An avalanche in retrospect. A turning point of a life. Or… learning to listen.

"THIS IS NOT GOOD!" My expedition partner’s strained voice behind me create an instant fear in my body. The ominous sound of a collapsing layer of snow spreads like a faint rumbling sigh across the slope. I have heard it before. "Stay!” The wish for the snow is the last thought that cross my mind before I feel the ground begin to move. Wavy, soft, relentless. Moving. Faster and faster. In just a few seconds the magically beautiful and quiet snow-covered face have burst into a wild inferno… The avalanche is a fact, and I am in its grip. Chanceless.


10 hours earlier, we are packed and ready for the summit of the day - Dronningkrona in Sunndalen, Norway. Skins on, food and kitchen packed, safety equipment checked, route briefed. After two days of poor weather, two summits in poor visibility, the clearing weather gives us energy. And perhaps make us a bit mor risk prone. With the weather on our side we would summit another peak on the way back, skiing it with the ocean and the sunset as backdrop. Well, this was the plan. We did not know that we were facing a vastly different day.


After initial 500 steep vertical meters through dense birch forest, we reach a valley. A fabulous place with massive mountains that rise on both sides of us. Our scouted route goes up on the north side, up a 30-degree face. Avalanche danger is 3, so we are on our guard. Chooses the route with care, and checks snow profile and stability continuously during the week. We stop for lunch at 1 pm, just below Dronningkrona's long, magnificent top ridge. With sea views and shelter from the slope, we enjoy food and coffee, and find that the forecast seems to turn to our favor. "This could be one of those summits that we never will forget." I think to myself. That thought will turn painfully right in about six hours.


The clearing weather give us energy, and we move on. Now the group spreads out a bit. The ridge is completely safe to walk, and with the summit in sight, and the sea as a backdrop behind me, I am in that state of total presence that summit hikes often provide. A feeling of being one with everything, where time, space and ego completely disappear. Soon I'm on my way up to Dronningkrona's top ridge, with a tantalizing, euphoric feeling of gratitude in my body.

We scout the way down while the group gathers. If we go downhill from here we will have time for our sunset summit as well.


The ride down to the far end of the valley we entered 4 hrs earlier is amazing. Steep, spectacular and demanding. In perfect snow. In magic surroundings of snow, ice, rock and ocean. But all the way, there is a tension in my gut. As if I already feel that this is not an ordinary day.


We regroup in the valley and brief the planned route to the “sunset summit”. When we reach the ridge we planned for ascent, but we can’t make it that way. Mistake 1: we haven’t checked that all team has equipment for every possible condition. Only half the team has crampons, and the ridge is steep and rocky. Mistake 2 of the day.: We don’t tdo a joint replanning, and new risk assessment. We keep going, ending up traversing uphill a 25 degree face. Mistake 3 of the day.: We don’t do a proper check of the map to find out how steep the face will get. We will soon be traversing uphill, on the steepest face of the mountain. A concave turning into a convex. Traversing uphill a steep convex. A big NO for every ski mountaineer. And we keep going, I am following as second man ascending. Mistake 4 of the day.: We don’t hold proper distances on the face, long times all being exposed to a possible avalanche should the face come off. And I repeatedly hear the mountain call me. “You should not be here. Go the ridge over there, with visible rocks”. Mistake 5 of the day.: I don’t listen to the mountain. And I always do. Have always done. Often, this is where I receive important guidance. In Morocco, I got guidance on how to ascend safely, and an alert that made us avoid a fatal fall. Previous years in Norway, I got guidance to navigate in white out. Safely down. But, today. I don’t. And we keep going. Higher and higher, on a face soon to be steep convex.


The sudden sound like distant thunder. "THIS IS NOT GOOD!" My expeditions partner’s strained voice behind me create an instant fear in my body. The ominous sound of a collapsing layer of snow spreads like a faint rumbling sigh across the slope. I have heard it before. "Stay!” The wish to the snow is the last thought that cross my mind before I feel the ground begin to move. Wavy, soft, relentless. Moving. Faster and faster. In just a few seconds the magically beautiful and quiet snow-covered face have burst into a wild, white inferno… The avalanche is a fact, and I am in its grip. Chanceless.

“Stay on your feet” I think, and just seconds later I am thrown off my feet. I am surrounded by tumbling snow and ice, and my full attention is on staying upright, in my seated position. The snow gives no support. Like water. Soft. And at the same time, as tumbling ice punching me. Pushing me around. The experience is of double nature. Perilous, frightening and fierce. A wild inferno tearing my body as a leave in the autumn storm. And at the same time smooth, almost caressing, and inherently beautiful. A white, bright, totally silent, gentle journey down the face of a big mountain. As if I am floating, held in mother nature’s own soft, white down.

If I get buried, this may well be the last ride of my life. I know that. And I have all reasons to believe that all five expedition members may be caught in the big slide. But I am still totally calm. “The time has not come. You’re not done here. Not yet.” And I am totally focused. Weirdly enough, having an almost joyful ride in this white inferno.


I don’t know for how long it lasts. 30 seconds or 30 minutes would both be reasonable from my experience. I really cannot tell. But just as I feel myself being dragged deeper in the avalanche, and the snow start to tumble over my head, I feel the movement slowing down. I have remained seated for 600 meters, and when stopped, I am buried up to my chest in snow. My head is covered in white dust, and blocks of snow, and I am relieved that the wild ride is over. A short, but heartfelt thank you to nature for sparing my life, my full attention now turns to the team. And I manage to dig myself out. Marking the spot with a standing ski, to be able to get back later and dig up my other ski and poles to be equipped for the ride down.


Looking out over the white devastation, I see a frozen avalanche field 150m wide and 900 m tall (official figures from the police). At first I don’t see anyone. My first thought is: “I will never be able to find and rescue 4 people in a field this big…” But after a minute one of the crew show 50 m above me. Also buried to his chest, he has now dug himself out. And two more appears, as tiny dots 600 m up the slope. My hopes are rising, as I wait for the last guy to show. But he doesn’t. And we realize that now is the situation we have practiced for 20 years. To locate and save the life of one of us, buried in the snow.


I immediately call the police for mountain rescue, as we switch our transceivers to search mode. “Beep goddamit. Beep!” The stress is rising with every minute passing. We know this is a fight with time. Statistically, death rates sky rocket after 15 minutes. We carefully search the snow field, hunting for a signal. It takes us almost 20 minutes to locate him. We know that is too long. We dig. Furious and fast. Our hearts beating. What will we meet? Life, injury, death?

His face is light blue when we uncover it from snow and ice. For a second or two, all is still. And we start to believe that he is dead. The world fades into despair. Then, as a miracle, he opens his eyes. “Wow, you were fast…” His first, faint words are soothing. The gratitude I feel seeing his eyes, hearing his voice is incomparable to anything. We dig as fast as we can to get him out of the snow. And when he is finally out, we try to get him warm until the rescue helicopter arrives. Hearing the helicopter is like hearing the end of a nightmare approaching. The soothing sound of safety for our friend.

We regroup in the valley and brief the planned route to the “sunset summit”. When we reach the ridge we planned for ascent, but we can’t make it that way. Mistake 1: we haven’t checked that all team has equipment for every possible condition. Only half the team has crampons, and the ridge is steep and rocky. Mistake 2 of the day.: We don’t tdo a joint replanning, and new risk assessment. We keep going, ending up traversing uphill a 25 degree face. Mistake 3 of the day.: We don’t do a proper check of the map to find out how steep the face will get. We will soon be traversing uphill, on the steepest face of the mountain. A concave turning into a convex. Traversing uphill a steep convex. A big NO for every ski mountaineer. And we keep going, I am following as second man ascending. Mistake 4 of the day.: We don’t hold proper distances on the face, long times all being exposed to a possible avalanche should the face come off. And I repeatedly hear the mountain call me. “You should not be here. Go the ridge over there, with visible rocks”. Mistake 5 of the day.: I don’t listen to the mountain. And I always do. Have always done. Often, this is where I receive important guidance. In Morocco, I got guidance on how to ascend safely, and an alert that made us avoid a fatal fall. Previous years in Norway, I got guidance to navigate in white out. Safely down. But, today. I don’t. And we keep going. Higher and higher, on a face soon to be steep convex.


The sudden sound like distant thunder. "THIS IS NOT GOOD!" My expeditions partner’s strained voice behind me create an instant fear in my body. The ominous sound of a collapsing layer of snow spreads like a faint rumbling sigh across the slope. I have heard it before. "Stay!” The wish to the snow is the last thought that cross my mind before I feel the ground begin to move. Wavy, soft, relentless. Moving. Faster and faster. In just a few seconds the magically beautiful and quiet snow-covered face have burst into a wild, white inferno… The avalanche is a fact, and I am in its grip. Chanceless.

“Stay on your feet” I think, and just seconds later I am thrown off my feet. I am surrounded by tumbling snow and ice, and my full attention is on staying upright, in my seated position. The snow gives no support. Like water. Soft. And at the same time, as tumbling ice punching me. Pushing me around. The experience is of double nature. Perilous, frightening and fierce. A wild inferno tearing my body as a leave in the autumn storm. And at the same time smooth, almost caressing, and inherently beautiful. A white, bright, totally silent, gentle journey down the face of a big mountain. As if I am floating, held in mother nature’s own soft, white down.

If I get buried, this may well be the last ride of my life. I know that. And I have all reasons to believe that all five expedition members may be caught in the big slide. But I am still totally calm. “The time has not come. You’re not done here. Not yet.” And I am totally focused. Weirdly enough, having an almost joyful ride in this white inferno.


I don’t know for how long it lasts. 30 seconds or 30 minutes would both be reasonable from my experience. I really cannot tell. But just as I feel myself being dragged deeper in the avalanche, and the snow start to tumble over my head, I feel the movement slowing down. I have remained seated for 600 meters, and when stopped, I am buried up to my chest in snow. My head is covered in white dust, and blocks of snow, and I am relieved that the wild ride is over. A short, but heartfelt thank you to nature for sparing my life, my full attention now turns to the team. And I manage to dig myself out. Marking the spot with a standing ski, to be able to get back later and dig up my other ski and poles to be equipped for the ride down.


Looking out over the white devastation, I see a frozen avalanche field 150m wide and 900 m tall (official figures from the police). At first I don’t see anyone. My first thought is: “I will never be able to find and rescue 4 people in a field this big…” But after a minute one of the crew show 50 m above me. Also buried to his chest, he has now dug himself out. And two more appears, as tiny dots 600 m up the slope. My hopes are rising, as I wait for the last guy to show. But he doesn’t. And we realize that now is the situation we have practiced for 20 years. To locate and save the life of one of us, buried in the snow.


I immediately call the police for mountain rescue, as we switch our transceivers to search mode. “Beep goddamit. Beep!” The stress is rising with every minute passing. We know this is a fight with time. Statistically, death rates sky rocket after 15 minutes. We carefully search the snow field, hunting for a signal. It takes us almost 20 minutes to locate him. We know that is too long. We dig. Furious and fast. Our hearts beating. What will we meet? Life, injury, death?

His face is light blue when we uncover it from snow and ice. For a second or two, all is still. And we start to believe that he is dead. The world fades into despair. Then, as a miracle, he opens his eyes. “Wow, you were fast…” His first, faint words are soothing. The gratitude I feel seeing his eyes, hearing his voice is incomparable to anything. We dig as fast as we can to get him out of the snow. And when he is finally out, we try to get him warm until the rescue helicopter arrives. Hearing the helicopter is like hearing the end of a nightmare approaching. The soothing sound of safety for our friend.



4 visningar0 kommentarer

Senaste inlägg

Visa alla