That night in Bergen

A post that I had jotted in my journal while in Bergen. Despite the anxiety, the view made the night worth every slowly passing hour of the storm.


When I awoke, the wind had picked up and night had fallen. The unexpected darkness startled me, and the whipping of the tent flap jolted me awake. I sat up as high as my low tent would allow and tried to look at the anchors holding the delicate shelter up. I couldn’t see much, but it didn’t seem to be blowing away. The extended flap that formed a small stoop for my boots outside the inner net shuddered in violent convulsions under the spell of the mountain wind.

I unzipped the mesh and reached my bare hand out into the cold – a stinging contrast to the muggy sleeping bag – to pull on the tab where the stake held the rain sheet down. It was solidly taught, and the next point near my feet appeared fixed as well. My nerves calmed slightly, but the atmosphere was decidedly less comfortable than the lingering daylight and lightly pattering drizzle under which I had fallen asleep.

It had now turned into a proper rain. The flapping of the tent had not given me much pause while the prolonged dusk illuminated my cramped dwelling, but the change in lighting made me, for the first time today, truly uncomfortable. I checked my watch. It was just past 2 am. I had been lying there for eight hours, but I’d only gotten a few hours of sleep.

Looking around the tent, still illuminated under the gray sky covering the city at the bottom of the mountain, I realized that I was in no condition to respond to any crisis should my shelter decide to give in to the persistent winds. My clothes were strewn about, waiting to be soaked through if a flap of the tent were suddenly to pull away from the soggy soil.

For a few moments, I laid immobile, wishing I could fall back to sleep and wait out the storm in blissful unconsciousness only to awake to a cloudless morning. But my reason burst my bubble of pollyannish dreaming. I knew that the rains would continue well in the morning, and if the wind continued to batter this little tent, I ought to have a fighting chance at putting it back together without ruining what few small comforts I had left.

Pulling myself up to my elbows, I started gathering the clothes I had changed out of. If the tent gave in, I didn’t want to be in my warm, dry, woolen sleeping clothes. As I contemplated exactly how I would manage the costume changes, a bodily awareness struck me. My stomach growled from the prolonged undernourishment, exacerbated by the full day of humping my heavy pack over hill and dale in my vain attempt to escape civilization. Accepting my body’s protestation that I would want to have a bit of fuel should I need to react, I dug out the giant slice of dry, seedy bread wrapped in a plastic bag.

Pulling the slice only an inch from the bag so as not to drop crumbs in my open sleeping bag, I tried to eat slowly and enjoy one of the last bits of food I had. The crust was dry and crumbly, but the sunflower seeds baked into it still crunched with a delicious toasty flavor. I munched unhurriedly, but without pause. Though I wanted to enjoy the small meal, every gust that pulled at the tent flaps could be the one to ruin my day.

Once I had slowly chewed the last bit and picked out all the sunflower seeds that had fallen into the bag, I crumpled it and stuffed it away to protect some other belonging later.

Finding my compression shorts that I had worn during my climb, I unzipped my sleeping bag and started to pull off my pants with grunting contortions. I removed them successfully and worked quickly to get on the next pair. The cold and damp air that drifted in wrapped my bare legs in a chilling embrace that shook my remnant of sleep. Twisting and rolling as much as I could in the space that didn’t even allow me to stand on all fours, I laboriously pulled on leggings, utility pants, rain pants, a base shirt, a technical shirt, and finally my coat.

Ready again to face the outside, I rolled and stowed the clothes I had just changed out of into their respective plastic bags. I stuffed them into my pack, which had already gotten damp from my movements in the tent that had pushed it out from under the fly sheet. It wasn’t ideal, but it would have to do. I gathered up the remainder of items that had become strewn around the tent. As I inventoried everything, I planned an emergency evacuation and realized I was missing my mittens. Digging around the edges of the tent, I found one. It was a little damp but ok. The other eluded me until I dug behind my pack, precisely where a puddle had formed. It was soaked through with freezing rain water. I tossed it to a dry part of the tent in frustration, but there was little I could do to dry it in the situation at hand.

With my bag packed with all but my sleeping bag and mat, it seemed I was ready as I could be for a cave in. The strengthening gusts made me nervous, but all I could do was hope that my work in driving the stakes and the craftsmanship of tent’s designers and creators would suffice.

I zipped myself back into my sleeping bag, laid my head down, and hoped. I hoped the fatal gust wouldn’t come, but I waited for it in nervous expectation.

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