There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.
I’m stealing that from somewhere; probably one of my old guiding buddies said it when we were shivering a few hundred feet off the deck on a belay. But funny enough, just to make doubly sure I was plagiarizing, I googled it, and the top hit is an article on Norway. Serendipitous because Norway's shoulder season can only be described as rowdy.
We checked the weather the week before we took off to visit some of Norway’s national parks and the report had a strong mix of rain and snow depending on how high in elevation we went. Meanwhile, we had already booked the economy class car - which most definitely didn’t come with four-wheel drive. Shoulder season was just starting to throw its curveballs.
The mountains in Norway are steep, expansive, and just about everywhere. Driving through the country for around 6 hours, we needed help picking up our jaws. It was a constant stream of “wows” and “holy sh*t, that’s beautiful!” Fjords, waterfalls and snowy peaks didn’t stop the entire drive. At no surprise, the road system throughout the country is a masterpiece of engineering. Tunnels are the norm, and even for those that come from mountainous areas like us, we had to settle into being underground for a long time. I kid you not, the longest we were driving through a mountain was for 20 minutes at 70km/h. That’s long enough to get comfortable with the idea of potentially never seeing light again and maybe dying under that mountain.
But being based out of a car was the right decision. The extent we were able to stay mobile and also at home in one town helped us see the national parks spotted on the map 6 months before. Once on the ground in the parks, we learned that Norway has a similar system to the US’s Public Lands, allowing people to go off trail where appropriate and explore with respect as desired. This was great news because the weather window reported for the day prior to our arrival shifted to the day we wanted to push for a summit overlooking an expansive and glacier blue lake. Curveball avoided this time. But shoulder season wasn’t going away.
Even in the sun, October in Norway at elevation can get cold and breezy. It was a constant job of layering when slowing down or taking a lunch break, only to strip back down to your mid layer when the wind died down. It was almost frustrating to have weather that was so temperamental, but the ability to explore on our own made up for it. We just had to make sure we had every article of clothing for every situation. In 20 minutes we were rained on, snowed on, and basking in the sunlight. It really didn’t matter what we did or didn’t do. We were at the mercy of the weather and in the grace of good gear.
Even with the ever changing weather, we were gifted with open trails, empty mountaintops, and views just to ourselves. The shoulder season is one of my favorites. People generally avoid it because it’s mildly uncomfortable. But I’d like to think they just have bad clothes (and maybe bad attitudes on top of that). The isolation away from throngs of tourists and the ability to find a little bit of every season has its own allure. I’m a huge supporter of just packing better, and not avoiding a whole season just because it’s a little uncomfortable.
I’d go back ten times out of ten. The people, landscapes, and the ability to explore unrestricted made for one of my better European experiences - rowdy weather and all.
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