SI Vault
Allan Pospisil
November 19, 1979
In later years, Norway's Fridtjof Nansen would gain fame as a polar explorer and as the winner, in 1922, of the Nobel Peace Prize. In the winter of 1884, when he was 22 years old, he got a foretaste of treks to come. He decided to enter the annual Huseby Hill ski jump. There was one hitch—Huseby Hill was in Oslo (then Christiania), and Nansen was in Bergen, 215 miles away.
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November 19, 1979

Fridtjof Nansen Skied 150 Rugged Miles To Jump Off A Hill In Oslo

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Over flat valley terrain Nansen skied on to Gudvangen, and there he boarded the last postal steamer up the N�r� and Aurland fjords to Laerdal, where he spent the night.

Early on Wednesday morning he headed east up the Laerdal Valley. Starting again from sea level, he found the snow thin, and for several miles he carried his skis. Not as steep as the gorge below Stalheim, the Laerdal was nevertheless susceptible to avalanches. At noon Nansen stopped by a stream for lunch. He took a pad from his pack and began to sketch, thinking this would be a fine spot to return to in spring for some fishing.

A passing farmer hauling a toboggan interrupted his thoughts. "You're out of your wits, man," he shouted, "to sit under the avalanche!"

"No particular danger, is there?"

"I should say so," the farmer warned, and hurried on.

Nansen resumed sketching until another farmer, on horseback, shouted the same warning. The place he had chosen for a picnic was at Saue's Wedge, the site of the area's worst avalanches.

Packing away his pad, Nansen moved on, able to ski as he gained altitude. He put in a long afternoon, skiing past Huse and climbing the Vindhellen Road to a ridge from where he could sec the Borgund Valley and the stave church in the town of Borgund.

Daylight was gone when he reached Burlo, and in the lingering Nordic twilight he began climbing the long, steep flanks of the Filefjeld range. This was the heaviest going yet and Nansen was fatigued, but he was determined to spend the night in Breist�len. He crested the Filefjeld under "pale and uncertain starlight...the valleys shrouded in darkness." On Christmas the year before he had skied these same slopes, in a storm so furious he was forced to remove his skis to make headway; even his dog had whimpered from the cold. Now the air was still and the snow fast, and he and Flink had good running down to Breist�len. He drank some milk and went straight to bed.

His tracks the next morning, Thursday, seemed hardly those of a man with a mission to reach Oslo. The natural route lay southeast, through the Morkdalen Valley to Bj�berg and Hemsedal, to Gol and the Hallingdal Valley. Nansen, however, pointed his skis back over the Filefjeld, picking a long, roundabout path to Bj�berg. "Not exactly a shortcut," he acknowledged, "...but I wanted to ski and the main thing was to find good hills."

Pushing it, he made Bj�berg by the more challenging trail at midday and fell in with two hunters tarrying there. They invited him to share a sumptuous lunch—reindeer, which had been preserved in snow since autumn, washed down with a potent succession of beer, brandy, claret and sherry. Coffee and cigars followed, and then old Knut Bj�berg, an innkeeper hospitable to a fault, brought up from the cellar his best bottle of Cura�ao.

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