You'll remember in my last post I mentioned the first casualty of the trip was me treading in a gigantic cowpat. Sadly, the second casualty was Ruth waking up the next morning and having either torn or pulled a muscle in her leg and being barely able to walk. Unfortunately, hiking duties for her have been put on hold. As such, we took it easy and made our way to Stryn. We like to pronounce it as 'Strine' because if you say it quick enough it sounds like you're a idiot saying 'stralian. However, it was pointed out that it is actually pronounced 'Strin' and the locals think we sound like morons. Touché.
The main reason to come to Stryn is to hike up Mount Skala. It was Ruth's dream to make it to the top and stay the night in the circular tower at its peak. The walk should take 3-5 hours up and about 2-3 down. Yeah right. However, with Ruth out of action I decided to take on the challenge myself. With Ruth's spirit in my heart and chocolate chip cookies in my back pack, I decided I would scale it for us both.
Things didn't start well in that within the first 200 metres I was confronted by an angry cow. Seriously, where is the cow hate coming from? Is it because I gave up being a vegetarian and ate your family? Oh right...
The trip started well as there was a sign for Mt Skala that pointed in two directions. One direction the easy way and one for the difficult way. Obviously, I took the easy one - this was going to be a piece of cake. Unfortunately, after half an hour of walking, both tracks meet up and there was one single impossible path to the top.
The cow had obviously sent word up the mountain because it wasn't long before the path was blocked by angry sheep. I'm sorry, lamb is such a tender and delicious meat...
It wasn't long before I was making progress above the clouds but as I have learnt from bitter experience on more than one occasion, if Norwegians say that something is a gradual climb they literally mean it is just short of a sheer cliff face.
The Norwegian sense of humour also refers to the 1000 stairs which turned out to be about a trillion. Ahahahahahar! Kill me!
I can say without exaggeration this was the hardest hike I have ever undertaken in my life. The path was jagged and uneven and sheer in places which made my heart pound like a looter in Tescos and sweat in unnatural ways that I'm sure some doctors would like to study for the sake of science and evolutionary theory.
Norwegians love camping and hiking like fat kids love cake and this climb seemed like nothing to them. As I was almost crawling on my hands and knees, I was passed by little kids (as in ten years old) and pensioners (as in sixty years old) as if it were a casual stroll in the local park. The couple in this photo were really lovely but they totally kicked my arse. Oh yeah, and almost all the Norwegians were shirtless or in some state of undress - I had a fleece and a beanie on.
There was a raging stream that flowed in parallel to the track and it turned out that it all flowed from a beautiful blue pool of water which you can see to the right. This was where the naked Norwegians got even more naked. Please note: there was snow next to the lake which is obscured by the ridge on the left. I had reached this pool after about three and a half hours of climbing. Every single pore of my body ached but I had resolved I would not be beaten by some crappy Norwegian mountain.
After another hour of climbing, I reached this point. I met a guy coming down who said the summit was another hour's climb. With my body shattered and a deadline to get to a bus back to Stryn, I decided I'd had enough. The Norwegians I had spoken to on the way up thought I was crazy to give up as I was so close but the mountain had won. I wasn't getting to the top - not without the aid of a helicopter or hallucinogenic drugs.
It was just at the top of that ridge but you know what? I couldn't give a toss, I was about to die from exhaustion.
Anyhow, here is the view from where I gave up.
As anyone who has climbed stuff like this knows, coming down any mountain can be hard on the knees. Here's a little known fact about myself: in Townsville (1995) I slipped on some gravel and basically fell down a small hill forever ruining my right knee. Within an hour of starting my descent I was in excruciating pain and could barely walk. I soon adopted a walking stick and hobbled down the hill like an eighty year old much to the amusement of everyone around me. I did so listening to the new Gillian Welch album which sounds like this - it was a little weird I have to admit. Here's me and my stick...
After three hours of hobbling, cursing and sweating I made it to the bottom. See all those cars, there was about 60-70 people on that track and I was probably the only one who didn't make it.
I abandoned my faithful walking stick as walking on flat ground is fine. I just can't walk up and down stairs, hills or bunk beds. At least now neither Ruth nor I can walk.
I sure could have used one of those yesterday.