Hiking in Jotunheimen
(Above: Serene Russvatnet Lake)
About a mile before Memurubu, the trail forked. I headed north towards Lake Russvatnet, with the DNT lodge at Glitterheim my days destination. Strangely, the upper part of the trail leading towards the valley was carpeted with thick and spongy layers of green moss. This was at approximately 4,200 feet, and I wondered if these moss survive the Jotunheimen winter. Anyway, the cushy downhill trail that the moss provided was a welcome relief to my creaky knees that heretofore have been absorbing the jarring impact of descending with a full pack on the hard, rocky downhills. Like the stream that paralleled it, the trail continued on towards the lake, turning progressively muddy and marshy as it got closer to the lake. This part of the trail was even more deserted. A very pretty waterfall cascaded down from one of the cliffs to my left.
(Below: One of the many
spectacular waterfalls in Jotunheimen)
I had been hiking up and down for about 8 hours and my shoulders, yet unaccustomed to the weight, started feeling the strain of carrying the pack. I shifted the weight down to my lower back (although it, too, had been sore). As the trail veered from the lake it climbed again for over 1,000 feet. After a brief stint on level terrain, the trail wound up on the edge of a canyon, where a ridiculously swaying bridge took over. The bridge was made up of 2 x 4s built like a bamboo placemat linked together by thin cables. A party of 4 was in a quandary on the other side because their two dogs were (wisely) refusing to cross the bridge. The trail climbed even higher past the bridge, and shortly hooked up with a trail directly from Gjendesheim. At this point the walking got tougher as the trail turned once more into a jumble of watermelon-sized rocks. Here, no obvious path was visible: only the blazes (red "T"s painted on rocks) there provided direction. I was beginning to wonder if Ill make it to Glitterheim before dark. I popped open a can of Coke (simultaneously lightening my load ever so imperceptibly and giving my system a much-needed sugar boost). Finally, I reached a saddle at 6,000 feet and from there, I could see the lodge. I also saw, for the first time, the summit of 8,000-foot high Glittertind, which was on my agenda for the next day.
(Above: The rather scary bridge on the way to Hestlagerho)
But even though the lodge looked tantalizingly close, it turned out to be more than an hours downhill walk away from where I first saw it. The ubiquitous rocks which have been annoying me all day once more slowed my progress. Visions of a hot shower, hot soup, and a clean, comfortable bed on which to go horizontal danced inside my head--and made me even more impatient. The last mile to the lodge was torture. It turned out that the trail I was on was on the side of a river opposite where the lodge was. The trail approached the lodge laterally, as if to tease a weary walker, overshooting the lodge by as much as a quarter of a mile towards a connecting wooden bridge. One had to be as exhausted as I was to appreciate my irritation at this seemingly pointless diversion. Finally, the trail turned back and I made it to Glitterheim after more than 6,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain and almost 12 hours on the trail.
The lodge was very busy that Friday night. I was told that it had been a very bad summer weatherwise, and that this sunny weekend represented the last real opportunity for many Norwegians to be outdoors. I'm personally OK with that, and I generally like to see people spending time outdoors. But my problem was that the crowd was as loud and as animated as a pub in central London on a Friday night. Almost everyone had been bussed in from their cars to the private road leading to the lodge. As an example of how ridiculous it was, one woman had high heels on and a fashionable scarf draped over her shoulder at breakfast time! The rest looked too clean and too well-rested to have been walking.
My roommate for the night was a Norwegian mountain guide in his mid-50s. Hes on a first-name basis with the manager of the Glitterheim lodge, having spent a lot of time at Jotunheimen; the first time be saw me he acted as if his private lair had been invaded. He eyed me as if trying to gauge my worthiness to share a room with him. The guy turned out to be a gear-head, an unabashed worshipper of American-branded outdoor gear. He warmed to me as he saw my American stuff ("that Nalgene bottle was just like what one of my American clients had a few months ago" and "were wearing the same Vertech watch, how do you like yours?"). He proudly showed me an Adirondack Hiking Club (or something like that) patch given to him by the clubs president. The guy was such a gear-head, he had snow fluke for a dead-mans anchor for climbing Glittertind, even though the ascent was no more than a plod through innocuous mixed rock and snow. I told him the rest of my itinerary and he gave me a low-down on the managers of the lodges I intend to visit (Spiterstulen lodgemanaged by a world-famous mountaineer who used to run up the Galhoppigen mountain, but suffered a stroke; Gjendeburun by someone who acts as if he doesnt want to be bothered; and so on ) But most of all we commiserated over the presence of the bussed-in crowd at the lodge that evening.
Day 3: Up and over Glittertind and into Spiterstulen (11 miles, 4,000 feet)
The next day, after breakfast of oatmeal, coffee and heavy-wheat bread, I set off for Spiterstulen, going over the high peak of Glittertind in the process. Glittertind, and its neighbour to the west, Galhoppigen, are the two highest peaks in Norway and in Scandinavia (in fact, in all of Europe north of the Alps). Galhoppigen is officially measured as being a few meters higher than Glittertind, but snow makes Glittertind a higher peak sometimes. The path to Glittertind started right in front of the lodge. The 3,000-foot ascent started out rather steeply on rocky slopes (again). For the first 1,200 feet of hiking, one sees nothing but the seemingly endless pile of rocks. At around 6,200 feet, the slope eased up and the snow began.
(Above: At around 6,500 feet, southeastern approach to Glittertind)
It was an exceptionally clear and calm morning and throughout my ascent I could see Glittertinds snow-clad summit ridge. The climb is technically straightforward in clear weather, although one needs to be careful not to venture too closely to the peaks corniced ridge. I summitted after 2 ½ hours of climbing and stood what may well be (that day) the highest peak in Norway. This was the only time I can recall when Ive stood at a summit and not frozen my digits offthe noontime sun was shining in all its radiant glory and the 10 of us at the summit were basking in it from the roof of Norway.
(Above: The summit ridge as seen from Glitterbreen, the subsidiary peak;
3 hikers are faintly visible near the summit)
(Below: A group of hikers
from Denmark basks in the sunshine
from the Glittertind summit, at 8,083 feet)
I descended Glittertind on its western side, towards Spiterstulen. The Spiterstulen Lodge is privately owned. It is a little more posh than the DNT lodges but in my opinion suffers (or benefits, depending on your point of view) from easy motorist accessibilitythe place even has a parking lot! As it was, dinner that evening was fairly crowded. Although I was extremely hungry, I had to wait 45 minutes for other diners to finish before being allowed to have my meal. As much as I tried to be benevolent, I couldn't help feeling somewhat annoyed that guests who've been lounging around were gouging themselves before the few of us hikers who've put in a long day. But that's economics for you.
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