Lofoten Islands, Norway, 2018

I was laying in bed and my eyelids were beginning to feel heavy. My stomach was full of pasta and the wood iron stove was still burning hot, surrounded by our wet clothes hung up like a shrine. Each room had a number of bunkbeds and the whole hut could sleep many more than the 6 of us present. By now the 3 tourists from Israel and the German guy were soundly asleep in another room, and I was about to slip into unconsciousness myself.

The moment I fell into the dream world, I heard the pounding rotors of a helicopter. It grew louder as I saw bright white and flashing red lights in the dark, wet sky outside my window. It took me a few seconds to realize I wasn’t dreaming. I was wide awake, still in the Munkebu Hut, somewhere in the middle of the remote Lofoten Islands. And there’s a helicopter pounding outside the window.

I quickly grabbed my camera. Matt and I got out of bed and hurried out to the deck. My bare feet stung as I pressed them on the icy rain covered deck floor. The chopper’s arrival violently disrupted the silent, dark atmosphere we found ourselves in moments ago as it circled our hut for minutes before finding a resting position uncomfortably close to the hut.

It hovered in this position for a short amount of time before a rope dropped down to the ground. A man dressed in an orange uniform slid down the rope, got both feet on the ground, and stormed towards us. He walked with intent purpose onto the deck and his bulky frame of at least 6.5 feet glided past us to the front door. He was looking for a German man.

Only hours earlier we were hiking in the dark, soaking wet and searching for cairns to guide our way to this hut. Hungry, wet, and tired, we finally stumbled upon the hut almost an hour after darkness had begun to fall.

After arriving to the cabin we quickly started a fire, and cooked some pasta. We stripped down and hung up our wet and muddy clothes and boots to dry. As we settled in, a German guy about our age came in the front door. He looked like he was in a similar state – exhausted and hungry. After some back and forth, we learned that he had hiked the same 3 miles we hiked, then he had gone past the hut for 3 miles, reaching the summit of the nearest peak, Hermanstaldstinden, and back down to the cabin. His girlfriend was expecting him back at the trailhead before dark but he had underestimated the hike, leaving him stranded here in the dark with 3 miles to go.

The problem was that he had no way to contact his girlfriend and let her know he was safe in the hut. The other problem was that it was dark, cold, and the weather was treacherous. Going back down now could be a dangerous decision. After talking with him for a while, he decided to stay the night and hike down in the morning.

Little did any of us know that around the same time, his girlfriend was calling search and rescue to go find him. I can’t blame her, she had no idea where her boyfriend was. When the Norwegian man hopped out of the chopper and stormed inside the hut, and found the German, he had completed his mission. After realizing the German was safe, he bid farewell and and agreed to pass on the message of his safety to the German’s girlfriend who had called S&R.

And in just a few more moments, the chopper was gone and quiet darkness fell upon us again. Norway is gnarly. It’s out there. This moment on my second day in the country gave me a taste of the harshness of this place.

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