Rabot and Klemet – the Frenchman and the Sámi

The story of Charles Rabot and Klemet Person is remarkable. Both have cabins named in their honour. Their dramatic story is also told in a musical. In addition, a plaque on the summit of Northern Norway’s highest mountain, Oksskolten, bears Rabot’s name.

Rabot was a good friend of Fridtjof Nansen and shared Nansen’s adventurous spirit and urge to explore. The many letters they exchanged, which today are part of the public record, tell us what areas they explored and which peaks they climbed. In the 1929 yearbook of the Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT), Nansen wrote a wonderful article about Charles Rabot.

Rabot and Nansen travelled the world and shared their adventures with fascinated audiences in Oslo and Paris. By contrast, the Sámi guide Klemet was living with his family under a rock shelter in Leirskarddalen, one of the valleys at the foot of Okstindan. His fellow villagers were fascinated as well as frightened by him. Klemet was reputed to be a shaman who could use herbs and magic to heal people, but they also feared he could cast spells.

One day in 1883, Rabot arrived in Leirskarddalen and asked who could be his guide on treks through the Okstindan mountains. At that time, it was rather uncommon for anyone to hike the high mountains of Northern Norway. Klemet, however, was known to have a great love for the mountains and he knew the area extremely well. Thus it came to be that Rabot the Frenchman and Klemet the Sámi decided to go on a joint summer hike in the Okstindan range.

There is a memorial plaque on the summit of Oksskolten, the highest peak not just of the Okstindan range but of all of Northern Norway. The 1916-metre summit was also climbed by Peder Stordal of Vefsn village that same year. As far as we know, these were the first three people to ascend Oksskolten.

In speech and writing, it is clear that Charles Rabot had deep respect for Klemet Person, and that he greatly valued his knowledge of the local mountains and the region. Like Nansen, Rabot wrote an article that appeared in the DNT yearbook, detailing his expeditions in Helgeland.

Charles Rabot took many photographs on his trips in Northern Norway. Below you can see one of the very few surviving photos of Klemet Person.