Exploring the plateau
Low hills, bogs, hollows and lakes — the Finnmark plateau is an enormous wilderness, virtually unpopulated by humans. However, it is criss-crossed by trails that are almost invisible and it is these trails that activities company GLØD Explorer follow on their excursions. www.nordnorge.com joined a three-day tour of the Finnmark plateau.
On the first day, we headed off to the Altadalen valley for a test ride, which lasted a few hours. The landscape here is varied, with both pine forest and willow scrub. The trail follows the wide river bank out towards the Altaelva river, as well as well-trodden paths, where you need to keep your speed up in order to get over the tree roots. Now and again, the guide stops and says "We need to space out a little". Suddenly, we are in a green tunnel, with willow scrub forming both the roof and the walls. In places there is no trail at all to be seen, and we have to pedal harder through the heather and bog. The trail is so narrow at times that our feet end up in amongst the heather as we pedal along. At one point, we became completely stuck in quicksand by the river, but we soon learned the right technique. All this made the biking both enjoyable and varied, and the guide kept an eye on how we were getting on, so that he could adapt the programme over the next two days to suit our fitness levels. On a promontory out in the Altaelva river, we fill up our bottles and photograph the Raipas mountain wall on the other side of the valley.
On the Finnmark plateau
On the second day, we got the chance to put ourselves to the test on the Finnmark plateau itself. On Tutteberget in the upper reaches of the Altadalen valley, we mounted our bikes and rode on to the plateau itself. We followed a stony tractor track towards the plateau, and the going gradually got tougher and tougher. Water splashed up our legs as we crossed a couple of boggy hollows. The Finnmark plateau is not flat; there are many hills and the reward is the downhill sections. From one summit, we look out across Jiesjav’ri, Finnmark's largest lake, and make out Gaissene, the remote mountain summits east of the lake.
Overnighting at Jotka
Jotka is a mountain cabin in the network of cabins that are situated 30 km (18 miles) apart on the Finnmark plateau. We were greeted with the familiar lapskaus 'bidos', and our host explained to us how the dish is served at Sami weddings. Afterwards, we headed for the sauna and cooled down in the river that flows past the cabin. There are no hot showers at Jotka, but the sauna is just as good. At the end of the day, we slept like logs in the four-bed rooms.
Long-distance across the plateau
On the third day, we cycled over 30 km (18 miles). We first headed up the steep hill out from Jotka, with the fittest managing to cycle all the way to the top and the rest of us walking. From the viewpoint at the top, we looked out across the extensive plateau, the shimmering lakes and the red-painted mountain cabin far below us. There then followed a relatively varied section through undulating terrain, before we came to a steep uphill section, this time entirely without any trails. Once at the top, we reached what must be the Finnmark plateau's answer to a motorway. We followed a mountain ridge northwards with relatively few hills, few rocks and wide tractor tracks along the old post road from Alta to Kautokeino. We soon picked up speed and were able to enjoy far-reaching views in every direction. Lunch was taken on a sunny hillside by a babbling brook, and we grilled some cheese sandwiches and brewed coffee over an open fire. Finally, we looked down over Altafjorden towards Alta in the distance. All that remained were some dare-devil hills that got the adrenalin flowing amongst the group.
Is mountain biking for you?
To get the most out of a mountain biking trip, you should be used to cycling. That will save you a lot of soreness in your nether regions. Being reasonably fit is also an advantage, because mountain biking is more demanding than cycling along country lanes. However, your guide will adapt both the speed and the route to the guests, so Olympic levels of fitness are not at all necessary. You also do not need to be an experienced mountain biker, as the guides are extremely helpful in teaching you the right techniques for cycling on hills. Uphill sections are also not a problem for the inexperienced; all you have to do is jump off your bike and walk up. The downhill sections require a little more skill, but you can simply get off your bike and walk these bits too if you wish. Our group members had varying levels of fitness, and the guide overcame this problem by making frequent stops at places where there was some interesting geology, good views or a historical place of interest.
Activities company GLØD Explorer offers a variety of excursions, from day trips in Altadalen to five-day expeditions on the Finnmark plateau. All trips are based around small groups with a guide who can both mend punctures and fix slipped chains. Lunch is often taken in the great outdoors. Evening meals and accommodation are arranged at one of the mountain cabins that form a network across the plateau and have multi-bed rooms.