When Finland declared its independence from Russia in 1917, the Finns proudly took ownership of their land of lovely lakes and Boreal forest—with one strange exception. Even though most of Mount Halti, the tallest mountain in Finland, fell within the newly drawn national borders, its peak wound up in the neighboring country of Norway, just over 1,000 vertical feet out of the Finland’s reach.
That’s where Bjørn Geirr Harsson comes in. The Norwegian man has proposed moving the border just a smidge up the mountainside—about 100 feet—in order to gift the peak to its sister country, thus adding an extra 23 feet to the highest point in Finland.
Harsson has literally walked across his home country as an employee for the Norwegian Mapping Authority, which is when he discovered this cruel 18th-century-drawn border. He pointed out that it makes no sense geographically—the border was drawn in a straight line without taking into account the shape of the mountain, and so the highest point in Finland is actually not its mountain’s peak, but a little ways down the slope.
A small population of Sami people who live in the Lapland area surrounding the Arctic mountain do not favor the idea. They see this proposition as retroactive as the countries are placing so much importance on their borders. The Sami believe land cannot be owned and cross the border regularly. They would be happiest with no border and see this as only causing more trouble.
But Harsson’s generous proposal has gained much popularity elsewhere in both countries and even around the world. People are inspired by the idea of the kindness between two countries, a rare occurrence when so many nations are so frequently at war. Many attribute this to a symbol of peace and good relations. Norway’s prime minister originally rejected the proposal but has since said she would take it under consideration. Meanwhile, Harsson and others continue to push the idea. A documentary film, Battle for Birthday Mountain, was even made to help spread the campaign.
Today, people visit Mount Halti to explore the rocky and dynamic alien landscape of the Arctic Circle. One day, you may not need to cross international borders just to climb to the summit.
Know Before You Go
To get to Mount Halti from Finland, fly from Helsinki to Rovaniemi or Kittilä. There you can rent a car for about a five-and-a-half-hour or a three-and-a-half-hour drive (depending on which airport) to the small town of Kilpisjärvi. From there, you can find a well-marked trail to Halti. Keep in mind that the hike is about 50 kilometers and usually takes three to five days. You can also hike from the Norwegian side. The drive from Kilpisjärvi to lake Guolasjávri where the hike starts is two and a half hours, but the hike from there is only 14 kilometers roundtrip and takes 5-6 hours total. The downside is that to get to the trail parking from the main road you will have to drive on a gravel road which is in terrible condition. Driving 28 kilometers will take you an hour. It would be best to have a tall and durable car. You could also take a seaplane from Kilpisjärvi to one of the many surrounding lakes from which would only take a couple of hours to the top of Halti.