Rabot and Klemet – the Frenchman and the Sámi

The story of Charles Rabot and Klemet Person is fascinating. Each of these pioneers has a DNT mountain cabin named after them, and there is a historical play that celebrates their achievements. Rabot’s name is also found on a commemorative plaque on the summit of Oksskolten, the highest peak in Northern Norway.

Charles Rabot was a good friend of Fridtjof Nansen and shared Nansen’s adventurous urge to explore. The letters they exchanged reveal which peaks they climbed and the areas they explored. Nansen has also written a glowing article about Rabot in DNT’s 1929 yearbook (see link to the right).

While Rabot and Nansen travelled the world and sent reports of their achievement to the social elite of Oslo and Paris, Klemet Person, an indigenous Sámi, lived with his family under the natural stone shelter uppermost in the valley of Leirskardalen, at the foot of Okstindan. Those who lived in the nearby village were both fascinated by and frightened of Klemet. He was able to heal people with herbs and magic, but he was also believed to be a shaman who could cast spells on enemies.

When Charles Rabot arrived in Leirskardalen one day in 1883, he needed a guide who could help him explore the Okstindan mountains. In that day and age, it was not so common to hike the high mountains, but Klemet who had a keen appreciation for these mountains knew them like the back of his hand. Thus, it came to be that Rabot the Frenchman and Klemet the Sámi set out on a joint expedition into Okstindan.

The plaque on the summit of Oksskolten (1916 m) is engraved also with the name of Peder Stordal from Vefsn, who climbed this mountain the same year as Rabot and Klemet. They were the first to see the impressive panorama of Northern Norway that can be seen from this peak.

It is clear that Rabot had deep respect for Klemet’s experience and local knowledge, and that he appreciated the companionship of his guide. His article in DNT’s 1935 yearbook details some of their shared adventures in Helgeland (see link to the right)

Charles Rabot took many photographs on his numerous expeditions in Norway. Below you can see one of the few photos that exist of Klemet.