Mountain to Fjord
Aim- 4-day expedition- canoeing, cycling and climbing. To improve climbing technique and experience southern Norway.
The mountain to fjord expedition consisted of a 4-day canoe, mountain bike and climbing experience which was one of the best trips of the semester. The begun at Byland, north of Evje and ended in Kristiansand. In total, the distance was roughly around 114 km, which was the furthest I’ve travelled on manpowered craft. I was in my element on this trip especially the canoeing aspect.
We arrived at the start point at Byland Museum where we met the canoes. The start was slow due to people taking time to kit up which I prepared for in advance. Myself and George were tasked with teaching a small basic skills session as we were the most advanced in the group. The session went alright however some people didn’t grasp it straight away. We focused on forwards and backwards paddling, bow rudder, side draw and the J stroke to allow a more fluid stroke which transfers into a stern rudder. We decided upon sticking a stronger paddler with a novice paddler so I paired with Kathrin. The start of the paddling section wasn’t as we hoped due to a NE wind, which in turn created choppy water with decent sized breaking waves. The canoe got flooded and we decided upon returning to shore and coming up with another plan. Either to wait it out or a drop off further down if needed. We decided to wait it out and after about 20 mins the waters had calmed and we were graced with sunshine. Me and Kathrin had a good system whilst paddling and I gave here some tips and advice to improve her technique. As we came into the first S-bend of the fjord the wind picked up again and worsened. This was the point where we had to ferry glide across. We decided not to cross as the wind was too stronger and we didn’t want any capsized boats. We set up camp for the night. Myself and George decided upon a canoe tarp shelter as they provided much better resistance from the wind and was low to the ground. The evening was spent by the fire.
Day 2 was more forgiving in terms of the weather. The weather was a lot more favourable and sunshine galore come the afternoon. The main route down the fjord was sticking to the right-hand side as it was closer to the shoreline if a capsize took place. Myself and Kathrin took the second leg of the day which was pretty straight forward and I was confident in my navigation ability. I decided upon picking a point below the spit of land to provide cover from oncoming wind and large area for everyone to aim for. After our leg, the rest of the canoe trip was with ease and not testing at all. I swapped with Kathrin to allow her to control the canoe and get a feel for using the J stroke. At one point, we decided to raft the canoes and make a sail from the tarp when the wind picked up, however this lasted for about 10 mins and was not worth it. Once we reached the dam as our final checkpoint of the canoe aspect we had make sure we hit our landing spot as otherwise we would be going down the dam which would be fatal. Myself and Kathrin nailed the landing and I was impressed with her development of the two days. We stayed at TrollAktiv that night. This is when the day was topped off on a high. I had my first experience of white water rafting. It was the best part of the trip. We paddled down grade 6 rapids which was the highest I’ve paddled, as the biggest I’ve done is grade 3 in a white-water kayak. I was situated at the front of raft so took full brunt of the rapids. It’s the best place to be in the raft. We ran the rapids twice and ended with a surf on the waves and some defensive swimming which I’m used to due to FSRT (foundation safety and rescue training).
Day 3 was the beginning of the mountain bike and climbing aspect of the trip. We loaned bikes and set off from TrollAktiv towards Kristiansand. Out of the 4 days this was my favourite. We stopped off in Evje to re-supply for the last 70 km cycle. The cycling on day 3 was smooth and not strenuous mainly sticking to cycle paths/tracks and roads. We passed the woodland we skied through whilst on basic ski week and it was weird seeing it without any snow. I also found that Outward Bound had centre in Evje that was used by the British Army, however it is no longer in use. I have worked for Outward Bound and it was good to get some history on the one in Evje. As we approached the climbing crag called 44 I came of my bike hitting the road bumper by trapping the bike underneath the bumper. Luckily, I didn’t hurt myself however I quick to get back due to frequent traffic that passes through. The crag is called 44 due to it being 44 km from Kristiansand and was first sited by the British Army thus it being mainly a trad climbing crag with some bolted routes. Once we arrived at the crag we began as soon as possible. We started on the crag Slugs which is good crag to introduce novices to the sport. We learnt about rigging systems and abseiling rigging systems which I am familiar with. We climbed all routes on slugs making our variations of routes which was fun. I then went to the top a longer crag to belay people up and instructed other members in the group on how to belay from the top using a simple system. I later climbed two more routes before retiring for the night. We climbed till about 8-9 p.m. due to lighter months now upon us. The routes were all comfortable grades that allowed us to mess around a bit and work on different techniques. I worked on my footwork and flexibility training. Later that night myself camped in a spot that overlooked the river where we would receive the first sunshine of the day.
Day 4 was purely focused on finishing the bike ride back to Kristiansand. The ride was alright however after about 2 hrs the chaffing started to kick which was unpleasant to say the least. We stopped at several locations along the way. We stopped at an old train station that was frequently used to get from Kristiansand to the mountains for skiing before the introduction of roads. We also stopped at small area filled with Gapahuks and canoe that serve as an outdoor recreational area for schools and public which is run midt-agder friluftstad. They operate around the agder area providing outdoor experiences to the public. Further on the journey we stopped at a dam which was used for logging and hydroelectricity. It was said to be built by Germans and Austrians who came to Norway for this purpose. The rest of the trip wasn’t too bad apart from the hill climbing towards the end. Our last break was in Vennesla before finishing for Kristiansand. When finished the trip it, there was a sense of achievement and satisfaction.
There weren’t any real aims during this trip and I felt it was more a personal affair as it was to push yourself and not give up. For some people, it was a hard and for others easy. I believe the cycling aspect was the hardest for me due to the chaffing and I’ve never cycled that far before so that was the biggest thing I took away from it and this was reflected in my self-satisfaction.