Giggling at fear

Perhaps I have agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) or acrophobia (fear of heights), I’m not sure. One or both, they lead to strange emotions for someone who enjoys playing in the mountains. I grew up in semi-urban and ex-urban communities in the Upper Midwest of the USA, which means mountains were foreign to me as a child. The mountains here reach about 1000 m and the ones I ascend are accessible with only good shoes and a light backpack. Although accessible, they are steep.

My descent from the south slope of Fjærkjerringa (looking north), 594 m, Kjerringøy, Norway.

Often there is one slanted side and one sheer side to these mountains. Even though I study topographic maps before I begin my adventure, a close-set series of elevation lines on a map don’t prepare me for the sheer experience. Today was my first trip to the top of Fjærkjerringa. Its walkable side faces northeast, which makes for a late snowmelt. Marie and I had explored its other sides on previous days out. But, just like studying a map, evaluation of the mountain from below leaves out the sense of steepness.

The route up the mountain follows a semi-marked trail. There were as many sheep and reindeer prints as shoe prints from humans. With a clear enough trail to follow I can keep my focus small, allowing me to engage with smaller stages of the journey and not worry too much about detailed routing. Changes in the mountainscape are my indicators of elevation: the disappearance of trees, the disappearance of grass, the coolness of a new wind.

Looking at Møsterøya from Fjærekjerringa, Kjerringøy, Norway.

The top of Fjærkjerringa had me giggling out loud. I guess I was surprised at what I had done to myself by climbing it. The top is loose rock and the route down is steep in all directions. I’m not much for steep edges; I’ll never be a rock climber. Yes, I sat myself down to laugh and to collect myself. We moved here for adventures, and that’s what I had earned myself.

The picture above showing the descent from Fjærkjerringa shows my route down. Do you see the path? Neither do I. No sense in hurrying today. There’s a small drop down to Storskaret (stor|skaret, big kleft) before the ascent to Breifjellet (brei|fjellet, wide mountain). Life for me these days is about learning, experiencing each day without expectation, and having patience with myself as I restitch neural connections in my brain. “Not today, my friend,” I said to Breifjellet as I turned left, into the valley to run around on the beach.

Patience rewarded with beach running, Fjære, Kjerringøy, Norway

Route for unmarked Fjærkjerringa climb on Strava event.
https://www.strava.com/activities/3745467921

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