For several weeks our author wandered through Norway in the pouring rain as a teenager. To this day the biggest fail of his outdoor life - but a tough test of the unexpected kind.
It is still a mystery to me how one could fall in love with my youthful self. I had just turned 18, was very tall and thin, wore a ponytail and looked like a snake overall (said my best friend, and in hindsight it sounds like a sparkling clean optical analysis). I had no hobbies in nature, but a vague idea that being outside could become a defining part of my life. The mountaineering, the snow, the peaks attracted me. The urge to run away and discover was there. The catch: I lived in a West German town on the Dutch border. Large coal dumps were much closer than alpine places of longing. When we wanted to snowboard, we took the bus to Holland to board down the mountain on green plastic mats on an old coal heap. Lasting memory: No golden panorama sunsets, but blood-red burns on knees and elbows.
It couldn't go on like this. So I shaved off my hair, got my courage together and asked my girlfriend if she wanted to walk through Norway with me for six weeks. A few days later we arrived in Oslo by night train. The first night we had to sleep sitting because it rained so much that the tent was suddenly halfway in a lake. We had no idea that rain would later turn into snow. That every single day of the six-week journey would be pouring out of buckets, certainly not.
We had learnt that sometimes it makes sense to plan big hikes carefully, to study the weather carefully.
Once, in the mist, we met the editor of a local newspaper. We made it to the front page the next morning with the news that two teenagers had been wandering through the rain of the west coast for a month. On the same day, a man of Biblical age, about 40, who was transporting old oil paintings in his back seat while we trudged through the puddles at the roadside, stopped with his red limousine. He asked what we were actually going to do, and if he shouldn't take us to his family hut on an island in the fjords. He'd stay there a few days, we'd be very welcome. In the evening we rowed a small wooden boat out to sea. It was 23 o'clock and the setting sun reflected on the calm water surface. I fished the first and to this day tastiest mackerel of my life.
Shortly afterwards my girlfriend and I finished the tour. We had learned that sometimes it makes sense to plan big hikes carefully, to study the weather conditions carefully. The next, fully-soaked low pressure area announced itself. We gave up. My girlfriend took the ferry from Stavanger to Newcastle. She preferred to visit friends in London. I stopped in the rain, looked after the ferry, dripped a tear into a puddle and remembered the beginning of our journey. My girlfriend's mother shook her head benevolently and whispered to her daughter: "If you walk six weeks with this guy through a ten-degree cold country, you'll at least know what you're up against afterwards."
That was 22 years ago. This summer we are going to Norway again. We bought good rain jackets for our 3 and 5 year old daughters.