Trekking in the Jotunheimen in Norway

Updated: Dec 22, 2019

In July 2019, I hiked 8 days in Jotunheimen National Park in Norway with a KE group. KE Adventure is UK company specializes in trekking and climbing tours. This was my second visit to Norway. The following is my experience from the trip and some photos.

In my first Norway trip, we did 5 days walking and camping in Hardangervidda N.P. in early July. The landscape of Hardangervidda and the wilderness of environment left deep impression on me. During the 5 days hike, we met no more than 3 other trekkers each day. It rained daily but there were also moments of brilliant sunshine and crisp blue skies. Because it was early summer, there were still a lot of snow in many areas. The trails were rocky and slippery. I slipped and fell many times. And the alcohols were quite expensive.

Jotunheimn N.P. is located a bit north of Hardangervidda but it is considered a part of southern Norway. Our trip is an eight-day point-to-point hiking trip in the national park. The group composed of 15 people from UK, USA, Australia, and New Zealand. By pure luck, we arrived at Otta train station on the same train. A minibus took us to the Gjendesheim hut to meet our guides: Jakob and Jørn. The main guide Jakob is a German who spends part of every year in Norway as a mountain guide, or a ski instructor, or a carpenter (his real profession). He is knowledgeable about the glacier geology in this region, local flora and fauna. One of his passions seems to be foraging. During the trip he showed us a few plants that we can added to tea or sandwiches. Some of the herbs tasted good better than the others. The other guide Jørn is Norwegian who mostly does climbing and ice-climbing guide. According to him he never had a fulltime job.


Day 0: Arrive at Gjendesheim

We arrived at the Gjendesheim hut around 7 pm. After the dinner (all meals were included in the price) we had an orientation walk. The weather was clear. We just walked to hill on the side of the lake. We finished our hike at 10:30 pm. It was still bright out, but everyone was ready to go to bed. 10 pm wasn’t usual hiking time for most people.


Day 1: Gjendesheim to Memurubu

Memurubu is another hut on the shore of lake Gjende. The walk took us over the famous Besseggen ridge. The ridge lies between the lakes Gjende and Bessvatnet. On a good day, it offers a great view of the aquamarine Gjende lake. The notoriety of the ridge among Norwegians is due the Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt. In one scene, the main character rode a reindeer on this ridge in a dream. Depending on the direction of the hike, one could cross the ridge either on the accent or on the descent. The descent was long. We lost about 400 meter in elevation. Although it wasn’t particularly scary, it did require some amount of scrambling. The rain made the rocks very slippery. Quite of few us fell or banned our keens on the sharp rocks. Sometimes it was easier to go down on all five. All of us got down the Besseggen ridge in a thunderstorm without major damages. We reached Memurubu around 5 pm. The hut was a privately-owned and newly renovated. The elevation gain and loss of the first day is about 1200 meters. We went to bed early knowing the next day was a long day.


Day 2: Memurubu to Spiterstulen

This is the longest walking day of the trip. The total distance was around 29 kilometres. The elevation gain was less than 1000 metres but the terrines made the walk very tiring. The most difficult stretches was 4 hours walking in a boulder fields. The first few hours of walking as in a valley going gently upwards. After the first lunch (we generally had two lunch breaks, the first around 11 am and the second around 2 pm), we arrived at a col. The trail more or less disappeared from that point on wards.

We walked into a boulder field on the side of a string of icy lakes. The landscape was barren. Under the grey sky, the valley looked a little bit depressing. The rain started in the early afternoon. Then it turned into snows. Snow and ice covered the boulders. The exposed parts of the rocks had slippery green lichens grown on them. I had to watch every step to find the next foothold, and tried to avoid stepping through thin ice into the lake. Even with all my concentrations, I still stepped into knee-deep snow and ice water a few times, and bumped into the rocks. A pair of good waterproof boots and gaiters were definitely useful here. Although the scenery may not be everyone's cup of tea, I still could appreciate the bleak beauty of the valley.

Eventually we reached the Spiterstulen hut after 8 pm. That was 11 hours since leaving the Memurubu hut. The hut was warm and welcoming. How we enjoyed our dinner!

Since I spent most of time looking down, there was no noteworthy photo to post.


Day 3: An easy day of exploring the Svellnosbrean Glacier

The day started cloudy but showers soon resumed (after all it was Norway, wasn't it?). The guides decided that we should do the glacier walking instead of climbing Galdhopiggen. We walked to the glacier through the moraines. At the foot of glacier, we put on our crampons and roped into two groups. This glacier walk was neither technical nor strenuous but it was always fun to explore the ice walls and crevasses.


Day 4: Climbing Galdhopiggen

This is the “big day”. Galdhopiggen is the highest peak in Norway with the altitude of 2469 meter. From the hut, we would climb up 1500 meter to reach the summit. After leaving the hut, we crossed Visa River via a foot bridge. Then we went up steadily on a good trail until the side of mountains were covered by boulders. Just like two days before, the rocks were slippery and covered by snow and ice. The trail condition made me worried about coming down. A Norwegian with a dog ran passed us on the way up.

About 2/3 of the way up to the mountain, the slop was completely covered by the deep snow. We skirted around a glacier by its edge. We followed our guide closely to avoid the danger of the crevasses. Jakob told us a story of rescuing one of his clients from a crevasses. The person got stuck so tightly that he and another guide had to make a pulley. After half hour, they got the person out. And she wasn't very happy. By then the weather also turned from mixed snow shower into a full snowstorm. Gradually it became a complete whiteout and I couldn’t see more than 10 meters ahead. With the strong wind's blowing snow flakes into our eyes, we had to keep our heads down.

Before we reached the summit, the same Norwegian and his dog met us again on their way down. The dog looked very happy. When I met him in the hut, he told me that it took him about 3 hours to complete the round trip while we spent around 7 hours.

Anyway, we reached the top for our second lunch. The top isn’t very “peak like”. There is a small café on the top but quite full. I had my sandwich in the snow while trying to keep my face away from the blowing wind. This is Norway. I wouldn’t expect sunny weather and a green grassy lawn. The way down turned out to be fun. There were large sections of slope covered by snows. The guide showed us how to “bum slide” down the mountain. Essentially, you picked a steep enough slope, jumped on your butt and gave yourself a push every now and then. Just like that, we covered the upper half of the mountain in no time. Although we didn’t see much from the summit, it was a fun day.


Day 5: Walking to Leirvassbu

Today we walked along the valley floor to the Leirvassbu hut. The day started cloudy with flurry of snows but the sky gradually opened up. As we walked along the stream in the valley the scenery became more dramatic. The mountains in this area were sharper and more jaggedly instead of the usual rounded profile of Norwegian mountains. One of peaks stood out on the righthand side of the valley because it looked like the Matterhorn from our direction. The reflection of the snow topped mountains in the clear water were particularly picturesque. Even sitting on the bumpy rocks and eating cold sandwiches are quite enjoyable with such scenery surrounded us.

However, the sky eventually turned cloudy again. And it felt much colder as we approached the other side of the Kirk mountain. There was a lake at the foot of the mountain surrounded by boulders. Our group split here. A few of us chose the option of climbing the Kyrkja mountain. The rest of the group proceeded directly to the hut. The route started from the backside. We stumped through snows to a place to drop off our backpacks. While we were resting two guides discussed among them. Then they talked to us about the condition of the climb. They recommended us to give up the attempt because the new snow was too slippery. Especially there was a place that required using “fraction” technique. The snow made it too risky. All of us agreed with a sigh of relief. Actually we were quite worried in our head but no one wanted to be the first one to speak out.

The Lerivassbu hut situated on the side of a lake. It offers good photo opportunities in the morning and evening.


Day 6: Trek downhill to Skogadasboen

Today is another easy-ish day. The landscape starts barren, but it gradually turned into birch forest. There were streams and waterfalls dotted in the valley. And the weather was sunny during most of the day. The most exciting part of the day was seeing a herd of reindeer on the side of the hill.

The Skogadasboen hut has no road access at all and it is family run. The supplies are sent in by helicopter once a month.


Day 7: Through the Avdalen Valley to Utadalen

The day started by climbing up from the hut through the forest to a high plateau. And the high point, we had the amazing view of a deep green valley extending towards horizon. There were glaciers and waterfalls on both sides of the valley. On the opposite of of the valley, a ridge connected several steep snowy peaks. Jørn told us that these were popular climbing peaks in Norway.

Going down from the high point, we walked through birch woods to reach a beautiful lake. It looked like Yosemite. We turned down the offer of taking a dip in the lake because the water felt cold. About 1 hour from the lake, we reached the waterfall Vettifossen. The waterfall drops 275 m to the valley floor. Our guides joked that this was one of "the" highest waterfalls in Norway because there were so many categories and qualifications. The trail down to the valley floor was a steep zigzag. However, the trail was mostly dry so I only fell down once. The day ended at the Avdalen refuge which was part of a farm. Some rooms were above the sheep pen or next to a chicken coop.


Final Notes:

The tour was well-structured and well-organized. This was my first trip using KE adventure but many of the other members in my group had gone on a few other KE tours. I will be happy to use this company in the futures again.

The huts in this national park are big and well equipped. All of them have drying rooms which are very useful for the weather conditions in Norway. The food were good (by the mountain refuge standards) and you get to make your own pack lunch at the breakfast time.

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