Category Archives: travel

Besseggen, Norways top hike

Besieged view, Bessvatn and Gjende
On the way up the Besseggen ridge

Start: Memurubu
End: Gjendesheim
Distance (km): 15 km
Ascent/descent: 1100/1100 m

Time used: 8 hours with a 15 kg backpack.

Difficulty (1-5): 4.

Walking season: June-September. Depends on snow levels. Both public transportation to Gjendesheim and the boats on Gjende lake are seasonal and run approximately between late-June and September. Information via DNT.

Transport to/from the hike: To/from Gjendesheim: By car:  Info here on parking. By bus: From Oslo with Valdresekspressen. Additional daily local buses to Lom/Otta and Fagernes.

Besieged classical view
Besseggen – the classic view. The dark blue Bessvatn on the ridge, the light blue lake Gjende on the left.

Accomodation: Huts: At both trail ends Gjendesheim (DNT hut) and Memurubu hut provide accommodation. Several additional accommodation near Gjendesheim. Camping: Wild camping is permitted everywhere. There are several prime spots on the trail as well as close to both trail ends.

Description: Stony trail, however significantly less stony than other trails in Jotunheimen. Very well-marked. On the Besseggen ridge itself, there is a very short (2 min * 2) section of light scrambling. The trail may be walked either from Gjendesheim (thus walking from Gjendesheim and taking the boat back from Memurubu) or from Memurubu (taking the boat from Gjendesheim to Memurubu and walking back). Most people take the boat from Gjendesheim in the morning and walk back. Othes spend the night at Memurubu. In either case, in high season up to 500 people may leave Memurubu at approximately the same time, crossing the ridge between 10-12 am, causing significant traffic jam on the ridge.

Besseggen ridge from below
Besseggen ridge – on the way up

Online ressources including maps: 10 important tips on hiking in Jotunheimen, UT.no (description and maps), Gjende (info on the boats), Besseggen.net (general info), DNT (general info), Gjendesheim hut, Memurubu hut.

Important points: Up to 55.000 walk the Besseggen ridge every year. The Gjende boat may not be booked however boats leave in the morning from Gjendesheim as long as there are people. In high season the traffic jam on the ridge around midday is considerable and the biggest hazard of the hike.

Highlights: Climbing the ridge.

Low points: To be stuck in a crowd on the ridge.

Besseggen, camping at Bessvatn
Camping at “bandet” next to Bessvatn (the dark blue water) right before the Besseggen ridge

Important tips:

  • Avoid the crowds either by a) a very early (7am) start from Gjendesheim, b) spend the previous night in Memurubu and start around 7 am or c) camp on the trail (which I did). At 10 am I was alone on the ridge. At 11 am the ridge was overcrowded.
  • Prepare for all sorts of weather. I encountered a sudden snowstorm 300 meters above Memurubu in mid-August.
  • While the ridge may look narrow and exposed from below, it really is not. 55.000 passes the ridge every year and noone has ever fallen down from it.
  • For those on multi-day hikes, such as myself, it is possible to ship your backpack with the boat between Memurubu and Gjendesheim thus walking with a day-pack only.
Camping Besseggen
Camping 300 meter above Memurubu as I was surprised by a sudden snowstorm

 The complete photo gallery of this trip is available on flickr

El Chaltén hiking circuit in Patagonia

Laguna Piedras Blancas, Patagonia
View across the lake at Laguna Piedras Blancas, a couple                       of hours walk from Campamento Poincenot

Start and end: El Chaltén, Parque de los Glaciares.

General information: Parque de los Glaciares is located in Southern Patagonia in Argentina. This section of Parque de los Glaciares is famous for the mountains of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre, both of which attract world-class mountaineers every year, occasionally creating controversy. This 3-4 day hike goes into mountain lakes, glaciers and offers great views of both Fitz Roy and Cerro Torres, weather permitting. Hiking here is quite easy, and even easier than in the moderate Torres del Paine. The major concern for hikers is the weather, especially the winds (see below). The route suggested below may also be walked as day hikes from El Chaltén.

The hike:

Day 1: El Chaltén to Campamento Poincenot. 12km. 3,5 hours.
Day 2: Day trips from Campamento Poincenot to Laguna de los Tres (famous view of Fitz Roy) and Laguna Pedros Blancas. 3 hours per trip.
Day 3: Campamento Poincenot to Campamento Agostino. Walk around Lago Torre to Mirador Maestri (famous view of Cerro Torre). 15 km. 4 hours.
Day 4: Campamento Agostino to El Chaltén. 10 km. 3 hours.

Total distance: 35 km + day trips.

Time used: 4 days (two full, two half-days) – could easily be shortened into 3 days.

Difficulty (1-5): 2 for main trail. 4 for side trip to Laguna Pedros Blancas (scrambling section just before arriving at the lake).

Short description of the trail: Easy walking along well-marked paths. No exposed sections save some light scrambling at the Laguna Pedros Blancas side trip.

Walking season: December-February.

Dates walked: December 19-22, 2014

Mount Fitz Roy, El Chaltén, Patagonia
View of Mount Fitz Roy on the way to Campamento                                                           Poincenot

Transport to/from the hike: Multiple daily buses (3 hours) from El Calafate to El Chalten, all of which stop at the National Park office just outside El Chaltén. From El Calafate there are numerous daily flights to Buenos Aires, as well as buses to Puerto Natales (for Torres del Paine) or private tour operators going directly from El Calafate into the Torres del Paine National Park.

Accomodation and food: During the hike: Designated (free) campsites within the national park.  Facilities: Latrines only. No food sold inside the park. No huts in this area, however both Laguna de los Tres and Lago Torre may be done as day hikes, returning each evening to El Chaltén. Water may be taken from the streams, no need for filtering.

Equipment: No special equipment. For overnight camping, four-season equipment is needed as snow and heavy winds may be encountered at all times.

Laguna de los Tres with Fitz Roy, El Chaltén
The classical view of Mount Fitz Roy across Laguna de                        los Tres. The area is notorious for bad weather.

Online ressources including maps:  All sorts of info including maps on El Chaltén webpage, as well as the official page of Los Glaciares National Park.

Online trip reports from others include: Swoop Patagonia, besthike.com, Lonely Planet

Guidebook/map used: Lonely Planet: Hiking in Patagonia. Not updated since 2009, and now apparently out of print. Many practical issues outdated, however general info and maps still relevant. I used a PDF of the relevant chapter as well as a map available at the national park office in El Chaltén. Combined with resources available online , one could well do without a guidebook.

Important points/concerns: The weather is notoriously unreliable in this region, even in summer (Dec-Jan). Be prepared for very strong winds and snow. I have not seen winds like in Patagonia anywhere in the world.

Highlights: