Shipwrecked in the Mountains

June 16

The river is a rabid froth of whitewater and roaring rage. Rampaging down the mountain, Mulelven drowns the forest in the sound of her fury. Frail birch spindles shudder on her banks. The water has been flogged to a desperate foam. Fleeing some upriver tyrant, it leaps from the crags. Bubbles gleam in the slipstream like a thousand fear-bright eyes.

On the northern slopes of Fløyen, swathes of mist cobweb the woods. Pines loom like fleets of spiders swarming from the web. It’s still too young in the year for berries, but the undergrowth is lavish with blueberry shrubs, green and tempting. Ferns unfurl like furtive caterpillars and snowbells ring in the shadows.

At midday, I lose the trail (or the trail loses me). So there I am, climbing up a streambed, feet swimming in waterlogged boots. They’re boat-shoes now. Then the stream gives me the slip and I find myself on a handsome cliff too steep to climb over and too steep to climb down. I am shipwrecked in the mountains.

From my desert island, I can see more of Norway’s treasure than you could jam into a King’s jewel-locker. This is what I climb for. To see as the Gyrfalcon sees, the belly of the land laid bare. To read terrain as the Goshawk reads, in cusps of shimmer and shadow. To feel as the Kestrel feels, taller than a world of mountains.

On my desert island in the sky, I eat a survivor’s feast of peanut-butter and jelly. Then I duel my way back through the teeming undergrowth and as I break the arm of another sapling, I hear them: children’s voices. Like a childeater escaped from an outlaw-saga, I stalk their babble through the underbrush, head low, eyes narrow. Following their calls, I finally catch the trail, that tricksy beast. I smile at the children and walk past, leaving wet footprints.

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