Norway 2002

NORWAY 2002 – Pictures in Gallery

As you might know I just went to Norway (1 st of Sept) to be one of the leaders for my old highschool’s annual school trips. The trip includes hiking, caving and one day on the glacier. A wonderful work experience opportunity for me, not knowing that after that first week I would have been put in the situation that tested many of the skills learnt in Canada in the Mountain Activity Skills Training Program.

We arrived in Jutunheimen, Norway’s highest mountain area, early on Monday morning. Everybody were tired from not getting too much of sleep in the bus during the 15h drive from the southern parts of Sweden were we all came from.

It was a mix of people on the bus. 13 academic students (teacher candidates) and about 30 high school students just starting their second year in a three-year specialty program called Rescue Program, which basically is a normal natural science program topped with some fire fighting, first aid training and some special subjects relevant for future work at a fire brigade. Besides the students there were five teachers and two leaders. That’s were I come into the picture, I was invited to be a leader for the hiking and glacier trip.

After leaving the bus for a great breakfast we quickly packed our backpacks for the first day of hiking. Everyone was really tired due to the long bus trip, but no one really complained too much. The first day was quite foggy, and we had some light drizzles which later turned in to light rain. The first day went without too much of a hassle and without any incidents. So did the second day, where we visited Elvesäter which is an old hotel in the Norwegian mountains, we hiked up to a waterfall and some people swam under it even though it was freezing cold water.

Stefan hiking to Dumdalen, Norway 2002The third day we hiked through Dumdalen , which means the valley with the hidden river. It is a very beautiful valley with lots and lots of “Kodak moments” and at the end of the 6h hike you’ll encounter quite some caves, some short ones, some quite long and wet ones (because of the underground river). Strongly recommend this hike to everyone passing through this area!!

The fourth day was the so called free day, where the students could hike wherever they wanted without assistance of us leaders.

But this story is really about the fifth (the glacier hiking day) and last day before I started my journey back to Sweden.

It all started well, with 51 people including three rope team leaders heading up the one hour hike up to the glacier. At the edge o the glacier, me, Michael and Terje (the Norwegian guide) arranged the ropes for three 16-member rope teams while the students had a light lunch and adjusted their clothing.

I was the rope team leader for the second rope team, including the academic students (teacher candidates) and a few other students to fill my rope team.

The whole idea was to have three rope teams and all to follow Terje , that was the guide. Michael had no previous training in being a glacier guide, but had guided with Terje twice before on this glacier. I had two week mountaineering (one on skis however), since the MAST program plus additional theoretical and practical training so I felt confident with being in the front of my rope team.

We tied everyone in and doubled checked everyone’s harnesses and away we went, following Terje that took the lead. We went through some tricky crevasses where we had to balance, jump and climb around to let the students to get a feel for the strange equipment we equipped them with; crampons and some had ice axes.

Already at the first crevasse passing I encountered long waiting times, and after 15minutes or so, I asked my rope team if they felt we should go and find out own path through the crevasses. They felt adventuresome so I took the lead and found some tricky crevasses, seraks and icefalls where we went ahead and meet up with the other group on the opposite side of the first crevasses. It was time for us to enter the second round of tricky manoeuvres.

I waited as third team to enter the next section, and was suddenly called up the seraks , to help Terje out. I didn’t at the time know what had happened. When I got up there, I saw Terje , fumbling after his crampon that had fallen off. I asked if he was alright, as he laid trapped in a crevasse crack 10m down. He yelled back in some weird Norwegian that I understood to be an okay. He looked fumbled, but soon he was back on his feet, he climbed up on the opposite side of the crevasse and tried to jump to the next serak , just to loose balance, slip and fall down again.

After getting back on his feet again he got help with from his rope team that pulled him up.

His lack of proper techniques in his iceclimbing and use of equipment chocked me a bit so I decided to go my own way. After getting out from the serak area, my rope team decided to have lunch. The other two rope teams had continued up the glacier to the upper serak areas. I decided to have lunch for 20min and then have a look around for the other groups, and if I could catch up with them I would but if I couldn’t, then I would go my own way and let my group have some fun for the remaining time we had on the glacier.

During lunch, thick fog pulled in over the glacier and visibility decreased from 2-3km to 100m or so. After lunch we found a good “play area” where my group jumped around, climbed and pushed their fears a bit, without being to risky. The perceived risk was high but the real risk was quite low.

Stefan and Mickael at the glacier port, Norway 2002After just entering a tricky passage through a serak field, Terje and Michael’s group came by, telling us that it was soon time to return to base for the long trip home in the bus. I said, we were just going through that area and then were about to head home too. They were happy with my response and said goodbye and went for the glacier’s edge to hike home. My rope team excitingly continued forward and we had some good times, jumping crevasses, climbing up walls of ice and other cool stuff.

It was here it happened. I just gone over to a serak and had 7 or 8 of the rope team members over on my side of the serak when I heard a heartbreaking scream. Quickly I told my group to back up to the top of the serak again so I could get down to see what had had happened. I soon found out from the students, that a girl called Camilla had jumped and landed on her knee. After about five minutes I arrived down to her, and started directly to examine her, I first noticed that she had a pale face and in the excitement I interpreted that as start of chock, after getting her Goretex pants, hiking pants pulled up above her knee I saw a large swelling on her the inside of her knee. The 80h Wilderness First Aid course since the MAST program, quickly came out into my head and I put a Dower elastic bandage on, to stop somehow the swelling and also a psychological thing to get a bandage on. I also gave her two painkillers/anti-inflammatory pills to help for the pain she felt. I checked her pulse in her foot and it took me 2-3minutes and 3 tries before I finally found one. After feeling her beat, I was a bit relieved, and the whitish / pale color in her face, was mistaken in the heat of the moment for chock but I found out it was some sunscreen, which made the whole situation a lot better.

Now I had a girl, with sharp pain, no capability to put weight on her leg in the middle of a glacier where I didn’t exactly know where I was at and had at least 2h of hiking to get home normally and now perhaps four or five hours with our injured member and in addition no available help since the other two groups had left and disappeared into the fog.

Someone said that they had a mobile phone, and asked if they should call the other two groups. I said to them that they should and found out later that none of the other groups had their mobilephones on. She called Krossbu , the place we stayed at and they asked some questions and said they would call for a helicopter.

That was the moment I realized the seriousness of the situation. It took us at least 30min to get Camilla (the injured girl) down in to the crevasse and up the other side and another 15minutes or so to get her out on the flats. I collected 8 backpacks and put two in each corner at a rather flat area as a good landing spot for the helicopter. The fog was still tight and when they called from the helicopter and asked where we were, I had guess and said approximately and they said they call again when they got closer to the glacier. This area, is said to be full of something called “ Knytt ” which is beings of the super natural. One needs to be clairvoyant to see and experience them, but after the helicopter called the second time the fog suddenly lightened as much so I could see a mountain ridge to my right, if this was the Knytt that helped my I’m not sure. I took out my map and used the moment to pinpoint my position. I was directly south of the ridge called Kalven (the calf) so when the helicopter called the third time, I could direct them to us. We could now hear them clearly and suddenly the big chopper came out of the fog and located us. I assisted the landing with my improvised landing area and soon we had Camilla in the chopper and I ran back to my group and the chopper took off.

Everyone was really excited, but wanted however, just get back home into a hot shower and get some good food into our hungry stomachs. We collected our backpacks that had blown away a bit by the very forceful airflow from the rotors on the chopper. Suddenly, the fog from where were to down to the valley bottom eased and soon cleared up just as the Knytt had felt the wishes of help from me to find a good way home.

As you might understand, I was quite high on adrenaline for hours to come after this incident. When I got back to Krossbu (the backpacker place we stayed at) many of the leaders came up to me and congratulated me for tremendous good efforts and all students part of my rope team that had arrived earlier had said so many nice things about me to the leaders and friends. I remained calm all through the process from the point of the incident through the rescue all the way home and I am sure that I wouldn’t had been as calm if I hadn’t been through the thoughest leadership school there is – Swedish Marines and the outdoor school of College of the Rockies’ Mountain Activity Skills Training in Fernie, BC, Canada. I used and proved the skills learned while iceclimbing , mountaineering, in wilderness first aid, helicopter safety and many other parts of the MAST Program in this one afternoon.

I would like to thank, Brian Bell for the mountaineering skills, Paul Valiulis & Dave Marra for the iceclimbing skills, Dave Richards for the Wilderness First Aid skills.

To you guys I would like to say that what you do for a living through the MAST program is spreading and helping people you never meet all around the world! Thanks for everything!

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