Dramatic rescue on Besseggen

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Strong winds and the early snows that have coated mountaintops all over Norway in recent days led to a dramatic rescue mission on the ridge known as Besseggen . A hiker who broke her ankle had to be carried down the mountain by a heroic crew from the Red Cross.

Besseggen, north of Beitostølen on the eastern edge of Jotunheimen, has almost legendary proportions in Norway. It attracts an estimated 30,000 hikers a year, presenting a challenge that many Norwegians both young and old simply can’t resist. Most are proud of saying “we went over Besseggen this summer,” as entire families make the steep but generally manageable ascent every year. It’s an all-day trek, with stunning views as the hiker’s reward.

The mountains of Norway are fickle, however, and weather conditions can change quickly. Trails like the one over Besseggen can also get dangerously slippery when wet or icy.

Britt Olga Almelid, age 39, set off on the hike Saturday, when the weather was fairly good in the morning. Strong winds, however, set in later in the day and then Almelid was unlucky. She fell and broke her ankle not far from the summit.

The strong winds made it impossible for rescue crews to send out an air ambulance or any other helicopter. Instead, Almelid got help from a team of Red Cross rescue workers who hiked up after her, armed with first aid equipment and tents, thinking they’d all have to spend the night on the summit until a helicopter could fetch them.

The weather otherwise wasn’t too bad, though, and the crew had a stretcher. Crew leader Tom Helge Hølmo said they decided to get off the mountain and carry Almelid down instead.

He later admitted to Aftenposten.no that the trek turned out to be “one of the more extreme I’ve been along on.” Normally the people he rescues lack proper equipment or food, or have gotten lost, and he “only” needs to lead them down. “Carrying someone down was hard,” he said.

It took four hours for the nine-person rescue crew plus the two persons hiking with Almelid to get her down. They all took turns carrying her stretcher along the narrow and steep trail.

They finally made it to the mountain lodge at Gjende, after descending from a height of 1,743 meters (about 5,800 feet).