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Sailing and skiing on Norway’s west coast

Jan 13, 2010

To the editor: There are very few places in the world where you can sail to the foot of snow-covered mountains in shorts, climb up 5,131 feet to get a fantastic view and then ski back down to the boat again.

In Hjørundfjorden, Norway, you can. Our boat, Explore North, a 2008-model Ovni 435, was equipped for high latitude expeditions with Raymarine equipment, wind generator, extra diesel and water capacity, double set of heaters, oak interior and aluminum hull and deck to keep impact on nature low.

We picked up the boat in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, in April 2008 and had a fantastic shakedown cruise back home to Norway. The weather was fantastic and the people we meet were inviting at the harbors we visited along the way. But we wanted to get home and to the west coast of Norway. There I knew the real adventure awaited.

The reason is simple &mdash and I think this applies to most people: We almost always look beyond our own borders when we seek the perfect holiday. But if you bother to check out your own back yard, you most likely will find it a paradise. I know I did, but the British discovered it first.

"The wildest alpine valley I ever saw was not in the Alps, it was the valley Norangsdalen at Sunnmøre, Norway," said famous British mountain climber William C. Slingsby (1849-1929) after one of his many visits to the area.

We started our trip from the picturesque town of Ålesund and sailed to Hjørundfjorden on the last day of April. Cloudless skies and a light breeze accompanied us into the depth of the fjord. Three hours later we were securely tied up at an old ferry pier at Store Standal. There are a couple of houses there, but all you really see is the mountains that surround the 1,300-foot-deep fjord. The evening was spent dreaming of which mountain to ski down the next day.

Two experienced mountain guides were ready on the pier when we woke up.

The first summit was Kolåstinden, 4,698 feet over the fjord. The trip started with easy walking on trails before it was time to get the skis on. After five hours of climbing we finally reached the summit. The ride back down gave us a taste of what was to come in the next few days.

Day two started with light rain and the guide suggested an easy three to four-hour trip up to Fingeren (The Finger) right above the famous lodge on Standal. The ascent was fairly easy.

We rounded out the day by sailing even deeper up the fjord. On our way we almost sailed under a waterfall and then went for the stone pier at Urke in the north end of Norangsfjorden. Day three was the day to get exhausted. The trip started with the skis on the shoulder and a one and a quarter mile walk up to the first snow. Then there was a six-hour hard trek up to the summit on Slogen (5,131 feet). The last few yards to the top are very exposed and we had to carry our skis. But the reward was a magnificent view of the Sunnmøre Alps, and the downhill run right from the top. The after-ski drinks at Hotel Union Øye, built in 1891, left us breathless. The boat waited on the floating dock just a short walk from the hotel.

On day four we went for a rather easy trip up and down Skårasalen and were picked up on the beach by Explore North's dinghy. When we headed out of the Hjørundfjord we could only smile and hope to get back.

And we will, because the trip left me with so many good memories that I have decided to give it a go as a way of life. We will use our knowledge, the boat, and love for nature and sea to take people to the Norwegian mountains. You can say the trip &mdash and the boat &mdash changed my life. We went for even more sailing and mountains in the Lofoten Islands a few months later.

&mdashJon Amtrup is a Norwegian racer and voyager. He has refitted boats to sail in colder climates, provides weather routing services and has been advisor for several northern expeditions.



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