Bike Touring in Norway Part II - Evacuation from the Windy Funnel, and on to Strynefjellet
This post - 14 to 16 June
~ 65 km, 500 m - biked with the whole family
See also: our-european-bike-tour-people-and-equipment
Line was pressed against the upwind side of the tent, supporting it from the inside, while I ran around on the outside making small rock bollards for the tiedowns. The weather was so nice the previous day that we hadn't even secured the tents properly, having completely failed to look at the wind part of the weather forecast. Now, Line and I are no strangers to weather in the alpine - before we had kids we'd hit the mountains almost every weekend, year 'round, and have been heading out on long self-supported expeditions together since before we were married. The kind of trips where you often spend days in a blizzard on the middle of some glacier. But, for some reason, we hadn't really taken the alpine seriously because we were on a road. I guess it was just a bit of a cognitive disconnect - for us the road has always meant civilization and safety. You get down from the mountains, reach the road (usually in the valley), and drive home inside the warm cocoon of your car. Here we were on the road already... but, of course, the weather doesn't stop simply because there is a road there. That was just our experience from over a decade of car-supported mountain trips. Our warm cocoon now is 3.5 kg of polyester, and it's not driving us home any time soon.
It was still in the wee hours, but fortunately we were far enough North that it never gets dark. I ducked back into the tent to discuss our options. The kids were fast asleep. It was already *pretty* windy, but according to the forecast this was just the tip of the iceberg. We could expect wind speeds in excess of 100 km/h - there was no way the tent could handle it in our current position. We had to move. Line started packing while I ran around the local area looking for a better spot. It started to rain. We carried the kids, still in their sleeping bags, into Laerke's tent (which is at least a real 4-season alpine tent); then we took down our tent and set it up again ~100 meters away on the lee side of some sort of road-maintenance shed. Then we put the kids, now slightly awake but still in their sleeping bags, into the chariot and wheeled them over there too. Finally we took down Laerke's tent and had the whole team crowded into our 4-person tent beside the roadworks shed.
We ended up pinned there for 2 days and nights in a driving wind that often carried a mix of rain and snow. Even in the lee of the roadworks shed sometimes we wondered if tent would be blown right off the mountain. We worked out the details of our backup plan in case of tent failure - piling the kids, in their sleeping bags, into the chariot and pushing them to a hotel just a few km away while we abandoning the rest of the equipment (or flagging down a passing motorist, if possible). We occasionally set up a tarp for cooking, and ripped a lot of holes in it by doing so. I noted how the wind could blow the tea out from your cup if you strayed from the shed and got caught by a gust (if it didn't just plain-old knock you over).
Overall the kids did really well, and I was surprised at how smooth the tent-bound storm days were. Sometimes we'd get a little stir-crazy, but a short trip out beyond the edge of the roadworks shed would fix that problem. F learned to play UNO, and N stood up for the first time. Laerke, her body feeling the inability to stretch out completely due to the crowded tent, made a break for that nearby hotel on the second day - and received a standing ovation on her arrival. For us escape was trickier as the transition is more difficult when you have kids and need to take down a tent; we waited until the morning of the third day.
In order to manage our escape we got everything ready for Line and the kids, then piled them into the chariot so Line could head off while I took down camp and packed up. At 4 C with a light rain and strong wind the morning was somewhat pleasant... but only by comparison. We picked up Laerke at the hotel and continued under steadily improving weather conditions. I think a lot of that was simply because we were moving inland generally, and in particular out of the neck of the funnel...
By midday it was outright pleasant. We biked up a side-valley on Gamle Stygnefjellsvegen, just to take a look around. It is a stunning alpine area, with a well-maintained gravel road for tourists. Setting the stage for the new normal, F rode on the back of my bike on the uphill and rode her own bike on the downhill. It was one of the most spectacular areas we visited in Norway, and the biking was so great for F on the way back; 10+ km of gentle downhill with very little traffic. We would have liked to stay in the alpine longer, but we were running low on food and the next store was 30km and 500m of elevation loss down the Otta valley, so we went for a well-deserved all-you-can-eat buffet dinner at the restaurant of the Grotli Hotel before the long descent into the valley. We camped at a rest area by Heggjebottvatnet. There was just a few parking spots, a closed kiosk, some toilets, a grassy peninsula to camp on, but it did have a trampoline. We named the place trampoline island.
Next: Bike Touring in Norway III - Poopville (Mysubytta)
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