The 21-year-old Gutubakken, a national champion horse rider, was on her way home to Tau in south-western Norway in the early Monday dawn after working with her father selling horse walker systems at the Arctic Equestrian Games.
Without any warning, at a point near the Vardane tunnel, she lost control of her vehicle. Before she had a chance to react, the car began tumbling down a rocky precipice into the bitterly cold waters of the Jøsen Fjord.
“The Airbag shot out, so I couldn’t see anything. The car turned several somersaults on its way down,” Gutubakken told newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad.
With the car sinking, she tried to force the door open, but the water pressure prevented it from budging.
“’Now I’m going to die’, I thought. ‘Is this how it’s going to end?’ But I remained calm.”
As more and more water seeped in, Gutubakken said she started feeling about for the emergency hammer. Just then, she had a stroke of good luck.
“Suddenly the boot opened and the car started racing down at breakneck speed.”
Having spent some time working on offshore rigs, Gutubakkken said she was used to being underwater. She climbed into the back seat and out through the boot.
“I was pulled down by the undertow but managed to make it up to the surface.”
She had cleared the first stage of her great escape but still knew she needed to act fast to avoid hypothermia in her drenched dungarees and thin sweater.
First, she climbed gingerly up the steep stony bank in her high heels, testing every rock along the way to ensure she didn’t lose her footing.
When she reached the top, she felt elated but knew she wasn’t yet safe. The road was desolate, snow flurried and fell, and she couldn’t tell where the nearest houses lay.
First she walked in one direction but soon changed her mind and turned around. Swinging her arms like windmills to stay warm, she wandered into a pitch black tunnel.
”I started to feel my way along the wall but suddenly I noticed there was a ditch at the edge. I had to go by sounds, with my arms stretched out in front of me,” she told Stavanger Aftenblad.
More tunnels awaited, and she counted them all to ensure she’d be able to trace her steps back to the point where she’d driven off the road, she told the newspaper.
After walking for around three kilometres, she saw lights in a house on a steep hill above the road.
Having scampered up the hill, she knocked on the door and let herself in, quickly getting out of her wet clothes.
The house’s inhabitants soon arrived to find their unexpected visitor in the hall. They covered her up, found her some fresh clothes and lit the stove to keep her warm before an ambulance arrived to take her to hospital.
Despite her ordeal, the injuries she suffered were no more serious than a bruised foot, a sore neck, some scratches, and a broken nail.
Glad just to be alive, her thoughts soon drifted to her grandfather, Ivar Gutubakken, who died in a landslide two years ago on the very same road at the age of 69.
“I didn’t think about it in the hours after the accident – it was all about survival then. But my thoughts started going there after a while. It’s the second time in two years we’ve been hit by the mountains around the fjord.
“But this time, fortunately, it went well. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet,” Gutubakken told Stavanger Aftenblad.