When the Norwegian Coast comes in sight I am keen on having a look on the mountains. Although here, near Stavanger no snow is left, I already can see the higher mountains further north, still covered in white. Will it be possible to cross this snowy vastness just with trailrunners? I will get the answer soon...
Norwegian coast near Stavanger
Stavanger is the third largest city in Norway but has the atmosphere of a small town. Before I can head for the mountains I need to organize some things: As it is not allowed to have canisters for a gas stove on board of a plane, I need to buy them here. While looking around I detect the local store of the Norwegian hiking Association, DNT. They have butane/propane canisters in stock and give me a box for to mail some things ahead. I knew that it might be an advantage to become DNT member, but haven't done that at home. Now I spontaneously decide to get the not too expensive membership which gives me a huge discount at the 450 mountain huts they maintain across Norway. For a deposit I get a key to open unstaffed huts, which are the vast majority. Although I usually want to camp, I guess it is quite nice to have the opportunity to sleep in a hut when the conditions outside are very bad...
Then I walk to the post office and mail the parcel which contains spare shoes, gas canisters, map printouts and some other things to Bismo, a small town on my planned route, still far away.
As I bought the food for the first stage already in Germany, some time remains to have a look on Stavanger. The weather is quite mild for Norway, so people sit outside in the cafés at the harbour to enjoy a beer or eat. I get the first impression of Norwegian prices: A simple menu in a fast food restaurant cost 14 Euro!
Mild evening in Stavanger
Next morning my Nor- way express bus leaves from the central station in midtown. It is gray and raining, probably more typical for Norway than the nice weather yesterday...
I travel by Bus to my starting point at Odda
Although the distance is not that huge, I need 6,5 hours before I arrive at my destination Odda, a small town at the end of the Sørfjord. As I want to climb out of the fjord today, I immediately start hiking. Soon the last road is behind and on a small, very steep path I gain altitude. As it is raining I wear my light rain jacket, but sweat quite a bit, something rather unusual in Norway... The vegetation in the pine- and birch forest is lush and wet, with a lot of colourful flowers, nice, even in the rain. I reach the edge of the forest at 960 meters and pitch tent. Enough for the first day!
In the morning it still rains and is foggy outside. When I leave around 8 my thermometer shows just four degrees Celsius, quite chilly especially in these wet conditions!
Four degrees and wet...
First there is running water everywhere, here spring has come! But a little higher there is just a white blanket of snow. The fog is now very thick, but still it is not too hard to follow the trail which is marked with huge stone cairns. Luckily the snow crust is solid, so the walking is rather easy.
The snow is good to walk
I reach the highest point Møyfallsnuten, a rocky hill where so far only a handful people has written in the summit book this year.
After a steep descent to the hut Mosbua I arrive at something which is quite typical in the southern Norwegian mountains at this time of the year. There is a bridge over the creek, but the planks are missing! Only later in the summer the bridges will be completed, to avoid flooding damages from the snow melt!
The creek is deep and swift so it is crucial to find a good spot to cross, which I find just at the outflow of the lake, which like so many waterbodies in Norway is regulated to generate electricity. There is even a powerline...
As my feet are wet anyway, there is no need to take off the shoes, something which works quite well with trailrunners and has already being tested by me a couple of times.
The bridge at Mosbua is not ready yet...
The weather clears and I get nice views to the glacier Folgefonna and the Hardangervidda plateau. Steep gray granite walls rise from the edge of lake Ringedalsvatnet, which I circumnavigate in a half circle.
The clouds lift
Steep granite walls at Ringedalsvatnet
When the sun comes out, to my surprise it gets so warm, that I hike in T-shirt! When I walk towards two low passes I am in the snow again, but at lower altitudes the colour brown dominates and the first birds have arrived.
Ascent to a pass
With all the rock and snow and the sweet solitude one could get the impression to be far off somewhere in Greenland, the only signs of man are the beautifully built cairns and the red T- markings of the DNT.
Well built cairns
I pitch my tent on a rocky island with a nice view, surrounded by the white vastness. It looks like a nice evening, but when I start cooking outside, it starts raining again...
Overlooking the white vastness
As on many days to come I saw no other human today and am quite content. The walking was easier than expected, and while the landscape feels rather hostile under a grey sky, as soon as the sun comes out it is more like an arctic paradise!
The next day I walk in quite tough conditions. I wear my raingear all day, and for the first time since long, a new light umbrella comes into use! I pass Langvatnet, another artificial lake and negotiate a lot of undulating terrain. In the fog I am again happy for the GPS...
Sometimes it is a full whiteout, neither distances nor the steepness of the terrain are possible to estimate. On some of the climbs I am happy that the snow is not too hard or frozen, otherwise crampons would be needed. The snow is generally good to walk on, but occasonally I get trapped! The snow melts first and becomes unstable where there are rocks, because they are warmer. Sometimes treacherous holes form, with just a thin layer of snow. When sinking through the crust, it is easy to hurt the feet between the rocks! I get very careful after this happened the first time, but still sometimes it is unavoidable. Luckily I don't injure myself badly...
When the fog lifts for a short time I get nice views over Ringedalsvatnet and find at a sheltered place more signs of the arriving spring: Some lovely flowering willows!
Spring is coming
As I have seen no other human since leaving Odda it feels strange, when suddenly out of the fog masses of people appear!
This is Trolltunga, one of Norway's, most popular viewpoints. Even though the weather is bad so the vista is not too enjoyable all these hikers have come for the 10 hour roundtrip from a parking lot. And indeed, this tongue of granite, towering 700 vertical meters above the lake is spectacular! As I am by myself it is not too hard to find somebody who is willing to picture me...
|Masses of people at Trolltunga|
Trolltunga in the fog
Soon I leave the masses behind, who walk caravan like the same way back. After passing Stednesvatnet I need to climb steeply for a long time. Even though it is snowy, most of the time I find trail markings, but here I need to search a bit to find the right way across the steep terrain. On top a wide plateau starts, already part of Hardangervidda, europes largest high plateau with a surface of 8000 sqkm. I like the wide open spaces, but a huge powerline disturbs the taste of wildness to some degree...
I pass the deserted DNT Huts of Tyssevassbu and continue towards Litlos. Although the conditions today were far from easy I have already covered 20 Kilometers. As I am not too tired I could continue, but have decided to not cover more than 20 kilometers per day during the first week, to avoid initial overstressing. I think that is quite important for an enjoyable months long walk...
I find a thawed spot in the snow and set up camp. As it is quite wet, cold and windy I cook in the Apsis of the tent, something which would be very frequent on this trek...
The morning feels quite arctic: 4 C°, snow showers, ice cold wind. I wear most of my clothes, especially the light climalite pullover is gold worth! It is a very satisfying feeling to be the first who leaves his footprints in the snow! No, there is a track, which could only being made by a lone wolf, as I doubt that there are any dogs around! Little less than half of the Hardangervidda is a nationalpark, the largest of Norway!
Yes, the Vidda is a plateau, but it is not flat! There is constant up and down over the hills. Dark granite Rock makes for a stark contrast to the blinding white. There are lots of creeks but they can easily be crossed on solid snowbridges. The weather changes from minute to minute. Clouds and showers alternate with blue sky and sun!
Fascinating arctic vastness
The plateau is not flat
Sun and clouds
After leaving the path towards Litlos, there are more thawed patches. I see snow buntings, grouse and golden plovers as well as some beautiful flowers, sheltered by a rock.
|The weather is clearing|
In the distance Harteigen comes into view, with 1690 meters the second highest mountain in Hardangervidda. The hut shaped table mountain is quite distinct and around 300 meters higher than the surrounding plateau.
The snowy Hardangervidda
The mountain looks impossible to climb without gear, but later I learn, that on the east side there is a faint path to the top. It would have been nice to be up there in this beautiful weather!
When a trail branches, there are always wooden signposts, combined with the many cairns the navigation even in the snow is quite easy.
Before reaching Torehytten the trail descends in a dark canyon. Luckily the river can be crossed on a snowbridge.
Gorge near Torehytten
I cook dinner sheltered from the wind in the vicinity of the huts, where again nobody is around and then continue walking.
I climb to above the canyon and finally descent steeply to the Lake Nedsta Soltjørni. It is good that the snow is soft, on hard, frozen snow, this would not be easy...
To my surprise the landscape has changed very much, most of the snow has disappeared and brown is the dominating colour.
Much less snow...
At 8:30 pm I pitch tent after about 25 kilometers covered. This was a very beautiful day, but I already feel the consequences of sun and snow: My face is burning and my vision somehow blurred! This is not good as it indicates a beginning snow blindness! I carry goggles, but stupidly didn't bother to wear them, because most of the time the snow cover was not continuous, but still apparently too much for my eyes!
In the evening the weather has changed and it rains all night and next morning as well. I start late, when the down pour has subsided.
As there are no snow bridges I need to wade a good number of creeks, but the crossings are always not too bad.
When I reach the big river Veig at Hadlaskard hut, I am happy that there is a bridge, otherwise the crossing would have been very difficult!
Soon I am back in the snow and the going is not as easy as before. The rain has softened the snow further and sometimes I sink in over my knees! Occasionally I sink through the snow into cold swamp water, a chilly shock!
Although Hardangervidda is home to the largest population of wild reindeer in Norway, so far I have seen only some tracks and droppings. Probably the herds are still in areas where spring has advanced further.
There are only some willows in the valleys, but apparently enough food for moose, whose droppings I occasionally find.
Although the area in general is wild and has no signs of modern civilization, twice I pass obviously private huts and for a while the trail is following a deep ATV track, an ugly scar in the landscape.
Sometimes it is not so easy to do the creek crossings, because on their edge ice and snow have formed unstable overhangs. Sometimes they crash when I just test them with my walking sticks...
It remains grey all day and a chilly, strong wind makes for almost arctic conditions.
Next morning the wind has intensified to a full grown storm. My tent holds rather well, but when the first peg is wrenched I know it is time to go! As the temperature is near freezing, with the wind chill it is tremendously cold, so I wear everything I have, even down jacket and balaclava. Very carefully I start to take down the tent, being full aware that when I do a mistake it might fly away which could be the case with other loose things as well.
When I get into Boreio valley, I find some private huts, all locked...
The valley is somehow sheltered and I could pitch my tent again, but as Dyranut hut is only 3 kilometers away, I push on. Luckily there is a bridge over the wild river...
Soon it starts to rain heavily, in combination with the storm, something very unpleasant and I regret my decision...
Even very small creeks are now raging wild and would be hard to cross, but there are the snow bridges, sometimes not looking stable at all...I can't stop for long without getting too cold, so there are two possibilities: Crawling slowly to spread the pressure, or sprinting over to reduce the time for the bridges to collapse...
I always choose the second method and be lucky! But of cause, this is not something to be attempted, when a fall into the ice cold water would be lethal!
When I see the red and yellow buildings of Dyranut, snow is driven across the plain, a savage sight but I can only think of escaping the storm!
But when I reach Dyranut the next shock comes: The tourist hut will only open at July first, and all buildings are locked! All the DNT huts I passed so far were open, but here is no chance of shelter! It is impossible to pitch the tent and I don't dare to move on. Suddenly a tourist bus stops and a crowd of Chinese steps out to snap pictures. I approach the driver, who speaks english and ask him for a short lift, to a place with acomodation. He thinks that will be no problem, but needs to ask the chinese tour leader. While I stand outside in storm and rain, there is something going on in the bus...
First there seems to be a discussion, than some arms rise, others stay down. Obviously they vote if they want to take me along! When the bus driver gets out of the bus I can tell the result from his face, they really leave me in this stormy hell!
Luckily it doesn't take long and an RV stops. It turns out that this is a young german couple from Chemnitz, I hop in and after only 10 kilometers we reach Halne fjellstova, where I can stay for the night.
Next morning the storm is gone, but the weather still looks rather grey. Anyway, time to move on! I don't return to Dyranut but continue from here towards Finse.
View back to Halne Fjellstova
I pass Kraekkja hytta and follow the Jøklelvavalley along some interconnecting lakes. Once I need to cross a larger creek, where the planks of the bridge had been removed. Upstream I get to a spot where the river divides into two arms which makes it easier to cross. Although it is overcast I now wear my goggles constantly in the snow. The people at Halne suggested, that my eye problems will disappear without treatment, so I am optimistic!
Now I constantly wear goggles
The lakes are still frozen and snow covered but at some places turquoise water adds a nice colour to the often quite monochrome landscape.
In the evening the sun comes out and I am able to fully enjoy the icecap of Hardangerjøkul nearby in the west. I pitch my tent and enjoy the warm sunrays. Out of the wind it feels really nice!
Camp near Hardangerjøkul
Unlike most evenings I cook outside the tent and eat a little sheltered in the apsis, enjoying the beautiful view. My dinners are very diverse, one day spaghetti, next day mashed potato powder, always with a large quantity of butter!
Restaurant with a view
Later I go for a walk to the next hill. It is just around 2 degrees, so I appreciate my down jacket, especially in the wind!
It is a beautiful evening and I manage to photograph a ptarmigan, which is not very shy.
Mild evening light
Back at the tent I would like to photograph the sunset, but even though the sun is already low, I don't manage to stay awake until it has fully set...
Sunset at Hardangerjøkul
Next morning it rains again and I start late, while it is still raining...
Before I reach Finse, there is an obstacle: A wild creek of which the bridge has been removed! The first spot on which I try to wade it, soon proves too deep, so I walk upstream to find something better. Finally I detect a spot where the water rises just to my knees. O.K, but much higher water would be difficult in the fast current...
Finse is a train station at the highest point of the railroad track between Bergen and Oslo. While this for sure is a busy place in summer, right now it seems to be deserted, but at least there is a nice, open, warm room in which I can wait for the train. My plan is to take the train to Geilo where I want to resupply.
As I am the only passenger here, I am quite surprised how full the train is. Large tourist groups hang to the windows to snap photos and videos of the snowy landscape.
Soon winter is behind and some hundred meters lower we reach Geilo, a well known ski town. As it is off season I bargain a good deal at a hotel. In an outdoor store I buy fuel for my stove and ask for a place where I can wash my clothes. One of the employees answers that there is no laundromat, but she would like to wash and dry my clothes! I can't say no to this kind offer! They even phone around were I would get the best deal for dinner. It turns out, that one of the large hotels has a quite cheap dinner buffet, exactly what a hungry hiker needs! But when I turn up there later, I find it a bit too fancy for my taste, especially since I wear only the down jacket, as my other clothes get washed...
Instead I walk to the Pizzeria and get a good meal, even though not cheap...