“Norge på langs”, or walking the length of Norway, is a classic among the European long distance trails. The route runs from Nordkapp to Lindesnes and is approximately 2500km long. The most common season to thru-hike the country is summer, though several winter traverses have already been made. Crossing the country during those cold and dark winter months is the aim of this next big challenge. We will start on foot from Nordkapp in October and stay in hiking boots for as long as autumn holds. Once the snows hit we need to change to a winter kit and finish the route on skis.
I am really excited for this trip: after three long-distance ventures in different corners of the world I am looking forward to an adventure on my (expat) home turf. My partner-in-crime as per usual will be PJ who is eager too for an adventure in our neck of the woods. Life may have put us in a different place now but we still make for one heck of a mountain team. I estimate the duration to be approximately 4 months. After reaching Lindesnes we might continue on bike to my hometown in Belgium. This was the original plan: to start at Nordkapp and go all the way home. Because of jobs and the short time to save up for the project it is currently unclear whether or not we will pursue this final part. It’s an open end: we will take it as it comes along the way.
The logistics are currently falling into place and as always all preparations will be made public on the website. There is one major concern for me: I hardly know how to ski. I’ve done alpine skiing before but have zero experience with cross-country. My training plans literally melted away before my eyes when the sudden onset of spring made all snow disappear in early May. I got three small practice runs on mountain skis before the ground lay bare. I’ve never drawn a pulka before. Yes, that is a severe impediment, though the way I see it there is only one forward and that is to go for it and pick up the rest along the way.
There is another reason why we wish to cross the country besides of the desire for an adventure on home ground: the disappointing state of forest protection in Norway. In spite of being one of the wealthiest countries in the world and having a good reputation for environmental politics, only a very small part of all forests in Norway are under protection: under 4%. A good policy that ensures forest conservation across the different climatic and altitudinal zones is not in place. In 2016 the Norwegian parliament voted that 10% of Norwegian forests must be protected by 2020, in line with U.N. recommendations for forest protection. At the current rate of progress this goal will not be reached.
To illustrate the importance of this issue I’ll put in some numbers. 75% of Norwegian forests have been logged and replaced with spruce plantations. Only 2.4% of all forests in Norway are older than 160 years. These old growth forests are key to biodiversity. Many species, fauna and flora alike, depend on old growth for their survival. A younger or planted forest does not provide the right habitat for them. 48% of all endangered species in Norway live in the forest, so protecting it is key for the conservation of Norwegian nature for generations to come.
And that is not all. Research has estimated that more carbon is stored in the northern boreal forests than in tropical rainforests. Conserving ecosystems within the boreal forest belt would not only diminish the loss of biodiversity but also prevent large amounts of greenhouse gasses to be released into the atmosphere. While Norway commits itself to reduce deforestation and encourage forest restoration in development countries the efforts at home fall short. Two to three billion kronor go towards forest conservation abroad every year but at home the budget stays below half a billion kronor. Much of the proposed progress for protection is based on ‘voluntary protection’ by landowners rather than on a structured approach from the government.
In 2017 Trude Myhre walked over 600km along the pilgrim route from Oslo to Trondheim to raise the issue and encourage the government to raise its yearly budget for forest protection to 1 billion kronor, necessary to reach the goal of 10% of forests protected by 2020. There is still a long way to go.
We are not politicians, we are not biologists and we have no ties to any non-governmental organization. We are doing this simply because we think this is an important issue and we hope to raise more awareness around it. Increased awareness and more knowledge about the importance of the issue can be a catalyst for change. That’s why we baptized this hike Out in the Woods.
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