Scandinavian wilderness hike 4- across Breheimen and Reinheimen

It has rained all night and I am grateful, that there is a bridge across the wild Utla River, which would be impossible to wade...


I walk by some scattered huts and soon leave the birch forest.

                                                                          Upper Utladalen

From the mountainsides a multitude of waterfalls like silver threads come crashing down. Melting season is in full swing...

                                                                Silver threads

I pass a recent avalanche full of debris. Although so far I haven't seen much of them, it is clear that on these steep hillsides with the now very unstable snow, avalanches are a danger...

                                                              Recent avalanche

Soon the valley branches and I follow the steeply inclined creek up which flows out of a canyon. Now the snow is wet and soft so that I often sink in deeply. Tough walking...

                                                               I ascent the steep valley

Finally the gradient eases and I am back in winter at 1400 meters.

                                              Winter conditions at 1400 meters

When I reach the road, I am quite surprised to see lots of cross- country skiers who take advantage of the conditions at Sognefjellhytta. Cross- country skiing is a very popular sport in Norway, and here the skiing is possible even in august!

                                                           Skiers at Sognefjellhytta

The road Sognefjellvegen marks the border between the Nationalparks of Jotunheimen and Breheimen. Although the highest mountains of Jotunheimen are near by, I am not keen to go there. Too much snow for my taste...
Breheimen Nationalpark which I enter now, was just founded in 2009 and covers an area of 1691 sqkm, larger than Jotunheimen Nationalpark, but much less known...
Its strange, at the road and hut quite a lot of people and cars, and now after some meters pure snow, solitude and winterly landscape. Since Finse I haven't seen that much snow!
For a short time I follow a route marked with large cairns, which obviously already had been built in 18th century. Soon the landscape is covered in thick fog and I don't see much, but the fog adds an even greater feeling of deep solitude to the landscape.
There is a good number of snowy lakes, which in the fog cannot easily be distinguished from the land. I often have a look on my GPS, because even though the ice up here might still be stable, I don't like to try it...
Sometimes I see a cairn but to a great extent I rely on the GPS. There are no tracks of other walkers and I don't follow the well marked DNT-trails any more, but faint footpaths...
Later in the afternoon the fog clears for some time and I see a bit of the landscape between the large Storevatnet and another lake to the east.

                                                          Ridge above Storevatnet

                                               Snowy Breheimen

                                                          Sometimes the fog lifts

In the evening I have covered 27 kilometers and more than 1300 meters of ascent, not too bad in these difficult conditions...

                                           The end of a tough, but rewarding day

5 C° in the morning are accompanied by a stiff breeze, which let the temperature appear much lower...
After a steep descent I am back to the birch forest in Hoydalen. My route continues on the other side of the river and there is a bridge, but once more without planks...
I step in the cold water and begin wading, but after three steps it becomes clear, that this one is way to deep and swift...

                                  The bridge in Hoydalen is not ready yet

I walk upstream, which is not too hard, although there is no trail. I hope on some braided channels, but where ever I check, there is not even the slightest chance to cross...

                                             White, wild water 

On my GPS map a vehicle track is marked, which crosses the river further upstream and I hope on a bridge there. 
But first I get to a side creek, smaller, but uncrossable as well, so I ascent this one too...
Just at the outflow of a small lake, I manage to wade the creek which forms two arms here. I get on the seldom used vehicle track and soon I am at the bridge, below an impressive waterfall.

                                     Waterfall in Hødalen

Just above the waterfall beyond some steep cliffs I have to cross the river again. Where it leaves the lake Høyøyen the River splits in two arms. Although deep and swift it looks doable. I get across, but this was the hardest crossing of the trip so far, with ice cold water reaching to my groin... The line between just possible and very dangerous is sometimes extremely thin...
As this is not a DNT-trail, the red markers are missing and only occasionally I find a stone cairn. For some time I follow the lake shore and then I need to master a steep climb, back to snow and fog...

Above Høøyen lake

In good weather this stretch above 1600 meters would be a delight, but like yesterday I don't see much of the landscape. When it starts to rain, there is no more fun at all in walking. I sink deep in the snow, and the terrain with snowbridges and rocks to balance is generally quite hard. 
Then I spot a cabin in the distance, I suppose it is the DNT Medalsbu hut, so I have no look on the GPS. When I arrive it turns out, that it is locked and used by the power company at lake Middalsvatnet, quite far from my supposed route to Medalsbu...
Although I use my umbrella, after a while I am quite wet, so I am happy when I get on the DNT- trail and finally arrive at Medalsbu, a tiny stone hut with just one bed, table and stove. I open it with the key I acquired in Stavanger, and feel very happy now to be protected from the elements, in this desert of stone and rock. 

I light some candles and get the temperature to a shocking hot

 9 C°...
Unlike most norwegian huts this one is free and very cozy. Since Sognefjellhytta yesterday I haven't seen anybody, like on so many days in the snowy southern Norwegian mountains.

Medalsbu cabin

At three next morning there is still dense fog, but two hours later it has cleared and I start again into the snow.

                                   Medalsbu- a cozy island in the white wilderness

                                                                 A clear day starts

It is much easier to follow the cairns here again on a DNT- Trail and after two hours I get the first view into the upper Lundadalen which I will follow for a long time.

                                                   Upper Lundadalen

The bridge at Trulsbu Hut is not up yet, so I am very glad that there is a snowbridge to cross the river, although it doesn't look too stable any more....


Lundadalen is a very nice valley. I pass turquoise lakes and sometimes one could get the feeling to be in a broad alaskan valley, surrounded by majestic mountains. The upper part of Lundadalen would be interesting to packraft, although challenging, but unfortunately I left my boat at home...
When I reach the birch forest, I make camp. My resupply town Bismo is not too far away, but today is sunday, so I won't be able to organize anything there...

                                                      Turquoise lakes

                                    Lundadalen with Breheimen

                                   A packrafting river...

                                 The birch forest begins

The broad valley has changed to a tight gorge and the river is now very wild, I don't want to be in there in a packraft....

                         The Lunda has turned to a raging torrent

I need 13 kilometers to the village of Bismo in the Otta Valley. Although there are only about 500 people living, it is a kind of centre, with Campgrounds, Hotels and supermarkets. Down here at 400 meters, hay harvesting is in full swing.

                                                            Bismo in Otta valley

It is still low season, therefore I can negotiate a good deal on the campground for a wooden cabin. Apart of tent camping, these cabins are the cheapest accomodation all over Scandinavia, and every campground has a selection of them, from basic to multiple room luxury.
The rest of the day I spent shopping, cooking, eating, washing clothes (and me!) and collecting my parcel from the post, which is conveniently located at the Bunnpris supermarket. There is a website where adresses and locations of all the post offices in Norway are listed, good for planning!
Although the sun doesn't come out, this is the first day without any raindrops so far! No wonder as Bismo is the driest place in Norway with just 300 mm precipitation!

                                    Cabin on Bismo campground

My next goal is to cross the Reinheimen mountains to the Gudbrandsdalen. This area is protected by a nationalpark with a little less than 2000 sqkm, Norways third largest. As Reinheimen reaches from the Fjordcoast to heights of more than 2000 meters altitude the nature is very diverse. While the western part has some infrastructure like cabins and DNT trails, the eastern half where I want to go is quite wild...
In the morning I follow the road in Otta valley for a while, then turn on a less frequented road and finally start to climb on local trails. The coniferous forest here is quite a nice change to the barren mountains I hike most of the time and the gorge a river has carved is spectacular.

                        Gorge on the trail towards Aursjøen lake

                                       Anthills in the forest

While I got quite hot when climbing, a cold wind with some showers on the plateau soon let me shivers and I quickly wear more clothes. There are some cairns, but mostly I walk trackless across the open rolling tundra.

The walking in Reinheimen is mostly trackless

Reinheimen means "Home of the reindeer" and it is indeed one of the strongholds of the southern norwegian Wild Reindeer population. Therefore I am not too surprised, when I encounter a herd of about 60 individuals.

                                   Home of the Wild Reindeer

There is much less snow than in Breheimen, apparently these mountains are in the rainshadow of their bigger neighbors. The walking is quite easy, but the stiff breeze doesn't allow larger breaks.

                                   Reinheimen plateau

From about 1700 meters I descent to 1050 meters where the birch forest begins. For the first time in Norway I encounter some sheep, something quite common in the mountains of the south and not without problems regarding the big predators, Wolf, Wolverine and Bear. The sheep are in fact the reason that only very small numbers of predators are allowed to roam the Norwegian mountains, in my opinion a real pity in these otherwise seemingly quite untouched areas.

                     The treeline is at 1050 meters

A little further down in the Lordalen there is a cluster of old abandoned farm houses, a road ends at a parking lot where visitors get some information about the park. 

                              Old Farmhouses in Lordalen

When in the morning I start my climb to the high plain of Digervarden the temperature is just 4 C°. A cairned trail soon leads me to 1600 meters, where there is just frozen snow and rocks. In the distance I see the more jagged peaks of western Reinheimen. The white Snow Buntings seem to like this hostile environment. A cold wind is blowing, therefore I put on my Down Jacket...

The Digerwarden high plain

When I start the descent towards Grøndalen, the mountains of Dovrefjell appear for the first time.

Descent into Grøndalen
For quite a long time I follow the "Green valley" , which lives up to its name with the fresh green of the birches and some flowers.

Flowers in Grøndalen
Spring green and snowy mountains
Finally I reach the broad Gudbrandsdalen near Lesjaskog. There are only some scattered houses but a small supermarket as well. As my backpack is full of food, I don't need to stop and soon find the start of a DNT trail to Aursjøen lake. A Black Grouse hen starts flying away from the brush when I have left the last houses behind. Unfortunately I can't see the bird very well, but I am quite sure that it wasn't a ptarmigan.
I pitch tent just below the treeline. Quite contrary to the chilly morning now the temperatures are mild, and make for an enjoyable evening.

                                View back into Gudbrandsdalen

Next I want to cross Dovrefjell, the last big mountain chain in Southern Norway. I have been there twice before, but never spotted the famous Muskox, so I hope this time I will be luckier...

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