The closed ice road in Narvik, Norway.
Life Lesson number One; If a Norwegian tells you the road is icy, ITS ICY!!!
Life Lesson Number Two; “Henry the Norwegian” is one of the greatest ice road taxi drivers EVER!!
Stine (pronounced Steen-a) at the front desk of the hotel tried to warn us. There was a gondola to the very top of the mountain but it wasn’t going to run for a few days. I found a local map, and upon further study, noticed a small road that went 25% of the way up the hill. I asked her about it. “Yes” she said, “there is a road, but it’s closed for the winter and it’s very icy.” She was very kind and had been quite helpful during our stay. To be honest, it wasn’t her young age, or female status as the reason that I wasn’t too concerned about her advice. I have learned over the years that hotel staff usually nudge on the side of caution when advising guests about physical exertion, distance to landmarks, and degree of difficulty for their outdoor adventures. Wow, was Stine ever right.
She called a taxi for us and told him where we were trying to get to. When the cab showed up, and we jumped in, the first thing Henry said was “That road is closed, I can’t bring you there.” We understood, and we asked him to bring us as far as he could.
Henry flew past the ski area where we had hiked the night before. 5 minutes after that, he slowed down and I saw a gravel road. Henry turned in, and I was thinking this was great, and further up the mountain than I expected to get dropped off. Suddenly Henry punched it, and up the gravel road we flew. Even better. Another 5 minutes and I recognized an area that was at the top of one of the ski slopes. Excellent; we’ll hike from here, except Henry punched it again. This time the cab lurched forward, and suddenly we spun around 180 degrees bouncing off a snow bank and cutting back straight just for the brief second it took me to look out the window and see the STENG-CLOSED sign for the road.
Another 5 minutes went by and all I could think about was how I wished I had listened to Stine. We soon stopped and got out at some amazing cabin that looked out over the town and fjord. Henry was soon explaining how some “big rich guy from the town lived there only in the summer.” I didn’t get everything he said because all I could think about was the decent Henry would have to endure. We thanked him immensely and tipped him well.
After a long foot climb to the top, and a nice hike back down, we came to the ice road again under the cover of darkness and fog. This time we would walk down.
It wasn’t Mt Everest, but to be honest, it was one of the most treacherous roads I have ever walked down. The blue picture above was edited to show the ice and one of the many switch backs. What it really looked like was the blacker picture with the sign. We had to hike on the ice, because the snow was too deep and sinkable to get our footing on the side. At one point, another “civilian car” went past us up the hill. 10 minutes later driving down in the forward direction, the car came sliding down the ice road bouncing off the snow banks like a bobsled. Suddenly, we narrowly dived over a buried guard rail to escape its path. (It wasn’t that close, but embellishment is not a sin, and we did dive over the guard rail!).
The hike up the mountain was beautiful, exhilarating, and well worth the work; a highlight of our trip, but maybe the next time, I’ll take Stine’s advice, and walk down to the mall for some frozen yogurt instead!