Weeks in Paradise--
The Lyngen Alps of Norway
by Paul Richins, Jr. (added 7/12/98)
The following account details the three weeks (April 17-May 6, 1991) Paul Richins, Jr. spent in the Lyngen Alps cross country skiing and climbing ice encrusted summits. The Lyngen Alps are located in northern Norway at a latitude of 70 degrees North, far above the arctic circle. The area is north of the University town of Tromso, the largest city in northern Norway. Hundreds, if not thousands, of peaks and glaciers are packed like sardines into this very small area of the The Lyngen Peninsula. The cross country skiing and the mountain climbing were truly fantastic. I highly recommend the area for skiing and climbing in April through mid May or hiking and climbing in July. The following article was featured in the Mountain Democrat newspaper on August 2, 1991. Refer to the related story entitled, "Top of the World--Stortind's Unclimbed Southwest Ridge."
The Lyngen peninsula is located in Northern Norway at a Latitude of 70 degrees North, far above the arctic circle. The area is just North of the University town of Tromso, the largest city in northern Norway. The Lyngen peninsula is literally crowded with peaks and glaciers, with the mountains rising directly out of the fjords to a height of 6,000 feet. The area is referred to as the Lyngen Alps.
Due to the warm ocean currents the fjords are ice free all year and the weather surprisingly mild. Being further North than Alaska, I expected much colder temperatures. However, the lowest temperature I recorded was 6 degrees fahrenheit on the top of Markusfjellet, a 5,000 foot peak. Most of the mountain temperatures ranged in the teens to low twenty's with ample amounts of sunshine.
My experience in Northern Norway was truly memorable in which I met many wonderful people and was introduced to a paradise of mountains and skiing that I did not know existed in such superb quality and abundant quantity. Mountains were everywhere and provide excellent skiing and climbing for all abilities, from the casual skier to world class climbers.
I spent three wonderful weeks (April 18-May 8, 1991) climbing and enjoying some truly great cross country skiing. In my visit with Dick Ratliff and family in the small fishing village of Rotsund, we skied to the summits of five peaks--Cillagai'sa, Markusfjellet, Baes'setinden, Jiehkkevarri, Kveita, and climbed four others--Stortind, Piggtind, Store Lenangstind and Struptind (1/2 mile east of Store Lenangstind).
The ski ascent and descent of Cillagai'sa was an excellent ski tour as the powder snow conditions were perfect and the slope of the mountain provided for a moderate and continuous ski descent all the way to the car. It was a pleasant introduction to Northern Norway and prelude for what was to come in the following three weeks.
The ski traverse of Jiehkkevarri and Kveita via the Blaisen Glacier and descent via the Fuglebreen Glacier was truly spectacular and memorable. The ski descent of the Fuglebreen was unnerving as we had to wind our way through ice bulges and towers. The bottom portion of the glacier was very steep with concern for avalanche danger. In addition, we could not see, from above, whether or not there was a route all the way down and off the glacier. We could not determine whether or not the glacier ended in an ice fall that would block our descent. However, we had heard from Havard that he thought the route was manageable on skis. Based on this, we went for it, as the alternative of climbing back up and over the summit was unthinkable.
The ski across the Koppangsbreen Glacier and climb of Store Lenangstind and Struptind was the frosting on my "three weeks in paradise" and my favorite. The scenery was most outstanding as the glacier was rimmed by beautiful peaks pushing up through a sea of snow and ice. The glacier was as smooth as glass with no sign of crevasses as the winter snows had covered all of the glacier's rough edges.
The glacier is very accessible and the ski up from the small fishing village of Koppangen was quick and easy. We were to the base of Store Lenangstind in less than four hours. The slope of the glacier is perfect for skiing up as well as down, steep enough to get you there quickly but not too steep to wear one out. The fresh dusting of powder on the glacier enhanced the skiing even further.
On Store Lenangstind and Struptind we encountered similar climbing conditions and difficulties as on Stortind but on a much smaller scale. We reached the summit of Store Lenangstind in eight pitches via the East Ridge. Near the summit of Struptind, the Southeast ridge narrowed to a knife edge. On this lead I straddled the apex of the ridge by sitting down with one leg on each side of the ridge and inched myself forward. We climbed both peaks in a light snow storm and complete whiteout. At times, the visibility was so poor that I could barely see Dick at the opposite end of the climbing rope. This was the only tour/climb in the three weeks that we had bad weather.
My tours in the Lyngen Alps were truly fantastic. I highly recommend the area for skiing and climbing in April through mid May or hiking and climbing in July. I look forward to returning soon.
Backcountry_Resource_Center--Paul Richins, Jr.
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