Wandering in Western Norway

2:37 p.m. on August 17, 2012 (EDT)
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Shortly after my little adventure with Ralph, my good buddy Eric, his wife Alison and two daughters Kirsten (13) and Ingrid (10) came over the puddle for a Norwegian adventure. My wife Nancy. younger daughter Zoe, and Ralph completed the party (but wife missed the first couple of days because the airline lost her luggage when she came back from England and she had to wait for it to turn up). Between us Eric and I planned an ambitious sampling of some of the better spots in western Norway for the 10 days they were here. We managed to pull pretty much all of it off despite unstable weather -- in fact we got the good weather when we needed it most.  

We started with a two night hut tour in Romsdalsalpene (The Romsdal Alps). Zoe and I hiked up through a cloud layer and over a pass to the first hut, Måsvassbu, while Eric and family went in by a shorter route. Here's Zoe coming up on the pass (Løftskardet), with the spiny ridge at the top of the Troll Wall in the background:
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Here's the whole crew minus my wife ready to leave Måsvassbu:
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Eric and co. crossing some talus a few km out of Måsvassbu, which is by the lake in the background:
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A stream crossing a little higher up:
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Above Mørkvatnet as we approached a pass:
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That brought us to the shore of Kjøvdalsvatnet (next photo), where we rested (Ralph and I went for a swim) before continuing up to our second hut, Vasstindbu.
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Here's the family starting the climb:
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The climb to Vasstindbu is steeep and looose but Ralph dug it:
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It started to cloud in as we settled in at Vasstindbu, which sits high on a ridge and promises good sunsets, weather permitting:
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Vasstindbu has only six beds, just enough for us. We were the only ones there at first but then another couple arrived late and took two of the four bunks in the safety/overflow hut, on the right above. Towards sunset the clouds started to break up again:
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At 10:30 PM we were treated to a doozy of a sunset:
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Breakast at Vasstindbu, which is tiny. This is taken standing in the main doorway. There are four bunks in the back room plus two out of sight on the left, a little cooking area out of sight on the right:
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We retraced our steps down to Kjøldalsvatnet and then went over another little pass to circle back to the cars.

To be continued...

3:59 p.m. on August 18, 2012 (EDT)
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We stayed three nights in rented cabin in a valley called Standal in Sunnmøresalpene, a couple hours south of Romsdal. The first day there turned out to be pretty much a rest day as the weather was not so good -- Ralph and I set off on a day hike to a nearby peak bu the clouds never lifted so we gave it up. Then we island hopped via bridges and tunnels to the outermost island of Runde.
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The lighthouse keeper's hous on the island's western point has been converted to a tourist hut, accessible by a 5 km hike over the top of the island. We by passed it this time and focused on the bird cliffs on the southwest side of the island.
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Puffins, guillemots, gannets, kittiwakes, skuas, and fulmars all nest on the island. We saw all but the latter, with the help of binoculars and a spotting scope, but it was near the end of the season so we didn't get as close to the puffins, especially, as we did on our last visit, so here's an old photo (12x zoom lens, there birds were only 10 to 20 meters away).
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Here's a glimpse of the gannet colony, with lots of comings and goings.
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On the way back out to the car, we ran into these villsau, and ancient breed of sheep kept by the Vikings -- their tough, lanolin rich wool was used to make sails for the ships that carried Vikings to the Volg River in the east, the Mediterranean in the south, and, of course, Iceland, Greenland, and "Vinland" in the west.
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And here's a mysterious shot of Sætretind, one of the many inviting peaks in Sunnmøresalpene, this one right behind our rental cabin.
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To be continued!

4:30 a.m. on August 19, 2012 (EDT)
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The next goal was to try to get everybody to the top of Slogen (1564), one of those inspiring summits that will light a fire in anybody with the basic urge to get to the top of mountains. It involves some class 3 scrambling in just the last 50m to the top, but is otherwise a glorious hike up to and along an increasingly steep ridge. Our effort would be totally weather dependent -- no go if we were just going to be up in the clouds most of the way. We approached the mountain on the ferry across Horundfjord and short drive to Øye, but the summit was in cloud so we couldn't appreciate it in all its glory. But here's a shot from a 2007 drive-by.
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Here's a map of the mountain, from the very useful web site Ut.no, which you can access machine-translated into English and a couple dozen other languages. We hiked into Patcellhytta from Skylstad (red trail), but someday I'd like to speed-hike the trail directly up to the ridge and summit (black trail starting halfway between Øye and Skylstad).
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The climb up into the hanging valley was steep enough that there a couple places with chains or ropes just to give us something to hold on to.
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Patchellhytta was doubled in size just a couple years ago, I think mainly to accommodate big pulses of skiers that come to do Slogen and other peaks on long holiday weekends in May. It was far from full the night we were there. That's Slogen over the hut.
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Once again the weather broke in our favor. We managed an 8AM start, putting us at the van of the dozens of other people coming up from that hut as well as others coming straight up from the valley.
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We gained the ridge on the bump on the left in the photo above and followed it the rest of the way to the top.
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Crossing the first of several snow patches.
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Looking down into Norangdalen, which we drove through at the end of the day.
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Looking down the beautiful ridge that the direct route takes up from the valley. Jakta back there is another tempting summit.
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First views of Norangfjord and Horundfjord as we near the top.
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The final scramble up the steepest part to the top

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We made it up in about 2.5 hours -- not first, but ahead of dozens of other hikers taking advantage of the nice day. Eric should have some pictures of us two buddies on the top, but hasn't delivered them yet. Meanwhile, here's another view of Horundfjord, 1564 meters down. IMO the fjord-and-fjell landscape of Sunnmøresalpene is about as good as it gets in Norway.
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Some of the women on the way down (and lots of other people on the way).
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Ralph and I hit every steep snow patch we could find on the way down to do some glissading.
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It started to cloud over on the summit as we descended to the hut and packed up. We continued back down to the valley, and by the time we were driving up through the deep green depths of Norangdalen the cloud had come in pretty low, so no good pictures there. As a change from the huts, we stayed one night at the upscale Villa Norangdal, where a delicious meal was preface by a soak in an outdoor hot tub.
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Coming up next: Geirangerfjord and Skageflå.

1:43 p.m. on August 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Wow, what a trip so far! Red thanks for sharing this.

9:21 p.m. on August 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Beautiful area!  I wish I could go there myself.

9:03 a.m. on August 20, 2012 (EDT)
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Geirangerfjord is probably the most-visited fjord in Norway. It is one of the innermost branches of the Storfjordsystem, and gets visited by the Norwegian Coastal Steamers (Hurtigrute) once a day, along with many giant cruise ships. But that's for a all the right reasons -- it's beautiful and deep and there are lots of waterfalls and, not least, the curious "hanging farms" perched on the its steep walls. We took the 1 hour car ferry ride right up the fjord from Hellesylt to the town of Geiranger. We had typical fjord weather, that is low hanging clouds, but they lend an air of mystery. Here's the much ooh-ed and aah-ed and photographed Seven Sisters water falls:
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And here's the truth about Geiranger:
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When a cruise ship is in, it's pretty well overrun with tourists, but one way to get away from all that is to take a hike, in our case to an old farm called Skageflå, which sits on top a a cliff about 250 meters above the fjord and just a few km from the town. Here it is as seen from Knivsflå across the fjord (old photo). The trail starts at the edge of the fjord right under the farm, takes a long zig left more or less along the top of the line of trees and shrubs, then zags back to the farm:
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We hired a local with a motorboat to ferry us to the farm's old fjord-side landing, really just a rock shelf at the base of the cliff, then hiked up the farm and then back towards town to a camping area where we had left our cars. While the trail is far from death-defying, it is very steep and goes along some ledges that would feel very exposed were it not for handrails and other improvements. Here's Ralph on some nicely built stone steps near the beginning of the trail:
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A pretty well wired up stretch:

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More steps and handrails:
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This bit looks like it's been chipped out of the cliff:image.jpg
Here we are at the edge of the fields just below the farm buildings, with the Seven Sisters behind us, and another farm, Knivsflå, in the patch of fields just over Nancy's head :
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The sod roof on the old farmhouse:
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The trail continues to climb above the farm, and isn't quite as thoroughly tamed as the lower bit (it also gets wetter and muddier further on):
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A glimpse back down at Skageflå:

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And one more shot of Kirsten above the farm:
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From here we had maybe 5km up over the hill and back down to the fjord before we hustled off over the mountains for a special hike the Jotunheimen area.
One more entry coming up!

11:15 a.m. on August 20, 2012 (EDT)
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I am beginning to think that the only flat place in Norway is the surface of the lakes.

12:42 p.m. on August 20, 2012 (EDT)
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NICE, NICE, NICE!

If I make it there, will you show me a few trails?

3:55 a.m. on August 21, 2012 (EDT)
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Peter -- anytime!

Sage -- Here's a flat spot!:
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Tårnfjellet in western Trollheimen, not far from where I live.

9:15 a.m. on August 21, 2012 (EDT)
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Home of the Trolls?  Love it!

9:36 a.m. on August 21, 2012 (EDT)
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Ok, I'm ready to move there.  Send me a real estate guide.  I mean it.  I don't think I'll have any problems convincing the wife to go either.

Oh yeah, I'm going troll hunting too.

10:50 a.m. on August 21, 2012 (EDT)
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Red,

 

I’ve seen some buildings in your reports with what appears to be earthen roofs.

 


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What is the substructure beneath the earth? Is drainage built in somehow? Just curious…

2:32 p.m. on August 21, 2012 (EDT)
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I think the traditional solution is to use big sheets of birch bark under the sod to shed the water. Nowadays they they have plastic or rubber sealed roofs, but often put birch bark along the edge to make it look traditional.

2:42 p.m. on August 21, 2012 (EDT)
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Rob -- re: Troll hunting, check out the movie The Troll Hunter if you haven't already. Very well-done and funny spoof on the found footage-horror movie genre (i.e. Blair Witch, which I thought was terrible). Helps to have some appreciation of Norwegian Troll lore and culture, but not necessary. And of course there's the TV series Lillyhammer.

We know one other American couple that moved here with a very young daughter. He had come to Norway as an exchange student and so was already fluent, but she is a certified and very experienced nurse midwife but couldn't get the gov to recognize her certification and will have to do some retraining before she can practice. Kinda dumb. Another couple from Seattle were getting pretty close to coming here to Trondheim but pulled back, I think at least in part because their kids are already teenagers making for a tough transition. We came when our girls were 11 and 7 and they are practically native.

4:00 p.m. on August 21, 2012 (EDT)
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Ok, here's the last installment. Our original plan called for us to put in an extra long day ending in a boat ride to a hut called Memurubu, putting us in position to do a peak called Surtningssue, one of Norway's top 10, the next day. But we realized early on that would be a stretch and so decided to notch it back a bit, giving us the half day to do the Skageflå hike. So instead of Memurubu and Surtningssue, we rented a cabin near the town of Lom for two nights, and made a day trip into one of my favorite places, Spiterstulen, a mountain hotel/hut where I stayed for a week during my first visit in 1984, ended up helping out around the place in exchange for room and board. Eric, my wife, and I also stayed a couple nights during a visit in 1990. All good memories. Anyway, this time we signed up for a tour up to the "Fair Tale Ice" on the Svellnos glacier. A bit touristy, but a good way especially for the kids to get up close and personal with a glacier.

Morning coffee at Spiterstulen.image.jpg

A look up at Svellnosbreen (breen = the glacier, so this is the Svellnos Glacier). I think it has retreated massively since I was first there but I would have to dig out my old photos to see for myself.
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The route up to the ice follows the top of a steep lateral moraine.
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A closer look at part of the ice front. The guides issued a challenge and led the way to go for a dip in a butt-cold lake off to the left -- Zoe and I were amon the few to take them up on it.
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Time to rope up. Everybody got a body harness and a pair of 12 point crampons. The first time I did this we just tied the rope around our waists and used instep crampons.
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Eric and co., raring to go.
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Polished rock and fresh debris.
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The first group heads out onto the ice.
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Our turn. Somewhere on this first stretch the German woman behind me slipped down a slipped and pulled me and Zoe, ahead of me down. I took the hit on my butt and had a Charlie horse there for the rest of the day.
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Working our way up the glacier front.
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The guide chop steps so everybody gets good footing.
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A look into a crevasse. Unlike the two winter visits I have done, we didn't get very deep into the ice for that deep blue feeling.
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I wanna take you higher...
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A valley formed in a persistent radial crevasse called Soria Moria. Svellnosbreen is an especially good place to explore because he ice has come through a sort of hourglass, resulting in radial as well as transverse crevasses.
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A little hint of the deep blue.
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Our guide Karl.
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Climbing an ice ridge.
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Descending the moraine after the tour.
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A last look at the ice front, calving ice and ice debris in the middle.
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After this, we headed back to Trondheim while Eric and co. went into Memurubu not to do Surtningssue but the Besseggen Ridge, the most heavily traveled piece of trail in Norway. It's beautiful enough that I would have been happy to do it again despite all the people -- they got a beautiful day for it -- but we had a six hour drive and had to return our rental car the next morning so we gave it a miss. It was an unintended twist that we went from some of the less traveled parts of the Norwegian Mountains to the most, but it all worked. Eric and co. are planning to return in the spring in a couple years -- they are avid skiers -- when we'll probably just rent a cabin for a week o use as a base camp.

That's all for now -- hope y'all enjoyed it!

12:31 a.m. on August 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Alright! That does it.

1)The house is going up for sale tomorrow.

2)Copy of "Speaking Norwegian for Dummies" is on order.

3)Due to my son's watching "how to train your dragon" I've already replaced "God almighty" with "Thor almighty" several months ago, so I'm ahead on that.

4)Not going to have an easy time transitioning to Building Inspection over there so I may need to open a Jersey Pizza shop or something.

LOL - Awesome trip as always Red. Thanks for sharing. I forgive you for making me depressed again.

2:14 a.m. on August 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Big red, I watched the movie twice

5:08 a.m. on August 22, 2012 (EDT)
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I thought you'd probably seen it based on your comment. Guess you'll need a 20,000 LED headlamp!

11:45 a.m. on August 23, 2012 (EDT)
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Love the glacier walk!

Good to see the full body harnesses - the 'rope around the waist' you mention could be a big problem if you fell. If nothing else, your back would take a nice bit of whiplash.

That 'deep blue' colour is like nothing else in the world. You really know you're on a glacier when you see that below you.

12:04 p.m. on August 23, 2012 (EDT)
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Amen to that, brother. Here's the photo of the very same Eric in the very same glacier from more than 20 years ago that got me a second prize in the TS photo contest a couple years ago.
EKM-Svellnosbreen.jpg

And in case you missed it here's an old TR about a visit we made to an ice cave in Trollheimen a few years before it collapsed.

10:30 p.m. on August 29, 2012 (EDT)
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Beautiful mountains. I will have to figure out a way to visit them someday!

September 21, 2014
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