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  • Mathilde Fongen

On Mountains

The day I learned I was named after a mountain, I was excited and in awe. Well, it’s not just me, but my family, which makes it all the more exciting to think that Mr. Olsen, back in the day, met a mountain and decided to share its name. He didn't want to be Olsen. He wanted to be Fongen. It makes a lot of sense to me that that's where my surname comes from, because no matter where I am in the world, mountains feel like home.


It was August 2017 when we decided to conquer Fongen. It was a fairly miserable day, in terms of the weather, but our spirits were high as we trudged along a path leading to the foot of it, my father, my brother, my boyfriend and I. The rain, the fog, the cold and the wind whispered “prove yourselves!”. And we did. Normally, reaching the peak of a mountain offers the reward of a stunning view, but Fongen didn’t offer that. It offered us greyness, but it also offered us the joy of knowing that we had finally made it to the peak of the mountain we’re named after. The weather made the experience all the more rewarding.


I’ve climbed mountains since I was wee and even though I see myself as a city girl, the mountains have always felt like home. My family have a small cabin in the Norwegian mountains which I've always considered to be my happy place, a place to escape to, a place to find peace, comfort and joy. We climbed Fongen only days before I moved to Scotland, leaving Norway behind, but it didn’t really feel like leaving home. I moved from mountains to mountains and whenever I feel homesick I can look to the Cairngorms and find comfort there.


Earlier this month I spent a week skiing in the Alps. I hadn't gone downhill skiing for about fifteen years and I was scared and apprehensive, but then there we were and it only took a day to feel comfortable skiing again. That Norwegian cliché really is true, that we're born with skis on our feet and it felt wonderful to be skiing down a mountain again after so many years. I challenged myself and I felt free, and even though I'd never been to the Alps before, I felt at home.

I don't know what it is about mountains that makes me feel so at peace. Maybe it's their unmoving, unbeatable nature, their drama and unpredictability or maybe it's just the sheer beauty of them. All I know is that whenever I don't quite feel like myself, I can walk up a hill and find reassurance there. On the peak I feel my happiest. I suppose I see myself in the temperamental and shifting, slowly changing, unpredictable mountains. The weather capable of dramatic change within minutes. Like humans, no two mountains are the same, and like humans, it's a challenge to get to know them. And maybe you can never truly know every part of them.


One could argue that walking up a mountain doesn't actually achieve anything, but to me it achieves something important. It's time taken to take care of myself, time taken to appreciate the beautiful nature surrounding us, time to do something that doesn't earn us money or success or material gain. It's simply about the challenge and enjoyment of it. It's about wellbeing, and yes, I'll bring this into it again; mindfulness. When walking in the hills you need to be aware of every step, the weather, how you're feeling. You need to respect the environment you're in and act according to everything around you. It makes a lot of sense to me to share a name with the Fongen mountain in Trøndelag, Norway. I've moved a lot and traveled a lot, but I can always find home in mountains.



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