Into the Labyrinth: A Mountain Biking Expedition in the Fjords of Norway

Oct 18, 2016
by H+I Adventures  
Views: 6,313    Faves: 58    Comments: 2


Norway. When I hear that name, my mind drifts away over snow-capped mountains, glaciers, harsh coastline and into steep-sided fjords.

These thoughts have been rolling over my mind for the past year, planning, discussing and packing for this expedition into the unknown, and now as I sit in the airport hearing my flight number to Norway being called, I have one last chance to get lost in my subconscious before actually arriving in this ethereal country on our pioneering mountain bike adventure.

POD
THE dream destination for technical wilderness riding

I am dragged from my daydream by the seatbelt sign going on and the air steward preparing the plane to land in Molde. As I turn my head to look out of the window I see mountains reaching far into the distance, with deep fjords gouging out the land between the mountain tops and leading out to the sea. It looks even more amazing than I imagined!

A classic Norwegian sunset
A classic Norwegian mountain sunset.

As we disembark we enter a very small airport building, must only house ten staff and maybe 100 passengers at a time. We wait by the only luggage belt, and are delighted to see that seven pieces of luggage have arrived, yes, seven! We are not traveling light for this trip, we are filming, taking photographs and riding uncharted territory here in Norway, so we need to be prepared for changeable weather conditions.

Why are we embarking on this expedition? Norway has always held a kind of mystical allure, and when we started delving into it, we learned that the Norwegian fjords are relatively under-explored by mountain bike, despite the fact that it’s a popular destination for ski touring in the winter. So after some further investigation, we decided that the best way to access these ancient trails was by boat. More specifically, an old Scandinavian wooden-hulled minesweeper, which would be our unique accommodation, gourmet restaurant and adventure hub for the week. Each day Gåssten would deliver us to the fjord shores (or as near as she could get) from where we’d ride and hike-a-bike to the tops of some 1000m peaks, then descend into another fjord where the boat would be waiting for our arrival.

Into the labyrinth
Into the labyrinth...The dark and brooding landscape pulls us deeper in search of the perfect trails

Crew heading back to move the boat onto the pick-up point of today s ride
The crew head back to the boat to move on to our pick-up point

A Captain s view of the fjords
The Captain's view of the fjords

As we arrive at the harbor we’re met by our captain Sven, second in charge Tash, and our chef for the week Isabelle. As they show us onboard and our sleeping quarters, we smell coffee wafting through the air from the galley, where Isabelle is preparing lunch and a welcome drink. Quickly we set about loading all of our gear, building bikes on the ship’s deck and settling down to lunch, coffee and a briefing and map perusing session. While we discuss the possibilities of this rugged landscape and set a plan, the ship’s crew buzz around setting us free from our moorings and the harbor, letting us depart unhindered on our fjord mountain biking adventure.

Bikes and boats dwarfed by the sheer fjord walls
Our bikes and even our boat are dwarfed by the towering fjord walls

Early morning departure from Geiranger Fjord
Sven planning an early departure for us

We arrive at our anchorage after dark, pulling up close to a village that is clinging to the foot of a huge rock wall, only visible by the flickering evening lights shining out of the windows. The village looks like it has just enough room to squeeze a handful of houses and a local shop in before the waters of the fjord plunge to the depths of four hundred meters. It’s a mesmerizing place and we are all looking forward to assessing our new playground over a coffee in the morning light.

And sure enough, over breakfast, we marvel at the walls of rock that surround us on three sides, the very pronounced V shape of the fjord and our playground for the day. Breakfast is a noisy and even slightly jittery affair. We’re all keen to hit dry land and explore this region. So, soon after breakfast, the engine of the small landing craft sparks into life as everyone is busying themselves with packing kit, final checks on bikes and saying their goodbyes to the crew.

Heading for shore with the bikes
Heading for shore with bikes and the excitement of a day of adventuring ahead

The crew also has a full day ahead while we’re riding, they’ll be preparing dinner for tonight, catching fish for our starter, moving the boat to its pick-up location and drying all of our laundered riding kit.

Before we know it we’re on dry land putting final adjustments to our ride bags and clipping into our pedals and hearing the noise of the landing craft getting quieter as it buzzes back to the main boat anchored in the bay.

On this ride, we have 1000m of ascent, straight from sea level, so there’s no point hanging around, this hill isn’t going to climb itself! We start with a meandering switchback forest track that leads us through 12, ever-tightening hairpin corners that deliver us to a small mountain meadow with a smattering of wooden houses artistically placed around the perimeter. The meadow affords us our first chance to see the fjord we’ve just left behind, up to this point we’ve been in a beautiful deciduous forest that has now faded out as a result of the altitude.

Taking a break for on trail food
Breaking in the meadow for food and to soak in the surroundings

Descents are hard earned in the fjords
Some serious hike-a-bike. Descents are well earned in Norway

As we ride out onto the meadow and through the collection of houses, we rest and snack beneath an understated wooden signpost that indicates our mountain top goal, Liahornet. From here we hike our bikes to the summit. This is a particularly liberating thing to do, you’re taking your bike to a place that not many if any bikers have been to. As we look around the vast wilderness spread out before us, the boat is no more than a tiny speck in the water 1000m below, and we’re acutely aware that we have to descend all the way back down there to be picked up and fed before moving on to the next anchorage overnight.

Topping-out after another hard ascent - all downhill from here on...
Topping-out after another hard descent. It's all downhill from here...

So we don knee pads, tighten helmets, fasten our backpacks and pull on our gloves, before adjusting our glasses and setting off from the summit cairn along a rocky and technical ridge line in a pencil straight line towards our floating goal. The descent is made all the more interesting today as it’s been raining overnight, but we manage to keep it rubber side down!

Storm clouds brewing high above the fjord
Riders of the storm. Dramatic ridge riding above the fjords

As we pull off the ridge line and arc towards the thickening forest below, we encounter a natural pump track that cuts across this section of the alpine environment, before dropping us into what is a short hike down section. It is steep and super technical, and all told, not worth the risk. After two minutes’ reprieve from pedalling we’re back on it, now in the forest, weaving down swooping singletrack over roots and around strategically-placed trees. It’s a heart-warming characteristic of the Norwegians that they don't cut trees down to make trails and try not to damage tree roots, so it makes for interesting trail design and some challenging corners, but leaves the wilderness, well, feeling like the wilderness.

Racing back to the boat
Racing back to the boat

Chasing each other through high alpine rock gardens
And chasing each other through high alpine rock gardens

Perfect forested singletrack leading to the fjord
Perfect singletrack waits at the bottom of the descents

It takes us around two and a half hours to finally blast out onto the paved road at the foot of the mountain and onto the shores of the fjord, muddy faces, bikes looking used, arms fully pumped and huge smiles on our faces.

Descending into forest flow at the end of another big mountain day
Swooping and pumping through the natural flow of the forest

This has been an adventure and an expedition. Call it what you like, it’s been a ride that takes us straight back to what mountain biking is all about, and why mountain bikes were designed in the first place. Getting out into the wilderness with your buddies, new or old. Finding new trails and experiencing views while feeling the adrenaline-induced buzz you get when you rail that corner, drop into a steep section or follow your mates down a trail in a train of laughter and tail whips.

And as we roll up to the awaiting boat, the crew are there with some coffee and cake, and a warm shower is beckoning. After washing the day’s mud off our legs we relive the day’s adventures and wash cake down with coffee, all the while steaming further into another fjord and a new adventure. But that’s tomorrow’s tale…

Shuttling back to the boat after an epic day of riding high ridge-lines
Shuttling back to the boat after another truly epic day of ridgeline riding

Final night celebration drinks aboard G ssten
Celebratory drinks under the stars

Watching the sunset over lesund
The final sunset over Alesund

This mountain bike adventure through the Norwegian fjords was delivered by H+I Adventures.

They specialize in the art of hand-crafted mountain bike tours around the world and ‘Norway’ is their latest exciting offering.

Photos by Tim Winterburn / @HI-Adventures


25 Comments

  • + 17
 From a swede who's emigrated to Norway: that particular area has it all!!!: great skiing summertime at Stryn sommerski, surfing around the corner at Stadlandet and endless-epic-bike-trails at hand.
  • + 4
 Do folks up that way still say "10,000 Swedes ran through the weeds when chased by one Norwegian"
?
  • + 15
 TAKE MY MONEY YOU TEMPTRESS!
  • + 5
 Hello sailor, this the Norwegian trail trmptress. I saw you were throwing money at me. I am afraid it's not enough... around here Pizza&Coke cost more than 5 dish meal in Morzine. Go to France... bye bye, so loooong, come back when you earn more dough sailor...
  • + 9
 Just checked the homepage: 5100 dollars for a week on the boat... Man I need to hustle more...
  • + 5
 If the pound ever recovers, this will be on my list. Looks great.
  • + 8
 Nice pictures! All the trails pictured are accesible by car for all you cheapo recessionisti, all trails can be found on mtbmapdotno and/or trailguidedotno. But we'd rather see you spend some money over here so we can continue our oil fuelled mass overconsumption fest.
((They missed one of the best trails with a 1400m.o.a. descent a short drive up Romsdalen valley.))

Until mtb-businesses really start giving back, we, the locals, are not too particular about broadcasting the area too much to the world as we have had our acces rights questioned in the past, and a ban on commercial activity will be up if it exceeds sustainability.
  • + 2
 Ynot - thanks for your perspective. Much appreciated. Shar and I are looking into covering Norway trails and will definitely get input for you before we come over
  • + 9
 scenery porn
  • + 4
 Awesome video. Looks like a spectacular place to ride. I want to see more of the trails over there!
  • + 4
 Wow..amazing pics. Travelling seems like a great idea yet again
  • + 5
 Excellent Video guys
  • + 1
 The boat shuttle has a hard time getting you to the summit i noticed. Norways gravity park is a lot diferent than the coastal one in bc
  • + 3
 time to go get in touch with my Norwegian roots
  • + 3
 Looks like a fantastic adventure. 2017 it is!
  • + 1
 Any chance at some higher res images? These are just begging to be used as desktop backgrounds.
  • + 1
 £3400 for a weeks biking?!

You're having a laugh!!

As good as it looks that is, quite frankly, taking the p1ss..
  • + 3
 That would get me from the UK to NZ to ride Rotorua for two weeks.....
  • + 2
 I'm pining for the fjords
  • + 3
 looks great
  • + 3
 Very inspiring scenery!
  • + 1
 There is Norway the Yeti lives near a Fjords, looks like fun searching though.
  • + 1
 Pretty brave bringing yetis out without a spare swingarm.
  • + 1
 Only a Yeti between Norway and rider. Scary
  • - 2
 Couple of people I know did this, they didn't actually rate it that much Smile

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