In Case You missed it the first time…
Timy Dutton and I had one last trip for the 2010-11 ski season: Norway. Upon arriving, we met up with a shocked collection of friends. The Norwegian ski community was mourning the loss of professional skier, Eric Lundstrom, while the BASE jumping community was shocked by the early departure from causes outside of sport of long time jumper, Peter Bergsjo.
Norwegians are devoted skiers, and in many regions, lift systems are far less than elaborate when compared to the Alps or Squaw Valley, making hiking the primary form of access to quality turns. The format for the Roldal Freeride Challenge was to hike directly up the venue and then ski it once it softens. The West Coast of Norway had a good ski season, but by May 1 every single take off was melted back far enough that shoveling snow onto the grass and rocks that would serve as a take off was mandatory. The venue was less than awe inspiring and motivation to lay it all on the line could have been higher as well. Midnight before day one of the competition, we got a message with the news of Kip Garre and Allison Kreutzner’s disappearance. We awoke on competition day after a troubled and broken sleep to news that the rescue was officially now a recovery effort being spearheaded by our friends at home.
However deflated we were, the vibe was good up top the mountain and the sun was shining in Norway. And man did these Scandinavian freeriders ever charge. Holy cow! These guys were really sending it; Taking huge risks and pulling off some amazing stuff. As well as entertaining the crowd with some very bad crashes. Timy and I ski’d the same line, one that fit the risk level we were seeking, given the circumstances. Being the 2nd to last competitor of 80 and a couple of time consuming injuries, I did not ski until 5PM and spent the entire day up top the mountain in flip flops watching the takeoffs that I had piled snow onto melt away before my eyes as the competition unfolded. Our conservative runs, like any conservative comp run, achieved poor results, but Timy’s was still all over the news. Blaster Jacky Passo on the other hand ripped the crap out of it. Her skiing has a new edge to it stimulated by her newfound love with Reine Barkered, after a close 2nd one day one she took the lead away from Janette Hargin in the finals and achieved her 2nd FWT win of the year and secured a spot on the tour for 2012.
We skied another day or two after the competition, but it was so warm that it was clearly time to go BASE jumping. We drove 8 hours through incredibly scenic country to Romsdalen, hiked to the top of a mountain and jumped off of it. Shots of that first jump are found here: fiveten.com. We proceeded to enjoy several days of incredible Spring weather in Romsdalen.
Most foreign jumpers journey to Romsdalen in the middle of summer time for the long days and the most stable weather. However, in the last 7 years, the most special sessions I’ve had have been in the off-season. The fall offers perfect temperatures for hiking, no snow in the mountains and constantly changing colors. Plus, the locals fly with razor sharp skills after a summer of raging.
The spring on the other hand, is special in its own way. The mountains still have a lot of snow on them. This makes travel more difficult at times, but it can also make it easier. It is easier to hike a slope of snow that you you kick shallow steps into snow than it is to scramble up the boulders underneath. In contrast, a field of rotten snow can make for miserable post-holing where you would otherwise just cruise on dry earth. The snow marks each ledge on the cliff faces, making it easier to evaluate potential jumps, and it provides a huge contrast. The snow presents a new element of challenge because cornices and ice can be found at the exit points. But a Spring time jump from a huge mountain involves jumping from the high alpine rock and snow environment and falling or flying into the lush greenness of the fields by deep blue fjords. The colors are incredible. The waterfalls pump with tremendous energy and the mountains are alive with falling ice and snow. We jumped from one massive mountain after a 5+ hour hike and the sounds of our parachute openings seemed to trigger a huge avalanche, a river of snow and chunks of ice crashing down reminded us of the power of the mountains and made it clear the places on the mountain that it was imperative not to end up.
We scored a cloudless windless day in the beautiful Eikesdalen Valley where Bjarte threw his first gainer. We had some fun tracking jumps from Griseskolten and began to find our hiking legs for the summer. Come June, access roads like Trollstigen and Vengedalen road are open, and jumpers can shuttle cars and shave up to %50 off of their vertical ascent. But in early May there is too much avalanche hazard, so they remain closed, and we just hiked from the bottom. We earned every vertical foot we fell and it was grand. We used these things called “gators” that kept the snow out of our shoes quite effectively.
It was Tim’s first experience jumping from big mountains. Cliff so large that if you throw a stone off of the edge and begin counting it hits in 12 to 20 seconds. Frequently we would toss a rock over a precipice and our A.D.D. Would side track us before we even heard it impact. Tim got the hang of his tracking pants well, and also grasped the fact that the jumping experience in Norway is not about the jump itself. It is about the journey. I was impressed with the fact that all of his facebook photo posts were all photos of Norway. Boats, flags, mountains, fjords, fishermen, signs. Not a single jumping photo. In total Tim and I hiked 6 jumps together. 6 is a humble number. A jumper can easily achieve 6 terminal jumps in one day in Switzerland or other BASE meccas. But Norway is all about quality, not quantity. It is said that BASE jumping is a like a rose. It is a beautiful thing, but it can hurt you. It is all in how you grab for it. With the worldwide trend shifting toward dying as the new black, it is comforting to witness Tim’s respect.
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