For our 2009 summer trek we went to Norway?s Jotunheim National Park, about 200 miles northwest of Oslo. It was late August, towards the end of a six week walking window; outside of this period the route could be tricky due to snow.
Starting and finishing in Gjendesheim at Lake Gjende, we knew the trek would be quite challenging because of the rough terrain and long distances between lodges. We expected some strenuous ascents and steep descents, scrambling with some exposure, snow in places and river crossings along the way.
The trip couldn?t have had a worse start; seven of us missed our flight from Heathrow, which meant missing the only bus to get us from Oslo to Gjendesheim that day. The subsequent nightmare was compounded by British Airways who mislaid our bags. Anyway, to cut a very long story short, we eventually arrived, exhausted, at the Gjendesheim lodge in the early hours.
The baggage delay meant that we were forced to spend the first day at Gjendesheim (Day 0). With perfect weather, we set out on a local walk alongside the impressive lake and then high up along a granite ridge. This turned out to be our best weather day and the views were magnificent. Our spirits began to rise. The walk also prepared us for the kind of walking and scrambling we would encounter at the end of the week. Later that evening, and with huge relief, our remaining bags were delivered; we could begin our trek the next day.
Day 1 took us from Gjendesheim to Glitterheim lodge, situated under one of Norway?s highest mountains, Glittertind, at 2452m. Cloudy but dry, we carried our backpacks some 24km across expansive open countryside, around lakes, past reindeer herds, over wobbly bridges and seemingly endless boulder fields. The walk took all day and many of us were very tired by the end, although a hearty meal at the lodge enabled us to recharge for the next day.
There were two options for Day 2, both leading to Spiterstulen; the high route over the ice covered Glittertind, or the low route which skirts around the mountain. As it happened, due to total cloud cover, we were forced to take the low road (we had been strongly advised not to attempt the high route in poor visibility).
We reached Spiterstulen in good time. This was probably the poshest of all the lodges, with its large spacious lounge and dining area, swimming pool and sauna. If spirits were flagging after another long day?s walk, they were soon lifted here at Spiterstulen.
Day 3 provided us with some challenging river crossings as we headed towards Leirvassbu, resulting in many wet feet. A short detour to a glacier face provided an added bonus, before having to cross yet more boulders to get to the lodge by the lake at Leirvassbu.
Day 4 was very wet. I took no pictures so can?t remember much about the walk, except more river crossings, an impressive waterfall and a knee injury along the way. I was very pleased with my new waterproof shell though, and I stayed completely dry all day. And the lodge at Gjendebu was very welcoming; perhaps the friendliest of them all. We had now returned to the far end of Lake Gjende and had just two days of walking to go.
The walk on Day 5 began with a steep ascent of about 500m, requiring the use of chains in many places. We managed to get to the top without incident and enjoyed some rare sunshine as we walked along a ridge with great views before decending sharply to the hut at Memurubu.
Our final walk, on Day 6, took us along the Besseggen ridge back to Gjendesheim. This is one of Norway?s most popular day walks and, for the first time, we were surrounded by dozens of Norweigans making the most of some good weather. All week, our group pace had been significantly slower than the Norweigan average, and we were soon overtaken by the locals. It didn?t matter though, as we took our turn to scramble up the narrow ridge, admiring the views from 1750m above Lake Gjende before returning to our start point at Gjendesheim.
Despite the disasterous start to the trip, and perhaps because of it, our group quickly bonded. We shared responsibility, we found solutions to problems, we learned from the experience. We cried a bit, we laughed a lot, and together we managed to make it work. Thank you!
The Team: Simon Bowyer, Debbie Creed, Jo Glyde, Ben Gregory, Sue Hasletine, David Hutton, Andy Lamb, Jerry Laurence, Sally May, Dave Stamp, Laura Williams.
Posted by : Jerry Laurence. 2nd Sep 2009 16:28.
It took just a few seconds for me to decide to join the Norway Jotunheimen National Park trek when it was announced last year. My most recent visit to Norway, long ago in the winter of 1986/87, was just a few months before I had my knees re-arranged by a slightly unfortunate skiing accident at Val D’Isere. After too many years thinking that this sort of trip was beyond me, it was obvious that I needed to achieve something special. The 2009 trip seemed like the perfect opportunity, plus I would be returning to a country I’ve loved since my very first visit. That we would be trekking in an area that I’d never seen before was even more appealing. All I needed to do was get fit and lose a stone or two! No problem, then.
After many training walks in some of the UK’s most beautiful areas, including the Brecon Beacons, Snowdonia, the Lake District, North Cornwall, etc, we arrived at the first hut at Gjendesheim. The simplest way to describe the area around Lake Gjende is ‘breathtaking’ – almost enough to make a grown man burst into song through sheer joy. Fortunately I remembered in time that I can’t sing, I look more like Luciano Pavarotti than good old Julie Andrews (yes, I know that the film was set in Austria – but the mountains are similar, ish) and a fat man murdering a song on a mountain-top in front of the locals would do nothing for the club’s reputation!
It is fair to say that the UK’s best geography just cannot compare to the majesty and beauty of Norway’s most mountainous region. Every day in the National Park was physically testing and, sometimes, really challenging for some or all of us. It was also wonderfully rewarding, however, as 11 individuals quickly became a team that worked well together. Though there were some gripes and groans and, for some of us, many painful moments as our joints and muscles took a pounding, our spirits stayed high. Everyone pulled together and so, even on the days when the weather was a little dull, we all could enjoy the physical beauty of our surroundings. Each of us, on more than a few occasions, could not repress broad grins due to the euphoric effect the Jotunheimen region has on people. You would have to have a heart of stone not to be deeply moved by the place. Around every corner and in every direction there is something new and exciting. It is next to impossible to truly descibe in words the simple pleasures of experiencing clean, cold, mountain air, views over deep valleys, soaring peaks, extensive boulder fields, the crunch of ice underfoot, crystal-clear lake water, crashing rivers and waterfalls in the distance whilst, at your feet, you can still hear the soft chuckling of a myriad tiny watercourses….
I’m getting carried away – I could go on but that’s more than enough. My advice is: go there and experience for yourself Norway’s ‘Wow’ factor. I’ll never forget it and, one day soon, I’ll return to get another fix. This is a region and a country that is highly addictive and damned good fun. While we were there, life was good!
Posted by : David Hutton. 10th Sep 2009 23:43.
Arriving early in the morning at Pool Valley coach station the first thing I did was to feel the weight of everyone else’s packs to see if all the recently purchased equipment was actually necessary. Both Simon and David’s bags seemed heavier than mine; Content that my backpack weighed in at an average load, we set off.
Having never climbed a mountain before I was starting to wonder if I had bitten off more than I could chew. The first days walk had proven to be more than I’d expected but a good taste of things to come. I successfully reached my first ever summit without too many problems except for the fact that seeing over both sides of the ridge at the same time did freak me out, but I soon got used to that. Then we started the decent; as easy as the climb, I thought…wrong! People suddenly started disappearing off the mountain like lemmings (yes Jo, I Know lemmings don’t actually walk off cliffs) on closer inspection they were climbing down an almost vertical rock face; this was my first taste of scrambling. I was quite scared at this point but with the much appreciated help of Sally, Sue and Jo, I managed to get down safely. Although relieved to be off the side of the rock, I had a taste and I wanted more!
Some days seemed to be relentless, endless boulder fields with no end in sight, wet feet from countless river crossings and there are only so many boiled eggs a person can eat in a week. But it is all worth it to be amongst the beautiful landscape that Mother Nature has taken many years to carve and sculpt.
I went with strangers and came back with friends. This was my first mountain trek; it certainly won’t be my last.
Posted by : Andrew Lamb. 12th Sep 2009 05:22.Posted by: Laszlo. March 30, 2014