Words + Photos by Seth Lightcap
April always arrives with high expectations for the adventurous backcountry snowboarder. The days are long, your legs are strong and your frothing to catch a few last faceshots and climb a couple more lines before winter draws to a close. The trouble is, where do you go? There aren’t that many mountain ranges in the world where you can count on stable backcountry pow this late in the season.
For the last eight years, Jones team rider Miikka Hast has scored epic April pow riding inside the Arctic Circle in the Lyngen Alps of Northern Norway. Since the first time I saw Miikka’s stunning images from this zone it was obvious that the Lyngen Alps are one of those rare spring powder Meccas. With the US dollar stronger than ever and a decent snowpack plastering the peaks, 2015 penciled out to be an ideal spring to visit this far off, but not so remote range.
In late-April, Jones ambassador Allison Lightcap and I pulled the trigger on the trip. Flying Norwegian Air at a surprisingly low fare, we went to shred with Miikka and explore the northern most mountains we had ever visited. The adventure that unfolded was one of our best shred trips yet. Perfect weather played a big role, but even if it hadn’t been sunny everyday, the mountains spoke for themselves. The Lyngen Alps are truly gorgeous and seemingly every summit held a dozen rad, accessible lines all within a day’s walk from the road.
The icing on the cake was the budget ’Norwagon’ campervan we rented. Not only did it come equipped with a bitchin’ paint job, but also a heater, stove, sink and plenty of storage. Each night we’d camp just off the road below the peak we intended to climb the next day. Didn’t take many showers on the trip (two) or eat in many restaurants (three), but man was the van life grand…
The Lyngen Alps are located 186 miles inside the Arctic Circle at a latitude of 69.79 degrees north. This is the same latitude as the far northern reaches of Alaska but because of the warm Gulf Stream the region has a temperate climate and the ocean never freezes. This is a land of endless peaks that rise straight up from the fjords. There are mountains covering every acre of land on this map. The Lyngen Alps are located on the finger-shaped peninsula in the middle of the map. This narrow peninsula is home to the tallest and most rugged peaks in all of Scandinavia.
The first day of our trip we caught up with Miikka in the Tamok Valley. Tamok is located about 25 miles inland of the Lyngen peninsula and is a known powder hole thanks to colder average temperatures. We went touring with Miikka and Tamok local Aadne Olsrud. Aadne is an avid backcountry rider who grew up in Tamok and now wears many hats in the valley; He owns a forestry business, rents apartments to visiting riders and is the local avy forecaster.
Aadne dug a pit and showed us all the recent snow layers. Thankfully, the snowpack was bomber with no lurking deep instabilities and only minimal danger from recent storm snow.
Miikka skins the summit ridge of Blueberry Peak in Tamok.
Tamok is home to dozens of domed peaks, most featuring rideable lines on every aspect. Here’s Miikka carving into a south facing glory panel on Blueberry Peak.
The clouds raced in and out all day providing moody and magnificent light for our first views of the Arctic. Here’s Allison bombing off the top of Blueberry Peak.
After a couple tours in Tamok, we cruised to the coast to try our luck on the west side of the Lyngen Peninsula. The first line we tackled was the Tomas couloir on Store Lakselvtinden. We started hiking the 4000ft (1300m) line at 3pm and dropped in at 7pm. Gotta love the nearly midnight sun in late-April…
Conditions in the Tomas couloir were variable, but all in all, super rippable with pockets that were spectacular. Miikka tore into every turn.
Finding pow at 4000ft (1200m) fired us up to climb even higher the next day. Allison and I chased up one of the Lyngen Alps’ highest peaks - Hombukttinden (5466ft/1666m). The majority of our SW facing ascent/descent route is on the other side of this massive north face but we gained the high snowfield and climbed the narrow ridge to the summit.
Surreal skinning across Hombukttinden’s summit snowfields.
Creamy cruisin’ across Hombukttinden’s upper snowfields. Just below Allison the pitch steepens and drops through an entrance couloir into a massive bowl.
Reconning most peaks in Lyngen is as easy as pulling off the road and gazing up. We were tempted by these views of Storetinden and Trolltinden but the approach over or around a semi-frozen lake kept us looking for our next objective.
As it turned out, we found our next line looking back at photos from our day on Hombukttinden. The photos clued us into the next peak to the north, Fugdafjellet. Our chosen line was a hidden 1500ft (450m) couloir that accessed the massive upper bowl visible in this photo.
Skinning across Fugdafjellet’s upper bowl looking back at the north face of Hombukttinden.
An 8in (20cm) storm two days previous delivered stable, dreamy conditions riding off the summit into the bowl. Here’s Allison ripping it up.
Fugdafjellet’s upper bowl pours into a sweet concave couloir. All told, the complete descent is just over 5500ft (1686m).
Miikka returned to Lyngen for the last day of our trip. We made the wise choice to climb and ride the majestic NW couloir of Ellendaltinden.
Here’s another view of Ellendaltinden. The NW couloir cuts diagonal across the rocky face in the center. More amazing lines flank Ellendaltinden on all sides.
Standing at the bottom of the couloir it seemed like a hop skip to the top. As usual, the view from the bottom was severally foreshortened. Nearly two hours of bootpacking later, Allison, Miikka and I took these final steps into the notch.
Small squalls the previous nights had deposited 6-8 in (15-20cm) of light duff on top of a firm base. ’Dust on crust’ conditions didn’t allow for top speed shredding down the couloir but the misty frozen faceshots were pretty sick.
There’s no doubt we got damn lucky with the weather on our trip. In 12 days we had 11 days of sunshine. Was this freshly painted campervan our lucky charm? Hard tellin’ but the skies are permanently bluebird above those painted peaks…
For more info on staying in Tamok contact Tamok Friends on facebook.
For budget campervan rentals contact www.norwagon.com