Category Archives: travel

Everest Base Camp – how to do it independently

Contrary to what many websites suggest, the Everest Base Camp trek is a very straight-forward trek and, as such, even for a moderately experienced solo hiker, neither guide nor porter is necessary.

What documents/permits need to be arranged in advance: TIMS (get it on the spot in Kathmandu), National Park Fee (in Kathmandu or on the trail).

Everest Base Camp Trek
Everest Base Camp Trek – starting the ascent to Namche Bazaar

Getting there: The trek starts in Lukla (plane from Kathmandu). It is also possible to walk in from Jiri (12 hours bus-ride from Kathmandu and an additional 5-6 days hike).

The trail: Is like a highway. Up and down valleys bordered by 6000+ meters high mountains. On the standard route to Everest Base Camp I would say it is impossible to get lost. If crossing the three high passes more care may be needed.

Everest Base Camp Trek
Namche Bazaar

The backpack: Pack light, though remember temperatures may drop to minus 10 degrees or more and snow may be encountered at any times: Down jacket, shell jacket and pants, sturdy hiking boots. Consider a four-season down sleeping bag. Consider hiking poles. A backpack with all this equipment need not weigh more than 7 kg.

The teahouses: Are widely distributed. They all serve food and beverages and sell snacks. The accommodation is basic, blankets will be provided, however heating is only available in the dining room. The last teahouses before Everest Base Camp, mainly in Gorak Shep may be full, in which case accommodation will be in the dining room.

Everest Base Camp Trek
Chhukung Valley

Electricity: Sporadically available after Namche Bazaar. I brought solar panels. Note that when temperatures are below zero, the iPhone looses battery power rapidly.

The altitude: Altitude sickness is the major danger. The recommendations from the Himalayan Rescue Association is a maximal daily ascent of 3-400 meters after 3000 meters. As it takes only 1,5 hours to ascend 300 meter and many people are impatient, I saw many guided tours ascend too rapidly with their parties. I saw helicopter evacuations every day. Some recommend intake of Diamox for prevention, however this is, in my opinion, not an alternative to ascending slowly.

The weather: May shift at any time. Above 4500 meter it gets very cold, especially when the sun is not out. Pack accordingly.

Everest Base Camp
I met this porter on the way up to Tengboche. The weight of these two cylinders is 80 kg. I tried but could not even lift them up.

The Most Memorable Moment:
Hiking up the Kongma La Pass at 5535 meter I was surprised by a heavy snowstorm, a genuine whiteout, at about 5400 meter, just below the summit. As I could see nothing I had to turn back down the valley, the track being obliterated I had to find my way down scrambling off-track for 6 hours until I reached Dingboche:

Everest Base Camp Trek
On the way to Kongma La Pass
Everest Base Camp
Same as above, one hour later

The highlights:

  • Generally, the really spectacular scenery opens up above the tree-limit around Pheriche and the most spectacular scenery was around Chhukung and Kongma La pass.
  • Watching the porters carry impossible loads on their backs and still walking past me.
  • Everest Base Camp itself. Walking around the camp thinking about the history. When I was there the camp was empty as expeditions had been abandoned after an ice avalanche  caused the death of 16  nepalese a couple of weeks earlier.

Itinerary (as walked in April 2014):

I planned to hike over The Three Passes, however after I was forced  to descend the Kongma La Pass by a snowstorm, I walked the ordinary route up via Pheriche and back.

Lukla-Benkar-Namche Bazaar-Tengboche-Pangboche-Dingboche-Chhukung-Kongma La (return)-Dingboche-Dughla-Gorak Shep-Everest Base Camp-Pheriche-Namche Bazaar-Lukla.

Everest Base Camp
Everest Base Camp

Click for photogallery of the hike to Everest Base Camp in April 2014

Crossing the Hardangervidda from Finse to Haukeliseter

Crossing the Hardangervidda from North to South, 10 days, full camping gear, August 2016:

Finse-Rembesdalseter-Fossli Hotel (Liseth)-Camping after Hedlo-Torehytten-Tyssevassbu-Trolltunga-Tyssevassbu-Litlos-Hellevassbu-Haukeliseter

  • The Norwegian “allemandsretten” means that wild camping is allowed anywhere.
  • Most of the huts on Hardangervidda are self-service huts, meaning there is a food supply storage, thus there is no need to bring food for more than 1-2 days.
  • Starting from Finse I walked around the glacier Hardangerjøkulen on the until Rembesdalseter.
  • At Rembedalsseter the trail has been re-routed as the burst of a sub-glacial water lake led to a new river pattern flooding the previous trail and no new bridge is in place
  • The re-routing is tough: After passing  a dam an incredibly muddy and steep ascent goes on for several km.

    Hardangervidda
    Hardangervidda
  • In addition I was hit by a massive rainfall and thunderstorm lasting 8 hours on this stage from Rembesdalseter to Liseth: The trail had become a river and my boots ended up completely soaked. I capitulated and turned up completely soaked at Fossli Hotel in Liseth after 9+ hours in this weather.
  • The location of Fossli Hotel is great, right next to Vøringsfossen, the most famous waterfall in Norway. The atmosphere at Fossli hotel atmosphere is of last century and the staff are  incredibly friendly with the receptionist offering me a ride in the morning (I refused though). On the other hand it does not look like the hotel rooms have been renovated since the 1950s
  • Getting back on Hardangervidda from Liseth I had to jump over a highway fence, which I missed at first for obvious reasons.

    Hardangervidda
    Hardangervidda: Hårteigen and Torehytten
  • When a second thunderstom arrived two days later I stayed 24 hours inside my tent at a small inlet after Hedlo. During this thunderstorm more than 300  reindeer were killed when lightning struck about 15 km away
  • Briefly met the hut warden at Hadlaskard, a lovely 80+ year woman assisted by her daughter.
  • At  Torehytten two foreigners clearly cheated and left without paying. The self-service hut system is an honor-based system where visitors write their name and address in the log and the DNT then later sends the bills. I was told that this kind of cheating unfortunately is on the increase.
  • Walking to Tyssevassbu I encountered the most difficult snow bridge I had ever seen. Had to give up passing it but luckily scrambled over a nearby cliff:

    Unpassable snowbridge, Hardangervidda
    Impassable snowbridge, Hardangervidda
  • The Trolltunga hike is described in another post however even in late August there is still a lot of snow around Tyssevassbu where 11 major snowfields had to be crossed, the longest 500 meter.
  • Towards the end, on two occaions, I met a woman crossing Norway from North to South on foot and writing about it, one in Norwegian, the other in English. They had both started near the North Cape almost four months previously.
  • Looking forward to celebratory beer at Haukeliseter Lodge, however the lodge had closed down due to an epidemic of food poisoning.
  • It was a cold hike with temperatures just above zero many days in a row.

    Hardangervidda
    Hardangervidda

General information: 10 important tips hiking on HardangerviddaDNT, ut.no,

Click for a photogallery of the my hikes on Hardangervidda in 2014 and 2016 on flickr.

 

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,

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.