jotunheimen

Hiking Galdhøpiggen

I was happy and tired after hiking the Besseggen Ridge and my next plan was to hike to the top of Galdhøpiggen the following day.  I had checked options for the hike and I had 2 choices. One was to start at Juvasshytta and do the hiking crossing the Styggebreen glacier or I could start the hike at Spiterstulen lodge in Visdalen. My original plan was to stay at Juvasshytta but it was fully booked, but I still decided to start the hike from here as It was shorter and I had to drive back to Oslo the same day. So I had to be at Juvasshytta in good time before the first guided tour over the glacier that was 10am in the morning.

I was driving to my hotel and made a stop in Lom on the way. I needed a coffee and wanted to make a visit to Lom Stave Church to see it from inside as last time I passed by here It was closed and I could only see the outside.

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Lom is a municipality in Oppland county in Norway and is considered as the gateway to the Jotunheimen Mountains and the Jotunheim National Park. The municipality contains the two highest peaks in Norway, Galdhøpiggen at 2,469 metres (8,100 ft) and Glittertind at 2,464 metres (8,084 ft), which lie within the park.

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Lom Stave Church, which is located at Lom center, is believed to have been built in 1158. It was extended in 1634, with further addition of two naves in 1667. A few Runic inscriptions can still be seen in the church. The church also contains numerous paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries with religious motifs. Many of the paintings were made by local artist Eggert Munch, a distant relation of the famous Edvard Munch. The church also contains numerous examples of local woodcarving, as seen in the elaborate acanthus scrolls adorning the pulpit. Carved dragon figures on the roof are old symbols of protection against evil. It is still in use as the local church.

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After a long day of hiking and a visit to the local Church I was happy to reach the hotel. I had booked a room at Elveseter Culture and Art Hotel that is an old farm situated in Bøverdalen valley just outside of Lom. Elveseter’s history is linked to a family of gifted craftsmen of Norwegian folk art and pioneers in the hotel and leisure industry. They dared to think differently and succeeded.

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One of the characteristics of Elveseter, is the use of names and symbols from the ancient Norse Mythology. Names such as Midgard, Utgard, Tor and Odin, makes history come alive at the hotel and creates a bridge to modern times.

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I spent the evening having dinner and drinks in the hotel restaurant and a visit to the hotel bar before i headed to my Viking room for a good night sleep.

I woke up early so I had time to enjoy my breakfast before I had to drive to Juvasshytta for my day of hiking to Norway’s highest peak. I bought my ticket for the Glacier hiking and went outside to wait. But as the day before It was rain in the air and foggy and at this elevation with some wind as well, I could feel the cold. I was prepared for the rain but not the cold as it was in June, so I did not bring any gloves. Who need gloves in June, well I realized I would be very cold if i did not have it so I rushed in to the small store as I earlier saw they was selling some clothes. Looking at the watch I had to hurry and tried to get contact with the girl behind the counter to serve me before the others and get the right size of gloves. She came with different type as well, so I just took a pair that was made of wool and was fitting, paid and went out. I arrived outside and everyone was lining up listening to the guide. We needed to walk for some kilometers to arrive at the glacier so they handed out the equipment needed and some had to help out carry the ropes. Arriving at the start of the glacier we had to wait for the guides to organize the ropes and the groups so this took some time. The best decision I had made today was to buy my gloves. As we where all ready the wind got more heavy and it started snowing. The first group went off and we had to wait until they where on a distance before we could go.  The wind got heavier and same with the snow. Galdhøpiggen was surrounded by a white cloud.

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We crossed the glacier and left the ropes ready for the return. Then it was to hike up to the top. It is not a very challenging hike but still some snow so some parts took a lot of the energy. Reaching the top there is a small hut where they sell some snack, coffee and some souvenirs. They also sell stamps that can only be bought up here for the ones who wish to send some postcard home. The weather did not change as i hoped and still with a cold wind, it was quite comfortable to sit inside to eat my lunch.

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So here I was on the top of Norway. Event with the fog, the rain and the snow it felt fantastic and I was happy I got the weekend free to be out exploring this fantastic nature.

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Now it was back in the car and a long drive back to Oslo.

At Juvasshytta there is an alpine ski resort with lift on a glacier, with top on 2200 m.a.sl, the highest in Scandinavia. It is called Galdhøpiggen summer ski center and is open from June and all the summer, when the road is open.

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Some additional information about hiking to Galdhøpiggen:

Galdhøpiggen (English: Galdhø Peak) is the highest mountain in Norway, Scandinavia and Northern Europe, at 2,469 m (8,100 ft) above sea level.

“Galdhøpiggen” means “the peak/spike (piggen) of the mountain “Galdhø”. The first registered ascent was done In 1850 by three local men from Lom, the guide Steinar Sulheim, the local teacher L. Arnesen and the church warden S. Flaatten.

Access to the top of Galdhøpiggen is not especially hard: from Juvasshytta (1850 metres above sea level, 5 km from the summit) it takes about three hours up (including about 45 minute to prepare for crossing the Styggebreen glacier), an hour at the top and about two hours back. Some days in the summer, a few hundred people reach the summit each day. Guides are needed to cross the glacier, but are available every summer morning.

Galdhøpiggen can also be hiked from the Spiterstulen lodge in Visdalen, with a technically very easy, but still somewhat strenuous climb of 1300 m — nearly 4000 ft. It takes four hours walk up, two hours down. From Spiterstulen, hikers do not have to cross the Styggebreen glacier, and hence a guide is not required. Ardent peak-baggers may count three summits on the route from Spiterstulen: Svellnose, Keilhaus topp and the summit itself.

Hiking Besseggen – A part of the Norwegian National park Jotunheimen

I had my hiking boots ready, woke up early and was looking outside, it was raining, just as the forecast had promised but not what I was hoping for.

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I took my time eating my breakfast, hoping for the weather to clear up in the next hour. But with the dripping rain and the fog in the air I did not have much hope. I glimpsed out of the window to check the queue for the first boat leaving and as expected It was just a few persons standing there. I had to make up my mind if I i should gamble with the weather and go for this boat or wait it out for the next and hope for better weather. Quickly checking the forecast again it looked like it might clear up around mid-day, so calculating the time for when I would be at Lake Bessvatnet that should be about half way of the hike, I decided to wait for the next boat. I spent the time reading my book, looking out hoping for the rain to stop. I made my lunch pack ready during breakfast but checking my backpack I would need some more water. I went to the store and as the rain was still poring down I just stayed in here until people started to queue up for the boat.

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So here I was, just getting off the Ferry from Gjendesheim to Memurubu,  ready to hike the Besseggen Ridge, one of the most famous hiking destinations in Norway and a part of the Jotunheimen national park. Hiking Besseggen you have the option to start at Gjendesheim and do the hike to Memurubu and catch the boat back or do as I did, take the boat to Memurubu and hike back to Gjendesheim. I had been wanted to do this hiking for years so I had checked it out and was sure that the only option for me having fare of heights would be to hike it this way. The drawback hiking it this way is the crowd, as most people prefer hiking it this way. The ferry was crowded but as it was a rainy day and still early in the season, it still had capacity to take more people. The first part is uphill and quite steep so I stopped a few places on the way up to let the crowd pass me and took the the opportunity to take some nice photos and get a photo taken of myself.

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It was June so still snow on the mountain tops.

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It was clearing up a bit but the fog kept coming and going. The marking of the trail is quite good but as I was hiking alone in this weather I was letting the crowd in front of me but stayed just behind them for the first part uphill. As most of the crowd was making a good effort of walking fast the first part they needed a break at the first top, so I passed them and walked for a long time by myself. I love walking in the mountains just surrounded by the beauty of the nature. So quiet and peaceful, so I kept walking for about an hour almost by myself. Then I could see some people far in front of me. They might have been walking in front of me without me notice it as it was still foggy and it was only when the fog cleared I could see them.

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The group in front of me looked like being 2 couples so I just kept going in this tempo and stayed at a distance, but close enough to see them. It felt more comfortable as I know the Norwegian mountains and how fast the weather can change.

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The snow had been melting so the level of the water was quite high, something I would experience later on the trail as well,  so at edge of the lake I had to balance on the stones for a part and managed quite well without getting wet on my shoes. I was enjoying the beauty of the nature around me and the amazing view.

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Arriving at Lake Bessvatnet it was still foggy but the rain had stopped. It is quite a challenge to get down this part but I just took it easy and tried to follow the people in front of me and when down there was a track in the snow to follow so it got easier.

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I reached the point of the trail where I had Bessvatnet at one side and Lake Gjende at the other side. So then I new I was about half way. Looking at the watch I had kept a good pace.  And now was the time where the most challenging part start. At least for me it was. Just looking up seeing people climbing made me dizzy and I started considering if I would be able to make it. Options would be going back and well that was not an option. Other option could be to follow the Bessvatnet and see if i could get up at some other point to avoid the steep climbing, but sitting having my lunch break and evaluating it I ended up with the challenging option to just follow the track and hope for the best.

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I was still a step behind the 2 couples that had been in front of me for the most of the trip. and at this stage I was consider this as being quite clever as now I could follow where they where climbing and hopefully they would choose the best route and make it easier for me. So I was thinking if they can do it then I can do it. And as long as i don’t look down before I feel i am on safe ground this will go well. One step at a time. Finding my grip, the right place to put my feet and push myself up. At one point I passed a couple climbing down. They where asking me if it was far and well for me it was difficult to say as I was not looking behind, at least trying my best not to, so looking up I told them that they where probably half way. The women almost started crying telling me she would never do this again. It was the most scary thing she had done and she was not sure she would make it. I tried my best to tell her that the part until here was not so bad and she seamed more relaxed. I continued climbing up, trying not to look down but at some parts I was just at the edge so difficult not to look down. I just took a deep breath and continued. So far so good. I even challenged myself to turn around a few times to take some photos.

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The 2 couples was still in front of me and I could see that one of them started to have some problems with the height as well. I was just next to them now and one of the girl told me she had problems with fare of height but had overcome it, but now it came back. But we all managed to reach the top and could finally look back en enjoy the beautiful view. They made a break at this point as one of the guy was not in the best shape and he told me this part was more challenging that he had imagined.

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I took some photos and enjoyed the view and continued my way back to the starting point where I had taken the boat this morning. The rest of the trip was easy walking as most was flat or downhill.

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As I kept walking I started to get the view down to the Gjendeheim where I had slept the night before. I stopped took some photos and just enjoyed the view.

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At a few places going down I had to watch out. At one point the waterfall was quite heavy and had taken away a part of the trail so was difficult to cross and I was trying not to get my shoes under the water. I was close to  Gjendesheim and could see it at a short distance and I was thinking wow I did it and now I could understand why it is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Norway. I got down, picked up my car, feeling tired but in a good way and was happy I did the hike even if the weather was not the best. Looking at the watch I had spent about 5 hours from I got of the boat and reaching back to Gjendesheim. Not bad at all and now being tired and hungry I was looking forward to reaching my next destination that would be the Elveseter hotel, enjoying a good dinner with some good wine before my next hiking adventure the next day before heading back to Oslo.

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To get to Gjendeheim I rented a car in Oslo. I stayed over at Gjendesheim so a good thing is to book in front to make sure to get a room. It can be quite busy during the peak season.

When to go:
The main summer season in the Norwegian mountains is July and August.  These months will be your best bet for sunny, warm days, but be prepared for all kind of weather.

Getting there:
The start or finish of the Besseggen ridge is located at Gjendesheim, on the eastern end of lake Gjende and Jotunheimen national park itself.  Here you’ll find a full service DNT hut, a small shop/cafe, toilets, the ferry boat, and parking area.

By Bus:
Several busses travel to Gjendesheim daily.  The two options are to travel via Fagernes (to/from Oslo) in the south.  To the north the bus travels to Vagamo where one can transfer east to Otta and the train, or continue west through the fjords.

By Train:
There is no direct train link to Jotunheimen national park.  If traveling by train, say from Trondheim in the north, exit at Otta, where you will have to take the bus to Vagamo, then on to Gjendesheim.  The bus/train does not always meet at a convenient time, so be sure to check schedules.

Transportation links:
https://www.nsb.no/ – Train info
http://www.nor-way.no/ – Bus info
http://www.ruteinfo.no/ – Local bus info
http://gjende.no/ – Ferry boat info

Other Useful links:
http://www.turistforeningen.no/ – The Norwegian trekking association
http://www.yr.no/ – Norwegian weather