Next morning I have soon reached the treeline and the gradient eases. Here I am on the 1500 sqkm large high plateau auf Dovrefjell. Although a good number of peaks stand out of the plain and reaches heights of more than 2000 meters, there are only relatively tiny glaciated areas, unlike Reinheimen and Breheimen further southwest. The explanation is, that Dovrefjell in the lee of these other mountains receives relatively little precipitation. Once again therefore I hope finally to be out of the snow...
The weather is very beautiful, in fact the best morning since I started! At a pass I get nice views back to the rugged mountains of western Reinheimen.Reinheimen Mountains in the background
But of cause, soon I am again in the snow, first solid from the low night temperatures, but later soft and wet. When I cross the large snow stretches I wear my goggles, I have learned from the beginning snow blindness in Hardangervidda...
On the Dovrefjell
After staying around 1600 meters for some time I descent and get into a broad, brown valley, where the snow just recently has melted. The sky becomes more and more overcast and in the afternoon I reach the large, artificial Aursjøen lake, which I follow for some time. I pass the dam and the large Aursjøhytta, which is staffed later in the season. Like so often in the mountains of southern Norway: Some times it feels like real remote wilderness, where you see almost no signs of human presence, then you get to a dam, or road or a combination, and realize, that these mountains are not that wild...
There is a dirt track and a large number of weekend homes. I guess this area is not included in the Nationalpark Dovrefjell- Sunndalsfjella, which was established in 2002 and is the enlarged version of the Dovrefjell Nationalpark which was already founded in 1974. After the beautiful morning I don't feel too happy when I pitch my tent not too far away from the lake.
Although not very high, the valleys I walk the next day are full of snow. It is astonishing how different the snow conditions are in areas which are so close to each other. Often it seems that this is not a cause of altitude and exposition but the patchy snowfall pattern.
Around noon it starts to rain and I walk with my umbrella, because it is not very windy. Although the rather small dome doesn't offer full protection, it is much nicer than walking without. I try to attach it somehow, but that doesn't really work, so I am not able to use my poles. A very steep 400 meter descent besides an impressive waterfall brings me down to Grøvudalen. I meet a couple and think for a moment that these are the first real hikers of my trek, but it turns out that they just did a mountainbike trip up the valley and are not going to stay.
As I am already quite wet and the rain becomes heavier again, I decide for the first time on this trip to test a DNT-hut. There are two buildings and I am going to stay in the smaller, former storage cabin.
The payment system is unique and based on trust. You just need to fill a form with your credit card details and throw it in a box! 250 Norwegian Crowns represent 28 Euro, not cheap, but this hut is really cozy and almost luxurious, which can be said of almost every norwegian mountain hut.
Early in the morning a light drizzle still falls. Luckily there is a bridge over the main river, but I have to wade numerous smaller channels. The dripping, lush birch forest in the valley is a visual delight. I always like these nordic forests, but this one is especially beautiful because of the calcareous soil. Besides a lot of green and flowers there are some curious sheep and birds like Common Redstarts. Willow Warblers are singing everywhere. Breeding season has arrived...
Bridge near Grøvudalhytta
A lush forest
When I climb out of the valley the clouds lift, sun and blue sky appear and all of a sudden it gets so hot, that I walk just in T-Shirt!
Higher up I am once again in snow and stone. But even here spring is coming. The lakes start to shed their ice load.
Back in the snow
The ice melts
Lakes start to open
The walking on the shore of the three Salhøtjønne lakes is slow, dangerous and tough because of the slippery rocks, often still covered by a thin snow layer.
Later I reach a wide, already snow free plain. Like on so many days here in the mountains of southern Norway I see no other people and the feeling of wilderness, freedom and solitude is perfect.
Freedom on the high plain
As soon as the sun is obscured by some clouds it gets cold, and I change from T-Shirt quickly to Sweatshirt, Climalite Pullover and gloves...
Although it doesn't get real dark in Norway's June the night brings frost. But soon another beautiful walking day starts.
A clear and beautiful morning
It doesn't take too long before I reach the DNT- Åmotdalshytta. There are three Norwegian couples which volunteer to get the cabin ready for the season. Just yesterday a helicopter arrived, with provisions for the next two years! So they had a lot of work to do, including sawing the firewood and put it into the shed.
They are so nice to invite me for breakfast inside the cozy hut. There is fresh coffee, bread, marmelade, sausage and eggs. Unbelievable luxury! Although like always I had my musli breakfast before starting walking, but that is no reason for a long-distance hiker not to enjoy a good second one!
We have a good conversation and I learn that even here in the nationalpark a quarter of the Wild Reindeer population is hunted annually. This is an important economic factor and culturally very strong. So it was probably unrealistic to ban the hunting when the Nationalparks were established, which is not that long ago.
Second Breakfast at Åmotdalshytta...
As the weather is very fine, I decide to do a detour to climb Snøhetta, with 2278 meters Scandinavias highest mountain outside of Jotunheimen. I need to ascend three steep slopes always interupted by large, flat, snowfree boulder fields.
I want to climb Snøhetta
Large barren plains
Just before reaching the rocky summit ridge I need to negotiate a quite steep snowfield, which could pose a problem when frozen. Although the snow is still hard, I get enough grip to ascent.
Majestic vistas open and I am very glad to be up here in this fine weather! Not long ago the summit had military use and there is an ugly tower. But anyway, I feel very good on one of the roofs of Southern Norway!
On the ascent I saw nobody but up here I meet a dutch guy who studied ecology for an semester in Norway. We have lunch together and I get some interesting information about ecological issues in the country. Although it is still nice up here, we can see snow showers falling on many spots around....
I descent the ridge in deep snow and am surprised, how many people are now ascending! It is Sunday and probably the first weekend on which it is possible to climb the mountain without winter gear. They start their climb at Snøheimen cabin, which is the beginning of the usual trail.
After having reached lower ground I walk across flat, vast Tundra to the Reinheim hut, where I take a short break.
|View back to Snøhetta|
I already had some minor showers rain on me, but when I just have left the cabin, bad weather with heavy rain and hail starts in earnest. A strong wind is blowing and the treeless area is open to the elements.
Finally on my descent into Stroplsjødalen, the weather improves. I know that this valley is a stronghold of the Muskox, the iconic symbol of Dovrefjell.
These hairy bovines were once widespread across the arctic, but got extinct at the end of the ice age in Eurasia, probably by the stone age hunters....
In 1932 they were successfully reintroduced to Dovrefjell, but got wiped out again in the war, so for a second time Muskox from Canada were brought to the area, this time successful. Now there are around 300-500 of them, mostly in the area around this valley, but some Muskox managed to establish a second population on the swedish side of the border in Härjedalen.
When I encounter a french hiker, I ask if she has spotted the Bovines. Unbelievably she points with her finger to the direction where she came from "There they are, 4 tiny black dots"!
Although still far away I hurry to get there, finally leave my pack, and wade the river, which is not so easy, but I am so excited to get nearer to the Muskox, that I ignore the cold water...
I know, that they can be aggressive when approached to close, so I keep my distance and move only slow, when I get nearer. There are three adult ones and a young calve, mostly relaxing. They don't move too much, and I get some pictures with my tele lens.
When I walk back to my pack, I see a big bull on my side of the river. Like the others he seems not to be bothered at all by my presence. In fact, after having set up camp, he stays around for hours....
The bull stays around my camp
In the morning there is again storm and rain, so I just start after ten. The trail in Stroplsjødalen is a kind of "hiking highway" and gets apparently a lot of use...
I see some more Muskox, but not as near as yesterday. There is a good number of hikers, even a couple from Minnesota!
Guided "Muskox Safaris" are quite popular in this area, although expensive, but I would say that there is a good chance to watch the hairy animals who seem to be from another age just by walking into the valley...
But anyway, 30 years ago I had been for a couple of days in the area around Kongsvold which I reach around noon, and had seen no Muskox...
There are signs who inform about the Muskox. They advise to stay at least 200 meters from them. Somebody who gets attacked, which occasionally happens, was too near...
Information about the Muskox
Kongsvold Fjeldstue is a historic hotel in Drivdalen, there is a botanical garden and some hiking trails start here.
At Kongsvold I will leave the DNT-trails behind and head for the lesser known areas of Central Norway.