A September hike
On the first Sunday in September, www.nordnorge.com hiked up Oksskolten. The peaks were shrouded in fog, and the north wind made it chilly. However, the weather forecast was quite good, and we really wanted to do it. We stayed overnight in the Kjensvasshytta cabin beside Kjennsvatn lake, about 500 metres (1,640 feet) above sea level, which you can get to in the summer season on a gravel road from Umbukta near Mo i Rana.
From Kjennsvasshytta cabin across the glacier
The first hour of ascent was through fairly steep mountain forest, and it took us an hour to reach Austisen, part of the Okstindbreen glacier. So late in the season, the glacier is blue-tinted, and full of stones and gravel. We put on our crampons and followed our guide as he criss-crossed the glacier. You are recommended to rope up, but it's easy to see which way to go. The ice splinters under your feet, and the cracks run like blue scars through the ice. We got all the way across in quarter of an hour.
Cliff and plateau
Now that the glacier was behind us, we had to face a rather steep rock wall. In some parts, there was loose gravel, and in others we had to negotiate bare rock. Not far up there were also long snow-filled gullies, and at one point we put our crampons back on to cross an extremely steep gully. All the while, we had views down over the glacier and lake below us, though the peaks were still wreathed in mist. Finally, the gradient flattened out a bit, and we walked along a ridge with Austisen far below us. And then the summit appeared, a steep ridge of glittering black scree between patches of fog. This was going to be a challenge!
The last lap
As we set off at great pace up the slope, we soon found out why the summit was glittering. The stones were actually covered in a layer of snow. We squeezed between huge boulders, hauled ourselves up with our arms, leaned on rock walls as we negotiated wobbly stones, and toiled ever upwards. At least our GPS showed that we were gaining altitude fast. The fog was thinning out rapidly, and the sun began to break through. Hundreds of metres below, we could see the crevasses of Austisen through the mist.
Finally, the summit cairn gleamed before us in the sun. The views east towards Sweden were phenomenal, while to the north we could see the blue twinkle of Gressvatn lake. To the south, the 1,901 metre (6,237 feet) Okshornet peeped out through patches of fog. However, the Helgeland coast and all its views from Vega to Lofotodden were still hidden by the mist. We'll have to come back another time for them. Below the summit cairn was a little area in the lee of the wind, where we could eat our packed lunches.
A tough day out
www.nordnorge.com went in a group with a varied age range, and not everyone had mountain experience. However, everyone was fit, and with plenty of packed lunches and energy in the form of nuts and chocolate in reserve, we all felt good throughout the day, with the hike taking us 10 hours. If you do the climb between mid-June and mid-August, you don't need to worry about when it gets dark, and you can take as long as you like. Although Oksskolten is steep, there are no vertiginous sections.
To climb 'Skolten', you need good walking boots, crampons, windproof trousers and jacket. You should also have a few layers of wool, and you can often need a hat and gloves even in the middle of summer. Take several packed lunches and a water bottle. There are plenty of places where you can fill up the bottle en-route. In June, there will still be a lot of snow, and the main season runs from July to early September. From the middle of September, the temperature starts to drop and the days become shorter.