Seljebotn – Sheep gathering, Sep 9 2023

My very first time…


Uriskardbotnen – between Seljebottinden and Tuva, seen from a winter ski-trip in 2007


Date Peak Height PF Location MAP
09.09.23 Seljebotn/ Uriskardbotnen 952m Fjord, Norway MAP

The route

Saturday: Earlier in the week, my good friend Torill sent me a message saying that she would be joining Hildegunn (farmer) in Seljebotn on Saturday, for bringing sheep down from the mountain and back to the farm. I had completely forgotten that last year, I wrote to her that I would like to take part in this, after seeing pictures on FB.

It wasn’t something I just said. I’d really like to take part in this activity, at least once in my life. There were only 2 hurdles – I was on duty standby at work, and what would I do with Karma?

A colleague said he could take the standby task, leaving only the dog problem. Leaving her back home was not an option, as I probably would be away for 12 hours or more. In the end, I asked Torill to check with Hildegunn if Karma could come along. And when Hildegunn said “ok” (I’m not sure about the degree of reluctance and I didn’t want to ask either) the last hurdle was solved.

It was an early rise and shine (5am) to be at Hareid for the 6:30am ferry. I had 2 hours before meeting the others 8:30am at Hildegunn and Dagfinn’s farm. It was a nice drive and I had plenty of time to think back on my years in Ålesund (2006-2008) where I hiked *a lot* of mountains between Ålesund and Romsdalsfjorden. Maybe after today, I would get the necessary inspiration to come back a bit more often.

The ”field team” consisted of Hildegunn, Torill, Liv and Orion. And then there was Karma and myself. Being a total novice, I had to rely on being told what to do.

I was still not able to get a feel for how little Hildegunn enjoyed the dog being here, but she told me that if the sheep got uneasy with Karma around, we would have to back off and form a “back troop”. Just “back off” would have been totally understandable, but the “back troop” gave some meaning and purpose to it. Maybe there would be a breakout and that the sheep would get second thoughts if a dog was in their new path…

We drove to the Seljebotn parking and headed into the valley. The goal for the “operation” was Uriskardbotnen valley, located below the Seljebotttinden and Geitebottinden peaks.

Heading into the Seljebotn valley

I was very happy about being here, for the first time. That said, I was on a ski-trip with Hildegunn and Svein Myhre to Ådalstinden 2 days before Christmas Eve 2007. Feel free to check the trip report for annotated panoramas of the nearby mountain ranges.

Heading for Uriskardbotnen – in center of the picture, with Seljebottinden to the left

Seljebottinden is very high on my to-do list, especially after the failed attempt in 2018. But, it wouldn’t happen today.

Uriskardbotnen has gotten a little bit closer

As sheep were coming down the path from Uriskardbotnen, we decided to go off-trail to prevent them from turning around. Eventually, we reached the valley and Hildegunn explained how she wanted the teams to be organized.

We have arrived in Uriskardbotnen

When we got to the cabin by the lake, we went in different directions. Hildegunn would go after a small flock below Uriskaret. I would go after 3-4 sheep below Tuva (far right on the below picture). Liv and Orion would head deeper into the valley while Torill was “central command dispatch” at the cabin.

My “job zone” was below Tuva – far right

“My” sheep were high in the mountainside below Tuva. I didn’t want the sheep to spot me, so we ascended further south, then traversed as high as it was possible to go until I figured the sheep were below us. But I didn’t see them. I called Torill on the walkie, but she didn’t respond.

In Uriskardbotnen, looking back on Seljebottinden

My instruction was to await further instructions (…) and while it was easy to think that this was like child soccer – where you let the worst player defend the goal (to keep him or her out of the way), this could just as well be a compliment to me. This was not friendly terrain, so maybe I was a good choice for this position. In the end, I chose to see it this way…

Okay, Karma. We’ve got some time now. I’ll explain why we’re here…

Then I could hear Torill on the comms and she gave me GO for “moving in”. But where? I still didn’t see the sheep. It took a while for her to spot me, but when she did, she got us into the right position. The job was now to get the sheep down to the river, and by all means – NOT send them UP the valley.

Moving in on the sheep (to the left)

The terrain was cumbersome. I could not have Karma on leash here. There was no reason to, either. She would not run after the sheep. Normally, she doesn’t care one bit about sheep, but I could see that she sensed that something was going on, and she wanted to be in front. I told her to stay in the back, and again – hours and hours of training came in handy…

After a long chase through very unfriendly terrain, we were closing in on the river. I could not go where the sheep went, as I had both chase them and cut off any escape into the valley at the same time. It was quite strenuous and fun at the same time.

Just when I thought the sheep were on the right route down along the river, I noticed that 2 sheep went up again. I thought I had failed the task, but later learned that these were 2 other sheep. These sheep went all the way up to the point where the first group had been. And the terrain was – if possible – even worse. Even without a leash, Karma struggled to keep up with me. And she was so thirsty. Her tongue almost hit the rocks. I felt bad for her.

I repeated what I had done earlier, and got the 2 sheep down to the river, where they disappeared. I could only hope they had turned left – heading down the river.

There were messages on the walkie all the time and it was difficult to keep up with who was doing what. But it was clear that Torill, Liv and Orion were moving twenty-some sheep down the river and back to the farm while Hildegunn was struggling with 2 groups in the valley. I teamed up with her but also kept my distance. There was no point in letting the sheep spot the dog and get spooked.

When it was time to cross the river down in the main valley, I could hear Hildegunn struggle with getting them across. They just refused. I positioned myself further down the river in case they started to run. Which they did – and straight towards us! When they saw me and Karma – forming a several meters long “barrier”, they ran straight across the river. Hildegunn was super-happy.

We had still 5km to go – back to the farm. My role now to keep out of sight, but “protect the flank” – AND keep an eye out for sheep up in the forest.

Observing Hildegunn move a small flock (left, close to the trees)

It had been a long day, strenuous at times, but I really enjoyed myself. We got 35 sheep back to the farm, which was only a fraction of the total flock – but those were the goal for today.

Keeping our distance

Back at the farm, I led Karma through the large flock and she didn’t even look in their direction. The interest was back at the usual zero. Both me and Karma got kind words from Hildegunn, and so I suppose we did more good than bad today.

A job well done!

I was invited to dinner but had to decline as I expected Anne in the afternoon. She would just stay a couple of days before going on various trips, being away for a couple of weeks. Thus, I wanted to spend the little time we had, together.

I was definitely motivated to come back to this area again soon (which I did!) and start visiting mountains that I didn’t get to do while living in Ålesund.

We’ll be back, Karma. Sooner than you may think…

Trip statistics: 15,3km, 1085 vertical meters, 6h:31m

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