Day 2: Gjendebu to Leirvassbu, 21 km.

From Gjendebu hut right on the shore of Lake Gjende we headed upwards, first through scrubby, sparse birch and juniper forest and then onwards above the tree line into fells/fjäll: snow, mountains, a line of sticks to mark the trail, and not much else. Gradual ascent most of the time, except for one long lake (Langvatnet) and a few small ones – covered with snow, unlike yesterday’s lake – and one steeper uphill section next to a waterfall.

The morning started out cloudy, but the weather gradually got worse as the day went on. High winds and fine, stinging, icy snow made the going rough and meant that most of the time we couldn’t see anything of the presumably beautiful landscape around us. Just snow. Occasionally the clouds broke and we got beautiful views for a few brief minutes, and then it was back to blizzard again. Our lunch break was a hurried, huddled affair in the lee of a tantalizing locked hut.

I found the adverse weather perversely enjoyable. There was something oddly exhilarating about being opposed by something as implacable and impersonal as a blizzard, and still going on. The blizzard was infinitely stronger than I am, but at the same time I was stronger than the blizzard.

I could of course only stand up to the blizzard because I protected by a combination of ancient and modern technology. Wrapped in a layer of windproof Goretex all over, with a wool top, mittens, buff and hat to keep me warm, and goggles to protect my face. I’m not too fond of wearing goggles, but I’ll take them over eyecicles in my eyelashes and tears streaming down my face, any day.

The day ended at Leirvassbu hut. “Hut” is almost an insult to what was basically a hotel in the middle of wilderness. All of the huts on this year’s route are full-service huts with all kinds of comforts, including electricity, hot showers, restaurant dinners etc. But this place is one step above the rest, especially its restaurant. (Waffles! Espresso!) The decorations in traditional style stood out as well – the other huts have been much more utilitarian in style. It even had phone network coverage, so once we’d gotten out of our gear and had our showers (which are always the first priority when we reach a hut) the gang headed straight for their phones and beers.