As I said when I began to tell this adventure, it was filled with just as many dangers and hardships as much as any I have since been in the polar regions. It was a part of my training to be a polar explorer. The training proved to be harder than the actual work, and it remained almost at putting an end to my path, before it was yet begun


The words above are taken from Roald Amundsen‘s (the Norwegian gent who beat Scott to the pole in December 1911) account of an early training expedition in 1896 (1). The area in which Amundsen refers to, which was to thwart him once, and nearly kill him on the second attempt – is known as the Hardangervidda. The Hardangervidda is a high mountain plateau located North West of Oslo, and only a few hours away by train. It’s huge, about 2,500 square miles, is the largest eroded plain in Europe, and is home to one of Norway’s largest glaciers the Hardangerjokulen.

Well that’s all very nice to know, but why have I chosen the Hardanger as my target for 2017? When looking at locations over this Summer I had in mind a number of criteria. Namely to go somewhere:

  • I haven’t been before
  • That is easily accessible by public transport, and doesn’t require expensive additional travel to get to the start
  • That is able to recreate ‘polar’ conditions
  • That is recognised as a training ground for ‘polar’ expeditions
  • That will give enough interest for a week long expedition
  • That is affordable enough to go solo

I initially settled on Iceland, and an attempt at the Sprengisander Traverse (right up the middle of Iceland), but quickly found that pickup travel was incredibly expensive at the end point (well over £500 for a monster truck to pick me up) due to the harsh volcanic landscape that had to be crossed. A little deflated I began to look for other options, such as Svalbard (too expensive), the Kings Trail Sweden (didn’t look exciting enough) and lastly Hardanger. I’d heard that in recent years the Hardanger had not been particularly cold during the Spring. However on closer inspection of historical weather data using it looked to be okay (see example in Figure 1 below), and importantly as I was to later find out ticked out all of the boxes above.


Figure 1. Historical Hardangervidda Weather Data from April 2016

I set about contacting a number of polar guides who work in Norway to get some more information on in country logistics and to find out more about the utility of the plateau in recreating ‘polar’conditions. Without having my own contacts in country, or experience of organising a trip there, it has been extremely helpful to get some expert help. In addition, whilst I have most of the kit I need, I don’t yet own a sled, ski’s or boots (these are pretty pricey if you want to get the Gucci stuff), so renting these has also been a priority. After to speaking to a variety of folks, some more helpful than others, I had a really positive dialogue with Carl Alvey at Expeditions 365. Carl, an experienced polar guide, and Hannah McKeand, a polar record breaker, have set up a guiding/training business in Haugastol, on the edge of the plateau. In short Carl sold the area to me – it is cold enough, you can get remote enough to feel ‘out there’, it’s accessible and cheap, and it has easily enough to keep me interested for a week, winner!

Thanks to Expedition 365 I now have all the kit sorted, a base to start and finish, and plans for a route around the plateau. As of today I’m all paid up, my holiday time is booked off, and physical training has started. The first steps on my polar apprenticeship are well on their way. I hope it is as exciting and as hard as Amundsen found it to be well over 100 years ago…




About the Author Ash Routen

I’m a postdoctoral exercise scientist by day, and cold expedition adventurer (for want of a better term) and outdoors and health writer by night. I’m based in Leicester in the UK, but I also spend considerable time in Cambridge where my partner lives. To find out more about me, visit my about page or take a look at my published writing.

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