Friday, March 19, 2010

Life among the mountains

Living among the mountains dwarfs you, but also lifts your eye and your longing to the peaks, it makes you want to get up, above the valley and the fjord, up to where nothing hinders your vision.

In summer, it's a good life, the challenge is scaled to your ambition, and the reward is a sense of being on top of the world. During the winter, however...

After three avalanches caused considerable damage and closed off the roads leading in almost every direction from here, roads have been closed in most directions. On this list (it may expire) there are 18 closed roads today, closed due to avalanches or danger of avalanches. Four more are under consideration. After a winter of snow in several layers we suddenly have rain and a thaw. It's undermining the snowmasses and loosening that which so far has been stable. Spring does that - and this year more so than ever.

I am not planning to drive to Ålesund this week-end, and if I did, I'd go out towards the islands: Tunnel, bridge and ferry, to get around and away from the mountainsides. I don't want to get caught by anything like this.

In normal years there are always avalanches, or "ras" or "skred" as they are called here. This year however, in addition to the known spots of danger, new areas are hit. And so we lose buildings, and people are in danger, like this mother and her eight year old daughter, who outraced an avalanche by car.

If you were to fly above this area in a small plane, you'd notice that there is no immediate logic to the spread of buildings. There will be a few houses close together, then nothing for a while, even if there may be wide, nice fields there. Then perhaps, one house built prominently on a rock, and then nothing again, for miles. No, it's not like that just because people wanted to live close together or far apart, depending. It's the spots where a building stands the best chance of surviving the winter.

We learn to live with the danger, and there are even people who make a living from maintaining communication in the face of danger. Recently, one machine was taken by an avalanche while clearing the road of snow. The people in it were able to run clear. As I type, others are assessing the danger of avalanches along the roads, at great risk.

Standing on top of a mountain, it feels like you own the world. Buried beneath it though...

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