By Michael Lanza

On a treeless tundra plateau deep in Norway’s Jotunheimen National Park, we stop before a bouncy suspension bridge over a roaring, snarling whitewater river. I shoot a glance at my 75-year-old mom. In a tone that contains more fatalism than enthusiasm, she reminds me, “I’ve never crossed one of these.”

I nod, and calmly assure her, “You can do this.” But the flushed look on her face tells me she’s not buying that line. I don’t need reminding that I’d planned this weeklong trek and convinced my mom she could handle it. I had even used a couple of words I’ve occasionally called on with her over the nearly three decades of adventures we’ve taken together: “Trust me.”

This week, it seems, I’m putting that trust to the test.

Besseggen Ridge, Jotunheimen.
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My confidence is not unfounded. I like to refer to my mom as The World’s Toughest Grandma. She didn’t even start hiking until her late 40s, when I first got her on the trail. After early forays up New Hampshire’s Mt. Monadnock, we moved on to bigger adventures together, ranging from a hut traverse of the Presidential Range to backpacking in the Grand Canyon when she was a spry lass of 62. But she’s never done anything as long or hard as this 60-mile trek. And she’s never been 75 years old on one of our big adventures, either.

It’s the second day of our hut-to-hut journey through Jotunheimen, and we’ve been hiking for five hours across a rugged, Arctic-looking landscape vibrantly colorful with shrubs, mosses, and wildflowers. Cliffs and mountains look like they were chopped from the earth with an axe. Lichen blankets glacial-erratic boulders. It’s beautiful, for sure, but rain, wind, and near-freezing temperatures have also made it a trial; the weather alone would be hard on anyone. Now we’re staring at this raging river spanned by a swaying bridge—which must look like a wobbly slackline to my septuagenarian mother.

Our multi-generation group eyeballs the bridge. In addition to my mom Joanne, the party includes my wife, Penny, our 11-year-old son, Nate, and nine-year-old daughter, Alex, and friends Jeff Wilhelm and his 20-year-old daughter, Jasmine.

Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan
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