Photo: Winter view from Reinebringen over Kjerkfjord, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. January 15, 2017. 12:35
It is now 21:30 on Thursday night. I had already written a previous post for this weeks Friday photo, but events of the day have resulted in me sitting here at the computer tonight, with my alarm set for an early morning wake up tomorrow. This might be a bit unfocused due to my tiredness, but here goes.
Last Sunday, with a near perfect weather forecast, some friends and I hiked Reinebringen. My plan had been to camp on top, alone, after the others continued down. But upon reaching the summit, the winds were too high, and we decided it wouldn’t be safe to stay up there. So, despite carrying a heavy backpack the whole way, I headed down the mountain with them. A little disappointed, but I still had some nice light and got some pretty decent images. It was the right decision to head down.
After I posted some photos, I received many comments about hiking the mountain in winter, what the trail is like, etc. And, as I can only safely answer: I cannot say what the mountain will be like in xx days or weeks or if it will be safe to hike. Winter on Lofoten is constant change from day to day.
Fast forward to today, Thursday. It was supposed to be the start of my first photo tour of the winter so I headed early to Leknes to meet my client arriving on a morning flight. As time passed, the flight was eventually canceled, then the next flight, and the next…
It is here that I should say that severe gale force winds and heavy snow flurries have been blowing across the islands all day. Beyond just canceled flights, all buses were canceled, ferries canceled, and schools closed. To put it nicely, today was not a day to be outside.
On my second trip to Leknes, I found out half way that my clients later flight had just been canceled again. But already most of the way there, and still optimistic that she would arrive in the calming conditions later on, I continued.
Luckily, earlier in the day my friend had mentioned maybe going to the climbing gym. And so I thought perfect, I will hang out at the gym for a while and see what happens with the flights. Sounded like a good plan.
As soon as we arrive at the climbing gym, around 15:30, my friends phone rings. It is the Red Cross calling. Someone is injured on the top of Reinebringen and needs rescue. A few dozen thoughts ran through my head, but the biggest one was:
NOBODY SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN THE MOUNTAINS TODAY!
The conditions of today, combined with Reinebringen are the exact reason I wrote my WINTER HIKING article. Today was not a day to be outside, much less for a tourist possibly unfamiliar with the islands and landscape to be on a steep mountain like Reinebringen. Even driving to Leknes was scary today, and I would have rather not needed to do so.
And so my climbing session was over before it started as my friend headed to Reine to participate in the rescue. However, conditions were so dangerous on the mountain and the avalanche risk high, that the team could not safely reach the injured man. It wasn’t until 20:30 tonight that the winds finally calmed enough and the helicopter was able to pick him up and fly him to Bodø. That is 5 hours on the side of the mountain in gale force winds and blowing snow! Not a good way to end your holiday on Lofoten.
I do have some second thoughts about writing this, and it is only since the man was safely rescued that I am. And I understand that accidents in the mountains do happen, it comes with the territory. And perhaps I myself might need rescue one day. But a day like today was pushing the odds too much on the side of danger. And so I feel it has to be said again.
These mountains need to be respected. Even more so in winter.
As a footnote. I initially read in one of the articles that the work of the ‘Sherpa trail’ steps up Reinebringen would hopefully make the mountain safer for the many visitors. However, on my Sunday hike, I observed that the new steps lead directly into an avalanche zone – and were covered in avalanche debris. So, I feel I should add a note of caution to this point: that just because this mountain will have steps leading to the top in a few years, it will still require attention and good judgement – especially in winter! You can view a photo I posted to Instagram HERE.
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8