Have you ever dreamed of riding in Northern Norway with your crew? Experiencing the towering Lyngen Alps with endless couloirs and lines that end at the sea? Find all the inspiration you need below with a video and story from Hunter Bryant and crew's trip to Norway in Spring 2023.
The following excerpt is from Hunter Bryant's trip report. You can read the accompanying journal and see more photography at https://read.cv/hunterbryant/in-search-of-birch.
DAY 9 - FUGLEDALSFJELLET
The first alarm does nothing for me this morning. Still processing Aquavit liquor and overpriced pilsners, my body fights me to get another hour or two of rest. Camping, everyone’s favorite club, went late. By the time we left to drive home, the sky was already blue. It means little in a place that sees the sun rise and set in the same hour.
Lee, Stosh, and Cole rally to get out earlier than us. The forecast has lined up, and the rain gave way to more consistent snow overnight. We suspect that Westerly faces fared better with the overnight winds.. The plan: Fugledalsfjellet West Flank. Several hours after group one’s departure, Hill, Henry, and myself begin our journey from our cabins countertop outpost. Lox and Giflars make a Hunter happy. We disassemble the decor of hanging jackets, gloves, and skins and pack our bags. We head North.
Our target face isn’t visible from the road. Skin tracks set earlier that day by the others indicate where to begin. Too much trust in those three, if you ask me. Soon after cresting the first hill, the forest gives way to a frozen river bed. The river points us toward a breathtaking panoramic view. To the left, Fugledalsfjellet. Massive on its own, but nothing compared to the surrounding peaks. To the right, Holmbukktinden. A solitary rocky face, reminiscent of Mt Doom, surveying a frozen Mordor. There is a partial line on the peak that looks skiable. Up the center of my view stands Jiehkkevárri, the tallest of the Lyngen Peaks. It’s simply huge. No other way about it. Most popular lines on Jiehkkevárri pass over the top, avoiding any real terrain. To climb it would be an accomplishment, yes, but we were hoping to avoid odysseys through the mountains this trip. The draw of Lyngen is Alaska-style peaks with little to no approach.
A few hours of skinning and we find ourselves on a wide open face in Fugledalsfjellet. This is a simple line. No technicalities, no bottlenecks, nothing to make our day harder. Last night’s liquor is doing more than enough. Every n minutes we tag team to break trail. An hour later we crest a wind-stripped rocky ridge. Skis come off, crampons go on. We hike over rocks for several minutes before falling back into knee-deep powder. Skis go on, crampons come off. If I face one more transition I’m going to lose it. Eventually the tracks stop, and a rock protects us to eat a snack and turn our focus downward. What follows is 10 minutes of bliss.
Hill and Henry cruise down the face. The few ridges on the slope shape beautiful wind lips. The duo take turns slashing them into oblivion. I document. They continue without hesitation for minutes on end. By the end of their run, they barely register as specs in my vision. A call on the radio signals for me to go. While some opt for the traditional powder 8 approach, I chose to practice the dont-fucking-turn approach. I want to be Candide. The snow acts as a massive airbag, protecting me from any potential fall. This mental security leads me to ride aggressively down the whole slope. Riding into Henry and Hunter, I try my best to make a pow butter. My cherry on top. That was a top 10 run, no doubt. Until the events that followed…
You see, I bought a drone for this trip. The jaw-dropping panoramas, hidden waterfalls and stunning fjord views I experienced last year forced me to buy the perspective enhancing, commercial defining piece of camera tech. I did my best to read the manual and practice a few times, but I had too much faith in the technology. From the top, I filmed the others from the tiny remote screen. Eager to get my own clips in, I set the active track. It worked, at least the first 15 seconds of the run while I checked. But, somewhere between looking back at the drone and opening up to mach 1, the device disconnected. I pull the remote out at the bottom to try and find it, but the remote showed no signs of drone life. Sh*t.
The documentation states that in any unexpected event, the drone is to fly back to its home point and land on its own. So, if it disconnected, it should find its way. The problem– its home is its takeoff point. About 2,000 vertical feet above me. I stand silently for two minutes. Do I give up on the drone now, or schlepp myself back up, hungover, to the takeoff point. I start going. I tell the others that they need not follow along. No matter, the boys rally. Begrudgingly we walk.
An hour later we near the spot. Nothing. I search left, right, up, down, but nothing. Just perfectly smooth, white, untouched snow. All for nothing. In defeat, I watch the others ride another line and enjoy themselves. I on the other hand, make half the turns as last run. Pissed off and on a mission to go fast, I open up recklessly. The sun lit snow fades into shadows. In flat light full gas, I look down as my feet float above the milky void. Sh*t. A second later I slam into a compression and try to hold on. I eat it. At the bottom, embarrassed, and on video, I smile. Who cares about the drone. That was another top 10.
Back at the cabin, I file an insurance claim on the drone. You see, I expected my recklessness would lead to the device lost or broken. My prepared unpreparedness has paid off. Around the dining table we strategize for the next day. Today gave us confidence in the snows stability on shaded West facing aspects. With limited options, I scan my collection of lines built with days of research. For the nth time I bring up the big kahuna Fornestinden. I mention it partially as a joke, but after a second thought, it hits all of our criteria. Western aspect. Shaded, especially in the morning. Rather protected with only a few places for cornicing above. We discuss. Cole’s eyes grow with the realization that our moonshot might happen. Tomorrow, Cole, Stosh, and I aim to ride Fornestinden’s Northwest couloir.