It is, in its own way, one of the most splendid peaks in Europe, one majestic mass of primeval gneiss, the original stuff of the globe, just as it solidified by cooling, only broken by the twisting and wrenching it has undergone during ancient upheavals of the earth’s surface, weathered by the storms of countless centuries, and draped with that scanty cloak of green. That topmost spire reaches about 5,000 feet above the floor of the valley. It is locally known as Hornet, i. e., “the Horn.”
One would be tempted to declare the ascent of such an obelisk impossible, but the thing has been done. The first successful attempt was that of two Norwegians, Kristen Smed and Hans Bjaemeland, in 1832; for several years the story of their adventure and two days’ stay near the summit was generally doubted, but a later ascent proved its truth, by the discovery of certain records of their presence made at that time. Slingsby’s Norway, the Mountain Play-ground, tells all about it, and gives an interesting ac-count of how the author himself made the difficult ascent in 1884.
The valley down here under the mountain is a little Paradise of fertile fields and bowery groves. The farmers here find it possible to raise not merely grain and potatoes, but also apples, cherries and plums, currants, gooseberries, raspberries, blackberries, almost all kinds of small fruit. The land is, of course, very valuable.
A large part of Bjornson’s childhood was spent lower down in this same valley, near the fjord. He was early familiar with all this region. One of his biographers remarks of the influence of environment upon his mental development:___
“He had felt the power of the mountains over his mind, and been filled with longing. During the tedious schooldays” his beautiful Romsdal Valley lay waiting for him, beckoning him home at every vacation, always alluring and radiant.”
The lovely green valley has still older associations than those relating to the boyhood of Norway’s favorite poet, for here, they say, ten and eleven centuries ago, lived some of the rich Norsemen who entailed their property and sent the younger sons away to seek fortunes overseas. Some of the comrades of Rolf himself may, very likely, have been born in sight of that very mountain which we find to-day a glorious landmark against the sky. So, at all events, thought Froude, the British historian, and he wrote some verses about it which are worth repeating here on the very ground.
“So, this, then, was the Rovers’ nest, And here the chiefs were bred, Who broke the drowsy Saxon’s rest And scared him in his bed.
The north wind blew, the ship sped fast, Loud cheered the corsair crew, And wild and free above the mast The Raven standard flew.
Sail southsail south ; there lies the land Where the yellow corn is growing ; The spoil is for the warrior’s hand, The serf may have the sowing.
Let cowards make their parchment laws To guard their treasured hoards ; The steel shall plead the Rovers’ cause, Their title-deeds their swords.
The raven still o’er Romsdal’s peak Is soaring as of yore, But Vikings’ call in cove or creek Calm Romsdal hears no more.”
Before we make our own farewell to the valley, we should go just a little farther up-river to a posting station at Horgheim. One might, indeed, continue the journey by post-road over into the Gudbrandsdal, and thence back through eastern Norway to Christiania, but we will do like most other tourists, and limit our Romsdal excursion to the view from Horgheim. The place where we shall stand is marked 90 on Map 2.