If it is your birthday then you always have the choice of cutting a cake surrounded by the warmth of family and friends in a cosy restaurant or in the comfort of your living room. You can always raise a few toasts to celebrate the additional milestone in your life meter and blow away the flames of the candles making secret wishes for your health and wealth. Finally you can always dance the night away with the beats of music to beat the blues of becoming a year older. I did something different for the first and may be the last time in my life to celebrate the ushering into the 35th birthday. I, along with my partner in crime, rhyme and reason of life – completed on the 13th of June 2015, an arduous and extreme hiking up and down, for a total of nine and half hours, three mountains in the gigantic Kjerag range in south-west Norway to see for ourselves the miraculously dangling Kjeragbolten rock which is a wonder of nature. Suspending above a 984-meter deep abyss, it is a boulder located in the Kjerag mountain in Rogaland, Norway. The rock itself is a 5 m³ glacial deposit wedged in the mountain’s crevasse and the hike itself of these mountains is classified as ‘extreme’.
While making this discovery, I discovered Seven Commandments of life on my birthday which transformed some of my perceptions eternally.
- There is always an unknown
- Desire to give up is early and natural
- There is always an extra mile to go
- Life is not a sprint, but a timebound marathon
- Ascent is challenging, but descent is twice time consuming and twice perilous
- Death, injury, fatigue, recovery, discovery, joy – in the company of the loved one
- Importance of disconnection
- Best way to reach Kjerag mountains is from Stavanger by driving. We drove from Oslo nevertheless the night before the intended hike and stayed at highly commended Byrkjedalstunet hotel.
- Buy a pair of good hiking boots (we relied on Sports Direct for these amazing pairs of waterproof hiking boots, Tanusree wants to thank those who helped her to choose this one between the two pairs she posted a photo on Facebook earlier), carry water, rucksack, dry snacks, another piece of t-shirt, another pair of fresh socks and daily wear shoes. Keep the spare clothes, socks and shoes in your car at the parking lot, you will need them once you return.
- Be in a group, of atleast two persons. Ideal with your loved one if you intend to rekindle and rediscover your emotions. Can also take your enemy, ideal for throwing off the cliff or bury in snow if time is right ☺
- Arrive early, no later than 10am. If you are a novice hiker, your ascent and descent combined will take atleast 8 hours (for pro, it takes 5 hours) and you don’t want to be left out in such a place when the Sun Goddess has finished her working shift.
No. 1 Commandment: There is always an unknown
When we started the climb putting our feet on the slopes for the first time, we assumed that it will be a walk in the park with some occasional highs and lows. As they say, one should never ‘assume’ something as it makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’. We never really realised when we started that how long and arduous the hike will be and given our capacity, how much time it will take. Had we known everything upfront, we would have simply cancelled the hike. Since we didn’t know, the ‘unknown’ made us achieve something we wouldn’t have done otherwise.
No. 2 Commandment: Desire to give up is early and natural
Tanusree is the more matured person between us and some twenty odd minutes into the climb, she rightfully warned that even if we end up climbing the rocky-snowy mountains, it will be more dangerous while descending. So we had a moment of self-query whether we should call off the dare devil activity early on or not. The pendulum of decision kept swaying from one end to another and we just held on to the positive side that we will do it together, que sera sera!
No. 3 Commandment: There is always an extra mile to go
We were not sure what we were getting ourselves into when Tanusree first came up with this idea of hiking the Kjerag mountain in order to stand on the enormously popular and most photographed rock in the world- Kjeragbolten, that too on my birthday. While hiking, we kept asking every other person coming from opposite direction how far the rock was or how much more we still had to hike. With animated hand gestures and fingers in the air, they kept counselling us on the probable duration, length and type of the terrain ahead. But to our realisation, it seemed that the sense of length and duration was relative. What is far to one may seem just too close to another, what is a stone’s throw away may be after an eternity for someone else.
No. 4 Commandment: Life is not a sprint, but a timebound marathon
While we continued our maiden hike up and down three mountains to see the hanging rock of Kjeragbolten, we saw so many fellow hikers of all kinds of shapes and sizes, both men and women overtaking us and disappearing into horizon ahead in no time. The worst was when we met a few people who were still making the upward journey towards the rock while we were coming down and after a while it was them again who overtook us from behind while we were making cautious and calculated steps to secure a safe landing to the next rock below. We kept asking questions about our own fitness and energy level. But we realised that it was not a 100 meters sprint with a prize for the first few. It was more like a marathon where finishing in the daylight was more important and returning safely was of paramount importance than anything else. In this marathon, we came across some extra-ordinary runners who left us in awe. There was this teenage boy with a broken leg in plasters tackling the challenge of descending. There was this Spanish couple with their month old baby girl tied up against the chest making the climbs and jumps weathering the wind, chill and fatigue. Then there was this rather skinny couple who morphed themselves into light-feet butterflies pouncing with ease from one rock to another. All these characters motivated us to go that extra mile and finish off the marathon of life, and its mission.
No. 5 Commandment: Ascent is challenging, but descent is twice time consuming and twice perilous
It took us nearly 4 hours to hike up and reach Kjeragbolten. But while coming down, it took nearly 5 hours. And there were moments while coming down that the body went to free falls on ice cold snow so many times and kept sliding down until it stopped by itself. Our knee caps cried for mercy and quad muscles were pushed to the limit to resist any awkward tumble down the slopes. Like in life, it may seem that building something takes time but destroying it takes less. Not really, infact once you destroy something in life which you had created earlier, you have to deal with the wreckage and waste and the burden of that can haunt for the remainder of life. So descent and destruction is always double the risk and peril.
No. 6 Commandment: Death, injury, fatigue, recovery, discovery, joy – in the company of the loved one
I have never seen Tanusree in this light ever in my life of knowing her for the last 15 years. We have been pretty much in every situation together but this! Together with a mission of hiking three mountains to see a hanging rock in the middle of nowhere in the very heart of a foreign land. So many times I had to hold her hand to climb up or down safely. I was carrying nearly 10 kg extra load on my back of our cameras and food/water which made my trek even more burdensome. So many times we had to consult together to look for the best route up or down or to look for the ‘T’ trail mark to indicate the route. It was cold, windy, chilly, misty, slippery, exhausting. People were there passing either way, but you knew that you were on your own in this trail, with the only hand lent to me was that of hers. She didn’t require my help as much, proving the fact in the mountains that I need her more than she needs me.
No. 7 Commandment: Importance of having no phone network
13th of June being my birthday, on a usual setup I would have expected to receive a few phone calls from family. But on that day, there was no mobile phone coverage on cloud nine. The only signal you could get was that of nature and I realised that that was the most important one to decipher. One day you really need to untangle from all the wires of modern world and calibrate the frequencies of your soul to enlighten yourself with truths of life and being alive.
As I write, I realised we have a lot to share, so this is the right time to end of Part I of this unique birthday celebration hiking through the Kjerag. In Part II, we will share with you the joy of seeing the prized Kjeragbolten with our own eyes. Until then – stay tuned, stay stunned!