Sunday, August 10, 2008


This is the name of the enormous mountain (pronounced Leafy-ell-uh) that Giil farm (our residence) faces across the fjord. It is beautiful and has dominated a substantial if not excessive number of our pictures. It has also dominated my mind--it needed to be conquered.

I've been wanting to climb it since our first day here, nearly two weeks ago. Yesterday we set ourselves to the task, with a guide of course. Hakon, our host, is sixty five, and proved himself to be in better shape than most twenty year old Americans. I've made many statements about the relative capability of Norwegians--but this time I was truly shocked.

Hakon is also a man I've come to implicitly trust, so I figured he wouldn't lead us astray. He did not. But he did challenge us. Fortunately, he didn't warn of us the more psychologically difficult parts too far ahead.

Lifjellet is only about 2300 feet tall, but we climbed most of those feet. The first hour was simply a very steep hike...but the last hour was much more treacherous. Large drops and difficult places to walk were the norm. Really, when you walk near traffic you are probably faced with more danger, but the glacier carved chasms are much more poignant than soccer moms in their SUV's.

The latter hour involved a lot more climbing, and at one point we had to climb with ropes and actually move almost vertically. Since neither of us are rock climbers, that was a real challenge. The physical aspects weren't too bad. The actual challenge was psychological. The drop-off behind, whether or not we were in danger of slipping off it, was expansive enough to make everything feel epic and dangerous. At least for me, as I watched Trina climb up in front of me.

I think I would have been fine emotionally if she wasn't there. I'm always much more jumpy about her. It's not that I think she isn't capable; it's only that she means the world to me. I understand why that sounds suffocating, but fortunately it usually only comes out regarding substantive physical dangers.

Now, to say this was mostly a psychological challenge isn't to say we didn't exert ourselves. The first hour was a hard hike. The last hour up was occasionally perilous, at all times extremely steep, ever the workout. Our trip down was nearly twice as long (we went a longer way--big drop-offs are much more disconcerting when you go down, and we knew we weren't up for that!). My challenge was that the large steps down meant suspending myself in a way that strained my knees. Trina faced this too, but she compensated by crab-walking down (her arms are sore today).

All in all, it was a fantastic experience. We could see for countless miles--scores of mountains, and dozens of waterways--fjords, streams, lakes, and vast ocean. It was truly breathtaking. We celebrated with coffee and biscuits and then made our way down.

I'm quite proud of my wife for her prowess and her grace under fire. I knew she was quite capable, but I'll admit she surprised even me. I'm proud of myself for not freaking out when I was worried about her, and I'm always greatly satisfied by any significant accomplishment. Plus, I usually like conquering things, and mountains are no exception.

I'd recommend viewing the pictures by clicking on the link at the top of the blog.

1 comment:

Christie said...

Congratulations! Looks like a most excellent climb. :)