Scandinavian wilderness hike 6- Knutshøa and Forollhogna

Here at Kongsvold in Drivdalen I will leave the network of marked DNT- hiking trails for a long time, to explore the lesser known landscapes of central Norway. I will use a mixture of cross country walking, local trails and occasional dirt roads. Dovre Fjell on the western side of the valley, was the last of the high mountain chains I crossed. The landscape I will hike through might be less spectacular because there are no more glaciers and rugged rocky mountains, but as I like wide open spaces and the adventure of trailless walking, I am looking forward towards the next stages of my hike....
Not far from Kongsvold Fjellstue I follow for a short time the markers of the well known Olavsleden, a historic pilgrim trail which leads from Oslo to Nidaros Dome in Trondheim.


When I have left the valley, I get on a vast open plain, with the huge Syndre Knutshøa mountain rising high. A signboard gives information about the Wild reindeer for which Knutshøa, the area I am about to cross now, is an important habitat.

                                       Syndre Knutshøa

The weather is clear with occasional showers, and a cold wind is blowing. I can't resist the temptation to climb the mountain. Although it reaches just 1690 meters, the altitude difference from below 900 meters in Drivdalen is quite large. Unlike the tundra areas I crossed before, with mostly brown colours after just shedding the snow, this area is already very green and spring definitely has arrived! On the final ascent the terrain becomes very rocky and the wind has grown to storm like conditions. Everywhere around snow showers are falling and with the wind chill it is surprisingly cold. 

                            Descent from Syndre Knutshøa

On the other side of the mountain the rocky slope seems too steep to safely descent, so I need some time to find a good route down.
When I arrive in the valley sometimes I find cairns which mark an old trail, but mostly I walk trackless. I spot a huge Golden Eagle and when a Golden Plover leaves its nest just meters from my feet, I find its nest with four eggs.

                                Golden Plover nest

The lichen covered, almost white, vast tundra spaces without the red T-markers I followed for weeks leave a sense of exploration I like very much. 

                               Wide, open spaces

In the evening I need quite a long time to search for a sheltered place to pitch my camp, because the wind is still blowing forcefully. Finally I succeed and make camp at a spot in a valley.
In the morning a sugarly layer of fresh snow has covered the tent, end of June in Norway...
I pass a remote farm and follow for a long time the shore of Elgsjøen lake, slow walking, wet and sometimes thick willows to negotiate...

Elgsjøen lake

From the northern end of the lake I climb trackless to the high plateau auf Elgsjøtangen at 1400 meters. A cold wind makes for clear skies, snowy Dovrefjell still near.


I ascend to the lake Unndalsvatn and climb up to the next plateau, Storvollkampen. 
In the afternoon I have already covered 24 trackless kilometers, when I get on a dirt road, near the farm Trøasaetra. The road connects some remote farms, which seem to be abandoned, probably nowadays only used as summer homes. There is no traffic, and although normally I don't like roadwalking, now I really enjoy the easy walking across this immense landscape. 

                       Rarely used dirt roads

                              I pass some old farmhouses

Soon after wading the Orkla River at the Albussaetra farm I would like to camp, because it is already late and I get a little tired, but now the road crosses large stretches of open swampland without drinking water and protected camp sites. The cold wind is still blowing, although the weather is really nice now...

                            View back to Syndre Knutshøa

Only when I reach the abandoned farm Fjaellaegret, where the track ends, I find a good place to pitch my tent in the first birch forest I see today...35 kilometers covered...
When I get up next morning the temperature has already reached a hot 12 degrees, so I can start in Sweatshirt, something unusual so far. A big trackless swamp lies ahead of me. At a birch forest in a valley, I see the first moose of the walk disappear in the brush, and a little later I hear the trumpeting of cranes. A little later I spot two of them on a hill, but when I try to get closer, they fly away...


Even when I am back on a dirt road I enjoy the walking on this fine day across the vast landscape thoroughly. The mixture of open spaces and spring green birch forest is unique so far.

                           Beautiful vastness of Knutshøa

Finally I get on a dirt road which I follow for some kilometers. There is no traffic, so I am quite surprised when somebody on a quad arrives. Magne is a Norwegian shepherd and former member of the national Biathlon team with which he even visited Ruhpolding in Germany! He generates his income from a herd of sheep, about 350 in Winter and 700 in summer. While in winter they live on hay in the stable, where the lambs are born, from first of June they are allowed to roam the wilds freely! Some neighbors even keep cattle like this, but for them only in July there is enough to eat. Sometimes he loses a sheep to a Wolverine, but there are no wolves or bears here, and he assures me, that when they would be here, the sheep keeping would have to change very much...
But as the area has a lot of Moose and Wild Reindeer, the land owners also make some money by selling hunting rights. Magne tells me that especially in Forollhogna, the area I want to cross next, there are very big Wild Reindeer bulls. He thinks that they have that big antlers because they mixed with tame Reindeer, which were left by the Sami, when they were driven away from their homeland in the middle of the 19th century. Interesting story, so far I didn't even know, that Sami ever lift so far south... 
I admire Magne's Outdoor lifestyle, but wonder if the price of not having big predators around isn't too high...

                    Magne, Shepherd and former Biathlet

Soon I am on smaller vehicle tracks and see the village of Kvikne in the Orkla valley. Here it feels for the first time like summer, with hot sun, green pastures and blue sky.

Kvikne in Orkla valley

At a filling station I reward myself with a special treat: Two liters of Brittle icecream! It takes some time, but I have no problem to finish the huge bowl...
When I descend out of the valley I walk across the cultural landscape of Central Norway: Hay pastures, stands of birches and spruce and the occasional hut. In the evening the thermometer still shows a shocking 17 °C, and I have dry socks and shoes, something unusual on this trek...
Next morning I have soon reached the end of the dirt road and the beginning of Forollhogna Nationalpark. The crossing of this 1000 sqkm park to Haltdalen encompasses about 50 trackless kilometers in straight line, therefore I am looking forward to this little adventure under a perfect summer sky.

                                 The entrance of Forollhogna Nationalpark

This is a wide open landscape. Flat, hilly chains of about 1100 meters altitude alternate with swampy river valleys which are mostly easy to cross. Although some snow fields are left, nothing comparable to the mountains further south...

                                                   Across Forollhogna

There are the occasional curious sheep and some birds like ptarmigan and golden plovers, but not very many, strange, because now breeding season must be in full swing.
For the first time on this trek I see long- tailed skuas, and even manage to photograph one.

                                                                       Curious sheep

                                                                              Long -tailed   Skua      

Of the famous Wild Reindeer of this area, I see only one lonely bull on a distant snowfield, but find some impressive antlers.

                                Wild Reindeer Antlers

Although only 1332 meters high, the mountain Forollhogna after which the Nationalpark was named, guides me all day, slowly growing taller...
The landscape doesn't change very much, but I am always curious what lies behind the next hills...
This sense of exploration gives me deep satisfaction.

                                    Walking towards Forollhogna mountain

In the late afternoon the valleys are more inclined and the slopes seem to be steeper, but pose no real difficulty. 

                                           More inclined valleys

I pitch tent just below Forollhogna mountain, but regrettable in the evening I have not enough energy to climb it, after 26 trailless kilometers. The sun sets at midnight but at 2 in the morning it still looks the same!

                                              Long sunset

Next morning I walk along the shore of the large Lake Forollsjøen and then follow the outflowing creek until I arrive at a waterfall. To get out of the ravine, I get on a steep snowfield. When I realize that this is really to steep and unsafe I decide to turnaround. Too late, in the process of changing my direction I slide and glide down the slope until I crash in the rocks, just above the river! I knew, that they would stop me when this happens, otherwise I wouldn't have dared to take a step on the snow slope...
Around noon I wade the river in Forddalen. No problem even though the water reaches to my thighs, but I believe that after longer rainfalls this creek will become uncrossable...
There are even some birches in the valley and the ascent out of it is surprisingly steep, but then I am back on another vast high plain.
A sandpiper in the lichen and moss vegetation is not shy at all. Does he have his nest here?


In the afternoon I walk along the edge of a wide swamp towards a cluster of houses. When I cook dinner the mosquitos are quite aggressive, although not too bad. It is already the last day of june, so their season has started very late this year...

                                    Pasta and Cheese with loads of butter...

After eating I take a walk to enjoy the beautiful evening. Many small birds feed their young and I see whimbrels for the first time of this summer. But the most beautiful birds around are the Bluethroats, especially photogenic in the evening light!


When I pay a visit to the about ten houses, I am surprised to meet somebody here. Walter lives in Trondheim, but visits this place several times a year just to fish and relax. There is no electricity but a gas cooled fridge, so he treats me with a cold beer! Thank you very much!
This hamlet was, like so many others, still populated all year round about 50 years ago, but today it is just used for recreational purposes.

                                                                        Walter splits wood

                                                             The end of a beautiful day

The next day is warm and sunny again! Most of the time I follow some dirt tracks. Before I get into the woods, I photograph a Golden Plover near by.

                                       Golden Plover

In the forest I meet a guy who is pulling a tyre! When I ask him if he is training for the South Pole, he replies that he just want to cross Norway on ski with a pulka holding his provisions. Although he wants to do that next winter he already trains...

                     Training for Norge pa långs, not the South Pole

At a lake redshanks which are alarmed by me, produce a lot of noise, most of the time from the top of a tree. They must believe that I am a huge threat to their nest!

                                        Noisy redshanks

For the first time of the season I find some spotted orchids, later I learn that they are quite common in some places around Norway.

                                         Spotted Orchid

At one of the first houses of Haltdalen a family uses this fine, warm day to take a sunbath. When I pass by we get into a conversation and soon I am treated with watermelon, something to drink and icecream! As I tell them that I plan to stay in the village to buy new provisions they invite me to pitch my tent in their garden. Very nice, and on top of that they offer to take me shopping, charge my electric devices, have a shower and wash my clothes! Surely I can't say no...
After collecting my parcel from the post office in the supermarket and buying food for 14 days I relax in the garden, when another woman shows up. I guess she is a friend of the family but be a bit surprised when she asks me to give an interview for the local radio station. That I don't speak Norwegian is no problem, as everybody here seems to speak english, we can use that language. I ask her if she has already questions in mind, and surely she has...
Five to ten minutes were planned, but in the end we talk for more than half an hour without problem, an interesting experience!
Later I get to know, that my host Grete phoned her friend, because she thought a long-distance hiker in Haltdalen would be a good story...
We have a nice Taco menu together and talk for a long time until I finally crawl into my tent. 
Fine Norwegian hospitality!

                                        My nice host family

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