Category Archives: jotunheimen

West Jotunheimen Hike

Itinerary, West Jotunheimen multiday hike, full camping gear, 6 days, August 2016:

Leirvassbu-Kyrkja summit-Bridge over Utla-Fannaråken-Styggedalsbreen-Skogadalsbøen-Utladalen-Avdalen-Øvre Årdal.

  • While the Jotunheimen Circuit Hike was characterized by bad weather, the weather was glorious for this hike.

    Jotunheimen
    On the way to Fannaråken
  • I simply took the public bus to Leirvassbu Lodge, in the center of Jotunheimen.
  • I started by climbing Kyrkja on a glorious day with 25+ degrees.
  • It was late afternoon before I left walking west towards Skogadalsbøen. To my surprise I passed a huge dam a couple of hours into this hike, as I did not think dams were allowed. Turns out they are not anymore.

    Fannaråken
    Fannaråken
  • I passed Storebjørn with the distinctive flat summit and vertical walls.
  • Fannaråken, the highest-lying mountain hut in Norway at 2068 meters only sees clear weather less than 50 days a year. This day was one of them.
  • Nepalese workers hired by the National Park Authorities had helped carve the stone steps leading down from Fannaråken  Nepalese style towards Turtagrø.
  • At Fannaråken I spotted a glacier calving directly into a small lake at the other side of the valley, in the Hurrangane plateau. It is called Styggedalsbreen and I walked there to camp.

    Styggedalsbreen
    Styggedalsbreen
  • At Fannaråken a guy took off paragliding and intended to glide over the top of Storen (Stora Skagstølstind, the 3rd highest montain in Norway).
  • Skogadalsbøen is apparently the favorite mountain lodge of  Queen Sonia of Norway. Understandable as the location is great and the hut charming.

    Camping at Skogadalsbøen
    Camping at Skogadalsbøen
  • Descending Utladalen is a wonderful way to exit Jotunheimen, though the descent is long.
  • Vettisfossen, the highest waterfall in Northern Europe with 273 meter is passed on the way down.
  • Vetti Gard is an old farm, now open as a Café only. When I arrived at 5 pm looking forward to waffles, it had just closed for the day.
  • Ascending 350 meters from the Valley leads to the wonderful old farm Avdalen Gard, now a tourist lodge. It is now run by Romanians and when I was there, only one girl worked there, managing everything connected with up to 10 (or more) sleeping guests, dinner, breakfast and café..

    Avdalen Gaard, Utladalen
    Avdalen Gard, Utladalen with my red tent
  • From Øvre Årdal I caught the bus to Flåm and then further on to Hardangervidda.

General information: 10 important tips for hiking in Jotunheimen, DNT, online maps at ut.no, Visit Jotunheimen

A photogallery of the my hikes in Jotunheimen in  2016 on flickr.

The Jotunheimen Circuit Hike

Jotunheimen Circuit Itinerary, 8 days with full camping gear, August 2016: 

Gjendesheim-Glitterheim-Spiterstulen-Leirvassbu-Olafsbu-Gjendbu-Memurubu (via Bukkelægret)-Gjendesheim (via Besseggen)

  • Generally, this trip was characterized by bad weather except for the two last days (Bukkelægret and Besseggen). In fact, after having completed the Circuit I took the bus back to several of the places I failed to visit when I passed them  the first time: Spiterstulen-Galdhøpiggen and Leirvassbu-Kyrkja.
  • I arrived at Gjendesheim on the public bus. The weather was clear, hundreds of people were queuing to catch the boat to Memurubu for the Besseggen hike. I left in the direction of Glitterheim in the opposite direction.
  • The trails are incredibly stony, hiking poles are a great help. Nevertheless it is very slow going.
  • Routefinding is not an issue however, as the trails are clearly marked with the red T. Furthermore the general direction is quite clear.
  • Glitterheim is a very atmospheric hut, with a great dining room. The bad weather conditions forced me to give up climbing the Glittertinden Summit.

    Bukkelægret, Jotunheimen
                                   Bukkelægret, Jotunheimen
  • A combination of snow and rain and poor visibility led me to give up both climbing Galdhøpiggen and camping outside and instead to sleep inside the lodges in both Leirvassbu, Olavsbu and Gjende.
  • Even with mist and rain, the walk up to Leirvassbu was beautiful though Kyrkja was hardly visible.
  • A massive snowfield had to be climed in snow and rain on the way up to Olavsbu
  • Olavsbu is perhaps my favourite hut in Jotunheimen: A self-service hut with food storage and kitchen equipment.
  • At Olavsbu hut two young men searched desperately for their father who had not turned up. A search team was almost called, but was canceled after a German woman said she had passed a red tent pitched just 20 minutes from the hut. Apparently he had camped there due to the bad weather and forgotten to tell his sons about it..

    Between Gjende and Memurubu
                            Between Gjende and Memurubu
  • It was one of the hut wardens at Olavsbu that recommended me the wonderful old farm-turned-lodge Avdalen in Utladalen
  • The ascent over Bukkelægret is aided by chains, that are hardly necessary in dry conditions. In wet conditions I would not attempt the ascent. The highlight of this day was, however, the descent on a ridge down to Memurubu Lodge.
  • Aiming to beat the crowds at Besseggen, I started to walk from Memurubu in the evening aiming to camp on the trail. 300 meters ascent from Memurubu I was surprised by a sudden snowstorm and camped on the spot.
  • Besseggen is all that it is said to be, it is also incredibly crowded with unexperienced hikers (as well as experienced) in fine weather

    Snowstorm Besseggen Jotunheimen
    Surprised by a snowstorm in mid-August at the Besseggen trail, 300 meters above Memurubu

General information:10 important tips hiking in Jotunheimen, DNT, online maps at ut.no, Visit Jotunheimen,

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.

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.

Galdhøpiggen summit climb

At 2469 meters, Galdhøpiggen is the highest moutain in Norway (indeed in Northern Europe) and many Norwegians aim to climb it at least once. There are two choices:

From Juvasshytta: The easier choice, including 600 m ascent and a (very moderate) glacier crossing, with ropes and guide, which depart daily. Most people chose this option.

From Spiterstulen: 1300 m straightforward ascent from Spiterstulen mountain lodge, no glacier crossings and no technical sections. The initial 500 meters ascent takes you above the valley, then the snowfields begin and a considerable part of the rest of the hike is on snow.

Coffee shop at Galdhøpiggen summit
Coffee shop at Galdhøpiggen summit

Once at the summit, you see the hundreds of people coming up from the other track from the Juvasshytta. On a fine day, as it was when I walked up from Spiterstulen, it can get quite crowded at the summit. In Nepalese style there even is a coffee shop, accepting credit cards at the summit and the glacier guide I saw on the summit was Nepalese as well.

In fine weather Galdhøpiggen summit hike is a great hike, with fantastic views over large parts of Jotunheimen and numerous glaciers from the top.

On the way from Spiterstulen to Galdhøpiggen
             On the way from Spiterstulen to Galdhøpiggen

Highlights: The summit: The views, the atmosphere, the coffee shop.

Difficulty: 4. A long, relatively steep with no exposure, no scrambling, but long sections on snow.

Information  and map: ut.no, summitpost

The complete photogallery of the Galhøpiggen Summit hike is available on flickr.