Beating the crowds in the Lofotens – or not, as well as weather wisdom

Panorama - all above treeline - just 100 meters off the sea
Panorama – all above treeline – just 100 meters off the sea

After a night spent playing Cards Against Humanity – we all were ready to get back out into the good snow that the Lofotens were offering us. We weren’t going to have quite as much luck with the weather today – but we didn’t know that yet…. Still – as an interesting aside – those games of Cards Against Humanity provided no end of insight into the various mentality differences present on the trip – and a combination of incredulousness and laughter. For anyone out there who’s not familiar with the game – its a card game, currently a hot item in the US, featuring cards with various chopped up phrases or bits of phrases or names on them. The object of the game is to form sentences or statements using these phrases by adding them to a “starting phrase” drawn at the begining of the round. At the end of a round – everyone has provided what they believe to be their “best” answer – and the person playing whose turn it is decides which of the answers they like best. As you can see – the game is very open-ended, and what consitutes a “good” answer is completely subjective. This leads to lots of laughter and conversation – which is exactly what a good game is supposed to do. Its a blast and a good choice for games to take on a hut trip – as it is small like a deck of cards – with no bits and bobs to play like dice. During the course of our games we discovered that the Germans were generally interested in making locical and “correct” statements – quite often having to be extremely clever to do so – while the Americans were chiefly interested in expressing statements which are taboo or similarly politically incorrect. I can’t say I was particularly surprized – I’ve learned a lot about the Germans living with them for 15 years…. What DID surprize was the coolness with which the Germans responded to genuinely teeth-sucking themes. Statements such as “When I visit my grandmother I….. “make sure to take a condom.” were greeted with jaw-dropping by the Amis – but the Germans calmly nodded and said: “yes – that is a good use for that card. Can you pass me the beer?” No emotion. None. Next hand.

Jens - this guy could talk about rim-jobs with the pope and not even stutter.
Jens – this guy could talk about rim-jobs with the pope and not even stutter.

Tyler and Kortney – the only Americans in the group who still live there, spent the next days continually revisiting this topic. One the one hand – the Germans showed no interest in CREATING cawdy statements – but on the other – could talk about HORRIBLE subjects without so much as blushing. So – back to skiing. We took off under cloudy skies for a tour near Torskmannen – one of the more popular tours in the Lofotens. We had chosen not to go to Torskmannen though precisely because it gets quite a bit of traffic and we had hoped to get to a more secluded spot in the area. All around Torskmannen are some nice peaks. To get there, you drive toward the mainland from Svolvaer, about 20 minutes or so. There is a ninety degree turn to the right in the road with a smaller road branching off to the left – and you’ll want to take this left turn. It is right after a bridge crossing a small fjord – and there is usually a cute little wooden fishing boat moored on a buoy in that fjord with a tiny little pilot house. The road you take to the left is where the power station is – and people gernerally park by the powerstation to go up Torskmannen. (Don’t block the road or the entrance!) Poke around to find other spots – just open your eyes!

this is the boat you’re looking for

Anyway – our secret spot was mobbed! A group of twelve South-Tyrolians and their guide was skinning up when we arrvied – but we decided to get at it anyway. In true Euro-Dick style they spent most of the uptrack skinning beside us – neither passing nor falling back – just tracking shit up and making us feel like a problem. Eventually we took a break and let them have it. The snow was sketchy in spots. There was some wind-blown that was quite nice, but then you’d have patches of wind-affected and even bare ice in sections. We all knew that the ride down was going to be less than magazine-perfect pow – but as we topped the ridge – the weather hit like a bomb. Within a minute – the wind picked up, and when I dropped my pole, I had to dive after it! Such was the wind on that little ridge. Then the snow and clouds came – and we were in a whiteout, with no visibility and very uncomfortable. We had intended to continue on, into a small depression and further climbing to a peak, skiing down the other side and then skinning back up to the ridge on which we were standing and on out home. But the weather was so bad – that even after waiting it out for about ten minutes, we called it. Waiting just a few minutes in the Lofotens can make a big dfference – as often, the weather moves in and out in waves. Five minutes of heavy snow and crap – five minutes of sun. This can put a big burden on your outerwear, of course, as it has to handle everything, but rarely is the weather constantly bad. If you take a look at the weather patterns which affect the Lofotens – you can see why. They sit at the polar confluence zone – meaning this is the band where polar air mixes with temperate air. All this difference makes for turbulance, and alternating bands of snow, rain, clouds, sun, and everything. They roll in all day long, and rarely are the bands very wide – so your weather changes constantly. lofotens pic Of course – when the winds are blowing from the north-west, that means they are more polar in nature, and they tend to have less moisture in them, so any precipitation you do have is lighter, colder, and less long-lived. Should the winds be coming from the south-west – they are more temperate – bringing more moisture, and often heavy cloud. If you get these winds – it is more likely that the weather you get will stay longer – so it makes sense to pay attension to this when deciding if you want call it a day in the islands. During a small break in the clouds – we saw that group of Italians trying to come back down the slope beyond the ridge we had intended to go up as well. What a junkshow. The group was far too large for one guide (a trend I’ve seen more and more) and in the whiteout everyone had become separated. They were scattered all about the hill, with many having skied too far down the slope to return to the ridge we were standing on without skinning back up. Some were as far below as 150 meters! Worse yet – when the clouds lifted – they all thought better of their decsion, turning around en masse to try and keep climbing to their original goal of the peak. Of course – 5 minutes later the clouds were back, and we could hear them shouting to each other trying to reform the group and go back down to the ridge. Again. We made the best of it and took our window to make some turns down the face we had come up – and as we did, we got pretty good visibility and a few spots of pow. It was good – but the best part was getting out of that cold, biting wind.

Tyler - getting out of the wind - and into your heart, baby.
Tyler – getting out of the wind – and into your heart, baby.

We found a spot near the bottom and grabbed a bite to eat – wondering still if the weather would clear and we could go back up for another pass. Things weren’t looking good though, and the cold and the hot waffles waiting back at the lodge made the decision to cut the day short pretty easy.

getting out while the gettins good
getting out while the gettins good

Before we went though – we scored some Gnar points by going in for some extreme pole-wacking.

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