Category Archives: day hikes

New Zealand top hikes

Emerald Lakes, Tongariro Crossing
                           Emerald Lakes, Tongariro Crossing

Top multi day hikes:

  1. The Routeburn Track. A glorious walk through meadows, ancient forests, waterfalls and lakes including a high mountain pass.
  2. The Tongariro Northern Circuit. Walk through active volcanic scenery passing craters and steamy lakes with the possibility of climbing Mt Doom.
  3. Lake Waikaremoana Track. A very atmospheric walk around a remote lake.The Milford Track. Unique animal and vegetation as well as wonderful waterfalls on the way to Milford Sound.
  4. The Milford Track. Unique animal and vegetation as well as wonderful waterfalls on the way to Milford Sound. It is located close to the Routeburn Track, which I would walk instead of the Milford if not possible to secure a space.

    The Pacific coastline between Heaphy Hut and Kohaihai
    The Pacific coastline between Heaphy Hut and Kohaihai

Top day hikes:

  1. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing. I walked this as part of the Tongariro Northern Circuit. This is a spectacular walk through volcanic craters and lakes next to Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom) with steam coming up from underneath.
  2. Pacific Coast walk between Heaphy Hut and Kohaihai. Spectacular walk along the Pacific Coastline. Is also the last day of the Heaphy Track but can be walked as a day walk up to Heaphy Hut.
  3. Mount Taranaki Summit Track. The toughest hike I did in New Zealand, much tougher than any of the Great Walks, crossing a snow-filled crater and with fabulous views from the summit
  4. The Mueller Hut Track. Great hike with views of hanging glaciers and Mt Cook.
  5. Avalanche Peak. Once above the treeline the views of the neighboring snowcapped peaks in the Arthur´s Pass National Park is glorious.

    Lake Harris on the Routeburn Track
    Lake Harris on the Routeburn Track

List of New Zealand walks I have walked:

Multiday walks:

Great Walks:
Abel Tasman Coast Track, New Zealand (2015)
Heaphy Track, New Zealand (2016)
Kepler Track, New Zealand (2015)
Lake Waikaremoana Track, New Zealand (2016)
Milford Track, New Zealand (2015)
Routeburn Track, New Zealand (2015)
Tongariro Northern Circuit, New Zealand (2016)

Other multi day walks:
Angelus Hut Track, New Zealand (2016)
Queen Charlotte Track, New Zealand (2016)
Tarawera Trail, New Zealand (2016)

Day walks:
Avalanche Peak Track, New Zealand (2016)
Mount Taranaki Summit Track, New Zealand (2016)
Mueller Hut Track, New Zealand (2016)
St Arnaud Ranges Track, New Zealand (2016)

Panekire Bluff
                       Panekire Bluff, Lake Waikaremoana

Kebnekaise summit the hard way

With 2102 meters Kebnekaise is the highest mountain in Sweden and a highlight of any hiking trip in Laponia.
There are two optionsclimbing Kebnekaise, both possible as day hikes from Kebnekaise Lodge:

Östre ledan (The Eastern Trail): The shorter of the two options crossing the Björling glacier and climbing a (moderate) via ferrata. Daily guided tours (incl. equipment) from Kebnekaise lodge.

Västre leden (The Western Trail): A straightforward, though long and exhausting hiking route of 22 km and more than 2000 meters ascent with no need for technical equipment. I have summited Kebnekaise twice, in 2014 and 2016, on both occasions via Västra leden.

On the way to Kebnekaise
                            On the way to Kebnekaise

The track feel as long as it is. It is however very beautiful, almost all of it above the tree level passing a wonderful cirque with hanging glaciers as well as the curiously shaped Tuolpagorni on the way. Around halfway up, it is quite a psychological challenge having to climb and descend Vierramvare  on the way, adding 300 meters to the ascend, making the total ascent 2100 meter.  While the trail is straight-forward and not technical, the scree slopes, however are quite steep. The last 50 meters ascent is on snow, though normally crampons are not needed. The summit is quite small with room for no more than 5-6 people and quite exposed,  and since it is on top of a glacier the actual height may vary a bit from year to year. In 2016 it looks like at hut will be build immediately below the summit, a place where helicopters taking sightseeing tourists land as well.

View from Kebnekaise summit
                                 View from Kebnekaise summit

Difficulty: 4.

Information and maps: Summitpost, 

Click here for a photogallery of the Kebnekaise Summit Climb (July 2014) on flickr.

Hiking in Jotunheimen – 10 important things to know

In Norway, fixed multi-days hiking itineraries are rare: Rather the tradition is to look at a map and design your own route. However, as the marked trails through any of the National Parks are limited, people do tend to stick to the same routes.
Accordingly there is no official route through Jotunheimen, though I wonder if this would not increase both the recognition and possibly visitors: The Kungsleden Trail in Laponia in Northern Sweden is repeatedly hailed as one of the top hikes in the world, while the Jotunheimen hiking trails are rarely mentioned despite Jotunheimen being at least, if not more spectacular than Laponia.

Jotunheimen
                       Typical scenery close to Leirvassbu

10 important things to know about hiking in Jotunheimen

  1. Jotunheimen is a National Park, also known as The Roof of Norway, located between 900-1400 meters above sea leve..
  2. In Norway, 2000 m defines a high mountain and climbing “a 2000 meter peak” is often a goal. Around 200 peaks in Norway exceed 2000 meter, most of these are located in Jothunheimen.
  3. The hiking trails in Jotunheimen are incredibly stony.
  4. Apart from walking on the stones, which often are slippery, the main challenge are the snowfields, which often linger until August, and some of them never melts.
  5. Hiking poles are highly recommended as they help crossing rivers (not all have bridges in place) and navigating snowfields. Most bridges are removed in September and re-installed in late-June.
  6. Weather may change without warning at any time and snow is not uncommon, even in summer.
  7. The snow seem to melt quite late, especially around the Central Jotunheimen area Leirvassbu (check the webcam in place), where snow may lie until late July.
  8. Pitching a tent is free and allowed anywhere, this is a cornerstone of Norwegian outdoor culture called  “allemandsretten”.
  9. Almost all huts in Jotunheimen are “full-service” lodges offering full restaurant services as well as snacks to be bought. Tenters may pay a fee to access the facilities. In Central Jotunheimen, Olafsbu is the only non-serviced hut, with food for sale and cooking equipment.
  10. Now, busses go directly from Oslo to Gjendesheim and Leirvassbu.Gjendesheim is an incredibly touristy place, mainly due to the proximity of the Besseggen hike.

    Jotunheimen
               Camping near Fannaråken in West Jotunheimen

I spend 3+ weeks in Jotunheimen August 2016, walked a Jotunheimen Circuit and a West Jotunheimen hike as well as climbed Galdhøpiggen and Kyrkja.

Personally I prefer the central Jotunheimen are around Leirvassbu and Olavsbu as well as Utladalen (valley) with Avdalen Gard, an old mountain farm and now a tourist lodge.

Suggested Jotunheimen Itineraries:

The Circuit: Gjendesheim-Glitterheim-Spiterstulen-Leirvassbu-Olafsbu-Gjendbu-Memurubu (via Bukkelægret)-Gjendesheim (via Besseggen).

West Jotunheimen hike: Leirvassbu-Kyrkja summit-Bridge over Utla-Fannaråken-Styggedalsbreen-Skogadalsbøen-Utladalen-Avdalen-Øvre Årdal.

Summit hikes: Galdhøpiggen and Kyrkja.

Information at: DNT, ut.no, Jotunheimen National Park Site, Visit Jotunheimen

Click for photogallery of the above hikes including summits in Jotunheimen, August 2016 on flickr.

Trolltunga – a tough day out

Trolltunga is a spectacular stone protruding from vertical cliffs directly over a 700 meter drop to Ringedalsvatnet.

In 2009 Trolltunga was virtually unknown. In 2016 more than 100.000 visitors are expected making this one of the most popular hikes of Norway along Besseggen and Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen).
It is however also a tough walk, much tougher  than most of those attempting it thinks. Hikers with jeans and flip-floppers are not uncommon on the trail,  a recipe for disaster since it is a tough area of Hardangervidda, requiring full four-season equipment: The landshape is barren, the weather is rough and unpredictable with frequent snowfall even in summer. Even in mid-August snow fields are still present. This summer, mountain rescue was called  3-4 times a week, placing the voluntary mountain rescue service sunder major strain.

Trolltunga
                                  The area around Trolltunga

The area around Trolltunga is overcrowded, and around midday there may be queues of several hundred hikers around the base including the short access ladder.  In 2015 a woman fell to her death from the base.

The day I was at Trolltunga, the weather was reasonably rough, temperatures approaching zero and strong winds. I saw many hikers in jeans or shorts and flip-floppers. Unsurprisingly I learned later that mountain rescue had been activated twice that day. Several solutions have been discussed including restricting the access to the trail. However free access to the National Parks is a cornerstone for many Norwegians.

But why not benefit from this success and build a hut near Trolltunga? Or a shelter? Both solutions would prevent the majority of rescue operations. Or what about a coffeeshop such as the one on top of Galdhøpiggen?

Trolltunga
                                                  Trolltunga

Curiously there is a sign right at Trolltunga pointing to the hut Reinaskorbu, which also appears in some map and I met several people planning to overnight there on their way up on Hardangervidda from Skjeggedal.  However the Reinaskorbu hut is closed.

99% visit Trolltunga on a one day hike from Skjeggedal and back.
I came from the opposite direction, from inside the Hardangervidda, doing a 3h return hike from the Tyssevassbu hut before continuing down the Hardangervidda to Litlos. Less than 0,1% come from this direction and the trail is rocky with several snowbridges to cross, 2,5 hours one way.
Strangely, the last 500m of the route is completely unmarked. Perhaps there are concerns that the hundreds of dayhikers may take the wrong turn going back from Trolltunga, heading towards Tyssevassbu and Hardangervidda instead of down to Odda.

Difficulty: 3.

Information and maps: Track from Tyssevassbu to Trolltunga, track from Skjeggedal to Trolltunga, Visit Trolltunga

Click for Trolltunga photogallery (2016) on flickr.

Kyrkja summit climb

At 2032 meters,  Kyrkja just surpasses the 200-meter mark, which in Norway separates high mountain from just mountains. While Kyrkja may not be an overly famous mountain, it is nevertheless very prominent in the part of Jotunheimen where it is located, right across the lake (Leirvatnet) from Leirvassbu Lodge.

A century ago it was deemed impossible to climb and it really does look that way  from below. However, it is in fact a “hiking summit”, which does not even require climbing skills or equipment, though there are a few short sections of scrambling (grade 1) at the ridge. The prominence of Kyrkja makes the climb quite popular, and I climbed it at the finest day of my 3+ weeks in Jotunheimen in August 2016. Starting from Leirvassbu, the entire trail is very rocky, sporadically marked with cairns until the unmarked final ridge, however route finding is rather obvious in clear weather and described elsewhere.

Kyrkja summit ridge
Kyrkja summit ridge

The ridge is not exposed (meaning it is virtually impossible to fall down) though steep and rocky and the most difficult part of this climb is a 3 meter passage just 50 meter below the summit requiring a scramble over at couple of steep rocks. Several people turned around here. I almost turned around but finally made it on my third attempt.

This is an area of Jotunheimen with a lot of snow. Some years (such as 2015) the snow never melts, but in 2016 conditions were fine in August.

Kyrkja summit ridge
Kyrkja summit ridge

The summit of Kyrkja is a 600 meter ascent from Leirvassbu Lodge. I took 5,5 hours for the return trip.

Highlights: Climbing the ridge; the views from the top

Difficulty: 5.

Information and maps: ut.no. Webcam looking directly at Kyrkja.

The complete photogallery of the Kyrkja Summit Climb, August 2016 is available on flickr.