Cairns...... are piles of stones that hikers use to follow mountain trails. They are helpful in the Arctic’s open landscape and common landmarks in the Norwegian mountains. But in recent years, unnecessary cairns have proliferated, misleading hikers when the visibility drops and destroying fragile habitats for plants and invertebrates.
Where: Near Tromsø, on the mountain beyond the cable car (Fjellheisen)
Duration: 4 to 5 hours
Meeting time: 10:00 in Stortorget (by the Arctic hunter statue)
Inclusions: Transportation, cable-car lift, homemade lunch with sandwich, tea, coffee.
Group size: 8 maximum
Difficulty: Hike on uneven terrain. Elevation gain: 200 m.
Goal of the project: To document the proliferation of cairns and encourage leave-no-trace behaviors.
Mission: To map unnecessary cairns and red-listed plant species.
Why is this project important?
Adding stones to a cairn just to leave a trace of our passage is common practice. But once widespread, cairns lose their purpose and become confusing landmarks. They mislead hikers and can be dangerous when visibility drops.
The proliferation of cairns also has destructive effects on micro-habitats, plants and invertebrates. Picking a few stones seems trivial, but it has significant impact when done in the same spot by hundreds of people every year. Popular mountain tops are more exposed because they concentrate the flow of hikers, and "conquering" a mountain is often celebrated by adding stones to existing cairns or building a new one.
Fløyafjellet is particularly vulnerable. This mountain is close to Tromsø, it is easily accessible via a cable car and well-marked trails. The viewpoint is spectacular. That makes Fløyafjellet a popular destination among locals and tourists. This mountain also bears an exceptional plant diversity, including many red-listed species.
What are the goals of the project?
- To encourage leave-no-trace practices in the mountains.
- To map cairns and track their progression.
- To identify red-listed plant species
For the municipality, who owns the land on Fløyafjellet, unnecessary cairns are considered a nuisance (both for safety and environmental reasons).
Ishavskysten friluftsråd (the Arctic coast outdoor council) is an inter-municipal cooperative body whose goals is to make the outdoors a natural part of everyday life. The Outdoor Council facilitates and support our project where possible.
FjellheisenFjellheisen is the Norwegian name for Tromsø's cable car (owned by Norwegian Travel). Fjellheisen understands the importance of encouraging leave-no-trace behaviors and facilitates access to the cable car.
How you can contribute
Join us on a hike on Tromsø’s iconic mountain, and participate in the scientific monitoring of cairns. Together, we will map all the cairns between the cable car (Fjellheisen, 421 m) and the summit (Fløya, 642 m). We will geolocate, describe and photograph them, and submit our observations via an online questionnaire to a database. Wild Lab Projects is using that database to kickstart a larger collaborative project that includes other problematic sites around Tromsø. We will also look for protected plant species (no expertise needed from you), which we will enter into Artsdatabanken.no, an open-access naturalist database widely used in Norway.
--> At 10:00, we will meet in the city center (on Stortorget, by the Arctic hunter statue). We will jump on a city bus to reach the cable car. The 4-min lift will bring us 421 meters above sea level. From there, the summit will be visible, and this is where action awaits us. For the return, you can choose between going back the same way and be in town at 15:00, or walking down on the Sherpa trail (1203 steps, 2,4 km long) built by Nepalese workers from the Khunde village, near Mount Everest.
What happens next?
The success of this project depends on your participation. There would be no citizen science project without public engagement. And this leaves Wild Lab with a responsibility: to keep the participants informed. You will appreciate seeing how your contribution has been productive. For us, reporting is a way to maintain a connection with our participants, to keep raising awareness and a sense of caring, and grow a community of nature advocates.