I am selfish, I know, but my long-term mission is to plant some sort of long-lasting mountain passion in my teenage daughters’ souls. Instead of killing their diminishing interest by continue making ‘traditional’ mountain adventures, like we did when they were younger, I now try a ‘mixed and light’ concept adapted for teenage vibes. Here is what I found out during four unforgettable days on our road trip to Norway.
After several hours of strenuous hiking in an endless blocky landscape we reached the ridge and got an astonishing view of the glacier beneath us. The wind was stronger here and quickly cooled us down. Hikers in front of us looked like a row of ants while they tried to find a reasonable path through the huge boulder field. Now we had less than an hour left to the top. For a moment, I watched the sky and hoped that the clouds around us would show some courtesy and leave the peak once we came closer. The cloud movements turned out to be vital for us, but it was not until the end of the trip that I identified the final ingredient making our trip to such a motivator for my daughters.
Let me start from the beginning, though. A hot summer with restless children. Or perhaps it was me being most restless. Anyway, inspired by previous successes I convinced them to make a new mountain adventure together. Heading for the Scandes seemed to be the best option, considering the ongoing heatwave in central and southern Europe and our present starting point at the Swedish west coast. We headed for the highest mountain region in northern Europe, an area with cosy huts and an amazing landscape.
After a day of driving we reached our first stop, lake Gjende and the Gjendesheim hut. In fact, it is possible to travel all the way to the hut by public transport, but we chose the plug-in hybrid car option. During the slow and beautiful drive through the Norwegian landscape we enjoyed several pod casts together. A memorable experience by itself, to reflect upon life stories together with teenage daughters for hours and without interruptions. How often do you get such a chance?!
Sleeping in dormitories was the lodging alternative that suited us this time, although many chose to camp in tents. In the early morning, while all other hikers headed for the ferry to get to the most popular starting point of the famous Besseggen hike, we headed directly up to the ridge from the hut. It turned out to be a smart choice, because we got the first hours on our own despite a crowded hut.
It is amazing to hike from a green and diverse landscape close to the lake, through steep cliffs with small streams and waterfalls up to the flat moon landscape at the top. Personally, I find the hiking in this part of Norway mentally challenging because the top regions are so rounded and smooth. It takes ages from entering the top plateau until you reach the final peak. Once you do reach the peak, however, you are rewarded with a breath-taking view. If you are lucky with the weather, that is.
My teenage daughters, who have grown up with hiking in the much steeper European Alpine terrain, were surprisingly comfortable in the new environment and happy with the more gentle and simpler-to-reach top regions that Jotunheimen offers. Our plan was to make a shorter hike on the first day to prepare for following day’s bigger adventure. So, after a long lunch break above the steep cliffs diving into one of the two lakes framing the gentle Besseggen ridge, we headed down again and quickly drove further north.
Our next starting point was the Glitterheim hut, which is more of a challenge to reach. From the highest parking alternative, you can rent bikes to make the final leg into the hut more pleasant. However, we misjudged our forces and chose to walk instead. By the time we finally reached the hut, almost 8 km and two hours later, we were all quite exhausted. So much for a smooth start…
After another early start to avoid the worst heat, we left the green meadows close to the hut and entered another endless sea of rock boulders and snow patches. We were not the only ones finding the extraordinary heat a little uncomfortable. A big herd of reindeers cooled down at one of the bigger snow fields beside us.
Once reaching the windy top ridge, the temperature dropped dramatically. And now we had an additional challenge ahead of us – the clouds. The track may be gently steeping, but the tricky route-finding in the endless boulder field and the openness of the landscape make good visibility essential for the pleasure at high altitude. Luckily, the clouds moved as we approached the top. For my teen-age daughters, the level of adventure was perfect. They could see the glacier and the steep snow patch ahead of us, they could estimate the remaining effort needed, and they could enjoy the scenery around them while making the final push to the top in the chilly wind.
My daughters would probably not have enjoyed the strenuous hike as much if the clouds would had stayed at the top ridge. During the tedious walk back to the hut, when the blisters turned up and the same track seemed so much longer despite going downhill, they never complained but kept a positive spirit. They seemed surprisingly happy and joyful the whole day and dreamt of more and tougher hikes in the evening. I could not figure out why.
Full huts forced us to drive south again. To explore the extraordinary architecture and experience a sudden thunderstorm hitting Aker Brygge in Oslo during sunset was also an adventure, though. And a stop at one of Oslo’s amazing climbing gyms was popular. But it was not until day four, when we had taken a swim and enjoyed our final picnic at red granite cliffs in Bohuslän in Sweden, that I got the answer. The final ingredient to why my teenage daughters had enjoyed two full days of hiking in boulder terrain and had got an increasing motivation for mountaineering despite climbing 800-1000 meter in altitude two days in a row.
“During our hikes in the Alps, we have never got a chance to make a high and significant mountain peak. It has always been regarded as too severe for us and only something for you adults. To be able to reach the second highest top in northern Europe, and to walk on snow and ice to reach the final peak was such a kick” my daughters explained to me.
The new dream they evolved during our chat on the cliffs in the sunset that evening was to climb some of the highest peaks in Europe during the coming years. Suddenly, mountain adventures are something they look forward to!
My future looks promising. It seems likely that we will make more mountain adventures together. To end up, I hereby share my home-made recipe, still under development, with what hopefully will give me success in my mission. Perhaps you may have use for it as well.
Recipe for enjoyable mountain adventures with teenage daughters
- Choose a destination and timing with suitable weather conditions. It is much more important than the actual length of stay. Discuss the travel alternatives with them, including choice of transportation, and involve them in the final decision.
- Make the transportation an enjoyable adventure by itself. To listen to podcasts that my daughters had chosen and to reflect upon them in depth together afterwards was a hit and made the long drive a true pleasure!
- Travel with extra gear if they wish but hike light. Only the most necessary items go in the backpack during the actual hike, but it is also great to bring other ‘necessary’ girl stuff in order to feel comfortable while being in civilization.
- Help your teenagers to avoid having other people around, especially in an environment with lots of young people, while packing gear or hiking strenuous parts. Their concern for what others might think, and the pressure of other people’s expectations, may distract or overwhelm their enjoyment and experience.
- Mix mountain adventures with other adventures during the same trip. Mountains in small but delicious doses generates a desire for more.
- Do not underestimate their pleasure of managing severe stuff that matters to others. They may not conduct it the way you are used to, and it may take longer time and imply more and longer breaks than traditionally. But they feel the flow by managing challenges and reaching a peak as intensely as you and I do.