Into the blizzard

Climbing Mt Salen in winter is not a walk in the park …

22nd March, 2019.
Hammerfest was first settled in 1789 at the site of an old anchorage. The first part of the name, Hammer, derives from the Old Norse word, Hamarr, which means “steep mountainside”. The second part, fest, comes from the Old Norse word, festr, which means “fastening (for boats)”. The path up from the town follows the Gammelveien (“the Old Way”), which is essentially a hiking path around the base of Mount Salen. It was once the only way in and out of the city.

During spring and summer, the ascent to the top of Mount Salen is just a strenuous ten-minute climb, passing through Hammerfest’s only forest, Jansvannskogen.

In winter, it is a different story. Our guide Harmen was not expecting it to be near-blizzard conditions today. We sunk knee-deep into snow drifts as we climbed for one and a half hours. I think he looked us all over and thought “they look up to it..“.

I am glad he did. I have read accounts by Nansen and Amundsen of tramping during a blizzard in Arctic conditions. This was a chance to feel, just for a short time, what that felt like.

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