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Day 4, Apr 30 2007: Descent
Having the shortest leg left, there was no need to get up early in the morning. Departure time was set to 09:00AM, and as expected, we were moving out 09:15PM. The plan was to visit Suphellenipa before descending from the glacier. Most of the group went to this top, which we reached 10:10AM. This was an easy hike from the glacier, and the views were just phenomenal. Another group was arriving just as we came down. The glacier almost seemed "crowded". During our trip, we saw groups and campsites in all directions.
After Suphellenipa, the "magic" sentence was said: only downhill from here. It was approx. 10Km from our campsite down to Flatbrehytta cabin at approx. 1000m elevation. The descent from the glacier to the cabin offered hopeless skiing conditions. The snow was soaking wet, and it was almost impossible to ski in orderly fashion. As such, the guide decided that we would descend from Flatbrehytta on foot.
We had lunch at Flatbrehytta while Nils tried to reschedule our shuttle pick-up, from 17:00PM to 15:00PM. The other group followed shortly after, and suddenly Flatbrehytta was very crowded. We left Flatbrehytta 12:30PM, and Nils chose a route that surprised a few. "Hva f.." ("what the h..") was heard from some in the group. Nils led us down a steep ridge, while the normal route runs west of this ridge. He probably wanted to avoid the standard route because of deep, rotten snow. Or perhaps avalanches.
Some found the overall descent route slightly awkward, but the other group that descended just minutes later, never caught up with us. We were down at the Øygarden trailhead 14:05PM, and spent the next hour relaxing, changing clothes, sunbathing, etc. We were picked up by the shuttle bus 15:00PM, and a couple of hours later (after a stop for snacks at Byrkjelo), we were dropped off at Greidung in Erdalen. A wonderful and unforgettable trip had come to an end.
It felt WRONG to leave the glacier now. The backpack didn't feel heavy anymore (although the weight remained constant - once you got rid of some food, it was your turn to carry a rope) and the aching heels were under some sort of control. The weather was STUNNING, and now we were leaving? I swore to keep coming back to this glacier as often as I can. It all begun with the Tindefjellesbreen traverse back in 2002, continued with Høgste Breakulen in May 2005, then Opptakshaugane in October 2005 and Austerdalsbreen in September 2006. And I ain't done yet.
Skiing down towards Flatbrehytta was terrible. Just terrible. The snow was soaking wet and I've probably never skied under worse conditions. Once I got to Flatbrehytta and made eye contact with the trailhead, it felt OK to leave. Civilization was now just 1000 vertical meters below, and the trip was mentally over. I looked forward to get back to Greidung, pull the car roof down, play insanely loud music and cruise back to Ålesund.
Back at Greidung, I found this EPIC song by Electric Light Orchestra in my CD collection. The song was "Mr. Blue sky", and I played this song - and ONLY this song from Greidung to Ålesund. Which is a couple of hours drive. The song was played at high volume, and I never, never ever had a more enjoyable drive in my life.
So how did my goals turn out? Well, I never got to use my gore-tex jacket, my wind-proof gloves and my facemask. But you just can't leave those things out of the backpack. Every other item came to use on this trip. Did I miss anything? No, except for 200 grams of food on the day we traversed the glacier, but I would easily have done without. The skis? Just perfect. A slight touch of blue vax in the morning, then there was no need for more vax until late in the evening, when the snow got harder. Should I ever go on a trip like this again, I would still choose vax-free skis. Lessons learned? To hold on to my poles and swallow some pride now and then.
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Wide-angle view from Suphellenipa:
50mm views from Suphellenipa:
Descent to Øygarden:
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