Wampa Way

This page is a report of the trip we did from 31st March until 7th April 2007. With loads of photos!

Day 5

I thought the Belgian weather was unpredictable, but the weather on the glacier is even more so.  After enjoying a fantastic day on the glacier yesterday, today proved to be the exact opposite.  Biting winds, heavy cloud cover and freezing temperature.  And things would get worse before they got better.

After breakfast, however, we were first treated to something very special.  The hotel still has an original Hoth Trooper cap.  And one of the speeder drivers showed us the cover of one of the Rebel Turrets (the white tower-like cannons on the battlefield) which he had only found last year, in the hot summer of 2006, after it had been buried for nearly 30 years, perfectly preserved in the ice.  Obviously everyone (except the three desperate housewives that had come along) wanted to don the hat and get their picture taken with the lid.  The hotel manager made me promise to guard the cap and lid with my life before we were allowed to take them outside.

We planned to research the scenes that were shot on the lake right in front of and in the vicinity of the hotel.  Our weather today must have been kind of similar as the weather back in 1979, for Irvin Kershner and crew shot a few key scenes right at the backdoor of the hotel.  The crew stayed indoors, while Harrison Ford but mostly Mark Hamill played some of their dramatic scenes in the snow with the glacier in the background.


While the windows on the hotel wall are no longer the same (they were replaced after a devastating fire on 30th April 1989), the brickwork is still exactly the same and easily recognizable on the behind-the-scenes photographs.  This is where Luke was filmed on the back of his Tauntaun during the opening scene of ESB, when he is attacked by the Wampa and later escapes his cave again (we re-enacted that scene while many onlookers gaped at us through the hotel windows).  Also shot here was Lukes’ vision of Ben Kenobi urging him to go to the Dagobah system and the rescue by Han Solo whose Tauntaun dies.

In the meantime, the documentary film crew kept shooting and almost wrecked the expensive camera in the frigid wind.  Later that day, Frank, Fred, Michael and Courtney took the train back to Oslo.  They left us without a wrap party…

By this time, the whole community in Finse was obviously aware of our presence.  Except for the ESB-patches and the AT-AT t-shirts which gave us away, our activities in and around the hotel gave us away as the ‘Star Wars Gang in town’.  Most locals were very surprised at the diversity of nationalities in our group (Belgian, British, German, Dutch and American) and our common love for this sci-fi flick that was shot in their backyard when most of them were just kids.  Many of them asked if our t-shirts were for sale.  The few spares that we had (after all, we had used the same clothes on the first three days, so we had some to spare) we gave away.  The others we promised we’d send them some.  They were genuinely interested in what we did and I had to write down the URL of this website on quite a few napkins.

In the afternoon, the Belgian contingent (Sofie, Sandra, Michel, Jan, Jeroen and myself) went over to the Finsehytta, the youth hostel some 350 metres from the Finse 1222 hotel.  We had some hot chocolate there.  We later found out that most of the red cross volunteers from both Drammen (close to Oslo) and Bergen, who portrayed the Rebel Troopers, camped out in this hostel.

The plan was to spend the night in a lavvo, which is a local tent, very suitable for a glacier.  But, as we feared, the weather got worse all the time.  Initially Merete tried to accommodate our wish by having the tent not on the actual glacier but still outside, near the hotel (should something go wrong, we could all still get indoors in less than 5 minutes), but as twilight drew near we realised even this would be impossible.  The winds were picking up and visibility was less than 5 meters by the time we had dinner.

So we were going to spend the night in a large shack right next to the railroad tracks.  This is an abandoned old building that supposedly is for sale and in the meantime used to lodge groups of youngsters such as from schools and clubs and the like.  The short walk up to the shack, which is only like 200 metres from the Finse 1222 hotel, was the most arduous walk ever in what felt like a blizzard.  We could barely see where we were walking and dropped up to our knees in the snow with almost every step.  Only when we were very close to the shack did we actually see it.  If it hadn’t been right next to the railroad tracks, we probably wouldn’t have found it. 

Once inside, we found it had more than enough beds to accommodate our group.  It even had a nice salon in which we spent the last hours, joking and drinking some of the local liquors (and some we had sneaked into the country ourselves), before taking refuge in our rooms while all hell broke loose outside.  Lifetime memories!