The following article is an abridged extract from On Sacred Ground.
Strictly speaking, the Børgefjell isn’t an Arctic range—it lies 100 miles south of the Arctic Circle. But location isn’t everything. What counts more are the defining characteristics of a place—the climate, the plant and animal species that live there, the composition of rock and soil, the interplay of water and ice, the amount of daylight in summer and darkness in winter. By those measures the Børgefjell is unquestionably Arctic. Once you step onto it, there’s no doubt at all.
“The Børgefjell is unquestionably Arctic. Once you step onto it, there’s no doubt at all”
My Arctic journey began early on August 3—460 days from The Walk’s start back in Calabria. Seen from camp, the fjells looked enormous, somehow heavier than other mountains, as though they contained more mass than narrower, sheerer-sided peaks. The Børgefjell is built from 1.7-billion-year-old granite, and reaches its apex on 5,574-foot Kvigtinden. The fjells are all massive and blunt. Some still sport glaciers. All offer great expanses of exposed rock and scree. The Børgefjell is a rugged but surprisingly simple place; an open land without secrets. It exists entirely without people. It doesn’t need them, and has never really known them, except in passing. But it’s also a land a few people have come to love and protect.
On August 9, 1963, the Børgefjell National Park was created, becoming Norway’s second national park. As early as 1932 Norwegian conservationists had argued that the Børgefjell should be preserved as a wilderness without cabins or marked paths, and when finally the park was born its founders agreed, stating it would ‘retain a large natural area virtually free of technical intervention’. The Børgefjell is described as an ‘undeveloped’ park, and as a result has never become popular. This sounded ideal to me. ‘Undeveloped’ is the best form of development there is.
“The Børgefjell is described as an ‘undeveloped’ park, and as a result has never become popular. This sounded ideal to me”
The sky was infinitely blue when I set out, and the temperature was so pleasantly mild, that the idea of being near the Arctic was laughable. I’d been warned that rain was on the way, but that didn’t worry me. If anything, its approach added extra brilliance to the morning. And anyway, in Norway rain is always on the way.