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Store Skagastølstind (2405 m = 7890 ft) is the third highest peak in Norway, but unlike the top two it requires some climbing to get to the top. It is often referred to as Storen, "The Big One". My daughter Molly and I have both wanted to do it for a while, and finally just decided to go with a local guide, since neither of us has the full set of skills and gear to do it on our own. Problem: we had to just pick the day in advance and hope for good weather -- and the weather in western Norway is notoriously undependable. You pays your money and you takes your chances...
We god rid of our car at the end of last year, so for me it was a combined train and bus trip to get to Turtagrø, the mountain hotel that serves as a base camp for this and other climbs. While it is a bit pricey even compared to Norwegian huts, for a reasonable fee it's OK to camp out nearby and using the showers etc. So I pitched my tent across the road, took a shower, whipped up a quick meal, then hung out in the hut's mountaineering library for a while.
As a warm-up, on the next day I hiked in to Fannaråkshytta, the highest hut in Norway, right on top of Fannaråken (2068 m), a big bread loaf of a mountain with a small glacier on one side.
Along the way I encountered a lot of butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris, tettergras in Norwegian). The pale leaves are sticky on the upper surface and trap and digest small insects as a source of nutrients.
As you can see the weather wasn't the best. The route follows a a service road for some hydroelectric words up a valley, then climbs quite steeply up a ridge, rounding off only as you get near the top.
The whole upper part of Fannråki is basically a pile of frost-crushed rock, with only lichens and moss for plant life. Here the trail work consists of pushing the big rocks aside, leaving a treadway of smaller rocks.
...and later when the clouds lifted for a bit. The trail is copiously marked so people can find the hut in the fog.
There are actually four building up there, one where the staff lives and serves meals in a comfortable common room, another with bunkroom style sleeping space, and a couple others used for storage.
The hut was pretty full, with a lot of kids, including a few small enough to ride up on their parents' backs. After supper the clouds lifted enough to take in a few views. Here's the Sognefjell area in mid-July. A hotel down there somewhere offers groomed cross-country skiing right into mid summer.
The next day I paid a nominal fee to go with a guide and a Dutch family down the glacier on the other side of Fannaråki. Seemed like a very safe route but still a good idea to be roped up. We started by down climbing a steep tongue of snow off the ridge, then just a couple km of snow slog.
Molly had been peakbagging all week at nearby Spiterstulem, then hiked through so we met up after I took a short bus hop back to Turtagrø that evening. The weather was not promising but our guide Andreas though we could still do the climbe, so the next day we set off up into the clouds.
The route goes up a valley past a couple high lakes, alongside a small glacier to a col, then out onto Storen's south face for some mixed scrambling and easy climbing to the top. The route finding is as much or more of a challenge as the actual climbing -- that's where a guide comes in especially handy, especially in this weather.
There's a gloomy little stone emergency hut on the col that some people use to get a jump on the climb. The route can get quite busy on nice days, but we had the mountain to ourselves. We stopped there to put on harnesses and helmets, then proceeded up to some steep, soft snow before getting out rope and crampons.
The climbing begins with a few easy moves, then a lot of scrambling before a little more class 5 near the top. It was snowing, with enough accumulation to make the rock wet and slippery, so we climbed in crampons. Somewhere above the first climbing Molly and I were both feeling a little cold and wet, and we discussed giving up, but with some encouragement form Andreas we continued on and eventually warmed up and got to where we kind of enjoyed ourselves despite the bad weather. Here's Andreas leading the first bit of class 5.
Molly on rappel.
There and back again in about 12 hours. The next morning the cloud lifted enough to give us a parting glimpse of the mountain -- then promptly closed back up again, although I think the day was much better than the one we had.
So -- the bad news of with going with a guide is that you kind of have to do it even in marginal weather. The good news is that you can do it even in marginal weather. But now we want to go back and do it again on a nicer day. There's a 15 hour ridge traverse that ends on the summit...