For one and a half year, acting as a reminder and inspiration, I had a picture postcard of Galdhøpiggen on the dashboard in my car. Studied maps and did some flights close to Galdhøpiggen. Got information from hanggliderpilots that where familiar with the area. Therefore, this flight was no act of impulse !  


                                        By Frode Halse

A sweating hot June in 1993: In town some people cool down with a beer at the sidewalk restaurants, others look for adventure, like the
 author, a devoted XC  pilot who left the crowds behind to drive way up into the mountains of Norway. This time pure distance was not the issue. His mind was set on a "challenge" with a very special mountain top.

15:00 in the "Jotunheimen" mountains. Blue sky, 2/8 Cu and a NW wind of 3-4 m/s. Accompanied by 4 fellow pilots I take off from a snow-covered slope (1500 m asl) above "Raudbergstulen", an old chalet turned into a hotel for tourists. 
Conditions are promising for an attempt at reaching Norway's highest mountain "Galdhopiggen" (2469 m asl). 
Flying distance (10 km) and height gain of 1000 m required are not very impresssive but the summit is surrounded by glaciers and therefore difficult to reach. 
Three years before, 3 hang glider pilots were the first to land there successfully. I don't know their speed or glide ratio which makes things even more challenging, but I'm determined to be the first paraglider pilot to copy their achievement.

 1.Leg:Galdhøpiggen is the second furthest to the right. 
In cloudbase over Mytingsfjell, a couple of km`s left. Photo: Frode Halse TAKE-OFF
Spiralling upwards easily in a 4 m/s lift, I reach cloudbase at 2900 m and drift with the wind straight against target picking up lift to maintain altitude

The landscape of dark boulders, scarce vegetation and moss are separated by patches of snow and marsh. 
Small creeks running through it look like blood vessels from my point of view. 
This mixture produces great temperature differences at ground level generating nice thermals.
Having told others about my plan before take-off, I expected to come across at least someone. 
But now I'm on my own. It's just me and the wilderness. 
A good feeling.
 3.Leg : At cloudbase a couple of km`s from the target.  
Right on target, gliding down from 3000 m.a.s. Photo: Frode Halse Approaching a lake and the "Mytingsfjellet", a snow-covered mountain, I'm at the threshold of a very difficult flying terrain. 
Diverging from the straight line course I avoid the sink area above and around the lake, steering towards a dark mountain slope facing the sun
Arriving 20 m above the slope's top section, I fly into the core of a strong "one",then shoot to cloudbase at 7-8 m/s.

Now the summit is in sight only 4.5 km away, its mantle of "eternal ice" bathed in sunlight. This  
"lady" is no easy date; last summer she let me down only 2 km short of contact forcing me to
make a hasty retreat from her hostile 
 5.Leg :  Gliding down to Galdhøpiggen from  3000 m.a.s.  
Standing on top of the Galdhøpiggen hut. Photo:tourist.. Wow! Three clouds forming a cloudstreet seem to
be my ticket to ride. Cocky and content, I jump- 
fly from base to base at 3000 m
(3.leg). It's freezing; feet and hands have gone numb. A layer of ice covers the edge of the helmet orifice.

Leaving the last cloud, I abruptly hit sink going down fast! I fall towards rough rocky ground on one side and a glacier in a deep valley on the other
(4.leg). Undoubtedly, there's no place to land. I consider turning back but push past the point of no return. 
Having spotted a semi-circular crater inbedded in a mountain wall, I smell lift! Reaching the crater very low, I'm prepared for a 
fight with tight thermals, not the jacuzzi I'm suddenly engaged in! 
 Standing on top of the Galdhøpiggen hut. While the vario yells frantically, I experience all
The route in 5 legs. kinds of deflations each time closer and closer to the crater's walls. 
But I am going up, in fact rocketing into the sky at 8-9 m/s, leaving 2200 m and topping out in yet another cloudbase!

I set my course across the only remaining obstacle, the "Styggbreen" glacier
(5.leg). Once again having left cloudbase, sink is enormous due to the great snow-covered plains.
This is it. Leaning back, stretching my legs, I try to sit as aerodynamically as possible, producing minimum resistance to get maximum glide ratio. Will she be mine this time? 500 m left - alt 2700 m, 250 m left - alt 2550 m. The summit rises, threatening to align the horizon!! Passing 10 m above the edge, the glider trembles in sudden lift but I don't take advantage of it. Too much is at stake. One error now in this abyss of sink could be fatal. Carefully I do a 90 degree turn adjusting for a hillside landing and tumble down on the snowy mountain top on cold, uncooperative legs. But my head is boiling with success!

Four young skiers happen to be there, preparing for their run down the steep snowy slopes. They are bewildered and curious. Did you jump out of a plane? It wasn't easy to convince them that I wasn't a skydiver. Nevertheless they did assist me by taking some photos to document my feat before skiing downward and leaving the "lunatic" alone.
For half an hour I enjoyed the magnificent view and a chocolate bar while savouring the moment and completion of one and a half year's worth of planning and expectations. Silence is total; no wind, no movements, only the pumping of my  heart. The desolate landscape engulfs the lone viewer in a mood of peace and composure. But dwelling too long may cost me dearly. The sun is getting weaker (17 h). If I am not able to fly out, an exhausting walk will make the end of anotherwise superb day.


After several starting attempts I am getting desperate. The old faithful Voodoo with its hyperporous cloth refuses to inflate since there is no wind and practically no running
 The route shown in five legs

distance. Finally I run down a 60 deg. steep snowdrift ending in thin air 200 m above the “Storgjuv” glacier. The paraglider, overshooting as I jump off the ridge, frontcollapses, forming a crumpled rosette. Falling 20-30 m I apply full brakes, all the time keeping the vertical wall behind me in the corner of my eye. Therefore successively releasing the brakes as the glider inflates, I fly away from the vertical beast!

“Lille(Little) Galdhøpiggen” (2369m) is only 500 m away, its dark rock face being my only chance of an aerial return. Nerves tingling I cross “Porten” (the Gate) the void between the twin peaks. Time for the verdict. The strategy works. The rock wall is “alive”, its strong thermals pushing me 400 m upward. Then it`s over. But it is enough. I have escaped the glaciers dangerous crackinfected surface. Leaving the twins I take use of any small thermals barely managing to stay airborn. The former tailwind is now my enemy giving me problems in the lee-rotors. With great difficulty I fly parallel to the “Storgjuv” glacier, finally reaching the “Leirdalen” valley. Shaken but in safety I land in turbulent valley winds amongst grazing cows. As the summer heat start to warm my frozen body tension decreases replaced by an incredible happiness. I did it, first paraglider pilot on “Galdhøpiggen”, an unbreakable record!! Slowly I pack the glider together. Soon a retrival car will pick me up. Laying in the grass I look at some butterflies recapturing the flight. Within seconds I doze off…


(Previously published in Cross Country Magazine issue 34/1993 ) 

The flight draw a lot of attention, making it to the pages of "VG", one of the two major newspapers in Norway. 

(Revised  2005-05-01)


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