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Slingsby, W.C. (1900) Mountaineering In Norway In 1899. Yorkshire Ramblers' Club Journal Volume 1 Number 2: pp107-112. Leeds: YRC

Mountaineering In Norway In 1899.

By Wm. Cecil Slingsby.

IF any proof were needed to show the ever-increasing popularity of Alpine climbing in Norway, a reference to the November number of "The Alpine Journal" will probably prove a surprise, as 18 pages are devoted to notes of new expeditions in that country which were made in 1899. This does not even exhaust the subject, as one of the best rock climbs which has as yet been made in Scandinavia is unrecorded in those pages. This was the ascent of the Smörskredtinder by Messrs. C. W. Patchell and A. B. S. Todd.

The Yorkshire Ramblers are principally interested in the following expeditions: -

Justedalsbræ District.

Udsigtenskar (about 5,500 feet) and descent from Strynskaupe by a new route.  Messrs. Wm. Cecil Slingsby, C. W. Patchell, A. B. S. Todd, and O. Erik Todd made this grand glacier pass from the farm of Sundal, intending to ascend to the high snowfield by a steep tongue of glacier on the south of Sundal sæter.  As this route was deemed to be dangerous on account of probable avalanches, the party made their way to the top of an old pass, the Sognskar, which they reached in six hours from the farm, and then turned S.W., and after a long and welcome rest and a longer tramp over the snow-covered glacier, they climbed Strynskaupe, where they were spared the necessity of building a cairn, as they found one already in possession 'of the summit.

As the youngsters desired novelty, a descent to the Lilledalsbræ was made by the steep northern ridge.  A lovely bergschrund had to be negotiated, and mighty jumps had to be made.  Then a long glissade took the party to an ice plateau above the terminal ice fall. Here, to right, to left, up and down, forward and backward, war was waged against the ice trolds, and the reward of victory was gained after 40 glorious minutes, and at 5.45 the party were welcomed by bright Alpine flowers in the gorge of Lilledal, i.e., the lile dale.

"There's the sæter, we'll have a romme kolle," said one. " Rather," said another, "I'll run on and get the milk bowls outside."

"Oh! horrors, there's a beastly cream separator, no thick curds now. Hang the advance of science."

Indeed, there was no milk until the cows were milked. The greatest luxury of the sæters, a romme kolle, or a bowl of curds 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch thick, which one used to eat with a horn spoon, cannot now be obtained, where formerly one would have been certain to meet with it.  In many places near the west coast, farmers have combined, often on a large scale, and have established dairies, where cream separators and churns turned by water power, and all the necessaries of a modern dairy, are worked daily by skilled dairymaids who have been trained scientifically for the purpose.  The milk is collected every morning, in some cases from over a hundred farmers.  It is tested once a week locally, and these tests are taken once a month to the central authority in Bergen.  The farmers who farm the highest land, that which is the richest in butter fats, are paid a higher price for their rich milk than their comrades of the lower valleys obtain for theirs.  All is worked out methodically and scientifically, and the prices paid for the milk are regulated with mathematical accuracy in harmony with the ruling market price of butter in Newcastle-on-Tyne, to which port nearly the whole proceeds of these dairies are shipped weekly. The Norsk farmers, who are about the most conservative people in the world, have thus recognised long before our Craven farmers-who, in passing, I may say have some of the richest grassland in the world-the advantages derivable from wise co-operation; they have adopted its principles and now they are thriving, which was not the case half-a-dozen years ago.  They are buying foreign grain at a cheaper rate than, with their uncertain climate, they can grow it, and in addition to dairying they are grazing cattle and sheep in the lowlands, of course to be exported to England.  Bad again for our own grazing farmers in the north of England.  Worse in some ways for old Norway. The decay of agriculture in Norway means depopulation, as was the case here in England.  The sturdiest sons and daughters must flit from the land that gave them birth. They must go, peradventure, to Dacota, Wisconsin, Iowa, or Minnesota, and by degrees lose their Norsk individuality, which is such an especial charm.  The picturesque cornmills which one sees on the banks of every river in every inhabited valley in Norway, and which are beloved by hundreds of artists and photographers, are disappearing slowly, one by one-driven away by the cream separator and the candidates for Christmas beef-ah! it is sad to think of the changes, probably for the weal of those who remain, but for the woe of those who have to go, which the western coast of Norway is now undergoing.

Why, where have we got to? The sæter at Lilledal.  The mountaineering party reached Greidung at 8.30. Here the writer found no improvement since his first visit 25 years ago.

On the top of the great snowfield, the northern end of the Justedalsbræ, the mightiest and most sublime snowfield in Europe, the views were superb.  Over three score miles away, and towering over many an intervening ridge, were the Horungtinder, whose many aiguilles, including the peerless Skagastölstind, like giants rejoicing in their noonday strength, beckoned the party, but in vain, to pay them a visit. Lodals Kaupe, a superb mountain, the one great peak of the Justedalsbræ, simply said "Try me to-morrow and I'll find you some sport, as I have done to two of you before." "All right, we will."  Vain boast!  Thore Greidung overslept himself as he had done 25 years earlier, so did the would-be valiant quartette.  They took instead a lovely and fairly well known glacier pass from Stryn to Loen; they went wrong, got into difficulties, extricated themselves, and so got into "The Alpine journal," page 608.

The exploration of the Justedalsbræ and its many subsidiary glacier arms is, even now, not yet completed.

There are corners of 10 to 20 square miles in extent still unsullied by the intrusive Alpine boot and Leeds nails.  Shall we say where these corners are to be found, or shall we leave the mountaineer, who has the knack of picking out tit-bits, to find them? Surely the latter course is the wiser?

Early in August, 1899, Mr. Patchell and Vigdal solved some knotty problems between the Tunsbergsdalsbræ and the valley of Justedal.  This occupied them three days, and they worked hard and well. Ah, it is well that the Justedalsbræ still has some secrets, and what is more, they will not be revealed for many a long year to come."

Söndmöre District

In Söndmöre, the same party who made Udsigtenskar had a good day on the Brekketindskar, a lovely pass between the Vellesæterhorn, a pretty peak climbed a few years ago by Mr. Howard Priestman's party, and the Brekketind, an aiguille climbed in 1889 by Messrs. Hastings and Slingsby.  This pass afforded the youngsters plenty of opportunities of ridding their ice-axes of any accumulation of rust which might possibly have been acquired during a week of enforced idleness.  There was a delightful little icefall to descend, and the senior member of the party, perhaps for more reasons than one, insisted upon being made a "passenger," whilst the others did the work and reaped the glory.  What a jolly glissade there was below the icefall, and how near it took the party to the top of the cliffs which bound the sombre Brunstadskar on the west!  What a horrid, dirty, wet, gully the leader chose to lead down to the snow-paved gorge below! "All's well that ends well."  The Brunstadskar was reached and the Brekketindskar was passed.  Like the immortal Oliver, the youngsters "asked for more."  The Brunstadhorn just above would satisfy them.  On, on, up grass slopes and screes, and a top was reached.  Clouds obscured the view.  A cairn was built.  Clouds still clung tenaciously around the crags.  Down, was the order of the day, and at 9.25 the party arrived at Öie.

Some days later when on the top of Raana, up which three of the party were led by Hastings who had, ten years earlier, made the first ascent of this remarkable mountain, it was clearly seen that the peak ascended from the Brunstadskar was the southern Brunstadhorn, and not the highest peak.

Miendalstind (rather under 5,000 feet).

Dr. Richards, Wm. Cecil Slingsby, and Sivert Urke as a porter, made on August 26th what was, so far as is known, the first human ascent of this very fascinating little mountain.  From the hotel at Öie many mountaineers have noticed the deeply notched ridge of this range over the shoulder of Saksa, and have seen the clouds racing one after another behind two pretty little aiguilles on the eastern face, but luckily there their interest ended, and they left the mountain alone.

The first stage in the climb was by steamboat to Sæbö; then lovely pastures and birch woods conducted the party most pleasantly to a wild amphitheatre, which is overshadowed by weirdly-shaped needles of rock such as are common in Söndmöre. The crest of an ancient moraine led to hard snows, good rocks, and to a col below, and east of, the highest peak. The steep névé at the head of a wild glacier, whose séracs fall over crags and roll almost into the sea itself, led to interesting rocks and to the lower of two tops of the mountain. From this a narrow rock rib led to the true top.

The view was inexpressibly grand, and is a worthy rival of that from the monarch Slogen himself. The Hjörund fjord, whose placid waters, 5,000 feet below, reflected the wild mountain forms on its surface, is the r most beautiful fjord in Norway, and never did it look more beautiful than in the bright sunshine of this grand August day.

With some difficulty a cairn was built on the two narrow slabs of gabbro, which stood erect on the top, and, whilst building, a skeleton was discovered a few feet below.  "Who has preceded us, and why are his bones bleaching here?" was the unexpressed thought of the party.  An examination revealed that the honour and glory of making the first ascent belonged to - a goat.  Poor fellow, did he first exhaust the sparse vegetation which grows near the summit, and then lack the courage necessary to descend by the way he had come up?  Who knows?  The way he had in all probability ascended ledge after ledge and step by step from sæter at the back could easily be made out.  The descent was made by the same route as the ascent, and was easily accomplished, and the party agreed that they had seldom had a more pleasant day on the mountains than that which they had spent on the ascent of Miendalstind.

Slogen by the N.W. face and eastern arête (5,280 feet).  On August 28th, Messrs. Hastings, Aldred B. S. Todd, Oswald Erik Todd, and Wm. Cecil Slingsby, accomplished this fine climb.  In many respects it is probably the most interesting and varied mountain expedition which has yet been made on any mountain in Söndmöre, and though for the most part it was distinctly a rock climb, yet there were ample opportunities of putting into practice lessons of snow-craft which had been learned during many years of mountaineering amongst the snowfields of Norway and in the Alps.  As this is not the place to give the minute details of the climb, it will suffice to say that it was exceptionally interesting, and that until within half-an-hour of reaching the summit success or defeat seemed to possess an equal uncertainty.