Photostory: The Norwegian Glacier Quest

Photostory: The Norwegian Glacier Quest

If you haven’t gleaned this tidbit, I’m a little tenacious.  In fact, it’s just when someone says I can’t do something that I’m spurned into action to prove them wrong.  As I’m sure you can imagine, this becomes quite dangerous when I’m in the company of another who likewise refuses to give in.  Add in the promise of a spectacular Norwegian glacier, and all hope is lost.. even when it means 4.5 miles and 3.5 hours… without food… or water…

But that’s what makes it an adventure, right?

Right…?

Our adventure began in Krossbu

We pulled into Krossbu early in the afternoon, as we knew there would be some hiking opportunities there.  Aaron and I were with three friends, two of which had been to Norway before and were more-or-less serving as our unofficial tour guides.  This was a new spot for them, too, so they chatted up the locals for their recommendations.

The main building at Krossbu | LotsaSmiles Photography

Evidently, just at the top of the nearby ridge, we would be able to see the edge of another Norwegian glacier.  It held a spectacular view, and it was a simple stroll up the hillside, about half an hour away.

We all decided we’d go check it out first, and then we’d come back to enjoy some lunch before moving on.

That was our first mistake.

Creek running down a rocky tundra from the glacier above | LotsaSmiles Photography

Figuring it was a quick jaunt up the hill, I grabbed just the essential gear, including my trusty 10-22mm (seriously, that lens hardly ever leaves my camera) and my beautiful bazooka.  I threw a quick trail bar or two into my bag, just in case I couldn’t quite wait until lunch (I was already a tad hungry), I trusted Aaron to share his big water bottle, and we were off!

Ascending the trail in search of a glacier

Aaron walking down the service road toward the trail in Krossbu | LotsaSmiles Photography

The trail starts by crossing a grassy tundra, following a small service road across a bridge.  Once we bridged the creek flowing down the hill, we were on the trail proper, running along the edge of the water.

The path is very well-defined, packed down by countless feet, and the creek provided a clear line of sight should we wander astray.

A glacial creek in the foreground and a snowy mountain range behind | LotsaSmiles Photography

It also provided many distractions.  This is Norway, so you can be sure the creek was simply littered with little waterfalls.  I couldn’t capture them all, of course, and midday lighting wasn’t the greatest for this type of photography, but I wasn’t about to simply put my camera away.

In fact, I was having a little too much creative fun with my phone’s built-in panorama setting to create a trippy vertorama from horizon to horizon.  What do you think?

Vertorama of the creek, from horizon to horizon | LotsaSmiles Photography

We crossed a few snowfields, and these made me a little nervous.  After my previous experience sinking my foot into the water underneath, I didn’t care to repeat the experience.  I tread as lightly as I could, and I crossed swiftly.

The trail cutting across a snowfield in Krossbu | LotsaSmiles Photography

We also passed this odd red soil that made the water run like blood.  It was truly eerie.  What would we really see at the top of this ridge? >.>

Blood-red pond in front of snowy mountains | LotsaSmiles Photography

Summiting the ridge

We finally crested what seemed to be the immediate hill, though with things like these, what looked like the top from the bottom is really just a slight bump in the hillside.  The path continued upwards, but we couldn’t help but stop to admire this phenomenal view.

A rocky creek flowing in front of distant twin falls | LotsaSmiles Photography

The creek in the foreground, the twin waterfalls cascading down the wall in the distance, everything dusted in snow and ice…  I absolutely love scenes like these, and I just couldn’t get enough of the tableau.

Aaron took a break, and after ascending several hundred feet, our “slightly hungry” had grown to full tummy grumblings.  We reached for our trail reserves, and Aaron used this as an opportunity to try out his new drone a bit.  Two of our friends were behind us, chilling at the vertorama waterfall, and the third opted to scout ahead, dead set on locating this glacier.

Aaron lounging in front of the creek and waterfalls | LotsaSmiles Photography

Some time passed, and he didn’t come back, so like a bad horror flick, I decided to follow him.  Besides, I wanted to find this glacier, too.  Our present view was amazing, but I couldn’t let him find something better and miss out on an opportunity.

Seeking the elusive glacier

The trail, invisible among the rock field | LotsaSmiles Photography

I didn’t get very far before the trail dissolved into a rocky field.  It was then that I actually espied our missing friend atop the next rocky ridge.  He signaled for me to hold back, having some trouble picking the trail out among the rocks.  He finally came back, convinced the trail ended and must cross the creek we had been following.

Now, much as I love a good off-trail adventure, I was not quite prepared for wading through an icy glacier creek in the hopes of finding the trail.  Besides, I didn’t see much over there beyond the twin waterfalls.  Were we supposed to scale the ridge – another 1000 feet or so?  That didn’t make any sense… the guy said it was only a few klicks up this trail.

A creek flowing through the tundra landscape | LotsaSmiles Photography

We texted our other friends for clarification (I still wasn’t accustomed to having service on the trail!), and we got the message that there was no glacier mentioned.  Huh?

Aaron and I weren’t part of that conversation at all, so we only had secondhand information.  Our friend refused to give up, and I was determined to not be left behind.  While he went down to the creek to scope out potential crossing spots, I decided to see where exactly our current trail ended – see if there was a marker leading across the creek as he hypothesized.

Follow the cairns!

Our friend walking along the rocky trail | LotsaSmiles Photograph

Sure enough, the worn trail completely vaporized once well into the rocks.  But with the absence of the trail came the insurgence of large cairns.

An aside, and some advice for all new to hiking wild trails: if the trail isn’t very clear, they are often marked by cairns (rock piles).  These are usually large enough to see at a slight distance, and they’re distinctly out of place in a natural environment.  Reach a cairn, and you should be able to see the next one from that spot.  In this manner, you can connect the dots to follow the trail.  Apparently, this is true even internationally.  Don’t start walking until you locate the next cairn.

From one cairn, I saw the next, then the next, and the next.  I didn’t have any trouble finding the correct direction, and the trail appeared to just keep going.  I’m not quite sure where our friend fell off-track, but this seemed like a much better option than taking a chilly swim.

Our friend walking across a patch of snow along a tundra trail | LotsaSmiles Photography

In this way, I led our friend (who quickly abandoned the wading idea) up the ridge (Aaron was still playing with his drone and was content to wait for me to return, as he was hungry and tired).  We came over another bump, and the land opened into a high-altitude (relatively-speaking) field.  I didn’t even realize until we were quite a ways into it what yawned into view on our right.

The holy grail

The Leir glacier, in monochrome | LotsaSmiles Photography

A glacier!

Vindicated, we had found it!

I noticed the trail kept going, but I was done.  We scrambled up a little hillock, sprinkled with cairns and dominated by a few large rocks topped with the characteristic Norwegian red cherry.  The big rock even had the glacier’s name inscribed on its side: Leir.

The trail marker, denoting the end of the trail at the Leir glacier in Norway | LotsaSmiles Photography

We took lots of pictures, and even sent some to our disbelieving friends.  Two of them had no regrets at missing this sight, already back at the trailhead mustering up some grub.

Me, posing in front of the Leir glacier in Norway | LotsaSmiles Photography
Proof that we made it! (photo courtesy of our friend)

Our quest complete, I was more than ready for food, myself.  And without Aaron there, I was quite thirsty.  How had three hours passed??  Unbelievable.

The return journey is quick when driven by hunger

The saturated ground at the top of the trail from Krossbu | LotsaSmiles Photography

The way back was much faster, and much easier.  We hopped mini islands back across some tributaries, over the rocks and through the boulders (to Grandma’s house we go).  We had more snowfields to traverse, and we rejoined the worn trail.

Tributaries joining the main creek crossing a tundra hillside in Norway | LotsaSmiles Photography

Aaron at the final ridge, with our starting point in sight | LotsaSmiles Photography

Not needing to stop for pictures every ten feet, and with gravity on our side, we were back in no time.

Hot dog and chips at the bottom of the trail | LotsaSmiles Photography

“Lunch” had by this time become “dinner,” and I was never so glad to see food.  It wasn’t anything terribly glamorous, but my stomach was content nonetheless.  I’m happy we found the elusive glacier, and it sure made for a fun adventure!

But I’ll know to bring more food with me next time.

The Leir glacier, in panorama | LotsaSmiles Photography


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