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From Visitor to Mountaineer

Taking a hobby, passion or interest to the next level is always super exciting (or should be). After visiting a few mountains, such as Hest (1632m) and Vangsen (1757m) in Breheimen, and Galdhøpiggen (2469m) and Glittertind (2452m) in Jotunheimen, the thirst for more had grown rather intense, and it was time to step up the game and start doing some proper alpine climbing.

Enroute to Hest

Enroute to Hest

The ultimate goal was clear – Store Skagastølstind (Storen) of 2405 majestic meters, the third highest peak in Norway, and one of the more challenging to climb among the 2000m+ peaks. The goal was to complete the climb within three years, working in parallel with conquering a fear of heights and gaining adequate alpine climbing and rescue experience.

This is an endeavour neither to be taken lightly nor to be undertaken alone. So you’re pretty much left with three options:

  1. Ideally, have a properly trained friend with unlimited free time and a desire to spend that free time getting you trained. Unfortunately, I don’t.
  2. Sign up for several training courses with a bunch of strangers and hope that their goals match yours. Not my thing.
  3. The final option is to find a professional mountain guide and commission them to take you through a rich subset of all the skills and requirements needed for professional guides.

Naturally, I chose the latter. But with a twist; I invited two good friends to join in on the education, Frank and Kjetil.

My initial goal was to look at the comprehensive skill set required to be a full IFMGA mountain guide and then strip away nearly everything until I was left with something I could afford, physically manage, and fit into my calendar.

Identifying the right guide is not to be taken lightly. This is a person you are going to trust with your life. This is someone you will be spending significant amounts of time with, either hanging by a rope on a 300m vertical cliff, crossing a glacier with hidden crevasses, and climbing virtually impossible peaks with. And also someone you have to get along with and enjoy the company of.

For my part, any cowboy behaviour would be a strict no-no, as would anyone too young, too old, or too hyped up.

Luckily, I got some early advice from a good friend to have a look at who is training the mountaineering trainers, and through that, I came in touch with Gjert Grødal at Bre og Fjell. These guys are the real deal, and Gjert is, in my humble opinion, one of the best of the best.

Gjert, Frank & me

We decided on a 10-month programme, with most of the heavy lifting done remotely. A heavy reading list, two days per week in the climbing gym, three in a regular gym, and at least one long run or hike each weekend. And properly learning to ski, not just getting down the slope, but some proper, hard-core skiing.

We also decided on three primary focus areas:

  1. Avalanche skills
  2. Glacier Traverse
  3. Exposed Alpine Climb & Rescue

All three areas were set up with an informal final “exam” at the end of each respective session, and the ultimate exam was planning, executing and analysing a climb of Store Skagastølstind, Storen. The ultimate mountain.

Each skill will be covered in a separate post.

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Gunnar Florus Mountaineer