Threat: Dangerous animals (Brown bear? Elk? Cows? Viper? Ticks!)
Probability: Very low (except ticks). The only really dangerous wild animal in Norway is the polar bear, and there are no polar bears in mainland Norway.
Consequences: The wild animals in mainland Norway are too afraid of humans to be a real threat. If I should be so lucky as to see a brown bear, a wolf, a lynx or a Wolverine, that would be a big moment! They are very rare and shy, and I would be very happy just to see their traces!
Norwegian elk is less aggressive than North American ones, but they are quite common and attacks do occur. So I will keep my distance and enjoy the sight.
There is only one venomous viper; the common European viper. Its bites are not often serious and rarely deadly – I have actually been bitten once, my leg was swollen for two days, but then it went over. I do take my precautions, though, and wear long trousers in high vegetation. My hiking boots are also a good protection. If I am bitten, I will stop walking for the day, and call 112 for help (with my satellite phone) if I feel physically uncomfortable.
Maybe the tiny ticks are the creatures I am most concerned of. They are common from Sør-Trøndelag and south on and can spread diseases like Lyme disease and Tick-borne encephalitis. The long trousers are a helpful barrier, and I will also check my body before I go to bed. The best way to avoid a tick-borne infection is to remove the tick within 24 hours of attachments.
Threat: Getting lost
Probability: Low to moderate
Consequences: It can be very dangerous to get lost in the wild without proper clothing or equipment. But my rucksack is packed for several months of wildlife so I can handle a few nights outdoors. If I`m lost in one of the waste national parks, I could get out of food, though, but I don`t consider this as a life threatening issue.
The real dangers are if I`m trapped or injured. I`ve been trapped a few times before; climbing up a steep scree and then not being able to get neither up or down. So far I`ve always managed to get out of it some way or another, but that`s more due to luck than experience. And I`ve also got lost in a talus, where my map wasn`t for much help. The boulders were just too big to get around!
Or if I break a leg – that could be fatal if I`m alone and not able to get in touch with anyone.
Prevention: As a rule, I use a map and a compass for navigation. But I also bring my GPS where I can get the UTM-coordinates, I have a GPS app on my mobile, and I have a satellite phone for emergencies. And I do bring extra batteries for my GPS, and a power bank for my satellite phone and my Android). So I think the risk of getting seriously lost, is pretty low.
If there is a dense fog, I might just have to camp and wait for better conditions. Then I cannot orientate from the map, and the GPS doesn`t warn me about the smaller plunges.
I start my hike in May when the read marking probably is covered with snow. Then, of course, the orientation is more challenging.
Threat: Crossing rivers
Probability: Hiking from North Cape to Lindesnes involves rivers to be crossed. I start my hike in May when the snow is melting. Small streams might rise to rivers, and what seems like an easy crossing on the map, could be a hazardous thing to do when the waterways are flooding. The water is icy cold, and the current can be outrageous.
Consequences: Could be fatal!
How to avoid accidents: Cross the river where it is at it`s widest. Always check that there is no waterfall below the ford. I`ll keep my boots on, even if I get wet. It is tempting to cross barefoot, but I have a much better grip with my boots on. I open the straps on my rucksack, so it`s easy to get off. And I use my walking sticks and cross diagonally upstream. If the current is strong, it is not considered safe to cross a river deeper than mid-calf. But honestly, at this expedition, I think I have to…
Crossing snow bridges are extremely dangerous, especially when the snow is melting. I have to be intensely careful if I do this, and I have to examine the snowfield thoroughly before I make my decision. The straps on my rucksack have to be open; if not, there is the danger of dangling upside down with my head in the water.
Threat: Falling through the ice
Probability: Some lakes are still icebound in May. But avoid spring ice for all costs! Spring ice forms when other forms of ice slowly transform under the influence of high temperatures. It develops vertical columnar crystals that can slide against each other thus making even very thick ice treacherous. A cold night can make the columns cohere to make the ice feel safe, but a few hours of sun can dramatically weaken them again. Source: Frozentime.se
Consequences: Very dangerous!
How to avoid accidents: Don`t walk on icebound lakes at this time of year!
Probability: I must expect some blisters
Consequences: From minor annoyance to making a huge impact on the whole expedition!
Prevention: I`ve had a few of hikes in my boots before. Even the boots that I pic up halfway are not entirely new – I`ve used them at home and I know that they normally don`t give me blisters. I think this is the single most important thing I can do to avoid blisters. I`m also very aware of any chafing from my boots, and I tape any sorenesses. I`ll keep my toenails short, and if I can, I sit barefoot at breaks, to let my feet dry.
How to handle blisters? Taping, Compeed, anti-blister socks, extra rest days. Changing boots?
Threat: Achilles tendinitis
Probability: High. My Achilles tendon has never been 100 per cent for the last 12 years. I blame it on arthritis; it`s a very typical problem for the psoriasis arthritis that I have. Running and hiking with a heavy rucksack are what challenge my Achilles most.
Consequences: This is what I`m most concerned about for my whole hike. If I get a bad Achilles tendinitis, that`s the end of the tour.
How to prevent it? I don`t know yet what to do about my medication. I have been using Enbrel for several years, which works wonderfully for me, but the drawback is that it has to be kept in the fridge. There`s no way I can keep the syringes cool at all times when I`m hiking, so I`ve booked an appointment with my rheumatologist, to ask if there are any substitutes. Anyway, I`ll go for my hike, with or without drugs.
I`ve also found intense stretching very helpful, so from now on, I`ll stretch 10 minutes each day, and do my calf strengthening exercises regularly.
And I`ll keep the weight down on my rucksack, as much as I can.
How to handle a tendinitis? Stretching! And rest. There`s no way around it, I have to take it seriously.
Threat: Falling from a cliff or sliding from a snowfield
Probability: There are rocky heights to be climbed, edges to be walked and snowfields to be crossed on my way to Lindesnes.
Consequences: From minor to major.
How to prevent it? Use common sense. Be careful, more than usual, because I`m alone! Turn back in time (Mountain code no 8); sensible retreat is no disgrace!
Be careful in foggy weather and poor visibility, and consider if I should call it a day and camp for the night.
Pay attention to snowfields, what are the consequences if I loose foothold? What is beneath and below it? Water, a cliff or a slide of rocks? Walk carefully, use my poles and get a grip with my heals. Be very cautious if I intentionally slide down a snowfield.
What to do if I`m hurt? Call 112 with my satellite phone (must be easily accessed). Keep warm if I cannot walk – use a sleeping pad, sleeping bag and survival shelter (wind sack), and have a hot drink.
Threat: Hypothermia and frostbites
Probability: I must expect to be cold, maybe for a good part of the hike. There might be a lot of rain, snow and sleet in the mountains, even at summertime! And there are strong winds!
Consequences: From uncomfortable to life threatening. I am sufficiently dressed and equipped, so hypothermia is very unlikely.
How to keep warm?
Clothing: Innermost layer: Wool. Several thin layers warm more than one thick layer.
Outer layer: Windproof jacket and trousers.
In my rucksack, packed waterproof in plastic bags: Waterproof jacket and trousers. Extra set of dry wool. Sleeping pad, sleeping bag and bivouac (wind sack). Woollen cap, woollen mittens with windproof covering. Woollen neckband. Primaloft jacket. Warm water on my thermos. Tent.
Probability: High. I`m hoping for the sun, and I get easily burned.
Consequences: Serious sunburn with swellings and blisters must be treated by a doctor.
Prevention: I`m using SPF 30! Often! And sunglasses and a cap. And I cover myself with clothes, especially on snow. Don`t forget the legs, SPF or trousers!
Threat: Insects and ticks
Probability: Very High. Finnmarksvidda is infamous for mosquito. Ticks are common south of Sør-Trøndelag.
Consequences: The mosquitoes are not carrying any diseases. But the ticks do; the spread Lyme disease and Tick-born encephalitis.
Prevention: Mosquito net and pest repellent spray. Remove ticks immediately.
Threat: Lack of water
There is usually an abundance of water when hiking in Norway. As good as all of it is drinkable, but meltwater from glaciers contains microorganisms and sludge that might give diarrhoea.
As a rule, I drink streaming water away from livestock without any hesitations. But some years the rodents are teeming in the mountains, and then it would be a good idea to boil the water.
And I don`t drink water from the most travelled paths, like Preikestolen and Trolltunga. With so many people and so few toilets, I imagine the creeks are e-Coli reservoirs.
Probability: Scree and talus fields are common, and I have to cross them.
Consequences: Can be dangerous. It`s easy to miss a step and twist an ankle or break a leg, especially when it`s wet. It`s easy to kick loose rocks, losing foothold and in worst case starting a rock slide. And if I hike with others, those loose rocks can hit either me or them.
It`s also quickly done to get lost in a talus. There are seldom any paths, the map doesn`t tell me how to get around the boulders, and usually, it`s hard to get the full overview.
How to cross safely: Be careful, take it slow. If the route is marked, follow the marking meticulously. If I hike with others, keep distance and shout if there are rocks falling.
Probability: Low, but present.
Consequences: Very dangerous!
How to keep on the safe side? When there is snow, always consider the risk of avalanches.
I expect snow for the first weeks of my hike (I definitely hope for skiing conditions!), and in the high mountains.
Recognising avalanche terrain: Avalanches most often occur on slopes steeper than 30° (starting zone). The height has to be 5 metres or higher. However, the avalanche might reach terrain flatter than 30° (deposition zone or run out). But from the toe of the runout to the starting zone, there is never less than 20°. (Question 1: Is the terrain steep enough to avalanche? Question 2: If not, is it connected to steeper terrain?)
I bring my slope meter with me, for measuring angles.
Recognising the warning signs: Summer snow is usually old, and the risk of avalanches in old snow is usually low. But if it`s sunny, there is a risk of loose, wet avalanches. The danger increases during the day. Most loose, wet avalanches occur in the afternoon when the temperature is higher.Wet and soft snow surface, an onset of rain, snowballing, pinwheeling and recent loose wet avalanches are signs of instability. Deep foot-penetration is another sign of increased wetting.
If I have to cross steep slopes of old summer-snow, I`ll choose the early mornings when the snow is hard, and be careful not to loose foothold!
But there might be snowfall even at summer, which heightens the risk of avalanches. The risk of avalanches is at its highest after heavy snowfall, when it is or recently has been windy and in rising temperatures. Recent avalanches, crackings and rumblings (“whumps”) are always serious danger signs.
Make conservative route choices. Choose the mountain ridges before steep slopes and valleys.
Varsom.no Avalanche forecasts are published daily from December 1 until May 31. I will read the forecasts carefully if I have an internet connection.
Probability: Low, but present.
Consequences: Very dangerous!
How to keep on the safe side: I`m not crossing glaciers, but I am crossing snowfields where crevasses might be covered by snow bridges. The risk of crevasses is especially high around regulated dams where the water levels vary. Pay attention and get around if in doubt.
Threat: Homesickness and depression
Probability: I carry high mountains and deep valleys inside me. Perhaps there is a 50/50 chance of finding the whole hike absolutely wonderful on the one side, and then on the other side, doubting very deeply why at all I`m doing it.
Consequences: Could be a black dog accompanying me for the entire hike.
How to beat it: Put those pessimistic thoughts away as soon as they emerge! From Nordkapp to Lindesnes, there is no room for doubts! I`ve planned my hike on beforehand, and I will evaluate it when I`m home, but not when I`m actually hiking.
Four months is not much in the big context, and fulfilling the entire hike will be something I feel good about for my whole life. Now I will let myself enjoy the moment!
Threat: Fire (cabin, tent, forest)
Probability: I`m lighting campfires and cooking outdoors on a camping stove, so there is a higher risk of fire here than back home.
Consequences: Could be devastating; dangerous; risk of a forest fire; risk of burning down the cabin etc.
How to prevent it? Use common sense. Never start a fire in a strong wind. Choose a safe ground for the fire, and pitch the tent a good distance away from it. Keep water close to the fire, and always put out the fire before I go to sleep.
Be very careful if I use gas inside the tent, and always have a knife in reach (so that I can get out in a hurry).
Be organised and tidy – if I have to leave in a rush, I have to take my things with me, I can`t be out in the mountains without them!
In case of fire: Extinguish (if possible, with water or a jacket etc) – evacuate (bring the essentials with me) – call 112 (with my satellite phone)
Threat: Sudden illness, heart attack, stroke
Probability: Low. I don`t have any predisposing conditions that I know of.
Consequences: Could be life threatening
What to do? Call 112 if I feel that something is terribly wrong.
Threat: Hit by a car (or snowmobile!)
Probability: Even though I try to keep away from civilisation, I cannot completely avoid highways and tunnels.
Consequences: Could be dangerous
What to think of: Walk on the left side of the road. Use my high visibility vest, even at daylight. Put my orange rain cover over my rucksack. And use my headlight in tunnels.
Should I call 110 (firefighters), 112 (police) or 113 (medical)? If I`m out in the wild, I`ll call 112, even at a fire or for medical issues. The police will coordinate a rescue.
Right before I left, I sent an e-mail to the Norwegian rescue services with my route and contact information, including my name, address, birth number, phone number, my next of kins (Mum and Dad), their phone numbers, a link to my InReach MapShare and a link to my website.