In contemporary Sami, NUORREK means "along the coast", which perfectly sums up the challenge ahead. We are Thibault and Loïc, two engineering students, adventurers at heart, and we are embarking on a unique and unprecedented experience, between sea and mountains. We want to sail along the coast of Finnmark, from a Sami village on the North Cape to the Lyngen Alps in a sport catamaran to climb the Store Lenangstind. This project will start in June 2019 and will last about 50 days.
The outward journey
In every expedition there is a hidden side, the logistics. For us, the first step is to bring our sport catamaran to our starting point: Torhop, a tiny harbour in Northern Norway.
So we left Avignon, in the south of France, for a 4101 km journey towing a boat behind the car for almost a week. "That's it, we're finally on the road!" I enter our destination in the GPS, Thibault laughs, we are only 50 hours away from the arrival, well from the departure...
After a year of preparation we are relieved to be leaving, finally. It seems almost unreal. It's hard to imagine that in a few days the temperature will hardly be above 5 degrees.
The "real start".
A lot of wind, no possibility to depart. We take advantage of all these changes to meet the Sami, people of the north, emblematic in this region. We interview fishermen, farmers, students and even reindeers. That raises our morale.
We have to reorganize all the stuff, check out again and put the boat back in the water. The emotion is great and we feel the wind rushing through the sails. The adventure can begin. Thibault holds the helm. We put the course on Neverfjord. It is great. We sail on a tiny catamaran in a fjord 400 km above the Arctic Circle. No boat in sight. We do not say anything, we appreciate the moment.
Thibault is still at the helm, the sea is starting to deepen and the gusts are becoming more and more violent. We are in the thick of it. The feeling of fear of capsizing is mixed with adrenaline. Our biggest fear is to take on water and to break something because of the load on the boat. In spite of that, we keep on sailing the nautical miles, always so concentrated. It goes fast, very fast. We decide to get closer to the coast to find a place where we can moor and rest.
Navigation under the storm clouds
When we woke up, quite late, the boat was still there and the wind had weakened. We have breakfast around 2 pm. It is not very warm and the weather is rainy but we are in ecstasy. A hot chocolate, scrambled eggs, the whole with a view on the fjord. What to ask for more? A sauna maybe...
We set off again and we are still amazed to sail in this environment. Thanks to the clouds, the weather is calmer so I steer for a few hours while Thibault takes the time to check the itinerary and the weather.
At the time of finding a bivouac the things are complicated... We do not find any bank to put a tent. Our standard is lowered and we decide to approach a zone which seems flat. At 20m from the shore we realize that it is not at all what we thought... The hour turns, the wind weakens, Thibault looks on the GPS but the task is not easy. We finally find after 3 hours a place which will do the trick. In any case, we are cooked. For the bivouac, each one has his role, we already took our small habits of old. We are more efficient than the day before. A freeze-dried meal and in bed. The 2 following days take place with the same rhythm but the sun still does not make its appearance. The fifth day, the sun returns finally a little the time to recharge some batteries. It is the moment that we choose to go to explore a very narrow fjord.
The life of a Fjord
After some hours, we sink in. It is narrow, it is the narrowest since the beginning. A few hundred meters. We feel very small. The wonder is total. In more the wind is in the good direction! However it weakens, a little too much. I begin to row at the front while Thibault takes care of the helm. It's calm, it feels good. We have the impression to be Vikings, there is no boat, no road, no power line.
We live a crazy adventure and we enjoy everything, every sound, every image, every feeling. We don't speak much, I even believe that Thibault has tears in his eyes so much the emotions are intense. We are happy to be there, at this precise moment, happy to be small in front of a nature which shook us well but which makes a truce. We often say bullshit to pass the time but there we did not say anything. The fjord tightens more and more. We are in the middle of this fjord and it is already 4 am. We decide to look for a bivouac for the night. It is our best bivouac since the beginning of the adventure, we were able to enjoy all the night of a mattress of flowers. It is a little more comfortable than stones...
According to a fisherman we met a few days before, at the bottom of our Fjord a glacier flows into the water. We leave to see that around 10 pm. We took advantage of beautiful clearings to recharge all our batteries and even those of the drone. The fjord takes a turn and we discover finally with wonder, a glacier overhanging the water. It is the thousandth time that we have the same discussion: - "It is really magnificent" - " Holy... ! It is crazy, we are lucky to be here" It is not very poetic but the emotion was there. We touched of the finger the goal of the project: the sea and the mountain. This fjord is only nature, we cross nobody. We accost and set up the camp. It is sure, we are going to stay there 2 days. We were like kids arriving at Disneyland. Fresh water, a breathtaking view, wood for the fire, birds by tens so certainly fish. In short, we will have fun here. It is now 8:30 am and we are going to eat our small meal of "evening" before sleeping.
During our different bivouacs we try to make interviews of ourselves. This allows us to have a logbook and to remember a lot of details. It's never easy because the number one enemy of the audiovisual is water... It's a good thing we sail in the rain!
After a day of "rest" we decide to put on the dry suits to go fishing in the middle of the fjord. We are two inexperienced fishermen. Our track record is limited to one trout and a few dorados in the south of France. The fishermen repeated to us that there was fish everywhere then that should make it. I don't have time to take the line down to the bottom and I already feel a few bites. It seems that it is a Norwegian Skrei, a type of cod rather rare, nicknamed the "miracle fish". For Sunday fishermen, we were proud and we are almost disappointed that it was so fast! We remember the discussions with the fishermen, "fish everywhere" they said and they were right.
Lyngen Alps - The ascent
Good surprise the weather forecast foresees some sunshine for our arrival to Lyngen Alps. The boat finally harnessed, we can finally blow. We have just finished the maritime part. Before taking height, it is necessary to pack again all the bags and to leave the lightest possible. We just take our sleeping bags, our mats, a part of video equipment, 6 days of food and the mountaineering stuff. Even with everything optimized, our bags weigh 25 kilos each.
After half a day of preparation, we leave towards the first bivouac located on the map. The first part is quite laborious because we are in the middle of a huge scree and there is no path. With such loads, the least we can say is that we are not very stable. After 4 hours of walking, we arrive at 500 meters of altitude near a small lake.
We quickly set up the bivouac, it's good not to manage the boat logistics anymore. Exhausted we fall asleep quickly. We wake up under a blazing sun around 1 pm. We take advantage of the afternoon to film and to make the last locations on the map before going up to the glacier. To feel clean before going up, the lake gives us ideas. It is the coldest water in which we have ever bathed.
It should not exceed 5 degrees. The time to make a small round trip to the swim, we stay less than one minute and a half in water before going to take refuge in the comforters to warm up. At the end of the day, after having eaten we decide to leave around 11 pm so that the snow is frozen well. After about ten minutes of walking, it is time to put on the crampons and to tie up. Five minutes later, we find a lip against rocks and we take 2 hours to train to the fall in crevasse.
This allows us to remember the techniques of hauling and to remind ourselves
the reflexes to gain in efficiency if a problem occurs. Once the training finished, we leave on the glacier and at the end of one hour the fog fell completely. Impossible to know where we are going, I can hardly see Thibault in front. Fortunately before leaving we had entered the coordinates of a place where we could bivouac in our GPS.
With the help of the compass we manage as well as possible to advance. The rise is rather strange, all is white and we alternate with flats and very steep slopes. We arrive at the wanted place around 6 am, we are now at 1000 meters of altitude. We probe around the camp to verify that there is no crevasse. We level the ground and we install the tent in the middle of an immensity of white. We have no idea of what surrounds us, we shall see well tomorrow. Once raised, we see finally the landscape which surrounds us. We are in the middle of an immense glacier of 2 kilometers wide. In the afternoon, the sun tries some visits but the sky remains gray. That allows us to discover briefly the top of the Store Lenangsting.
After having consulted the weather forecast, we have a slot available between midnight and 3 am where the summit should be clear. At 11 pm, we leave to try the ascent in a still very thick fog. After an hour of walking, the weather is clear and the last face is revealed. At about 1 o'clock, we attack the last climb and it looks tough. The slope is more than 50 degrees and a crevasse blocks the whole width of the path. We find a snow bridge strong enough to cross it. Thibault jumps in and crosses the crevasse without any problem; but when I go for it, the bridge gives way.
I am thus obliged to find a new place to pass, what makes us lose a little time. The remainder of the rise passes without incident and we reach the pass around 2:30 am. The view is simply magnificent. We take advantage of the colours of the midnight sun and see 2 different fjords on each side of the pass. We have an impregnable view on all the Lyngen Alps. We take the time to enjoy and to film but at 3 o'clock the fog is already going up on us.
There is still about fifty meters on the summit ridge to arrive at the summit but we take the decision to go back down because we do not want to take the risk to make all the way back in the fog with the crevasses. The tent shows the end of its nose towards 5 o'clock in the morning, we are enchanted. The summit was not an end in itself, we took a lot of pleasure to climb and we could enjoy, without any doubt, the most beautiful landscapes we have ever seen. This is the end of our adventure in Norway and we would like to thank all the partners and people who accompanied us in this project. Simply thank you for having allowed us to realize one of our dreams.