The crossing of Hardangervidda from Finse to Haukeliseter is an all-time Norwegian classic, summer as well as winter. It was, in fact, during my first crossing of Hardangervidda, on a slightly more western route in 2016, that I met the woman who inspired me to walk Norge på Langs in the first place.
It is a common misconception that Hardangervidda is flat. I knew that the western part (more or less west of Litlos) is far from flat. And, as I learned on this trip, that the area from Sandhaug to Litlos is not that flat either. Further east around Rauhelleren is where the famously flat area is. Apart from a couple of reindeer hunters at Sandhaug, I did not see any people during the 7 days from Finse to Haukeliseter, though I did pass the same single green tent twice around Litlos and Hellevassbu and I occasionally heard shots in the distance: The last period of reindeer hunting.
About half-way between Finse and Krækkja I saw two solitary sheep close to the trail. I wasn´t sure if the sheep had already been collected for winter in this area, it varies a bit from place to place, but as these two were the only ones I saw, they probably had unintentionally been left behind. Often contact info is posted on the trail for hikers if they spot sheep out of season, but as I didn´t see any contact info on this trail nor in the cabin in Finse, I sent a message to Krækkja DNT cabin on Instagram, just before I lost phone connection. I am, however, unsure if it is considered worthwhile for the sheep farmer to walk for so many hours to collect only two sheep. However, often they do a re-collection a bit later on, as these two are certainly not the only ones left behing. For the sheep it is a death sentence if they do not manage to get down from the mountains before the permanent snow settles.
It is the end of September and around time removing the summer bridges. Luckily, all the summer bridges on Hardangervidda was still in place. Or so I thought, when I arrived at Hellevassbu cabin, the last cabin before Haukeliseter. I did notice that the hut warden of Hellevassbu had just spent 6 nights at the cabin and I briefly wondered what she had been doing for 6 days. I soon enough found out: All 4 summer bridges between Hellevassbu and Haukeliseter had been removed. While I completely understand that the removal of bridges are done by volunteers with limited time at their disposal, the decision to remove those bridges the week before autumn break seems strange indeed. Especially since the helicopters had not yet arrived to remove the bridge material. The removal of these bridges lead to the deepest river crossings of the entire Norge på Langs, with water touching the lower part of my backpack. Safe enough though, because there was no current. I should note that though the bridge just after Litlos was technically still in place, it was ruined. In fact, all river crossings with summer bridges I passed at Hardangervidda would have been feasible this time of year on foot.
Finse is a major reference point in this area, normally with both a privately owned hotel and a staffed DNT cabin. However, due to the coronavirus, the hotel was closed and the staffed DNT cabin, unrelated to corona, was under renovation. However, a brand-new self-service cabin, Brebua, compete with hot water and electricity just opened in July 2020, and I was thus one of the first guests there. The other major reference point in this area, right after Hardangervidda, is Haukeliseter DNT cabin: The most visited of all DNT cabins, right on the highway, and indeed more a hotel, than a cabin complete with both a restaurant and a small shop. When I arrived here, I assumed the difficult mountain sections were past me. It turned out, they were not….(to be continued).