Trekking in Jotunheimen
For the first time I am spent the entire summer in Norway. It has never happened before. It wasn’t bad at all, in fact it was great! I became member of the Norwegian Trekking Association and bought myself a guided mountain hike through Jotunheimen, The Highlights of Jotunheimen.
The tour was, in the advertisment, described as “a must for experienced hikers” who want to explore the national park of Jotunheimen. Experienced ment that the hikes were 7-9 hours or about 30 km (19 miles). Oh my, oh my, and I, who had, never done a mountain trip before. Of course, I’ve done some mountain tops, but never had a four, long days with a backpack in the mountains. Ok, I am not all green, or perhaps that is actually just what I am: A former member of the Red Cross and one who did quite some walking in the Army.
Jotunheimen is the most magnificent massif in Norway, and consequently also the most popular hiking area. Here you find sharp ridges, high plateau, glaciers, lakes and vallyes with rivers and waterfalls. If the brochure also would have mentioned fjords, then I would have said: Norway in a nutshell! All of Norways summits over 2.300 meters are found in this national park (Galdhøpiggen – 2.469m, Glittertind – 2.452m and Store Skagastølstind – 2.405m), and I was to do the two higest of them. The tour also included glacier walking, something I last did on Svalbard 5 years ago.
It was to be great to finally get out of Oslo for some days. Working through the whole summer was ok, but I longed for some days off.
The first day
The trip started with gathering at Oslo Bussterminal and then take the bus to Lom. The group was with people mostly from Oslo and it’s surrounding areas, but also with people from Belgium, The Netherlands and Canada. All in all, we were 13 people with the guide. The trip with Nordfjordekspressen started at 09:30 and we reached Lom at about 16:00. The last part up to Juvashytta (1841 m) was done with an extrabus and we were there about 17:00.
After checking in to the lodge parts of the group did a small walk to Galdhøpiggen Sommerskisenter, which seemed to just have closed for the day. The ski center is located on a glacier next to Gjuvvatnet lake. My god, the water was cold!
In the evening we gathered for dinner; gulash and trout. As an Hungarian I can say that I have tasted many soups that have been called gulash, but this actually also tasted liked one.
After dinner we sat down and got information about the hike we were to do the next day, crossing a glacier on our way up to Galdhøpiggen and the walk down to Spiterstulen. The weather was not to be the best. At 10 in the evening they cut the power and it was time to go to bed.
The second day: Juvasshytta – Spiterstulen
The second day started with a great breakfast and making ourself some lunch. I am not a big breakfast eater, but on this logde there were something for everyone’s taste.
Outside Juvasshytta we met the two guides that were to help us cross the Styggebreen glacier. After some information and getting the neccessary equipment, we started walking up to the foot of the glacier. I must admit that, that 1 hour walk was harder then I expected, and it was only to get worse!
On the foot of the glacier I put on some extra clothes and sun glasses on. The group was not the only ones that wanted to cross the glacier, so we were spilt in two. I placed myself almost in the back. I learned that the route from Juvasshytta was popular with about a hundred or so ascending to Galdhøpiggen on a day with good weather. Before we started, the two guides gave us a crash course on what to do if some of us went through the ice. Luckily none of us did!
The normal route follows the track on the glacier to the rocks and then the left hand ridge to the summit. In poor weather, route finding on the descent can be difficult. It was a tough trip up, with an ice cold wind , fog and light snow (yep, in July!). We were really happy for the small cabin on the top.
After an hours break in the cabin, eating lunch and taking a rest, we started the trail down to the lodge Spiterstulen (1106 m). The fog was quite thick and the visibility low. At some point down to 15-20 meters. We got problems keeping the group together. Some of us were almost running down the mountain sides, but others were moving quite slow. We had to change the order of who was to go in front and who to be in the back. On the upper part of the trail, I went in the back with Peter from the Netherlands. I was impressed who fluent he was in Norwegian and that he had come back to Norway trekking every summer the last 25 years. This year he had started with two weeks up at Svalbard, then a week of biking in Hardanger and then the last week with us in Jotunheimen. A trip that he had done already 5 times!
As the fog disappeared, me and three others speeded up and at some point we were more or less running down the hillside in direction of Spiterstulen. When we reached the lodge, I was so exhausted that I was almost fainting! I sat down ate a bug of nuts, chocolate and raisins. And then we headed for the drying rooms, hanging up all our wet clothes for the night. Spiterstulen has a swimmingpool and a sauna, but we were all to exhausted to make use of them.
Spiterstulen is located in Visdalen, next to the Visa river, and is one of the largest DNT huts. You can drive to Spiterstulen or take the bus from Lom (or even Oslo). You have to pay a road toll per vehicle at the hut. For a small fee it is also possible to camp across the river and use the washing and toilet facilities making this one of the most popular sites in Jotunheimen.
Spiterstulen is centrally placed for ascents of both Galdhøpiggen and Glittertind. And it was Glittertind that was supposed to be the goal for our third day, but the weather forecast for the next day was not promising. So in the meeting we had in the evening we decided to walk another route to Glitterheim.
The third day: Spiterstulen – Glitterheim
After a not to early breakfast the third day started with walking a long to road down from Spiterstulen for about a kilometer, and started a long, steep climb. My legs started hurting as soon as we started climbing, no wonder, thinking back on us more or less running down to Spiterstulen the day before. We had 2-3 breaks on our way up the hill.
Up on the top we decided to follow our plan of not going up at Glittertind, instead we went through the high valley Skautflye. It had been a wet summer, not only in Oslo, so I guess we miscalculated on the amount of water in the river. Well, it wasn’t worse then that we all took off our hiking boots and used our sandales as we crossed the ice cold river.
On the other side of the river, we gathered for lunch. Before we continued along Leirtjønne lake looking at the breathtaking rugged glaciated peaks.
I especially liked Ryggjehøe (2.142m) with it’s 3-4 small lakes (Veslgluptjønnen). The red Ts on the rocks are markings indicating a trail maintained by the Norwegian Trekking Association. After Veslgluptjønnen we started climbing down and in to Veodalen and then we would normally have had an hour’s walk to Glitterheim. Sadly, the girl from Belgium stepped over and three of us ran in to Glitterheim to get help and a stretcher. Luckily we ended up not having to use the stretcher.
The fourth day: Glitterheim – Memurubu
Finally a day with clear blue sky. This is how Jotunheimen is pictured in every travel magazine that I have seen articles about trekking in Norway:
I woke up worring about my legs after two hard days in the mountains, but was pleased with not having any pain at all. Was fast with repacking the backpack with some summer clothes on the top and rushed down to breakfast before the other. So did most of the others in our group, as we heard Glitterheim was full that night. After a good portion of porridge and some slices of bread, I was ready. But then we got another sad delay, some people had during the night or morning stolen of the girls jacket. The group looked around for an half hour before we had to start our walk. Glitterheim – Memurubu was the longest distance during our days up in the mountains.
We started with crossing the Veo river, before climbing up the mountain side to the top of Vestre Hestlægerhøe. And our way up to the top, we had a beautiful view over Veodalen and Glittertind. On this third day hiking, we could see how people started getting tired. The group did not manage to stay together. The group was splitted in 2-3 smaller groups.
From Vestre Hestlægerhøe we went down to Russvatnet, where we stopped for lunch. The first group had already finished eating when the last group came. So we had some time to enjoy the sun and get an extra rest. The next break was to be almost in the other end of the lake, at the Glopåe riverfall.
I didn’t feel that we were running. Actually I carried around my SLR with an extra lense and stopped quite frequently to take pictures. During the five days I took more then 400 pictures. At the Glopåe riverfall we stopped for a second lunch break, and ended up waiting an hour for the last group. This was the last bigger break we had that day, we now left Russvatnet and in to Nedre Russglopet valley to climb up to the trekk cross Besseggen – Memurubu. And then started a horrible steep climb down to Memuburu. My legs were in pain!
That afternoon I was sitting on the stairs enjoying the sun and a bottle of beer. I had deserved it.
The fifth day: Memurubu – Gjendesheim, and then home to Oslo
The breakfast was the last time the whole group were together. Two had decided to take the boat from Memurubu to Gjendesheim, and two others had decided to walk along the Gjende lake. The rest of us sent our backpacks with the boat and started our climb up the same route that we came down the previous day. There were lots of people doing this route that Sunday. We had more or less been alone up in the mountains the two previous days.
This last trip was to take 5 to 7 hours, and included passing the Besseggen mountain ridge. The mountain rige is located between the 18 kilometer long lake Gjende and the smaller lake Bessvatnet. Hike up the ridge and proceed to the western end of the ridge. There you will have a fantastic view over the two lakes and the Jotunheimen mountain area.
There are two unique aspects about the lakes. Gjende lake has an emerald green color whereas Bessvatnet is colored dark blue. Furthermore there is a 400 meter “drop” between the lakes. The ridge is only 50 meters wide! This part of our journey has been made famous with the help of Henrik Ibsen’s poem, Peer Gynt. In the poem Peer Gynt rides wildly across the Besseggen Ridge on the back of a reindeer before tumbling into the lake. It is not a coincidence that Norways most frequently executed mountain hike includes the Besseggen ridge.
In Gjendesheim we had an hour’s rest before stepping in to the bus bringing us to Oslo.
Where does the name Jotunheimen come from?
Originally there was no common name for this large mountainous area, but in 1820 the geologist B. M. Keilhau proposed the name Jotunfjeldene “the mountains of the giants” (inspired by the German name Riesengebirge). This was later changed to Jotunheimen by the poet Aasmund Olavsson Vinje in 1862 – and this name/form is directly inspired by the name Jötunheimr in Norse mythology.
What do I need for this trip?
Some words about equipment is also in place. Proper equipment is essential for hiking in the mountains. As you have read from this blog entry, the weather is variable even during summer. But not only that, it may change quickly. You have to bring both warm clothes, raingear as well as shorts. Mountain boots are also a must, and they should be well broken in. Correct packing requires good planning. The backpack should not weigh more then 8-10 kilos! So here is the suggestion from DNT, that I followed:
- Map, compass, map case
- Grease / boot polish
- Emergency ration food (chocolate, raisins, nuts, etc.)
- Drinking bottle / thermos
- Light repair kit
- Personal first aid kit
- Insect repellent
- Sitting pad
- Matches / Lighter
Protection against weather
- Sun glasses
- Extra pair of socks
- Windproof gloves
- Thick woollen sweater / Fleece jacket
- Raingear (if you don’t have waterproof mountain clothing)
- Extra wollen underwear
- Cap / hat
- Underwear (wool)
- Thin sweater (wool / fleece)
- Hiking boots
- Wool socks
- Hooded mountain jacket (wind / waterproof)
- Mountain trousers (wind / waterproof)
In the cabins
- Indoor shoes / clothes
- Toilet articles, small towel
- Sleeping sack
- Money / Credit card and DNT-membership card
Hope to see you in the Norwegian mountains next summer. I will surely do more trips with the Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT) in the years to come.