Hardangerjökulen and Skarvheimen massifs,
1 – 9, 2013
winter since 2007, we make a trip to Finse in the south of Norway for
kiting. Our first journeys there were the opportunity to prepare a
south-north kite-ski crossing of Greenland. An expedition we realized
in May 2008: 2250 km across the Greenland ice sheet in 31 days.
Since then, we never stopped to return to this place of Norway,
totally convinced that Finse is one of the best European spots for
snowkiting as we like it, free ride and touring style : sure snow
coverage, almost permanent wind, a playful, hilly terrain, neither
too gentle nor too pronounced, vast expanses of untouched terrain...
An explosive cocktail for those who wish to really combine
snowkiting, freeriding and endless spaces...
on the south summit of Hardangerjökulen, Flysurfer Speed 3 19 m² Deluxe
following acount is about our first test of the Flysurfer Speed
series kites and our impression of the 2 bigger wings that we are
going ot take on our next Greenland expedition, the Speed 4 10 m2
Deluxe and Speed 3 19 m2
the South of Norway, the weather was incredibly good during the
entire month of February. It was not without a certain fatalism that
we take note of the weather reports announcing a change for the week
to come... Normal, in a way, the good weather had lasted too long
indeed, at our arrival at Finse on Saturday, March 1st,
a strong gale is raging. We have no other choice than to wait until
the next day for things to calm down for our first kite session, made
in Norway 2013.
Sunday, March 2nd, the wind exceeds 25 knots, and despite the
visibility getting better in the afternoon, it is not reasonable to
try our brand new Speed 4 10 m² Deluxe in these
conditions. No problem, we take our Beringer parawings out of our
quiver (open celll wings on which the bridles are directly connected
to a bar oriented perpendicularly to the leading edge, particularly
effective in stormy weather)... Invented in Germany, these wings are
used since a long time on polar expeditions, but also at Finse where
probably no less than 50 % of the parawing users worldwide are
parawing 8 m² S, on the west part of the Finsevatnet lake.
their rather basic appearence,
these sails have nevertheless excellent qualities in many situations
and are particulary pleasant and safe to fly in excessively strong
winds : it is then necessary to carve the skis pretty hard,
maintaining a very oblique position ... The exercise gets quickly
rather physical when looking for speed and sensations...
parawing 8 S, on the Finsevatnet lake
Monday, 3 and Tuesday, 4, the wind eased out sufficiently, so that we
could finally unpack our new toys. But the pale luminosity still
masks a lot of the surface texture which we discover to be very
sculptured by the wind, full of hard sastrugis. We do not remember
having seen comparable snow conditions on the Finsevatnet lake since
we know the area.
first time we finally
on our Speed 4 10 m², we stay on the
Finse lake and on some slopes dominating its surroundings, but we
into high gear and take
advantage of the
potential of this new generation of kites
yet. Since then, a
nice session at
our alpine home spots
French Alps allowed
better appreciate this excellent wing.
swooping down the slopes of Bukkeskinnsbotn, foothills of
On the Finse lake (below), Speed 4 10 m²
next 3 days, the wind turned east
and south-east which is synonym for more stable conditions, very
beautiful days, intensely sunny, but also low winds. We took out the
big ones, our Speed 3 19 m2
unleashed, ready to reveal their full potential !
an erratic breeze on the lake eventually convinces us to put the
skins on our skis in order to reach the heights of Hardangerjökulen,
a small icecap peaking at 1863 m. Small, only on the scale applicable
to nordic contries, but sixth biggest glacier of Norway with a
surface of 73 km². Cornelius, more realistic, skins up almost to the
top, to make sure to catch the wind. Mika thinks he can take
advantage of the light breeze blowing on the Middalen glacier, in the
hope to gain some height quickly and with less efforts... Wrong
is necessary to say that we had never experienced a phenomenon as
strange as this one, the light catabatic creeping down the surface of
the glacier was clearly sufficient to make a kite of 12 m2
or even 10 m2
fly. Yet the thickness of the catabatic layer barely exceeded 5 m in
height. Above, the wing faints systematically. If the breeze was
sufficient to barely keep the sail just above the ground level, it
didn't allow the kite to raise. In every kite loop, the wing would
loose power and drop again. Mika persists in this hopeless task in
the expectation to find a stronger catabatic flow on the west side of
the glacier. He eventually gets grounded for good. Ready to give up
and return back home, he perceives the blue and white sail of
Cornelius far on the summit crest of Hardangerjökulen, changes his
mind, puts on the skins again, and climbs the Middalen glacier.
is already 16:30 when he finally
reaches the summit
crest, where the wind had sensibly picked up in the meanwhile.
Cornelius, has already left
off to kite
down one of the small
in the northeast. The top of the icecap is
the landscape very
and the view ranges
from the Hardanger
south and east, as
well as the mountains of Skarvheimen and even the Jötulheimen - peak
of Scandinavia in the north. Unexpectedly, the
the icecap is much
better than the hard
packed and rough
snow which covers
almost all of
the lower parts.
already two years
last kited on the
summit of Hardangerjökulen. Last winter, the snow had been glazed
before our arrival there, and the winds had remained too strong to be
able to reach it
with these icy surface conditions...
Sunset on the summit of Hardangerjökulen and the Blaisen
glacier. In the background, the seemingly endless plateaus of Hardangevidda.
now, the sun is already low on the horizon and after a few tacks,
Mika pricks towards the northeast and kites down the Blaisen glacier,
in headwind. Once on its terminal part, where the slope gets pretty
steep, the kite suddenly moves by 120 degrees in the wind window,
switching at once from head- to tailwind. A sign that the rider has
just left the layer affected by the meteorologic wind and found again
the catabatic. After negotiating the bit tough exit from Blaisen in
tailwind, he finally loses the wind at the glacier front. Michael
packs the kite, and calculates his return route to make best use of
the slope and finish the last kilometers skating at nightfall, full
of good mood.
Thursday, March 7th,,
with same weather forecast and always no wind on the lake, we put on
the skins again. This time we climb the south slopes of the hills
dominating Finse , in the direction of Satehjellane mountains. 200
vertical meters above the village, we find light easterly winds. We
get out the big kites and play a moment on the heights of
Sanddalsnuten, but as soon as we lose a little altitude, the breeze
becomes erratic, sometimes non-existent.
" kiteloopes " to come back up the slopes of Sanddalsnuten,
Speed 3 19 m² Deluxe.
|Mika, monts Satehjellane,
Speed 3 19 Deluxe|
finding the spot a little to small while the surrounding undulating
landscape invites to roam, we follow the temptation and venture
northward, unsure about the wind.
cross a first depression, a lake
shielded from the wind, as fast as possible and notice to our great
pleasure, that the little speed we gained in joining the bottom is
enough to slightly power up the 19 and to get us cross the
one hour, we fight in an almost
non-existent wind, trying to round our kiteloops well while staying
as close as possible to the moraine ridges, diving from time to time
into little slopes to get across some shallow valleys and small
lakes. This way, we eventually reach the Klemsbu shelter, and the
Sankt Pål peak.
shelter in Satehjellane mounts. In the background, the
are convinced, that in order to get back to Finse we would have to
pack the kites, as the valley we are about to follow seems entirely
shielded from the wind.
moving closer to the slope announcing the valley, we set ourselves an
ultimate point to reach by kite and where we are convinced we would
definitely lose the wind. But no ! The gentle breeze pouring down the
slope together with our slightly downward trajectory gives sufficient
power to our kites to continue.
then on we try our best to keep the altitude, to avoid getting buried
in the valley, and notice that the wings really keep on flying. With
Sanddalsnuten behind us, we imagine for a moment that we would have
to go up the slope sailing into the wind in order to reach a small
pass that would allow us to get over to the windward side. One
tacking makes us aware of this laborious choice and of the strong
risk to get out of the wind in these feeble aerologic conditions. So
we resume again our tailwind course and finally realize happily that
the breeze here is sufficient to carry us across the crest of
Sanddalsnuten a little further south. Once there, we dive down a
frozen hillside making a few tacks, cross the high-voltage line and
pursue the descent to Finse in light tailwinds...
the entire day, the behavior of the Speed 3 19 m2
left us really
amazed. It is obvious that we would not have been able to make this
days tour with a smaller kite. With sometimes very little wind, we
managed to make slow but efficient progress, doing long series of
kiteloops on the more favorable side, much helped by the ingenious
Infinity Bar, without ever completely losing the wind or "folding
the ears". As long as the sail is moving, even at very low
speed, the canopy remains inflated and extremely stable. At the end
of the loops, when the kite rises up again, it is a precious
advantage to be able to focus on the trajectory without having to
care about the risk of deflation. On the other hand, we had to
permanently pull on the back lines behind floaters in order to close
our manys loops of small diameter. Interestingly, every time we were
able to gain some speed, there was immediately a considerable
increase in power, making any kiteloops unnecessary.
Friday, 8, the sun still shines, and there is almost no wind at Finse
and on the lake. We are not sure where to go today. But looking
through the windows of our cabin, an observation suddenly puts an end
to our hesitation. 3 kiters are making their way up the Blaisen
glacier headed to the Hardangerjökulen.
Cornelius riding up Blaisen glacier, Hardangerjökulen massif.
the breeze is just sufficient to start right from the lake. We don't
ask for more ! Once again, we realize that even in very low winds,
the Speed 3 19 m2
already nows to unfold
its full potential. It takes us only a few minutes and about ten
tacks, where we needed at least twice more the previous years, to
reach the eastern border of the Blaisen glacier. A feeling of
outrageous efficiency ! This kite has surprising power reserves, we
only need to pick up a minimum of speed to be able to power it up and
lock it in in the wind window. By the way, the headwind tacks are
distinct with really high windward angles.
under Speed 3 19 m² and Ronny Finsaas with its foil set on 50 meters
Summit slopes of Hardangerjökulen.
the lower part of Blaisen, a catabatic cancels the meteorologic wind
resulting in a zone of turbulences. Some loops allow to pass the last
one of the 3 kiters spotted from our cabin one hour before, a group
of pleasant Czechs, buried for some time in this area of complex
aerology. But a little higher up on the curved glacier, the catabatic
strengthens the meteorolgic wind and locally we observe even drifting
snow. In 2 tackings, we pass Venina, the girl of the Czech group, and
join her friend Pavel who just made it to the summit a little before
us. On arriving there, Ronny Finsaas, an experienced local kiter,
appears out of thin air, racing up the glacier with his handle kite
on 50 meters lines.
summit slopes of Hardangerjökulen. In the background, the northeast part
of Hardangervidda plateaus
|Hardangerjökulen summit (1863 m)|
on the way towards the south Hardangerjökulen summit.
set sail towards the south dome of the icecap, a few kilometers away,
to admire the view on the Hardangervidda plateaus. On our way back,
we just manage to return to the main summit in fainting wind. For a
moment we hesitate to head west-northwest, by crossing the slopes
linking the top of the Middalen glacier to the domes of the
Hardangerjökulen. We try and it seems to work, but without any
guarantee in case the wind weakens. Finally, we give up and cross
towards the northeast, 50 meters below the summit. There, as two days
ago, only a a thin sheet of cold air creeps down the summit slopes.
We make some effort to progress crosswinds, but with no better
results than 2 days before. The lesson is learned, this time we give
Saturday, March 9th, the clouds are back, the visibility poor, and
the easterly wind remains pretty weak. We take advantage to test the
Speed 3 19 m2 with
46 m lines, instead of the 21 m supplied with the kite. In 2008,
during our south-north Greenland crossing, we had tested lines of 40,
50, 60 and even 100 Meters and quickly adopted the first 3 lengths
systematically for our medium and large-sized kites. The interest had
been immediately obvious. A larger wind-window allowing bigger, more
powerful loops, the need to do less of them, while the kite stays
higher above ground. In consequence, the risk of deflating the kite
or tangling the bridles and lines in sastrugis is greatly reduced.
Fewer turns in the case of figure 8 patterns means also a reduced
loss of proper speed of the kite, and allows one to catch stronger
winds at 40, 50, even 80 m over the icecap where the wind speed is
less influenced by the surface roughness, which is slowing down the
flow of the catabatics close to the ground.
line this long, the Speed 3 19 m2
seems even more
stable, if this possible at all. Yet gets inevitably less reactive.
After tacks and turns, the sail needs a little more time to be
well-settled, yet again, once locked in, does not move any more...
evening, we take the train that brings us back to Oslo, but our
spirits still hang around the Hardangerjökulen slopes. The week was
excellent. We encountered all of the possible weather conditions a
stay in Norway can hold in store, yet had the opportunity,
repeatedly, to do what we appreciate most, climb the summits and do
amazing tours. Last, but not least, we got hands on our new kites and
were able to get a glimpse of their excellent potential for our next
project in Greenland...
Cornelius Strohm & Michael Charavin