Sunday, July 5, 2009

Dangerous mountains

During my time in the army, Mother Nature has made its powerful impression on me on two occasions in particular. On one of them, the situation came inevitable upon us, while on the other occasion we brought the situation upon ourselves. One of the events were in a military context, the other was in our spare time. One was in the black night; one was under the midnight sun. But they both included a mountain.

Our sight was even worse than thisI was with my squad at the Cold Response military exercise, and we were on the very top of a big, Norwegian mountain when a snowstorm suddenly occurred. It eventually became slightly disturbing to our peace of mind; the sight was limited to a few feet when using a flashlight, and I was at observation post more than 300 metres away from the tent. By pure luck, I had bought two simple walkie-talkies just before the exercise, so we could actually communicate through the storm. A tremendously brave teammate came out with a flashlight, which lit up just enough for me to navigate in the right direction. If he hadn’t done so, the trip to the tent could have been fatal; we were on an average steep mountain after all.

We were both somewhat distressed when we finally found the tent, after a couple of everlasting minutes moving undetermined around in the storm in what we assumed was the right direction. His steps were impossible to retrace – the snow had already covered them. Unwise as we were, we didn’t even move together (we didn’t decide to withdraw the observation post before I had found the tent and informed the sergeant about the disadvantageous weather conditions).

Such an experience ought to change you. My teammate became sort of paranoid, and began waking up at night in the belief that something evil and fatal was about to happen. Maybe it wasn’t the healthiest reaction; but it sure was healthier than mine. My subconsciousness had painted the event in amusing colours, making me unable to realise the gravity of it.

Suddenly it was more dangerous to look down than it was to move upIt wasn’t until recently, actually, that I got to know how I should have felt. I should have been afraid – terrified. I should have been almost as terrified as I got when a group of us soldiers ascended a local mountain called “Hattavarri.” We hadn’t assumed that the mountain would be so steep; suddenly it was more dangerous to look down than it was to move up. Only the sight down the mountain could make one faint, fall and die. All our attempts to be wise and calm ended up in some kind of hysteria. And when it finally became my turn to go mental over the frightening situation, I began running as fast as possible to a place as flat as possible, smashing my boots into the snow to make small steps in the icy crust. I just went on. As it turned out, I found the flat plateau just beneath the very top, and we could all calm down for like – half an hour, before we dared to think reasonably again. I spent the time calling friends and family, asking them to fight with me in prayer.

We did find a safer route down. We even took some pictures before we left.

The top of Hattavarri
Read (and see) more:
Flickr: Kristian Pletten
Tipskey: Mountain hiking tips
How stuff works: 10 ways to survive a snowstorm

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