We left from our apartment at nine o’clock with rucksacks strapped to our backs and with headlamps on our foreheads. We were dressed to withstand any weather the mountain would throw at us and had slimmed down our gear to bare minimum.
Since we were a little behind schedule we had to run flat out to catch the bus that was going to take us to the foot of Mount Ulriken, the highest of the seven mountains that surround the city of Bergen. With hearts pounding we made it on to the bus and due to the hangover we both had acquired from last nights social interactions it was a delight sinking down in the seats of the bus after the sprint.
It was the last day of December and New Year’s Eve was upon us. This year I wanted something different from the last couple of celebrations I had attended and after pitching the idea to my friend Kristoffer we decided to see the fireworks from above for a change.
The bus arrived at the university hospital, from where we continued on foot to the base of the aerial tramway leading to the top. It was already dark and we struggled with finding our way. At last we found a sign with a big map of all the trails on the mountain. We studied the map for a while, mapping our route before leaving the street-lit road and heading onwards (and upwards) on dark trails — unsuspecting of the fact that we were actually walking down the wrong road.
We soon decided to leave the trail and instead follow the big deforested path under the tramway. That path appeared to be filled with debris and this in combination with the steep slope made me gasp hard for air with each step I took into the darkness. We decided to abandon this path as well.
After hiking sideways we ran into a trail that we then followed upwards as we were listening to the banging sounds from below echoing from the mountain-sides. If I hadn’t known that it was New Year’s Eve, I would have more likely thought that central Bergen had turned in to a war-zone being bombarded with heavy artillery.
As we followed the new trail we soon realized that we were losing altitude — quite the opposite of what we wanted to achieve. After studying our map and triangulating our position with the help of the power lines above, we made the decision to backtrack until we encounter the correct trail that actually would lead us towards the top.
Eventually we still ended up following the deforested path under the tram cable (not the path we intended). The terrain was now more easy and we gained meter after meter in vertical distance. When coming across the track designated for downhill cyclists (which I knew started close to the top) we once again changed our plans in the light of what we encountered in the now. We had now reached an altitude where the ice still lay thick on the ground and we had to keep our balance not to fall — risking sliding off the face of the mountain.
The landscape changed and we left the forest for bare rock. The big radio tower that from the foot of the mountain had looked very tiny and distant was now tall and proud, shining upon us with a strong red spotlight. We spotted the last of the poles connected to the tramway and went off the track to walk straight towards it. We walked through thick vegetation where the ground beneath it had spots of ice which made it very difficult to walk at a good pace without falling.
Although we were very close to the top, we were far from finished. We walked over a small crest and by then the wind had increased in force and in front of us was a section of thick ice over bare rock. We had to shift our weight and keep a low centre of mass in relation to the wall, almost crawling upwards. The foot-grips and handholds were few and I was very scared having the steep slope of the mountain behind my back. We slowly moved forwards. Step by step. Grip by grip.
We prevailed the climbing and now a stairway appeared above us, leading to the top-station. We walked it, careful not to trip and fall on this last segment of the ascent. Once we reached the top we walked out on the platform overlooking the city. While looking over the city lights below, I spotted from the corner of my eye a shape moving towards us. A man appeared and suddenly we were accompanied by a Norwegian named Arne who had also decided to spend New Year’s Eve on the mountain.
Our view was concealed by the rain-clouds moving in and we walked downwards a bit to clear the clouds and get a better view of the fireworks. When we got down our watches showed five minutes to twelve and soon the fireworks increased in strength. Suddenly the sky was covered in lightning bolts and colourful explosions. The three of us remained standing for a while before descending the mountain together.