Into a Viking Wonderland

SOTA summit: Haugjelsvarten

Activation Date: May 18, 2023

Unique: 254th

Call sign used: LA/M0SNA/P

Portable operation: Yes

Radios: Elecraft KX2 and Yaesu VX 8G

Antennas: LNR 40/20/10 Trail friendly end fed and J Pole

Band/Modes used: 40m 20m SSB and 2m FM (all voice)

Operating highlights:

  • ~30 shortwave contacts across UK and EU
  • Spectacular views of Norwegian landscape and Bergen
  • First “real” Norwegian peak

Pack weight: Approximately 20 lbs

Drive: Public transports to cable car

Hike:  ~8 miles R/T with 1,200 ft ascent along a “trail” of sorts. 

Hike and AZ profile:

Recommend: Absolutely

Solo operation: Yes

Cell Coverage: Good cell coverage 

Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2023

Stepping off the ledge, I was confronted with trails rugged and groomed. Picking one at random had me regretting my choice as it was far more rugged than groomed. While not normally a consideration, I’d tweaked my gammy knee earlier in the week and groomed is my necessary preference.

Maps are our friend and I jockey across an intersection of trails and soon start into a climb. I have no real idea of what to expect. The ground cover is unexpectedly browned grass pressed flat from snow and wind. The geology is nothing but what you would expect of a place that is an upheaval of ancient lava and strata shaped into fjords, islands and water courses. The trail is angled sheets of rock pristinely contoured into multi-layered sandwiches.

I scramble up over wet rock and loose compacted earth always mindful of my gammy knee. Slow and constant versus an athletic springbok is who I want to be today.

I reach what is plateau and settle into a journey across an almost featureless terrain following not cairns but rigid and sometimes bent metal posts that draw the eye a thousand times better than a cairn. This is about practically and not some notion of unnecessary impact. It’s muddy under foot, wooden boardwalks have been installed periodically and some of the ground is so obviously dangerous in that you could be waste deep with one wrong step.

The sky is grey and textured in an artist’s broad brush strokes. This is coastal Norway and only a few miles from the capricious, fickle and stormy North Sea.

I happen upon a lake. It’s small but the distant wooden structure is a draw to my eye. There’s something appealing that I’m compelled to photograph and I jockey around the shore for the time bound perfect shot.

Walking further I’m surprised to find my small lake experience repeated on steroids. A large, almost sumptuous family home greets me in the middle of no where. I’m perplexed as to its us, is it a fabled Norwegian multi day hike cabin, a Red Cross rescue station or just simply a family home.

Private house, Red Cross triage station or legendary Norwegian hiking “hut”?

My plateau continues punctuated occasionally by a scramble up 50 or 70 feet and contouring around many stone pillars that in England would be a peak marker but here are either the folly of man or a conspiracy to confuse.

Winter 2022 in the Northern Hemisphere has been brutal, relentless and extreme. Norway hasn’t escaped an over abundance of cold and snow.

I stare upon the small snow field, studying the tracks across and pondering the wisdom of traversal. I’m alone and think it an odd end to be lost in a late spring Norwegian snow field and wonder if I should walk across with my hiking pole flag poled above me. I have no idea how deep the snow is nor it’s compactness but trust the tracks are recent and the occupants of the shoes made it to the other side. Stepping across is both reassuring and a little nerve racking.

I’m approaching my destination, the high point on this plateau that is nestled on an eastern drop off that funnels the wind from the North Sea into a constant 20+ mph wind.

Expeditious is always my watch word and I find a short 30″ post in the ground that is a perfect anchor for my mast.

Classic US End Fed deployment

40m is a struggle netting only 3 contacts.

I worry that my end fed, too close to the ground plus the flat nature of my plateau is conspiring against me. We are 12-24 months off the sun cycle peak and generally radio conditions should be better and better. However, recently the sun has favored the North Light Brigade which is the Ying to the Yang of Team Radio. Maybe I’m skunked.

The sun is a fickle mistress and 20m dances and sings with loud S9 signals both ways. For a few moments I’m the King of Poland netting so many complimentary Polish operators in SP and SQ land.

A thoroughly unexpected bonus is 5 summit to summit contacts into France, Germany and Austria that net me 54 more points toward my 1,000 point Shack Sloth goal. This is great and I’m thinking I’ll reach the goal soon with this trip continuing, the upcoming G/LD event or Andy and Paul’s Friedrichshafen roundtrip.

The way out

Couples waft by all seemingly in my age bracket. No poles, nimble feet and physiques obscenely bordering on the Olympic has be marvel about the Norwegian life style.

Reaching my ledge, I count people and find myself first in line for the cable car down.

Her garb suggested trail runner of which I had seen so many today and asked how far and how long. I couldn’t tell if she was Australian or Norwegian. We chatted on the way down about hiking options and Norwegians desire to almost over celebrate National Day.

Cable car view of Bergen

Comparing countries is a risky business as all are not equal by any measure.

To me, Norway is a remarkable place.

A thousand miles of coast, abundant natural resources, a sense of stewardship, a miniscule population and a reserved sense of austerity that collectively mixes to create a place unquestionably worth visiting for all and especially the outdoors inclined.

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