BD athlete Antte Lauhamaa tele skiing in the Norwegian backcountry
Black Diamond athlete Antte Lauhamaa is a tele ripper from Finland and travels throughout Europe each season, hunting for the goods. He set off earlier this winter on just such a mission, and began his 2011/12 ski season in Norway at an inspiring above-the-Arctic-Circle locale. Below is his report and photos from Petri Kovalainen.
The start for the winter in Scandinavia has been challenging; ski resorts around have been reporting the lack of snow and warm temperatures. Only a few ski resorts in Scandinavia got their slopes open until the end of November. In Lyngen, where I usually start my season, the possibility to find good skiing has been more than challenging. This is a result of global warming; clear enough to be seen for everyone.
I think everyone should watch All.I.Can really closely and think what they can do more for the problem of global warming. Personally I find All.I.Can as a homage for skiing in our beautiful planet.
Due to the lack of snow, my usual start of the season had to be delayed until the December. Photographer Petri Kovalainen and I had been scouting Jiehkkevárri area near the Lyngen peninsula all year without really having the possibility to go and see how the skiing there really is. So, when we started to plan our start of the season, it was first thing that came in my mind.
[Jiehkkevárri (1833 m). The summit is at the upper right]
Jiehkkevárri is the highest peak in the Lyngen area, reaching 1833 meters above the sea level. Jiehkkevárri gets its name from the indigenous Sami language, meaning “The glacier mountain”. So, as the name tells, it is surrounded by great glaciers and, yes, awesome skiing. Although being close to the local settlement, it produces a real experience of wilderness. Some of its features are great skiable couloirs that usually gather enough snow even when there is a lack of snow.
We planned to ski the couloir that runs down a few hundred meters northwest from the top of Jiehkkevárri. I had seen pictures from the locals hiking it up and heard them telling that the average angle for the couloir would be around 40 – 45 degrees with 900 meters vertical. In good conditions that would be perfectly skiable.
The beauty of the early season skiing above the Arctic Circle is a challenge; In December the daylight in the arctic lasts about six hours. In order to deal with the darkness, we decided to take the tent and to spend a night closer to the place we were heading. In my estimations, I was counting that we would have to walk up to 400 meters elevation, from where we could approach by skiing. The weather wasn’t on our side however—the early morning start proved the forecasts right, it was raining.
[Moonshine over Jiehkkevárri]
It took five hours us to get up to 400 meters. After having a good night sleep we woke up to the reality that there was not enough snow to skin up to the glacier. We decided to give it a good try however and started to approach by carrying the skis. During the approach I found out that the rain and the wind from yesterday had made the snowpack unstable—I witnessed two avalanches coming down from the direction we were heading. Besides that, carrying the skis took more time than expected, so when we hadn’t got to the start of the couloir by midday I made the decision to back off. I got some fine turns in the glacier anyways and had a look for the most amazing ice cave I’ve ever seen.
Next day we returned back to our accommodation at Sörheim Brygge in Lyngseidet. Great accommodation along the seaside with sauna was a reward for spending two nights in the tent. For the next day we decided to give a try to Tamok valley.
Tamok proved to stand for its reputation providing us good skiing with snow enough to ski from bottom to up. On second day in Tamok, I skied a couloir named Öksehögget (“The axe scar”), a 500 meters, vertical, beautiful couloir with average of 40 degrees. The snow was firm but perfect to ski, a final reward for the slight set back of Jiehkkevárri.
[Öksehögget—steep and dark]
The skiing for me is not about accomplishment. It’s about listening of nature and adapting to the conditions. This was another perfect skiing trip—the reason why I’m skiing.