-1999)
In the summers of 1998 and 1999, my friend Hugo Gunnarsen and myself visited all of the 50 US states. This travel was a gamechanger for the life I lived. During these two trips, I “discovered” mountains and decided to that I wanted to become a “mountain man“. I knew absolutely nothing about what it would take, but looked forward to a steep learning curve. The first was to move from Oslo to Bergen, as my former company (Silicon Graphics) had an office there, and more importantly – Bergen has mountains!
I decided to give myself 5 years to learn what it takes to be a “mountain man“, and then have some sort of an exam.
The learning years – 1999 – 2003
In this 5-year period, I was collecting mountains in Hordaland county – one of Norway’s 19 (back in the day) counties and where Bergen is the biggest city. I learned how to dress, to ski, to climb, to camp, to navigate etc. It was big fun!
I was also making more trips to the US between 2000 and 2002 and hiked somewhere between 20-30 tops. For the most part in Colorado and California, but also in the Smoky mountains.
On La Plata peak (4370m, Colorado) in July 2000, I discovered that I have a poor tolerance for altitude, and ended up on a hospital in Leadville with the diagnosis Acute Mountain Sickness. This didn’t stop me from going back to hike more 3000-4000m tops, and I continued to get sick every single time.
Besides my low tolerance for altitude, I also had a hilarious vertigo. My friend Petter Bjørstad took me to places where I really wanted to be, but hated to be – because of the fear of heights. Or – it’s not really a fear of heights. It’s a scale of comfort, and I was as close to 0 as I could be.
But I decided to deal with it. On Mt. Ulriken in Bergen, there is a steep cliff and I had heard about someone climbing up there. I sat on top of the cliff one day, shivering, but managed to slide down 1 meter before I crawled back up. The next time, I did one more meter, etc. until I had descended the whole cliff, after a month or so. And it’s way harder going down than up. Now I somewhat had learned how to control my fear, but the fear hadn’t vanished.
But on a very nice hike to Gygrastolen in 2002, I was sitting in a very exposed place – waiting for my turn to move along. At this very moment, I realized that I had a saying in whether I would fall off the mountain or not. And that was the turning point.
The exam – 2003
Mt. Blanc (4810m) – The Alps
In 2003, 5 years after I decided to become a “mountain man”, I figured I was no longer a novice and organized a trip to the highest top in Europe (Russia not included) together with my friend Bjørn Gillholm.
Now that I understood my challenge in terms of altitude, I planned this trip carefully and the execution was quite successful. What I hadn’t planned, was the extreme high temperatures – causing massive rocks to constantly fall into the Grand Couloir. It’s a miracle we survived. But, at least I learned that I can be pretty calm in a stressful situation…
Now that I considered myself as somewhat more experienced, I could set my eyes on bigger goals. The first being a Greenland expedition in 2004, organized by my good friend Petter Bjørstad. The team consisted of; Petter Bjørstad, Torstein Skage, Per Ove Oppedal, Ståle Grimen, Jan Frode Myklebust and myself. The goal for the team was to become the first team in the world to ski down the highest peak on Greenland, and then make as many 1st ascents as possible.
It became a close race with an expedition from Tromsø, Norway, but our team got there first. Torstein Skage and Per Ove Oppedal became the first persons to ski down Gunbjørn Fjeld (3694m) and Qaqqac Kershaw (3683m) – the two highest peaks on Greenland. This earned us a place in the British Alpine Journal. In addition, we did 9 first ascents. It was altogether an incredible experience.
Another expedition organized by Petter Bjørstad. The main goal was to ski Newtontoppen (1713m) and Perriertoppen (1712m) – the two highest tops on Svalbard. We (Petter Bjørstad, Geir Åke Dahlen, Helge Larsen and myself) did a 12-day ski-trip on Svalbard where the weather ranged from stunning to awful.
I believed that the Greenland expedition had taught me everything I needed in terms of maintaining my calm and deal with whatever would come our way. But we hadn’t fully understood how hard the bear watch would be. The result was a serious lack of sleep for every single one, but also another incredible experience.
Jan Mayen (2019)
Another expedition organized by Petter Bjørstad, and this one I almost passed. I had like a half a dozen good reasons to say NO, and so I said YES – well knowing that this opportunity would never come back. I had – and still have – a mighty fear for the big ocean and just a week before the trip I strongly considering taking a NOK 50K loss and walk away from the project. Buf fortunately I came to my senses…
The expedtion meant a 4-day sail from Svalbard to the island of Jan Mayen – in the middle of the Atlantic ocean/Greenland Sea. We had hired Seil Norge to sail us from Svalbard to Jan Mayen (and back) on the boat Valiente.
The expedition was quite successful – we all reached the top of the volcano Beerenberg (2277m), as well as a number of other tops on this island. In addition to the crew of 3 (Mats, Bjørn Erik and Johannes), the team consisted of: Richard and Denise McLellan, Chris Ottley and Tony Jenkins from the UK, Petter Bjørstad, Fredrik Brun, Johannes Nygaard and myself from Norway, Greg Slayden from the US and Jukka Nurminen from Helsinki, Finland .
The trip back to Svalbard had some challenges as we ran into engine trouble and our flights from Svalbard were at risk. But it all turned out OK and it was a truly EPIC adventure!
The first Climbs (2005-2009)
I am definitely not a climber. I do wish that I had discovered mountains in the age of 12 and not 35. Things could have been different then. But I had learned the basics of being in a rope and to get myself safely up and down a steep mountain. I’m very aware of the fact that there is nothing impressive about being guided up a rock face by skilled people, but I don’t care about that. Every rock climb was a victory over my fear of heights.
Store Skagastølstind, 2405m (2005)
The first major climb for me was Store Skagastølstind, which I did together with my friend Bjørn Eirik Hanssen – a very experienced climber. “Storen” is Norway’s 3rd highest peak, located in the Hurrungane mountain range and even though the climbing part doesn’t have to be too hard, it’s still considered as a tough peak to climb. The weather, rockfall, many other climbers and potential accident in places where you don’t use a rope – are contributing factors. It was a massive experience, where I was able to keep a cool head although I was in quite unfriendly terrain.
Romsdalshorn, 1550m (2006)
The north face of the legendary Romsdalshorn was the second major climb I did – together with my good friend Torill Berg and our guide Tore Klokk. I remember that the north face scared the hell out of me, as we approached the mountain, but the climbing wasn’t very hard. We did 4 rope lengths, but should ideally have done 5. This is where I really became familiar with multiple long rappels.
Stetinden, 1394m (2007)
Stetinden is Norway’s unofficial national mountain. It’s on every Norwegian climber’s bucket list. But not along the normal route – which offers a whole lot of exposed scrambling, but very little climbing. The small climbing section however has a name – “De ti forbitrede fingertak“. Not sure how to translate that into English, but it involves 10 challenging fingerholds.
I did this climb together with Torill Berg as part of a climb organized by Nordland Turselskap. It was a most enjoyable hike and climb from the beginning to the end.
Strandåtinden, 862m (2009)
Store Strandåtind – also located in northern Norway – is far less known than Stetind. Which is a shame, as it’s a much, much harder climb – if you do the classic traverse.
This was another trip I booked through Nordland Turselskap, and the skilled guide Kenneth Mjelle brought me and the retired doctor Trygve – safely across the mountain. The traverse included 4 climbing pitches, a lot of exposed scrambling and 7 rappels.
10 years after I decided to become a mountain man, I was quite comfortable in this type of landscape, although I realized that Norwegian grade 5 would be the maximum of what I could handle on a major mountain.
The Sunnmøre Alps (2006-)
A major shift in my mountain career happened in 2006, when I moved from Bergen to Ålesund. I also shifted my job career from being a Sales Support Engineer in Silicon Graphics to become a Interface Systems Developer in Rolls-Royce Marine AS. In 2018, this company was aquired by the KONGSBERG Group.
Moving to Ålsund introduced me to the Sunnmøre alps – a wild and rugged mountain region in the northwestern part of southern Norway. Here, I could really work on scrambling – which is my favorite part of the mountain life.
There are very few peaks that requires a rope in order to get to the summit. Many requires scrambling, but normally near the very top. The hardest peak is Store Klovtinden (1274m), where I was fortunate to climb together with Ole Andre Lukkedal, Johnny Aarseth, Øyvind Bunes and Eivind Bjørge in 2018. The hard part is only a short pitch – in the range 4+/5-1 (Norwegian scale)
Below is a gallery of SOME of the Sunnmøre alps I’ve been so fortunate to visit. And – a couple of Romsdal peaks (also in Møre & Romsdal county) for good measure…
In 2009, I went into a relationship with Anne Rudsengen – a park ranger in the Jostedalsbreen glacier national park. Clearly, a job I could envy…
So, 2009 was the start of a “countless” number of hikes and ski-trips together with my new girlfriend. And many of these trips I will remember for the rest of my life, like the trip to the “cathedral” below the Nigardsbreen glacier…
I had done some trips abroad before I met Anne, but not many. My main focus was the US, in addition to collecting the highest tops in Scotland.
Once I met Anne, the travels abroad ramped up. We’ve done several trips to the Canary islands – only lacking one of the major islands. The Mediterranean Sea is also the keyword for the majority of our trips. We’ve had some very memorable trips to Crete, Cyprus, Marocco, Egypt, Spain, Montenegro, Croatia and Bulgaria. And – Anne’s 50th birthday was celebrated in Bali – where we also visited the high point.
Here’s a gallery from some of my climbs abroad.
Dogs have been a significant part of my life for the past 25 years.
In the period Nov 1993 to June 2008, my regular hiking mate was the dachshund Troll. Check out his “post report from the other side“…
The short feet was a challenge in deep snow and steep terrain, but I had a way to solve the problem:
In 2012, we got Karma. A French waterdog (Barbet) that turned out to be super-dog in the mountains. She’s 30kg – mostly muscles – and as kind and gentle as a dog can get. Except when it comes to rodents, hares, cats, deer, grouse and large forest birds. Fortunately, she has no interest in sheep, horses or cattle. As should be…
Not right now. But I’d love to come back with a section of pictures from northern Norway, where I’m from. One teaser until then…