I manage an early morning wake up, watched by two adorable cats who I definitely didn’t secretly think would conspire to pop my inflatable mattress in the night. The beautiful Lustrafjord is a sea of ever-shifting mist, and I dashed to get my camera set up before the harsh light of day ruins it all, as it is wont to do. After a quick breakfast and flurry of goodbyes (and a gift of strawberries which I have absolutely no room for but accept anyway), I was on my way to the Sognefjellet, the highest mountain pass in Norway, and indeed, all of Northern Europe. My late night shortcut on the Aurlandsfjellet had left me feeling that I had cheated myself in some way, so despite the impressive qualifications, I was looking forward to seeing if I was strong enough to complete the entire 1434 metre climb in a single ride.
As the fjord ran into a dead end and vanished behind me, I found myself peering into the mishmash of mountains looming overhead, trying to spot the telltale zig-zags carved into the side of the mountain like a gigantic and very environmentally irresponsible tattoo. It was another 5 kilometres before the first turn revealed itself at the edge of a small village, and once more I found myself cursing the sunny day, although mostly on the zigs as the zags tended to be in the shade. The road was narrow, and traffic quite heavy as caravan after caravan wheezed past me. Occasionally two caravans would meet each other and spend 5 minutes slowly inching past each other, one trying to avoid scratching the body work on the rocky mountain edge, and the other trying to avoid slipping off the edge and killing their entire family. You would think one of these would take priority over the other, but you would be wrong.
A dozen zig-zags in the sun gave up and the clouds moved in to douse me in pleasant rain. I was cooling down a little, but the going was tough, and the end nowhere in sight. I was still in the trees and while the valley behind me was definitely distant and quite far down, I had no way of knowing how much farther I had to go. Well, except for going, which is what I did.
After many hours of slow rolling I found signs of civilization in the form of a hotel. As I approached it the treeline fell away behind me and revealed a sweeping panorama of jagged mountain peaks. The sun chose this moment to come out for a moment so I wasted no time in taking a few snapshots before taking a short lunch break at the hotel.
My gift strawberries devoured, I set off into a bald alpine terrain until the hotel disappears beneath me. The zig-zags finally end, and with them the ceaseless climbing also… ceases. Instead the road straightened and started following the terrain, dipping wildly as it traversed the pass. As I swept past a large glacial lake, I spotted a photographer at a nice rest stop and decided to say hello. He turned out to be a local mountain guide, and we chatted while admiring the mountain view before us. As we chatted away, we both noticed a man frantically traversing the large rocks next to the road below us. We couldn’t work out what he was doing. Drone hunting, as it turned out. He approached us and asked if we had seen a drone crash land nearby. He had been in the process of shooting a video of himself driving up the road when his drone decided to revolt and vanished into thin air. He had a rough idea of its flight path and had spent the last half hour slowly combing the roadside. We joined in the hunt, and amazingly found the thing hiding deep inside a tiny crevice in the rocks. It was relatively unharmed and was completely unashamed regarding its traitorous actions.
As the drone man left, a massive dark cloud suddenly rolled over the mountain and deep into the valley. We looked at its trajectory anxiously but it seemed to sweep by our very noses, with barely a trickle hitting us while everything below was drenched in rain and rainbows.
I didn’t want to press my luck so I set off and reached the apex of the climb just in time for a vibrant sunset to sneak in through the clouds. I set up camp nearby and fell asleep to the sight of the light slowly draining from the snowy mountain peaks surrounding me.