Mountain ecologist Jonas Lembrechts spent ten intense fieldwork days above the polar circle in Sweden and Norway, where he follows non-native plant species and their spread in the mountains. This post appears in a serie on this expedition. The story appears simultaneously in Dutch on Scilogs.be and in English on this website.
We only just returned from our Norwegian trip or a new adventure was already waiting outside the door. And it would not be an easy battle this time. A new mountain waited to be defeated, but the hike up there would pass through a valley with very stubborn snow patches until late in spring. Our first hike already showed spring being late everywhere in the north, so we feared the worst. We needed to reach our highest plots at 1000 meters, so we had to get up there.
Luckily we had kept an eye on the weather and decided to adjust our plans in times. By shuffling our tasks around, we managed to give the snow a few extra sunny days to melt. It soon became clear that this had been wise, thanks to 24 hours of uninterrupted sun light. Where a previous expedition only one week earlier had to return without succes, the white landscape had now turned almost completely brown, ready for spring. The massive waterfall at the bottom of the valley seemed to enjoy the melting snow as much as we did – I had never seen it that big.
1-0 in the advantage of the attackers, which is us. Allright, there were some extra detours to pass the last remaining snow patches, but in the end the climb caused almost no problems.
Until a worrisome view appeared on the horizon. We were approaching the (only!) bridge over the river, and I happily refer back to the above picture of the waterfall to emphasise how important this bridge was. However, our essential bridge was lying happily… on the grass! Due to the late spring, local authorities had not managed yet to put back the bridge, after ‘beaching’ it safely in order to survive the winter. 1-1…
Nature offered an alternative bridge to tease us, but it did not look that attractive.
Some serious bad luck, but we did not plan on letting the mountain win. We had a Plan B, and the mountain was kindly requested for a rematch. A short inspection of the situation was used to finalise the plan. We had been climbing the valley on the east side, the side that had been most heavily covered in snow. The other side of the river, where our highest plots were situated, overlooked the west, and there spring was already much more advanced.
If we finished the most important jobs at this side of the river today, we could attack the mountain the next day from the other side. In that way, we would immediately arrive at the right side of this raging river. It would be a steeper and more difficult climb, but almost completely snow free. Only the reindeer might feel a bit disturbed.
This day’s climb luckily resulted in a win in the end, as we managed to install our new experiment on all lower elevations.