The Untold Story of Norway's Twisted Trails
A gripping story of a Norwegian expedition by photographer Emma Hall, describing an adventure where things don't always go to plan.
Arriving in Norway, our original plan of covering 100 miles on foot was no longer an option. The weather had changed and locals warned us not to follow through. Jamie, with his slender body and kind eyes, had been preparing the route for months in advance. He remained quiet, but I could tell this small defeat was much bigger for him. I watched as Ian curved his thumb and finger around the corners of his jaw, his facial expression dropping to a look of disappointment. We spent the day huddled around the small computer at the hostel. Ian’s dark eyes were constantly looking for the next place his feet would take him so I had no doubt we would find a solution. Our elbows ached from resting on them and our eyes were falling, hoping for sleep. After careful deliberation, the expedition was split into two different trips and we would begin our journey the next morning.
Norway was kind to us the first two days, accompanying our steps with sunshine and a small breeze. The trail lead us to our first campsite on a cliff edge overlooking the water. I yearned for my feet to stretch, to feel the same freedoms my fingers did, but that would only happen at the end of the day. My stomach was an empty pit, a battle I never seemed to win no matter how much food I delighted in. It was twenty-four hour daylight in Norway, which made it that much harder to get a few hours of sleep. That first night I fell asleep to bells clanging around the necks of goats. It was during our third day when the rain began to pelt and the mud settled in our boots. We were hiking for about eight hours each day, our feet begging us to slow down and rest. Slung on the front of my backpack, my camera anxiously waited to be focused. The rain soaked my wool socks and I could hear them squish with every step. I wanted nothing more than to have dry clothes and the shelter of my green tent.
As the sun peaked that morning, I woke to moss tangled in my matted hair. The air begun to feel dry, and we filled our water bladders in the nearby lake. My shoulders were slowly becoming friends with my heavy pack, but that didn’t stop the ache which spread through them at the end of each day. We didn’t encounter other people until our fifth day when they gave us information about a cabin at the top of the mountain. Jamie’s eyes lit up at the thought of shelter. This was motivation for us to keep climbing, as we hadn’t slept in a real bed since we began. We did not expect much from it; a couple beds and a roof, still our hopes were high. Soon after, we began our ascent up the rock. The trail lead us through canopies of trees and along a lake side; tree roots covered the ground like a rug as our feet stumbled through them. A towering waterfall came into view, raging against the quiet clouds and I was quickly entranced. We made our way up, our packs feeling heavier as our incline became steeper. Using rusted chains as our guide up a rocky trail, we climbed until the clouds greeted our arrival, where a clear glacial lake reflected the view we would see for the next few miles. This was the first time we had come across more than a single patch of snow.
We followed the trail over small hills, watched as reindeer pranced away from us, and felt the slight breeze brush our cheeks. Without any warning, the weather changed to rain and the wind blew. The frosted mountain tops pleaded for the attention of my camera, making me stop every few feet for a picture, despite my urgency for shelter. A slight panic occupied our thoughts when the trail was no longer marked, the reindeer disappeared, and the breeze rolled into a fog. Giving us only about 30 feet of visibility, our determination to get to the cabin grew stronger. With Ian leading, me in the middle, and Jamie taking up the back, we were making good time. My hood was up trying to protect my ears from the wind when I heard a muffled call for help. I paused, believing I had imagined it. A second call for help convinced me I was no longer imagining things. I yelled at Ian, and ran to find Jamie had fallen through the snow drift. His body was stuck under the rock and ice; two forces of nature going against each other to create a small tragedy. I could hear the rushing of the water below the snow drifts. I reached out my pole for him to grab onto and reassured him he was okay, though I wasn't sure if that was the truth. Adrenaline rushing, I felt my senses come alive, observing the snow crunch between Jamie's finger tips as he grasped for leverage. I glanced up to see Ian running over and demand I start taking pictures. He ran back over the snow and quickly knelt down, grabbing onto Jamie's backpack. I could see the veins of Ian's hand protrude as they struggled to lift him. I was hit with the sudden realisation that the weight of both their lives were heavier than anything I was carrying. I was now making decisions about what to do if Ian had fallen through, all while clicking my shutter…
Words & Photography: Emma Hall