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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.