Saturday, December 12, 2009

Deep Survival and Decisions on the Dovrefjell

July 19, 2009

In fact I’ve seen snow on North facing slopes of high ridge lines twice in the past three days. I climb up to those elevations—above tree line—early in my day tomorrow. I’m used to this by now: Every long walk has its supreme challenge. In Spain, on the Camino, it’s the hot, arid “Meseta”. On the Appalachian Trail, it’s the successive “Presidential Range” peaks of Franconia Ridge in the White Mountains. You spend days worrying about the prospects that these challenges present. Early tomorrow morning, in just three short kilometers, I climb hundreds of meters on top of those I’ve already scaled to go above tree line for the first time on the Dovrefjell. It’s unnerving. What is fording cold Norwegian mountain streams like? Boots on, you get your feet wet. I can’t see how it will matter. With rain seventeen of my now nineteen pilgrim days, my feet have been wet more often than not. Will rock cairn way marks be dependably sufficient? One hopes so—I have no compass. Cloud down on the ground is likely. “Deep Survival”, a book about common elements of survival feats has this pithy advice: “Be here now!” As in be alive in the very moment. Decisions made keenly attuned to circumstances succeed. Life on that edge is rich. I’m at Budsjord Gard tonight, a classic 14th century mountain farm. I have a clean, cozy, well furnished log cabin six bunk pilgrims’ “hytte” all to myself. Henry David Thoreau scarcely had more on Walden Pond. I have a fire crackling in my own wood stove drying wet gear for tomorrow’s certain showers. I’m fortified by a late afternoon “middag” meal eaten in the same serving room with the merrily conversing farm family and help—seven of nine of them women. I have no idea what the main course was—something made with sour milk and looking like a cross between mashed potatoes and whale blubber. “Just what you need,” said the cook, “Lot’s of fat!”

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