Våt Jotunheimen

Jotunheimen is a spectacular national park in Norway and boasts the country’s highest peaks. It also boasts a high content of wetness…

After trekking through Rondane late June 2011 I opted for a 10-day trek through the Jotunheimen national park in Norway late August. Not only is the scenery spectacular, according to the movie “Trolljegeren” that came out in 2010, there is a high possibility of spotting trolls. Like Rondane I went outside the tourist high season which runs from roughly half July till half August. I parked my car at Gjendesheim on August 22nd and started my first hours of hiking in the direction of Glitterheim to pitch my tent at the Bessvatnet in the beautiful evening sun the same day. According to the weatherforecasts the weather was supposed to be good through the next day, and then it would rain.

I woke up around 5 in the morning. The evening sun had been replaced by a beautiful morning sun and I packed my bag quickly to make full use of it. The Bessvatnet lake was in perfect state for some boating, which I did, since I had brought my little packraft. I paddled the lake up to the Besseggen ridge. The ridge is part of the famous walk from Gjendesheim to Memurubu. I was early enough to avoid the large amount of people who walk this hike every day. I had my breakfast with a great view on the Gjende lake and mountains all around me. Then the hiking part of the day started. I met a large number of hikers when I made my way in the direction of Memurubu, but I soon turned north to the Russvatnet. There was a gentle wind blowing across the lake, of which I made good use. I inflated my raft again, and effortlessly floated along the lake to my campspot. The tent was pitched and dinner prepared, the beautiful evening sun made the day complete.

Next morning, not as bad as expected. It was cloudy but no rain, yet. That started some hours later once I reached the hills at Styggehøe. Once I entered the Veodalen and had a view on the Glitterheim hut I gave up the idea of hiking and paddling the Steinbudalen under Glittertind, which had no paths but seemed excellent to do by raft. It was completely covered in mist and rain though and I was too tired to walk the entrance to the valley. I walked alongside the Veo river instead and camped just before the Veslglupen with a good view on the Veobrean glacier and large but mostly empty riverbeds of the Veo river.

The morning of the 25th started misty. Today I would hike past the Spiterstulen hut into the Visdalen valley. It started with a misty climb into the Veslglupen and then some more mist and finally rain all the way past Spiterstulen. An uneventful hike characterized by paths slowly becoming muddy. Although I knew there was a road up to the hut it’s always disappointing to see cars when you’re trekking trough the mountains. I pitched my tent with a view on the Store Urdadalstinden.

Although the early morning didn’t promise much, the next day was to become a great bright sunny day, or at least part of it. I hiked further up the Visdalen where the views became better and better. I had lunch at the Panna lake with unsurpassed views on the famous mountain Kyrkja and the peaks and glaciers of the Smørstabbtindan. I continued my hike towards the Leirvassbu hut and decided to spare my feet and paddle the 1-2 km across the Leirvatnet lake. This spared my feet so much that I easily walked to my campspot at Langvatnet. After dinner it started raining, and wind started blowing. As a matter of fact, it rained and stormed for 14 hours straight and I think I heard some goats screaming, so I guess Trolls were roaming about. All in all not a good night, my pegs didn’t stay in the rocky ground and the wind blew water into my tent. I didn’t sleep much, or rather I didn’t sleep at all. The late morning skies of the next day promised a continuation of the misery, and I gave up the plan to continue the hike towards Olavsbu and paddle the Mjølkedalsvatnets. Instead, I walked back to the path that would lead me to Gjendebu. The longer I walked, or swam, the more positive I became about spending the night inside the hut where I would also be able to dry my gear. This possibility became necessity when my shoes finally gave way to the water of the rivers that were supposed to be paths. After a dreadful walk I finally arrived at Gjendebu where I hung my soaking wet socks over the heater in the bedroom, since the dry room wasn’t working so well…not sure it was working at all, since nothing I put in there came out dry. I had to sleep on the floor since the hut was full and shared the room with two nice guys from Oslo. The night, breakfast, dinner and a beer cost me a flippin 700 NOK…jeepers…back to tenting, trekking food and water I guess :).

The morning started with some rain, and then some more. My goal for the day was Svartdalen, so I made my way through the normally wet but now even wetter lowland under the Gjendetunga and started climbing up the entrance to the Svartdalen valley. It was steep, and it was wet, and my backpack was still heavy. After scrambling up using all fours there was no going back anymore; going down a near vertical rock slide with this backpack was not an option. Sweet relief when I finally reached the valley…not there was much to see, it was covered in drizzle and some rain. After the scramble I gave up on yet another plan: to climb the Svartdalsbandet into Leirungsdalen. I walked to the Torfinnsbu hut at the Bygdin lake instead. The weather at Bygdin and the Torfinnsdalen was actually nice and sunny! I had thought to cross the Torfinnsdøla river, but the bridges that were shown on my map were both not there. Not knowing if there would be any spot to camp on the other side I opted to camp close to the hut and enjoy the sunny evening at the beautiful shoreline of the Bygdin lake.

Morning came with rain. For some reason I chose to wade through the rivers instead of paddling the lake. I walked through muddy water for a kilometer or so when I became too frustrated with the “path” and inflated my boat anyway and had a lovely paddle to the point where the path to the Valdresflya Vandrerhjem hut went land inwards. If you would look on the map you would see that the area through which the path drags itself up is swampy in “normal” weather. Needless to say it was not a pleasant walk. I pitched my tent close to the hut and they were ok with me drying some gear at the fire. I went back to the tent with dry socks.

Norway’s nature came back with revenge by bringing me heavy mist throughout the night and early morning, so I had to pack everything wet again. By the time I was ready for walking, sun broke through! I had excellent weather throughout the whole day. Too bad I would spend most of it walking alongside the R51 car road. I went back into the national park by entering the lower part of the Leirungsdalen. A verry pretty valley indeed. It was too late to climb theKnutshøe that forms the north-eastern side of the valley and supposedly gives great views across the Leirungsdalen and Gjende lake which was now again very close. The next morning, after a night of rain I decided not to hike up the Knutshøe but paddle down the gently flowing Leirungen river. It was a lovely float and paddle across the Øvre Leirungen lake. I continued hiking towards the Gjende lake and then along the lake back to Gjendesheim. Funny enough they didn’t make a bridge across the Sjoa river that flows from the Gjende lake, and thus I had to inflate my boat to paddle to Gjendesheim and reach my car.

During my trip I heard the sad news of a lady falling to her death from the Gjendetunga and 2 other hikers gone missing during the bad weather. This of course made me reflect on my own adventure. Hiking solo through a wild mountain area is not without dangers, and even though I did not walk and paddle the valleys that would have made this trip really special, I am happy I made the decisions not to go ahead with them due to the bad weather.

All in all a great trip, although I could have done with some nicer weather!

PS seen plenty of reindeer, but no trolls!

See more pictures of this trip.