Hiking in Norway

Dovrefjell National Park

The first half of September 2017 we left for Dovrefjell National Park in Norway.  It is located in the high mountain area of ​​Dovre and Sunndalsfjella. The park spans over 1500km² consisting of a mostly alpine ecosystem.  Here is an overview of our 9 day trip.

(Photos taken by Melvin Roebersen, Francis Couderé, Peter Porremans and Freya)

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Day 1: Brussels – Oslo

I’m sitting in the station, waiting for the train that will take me to the airport. Right on time the carriages arrive at the platform. At the next stop some of my fellow travellers get on the same train. The ones that are not on the train, we will meet in the airport. Our group will consist of 11 hiking enthusiasts.

Our backpacks checked in, we are buckling our seat belts  like instructed on the silly instruction video of the Brussels Airlines flight. Who thought it was a good idea to put birds as the protagonists of an in flight safety video?! One of the guys is still in a bad mood because he had to abandon his little pots of yogurt at the security check, strawberry flavour …

It is passed midnight when we enter the Scandic hotel that we did not book. We booked 11 beds in a hotel with the same name, from the same company with a similar address. We are not the first ones to make this mistake and before long our stay is rebooked so we don’t have to get back on the bus.

 

Day 2: Oslo

We wake up to a magnificent breakfast buffet and shitty weather. My standards  are very low when it comes to holiday accommodation breakfast, being used to hostels where you have to be glad if there is a slice of bread you have to toast yourself.

We enjoy the luxuries of civilization (like showers) for a last time before heading into the wilderness.  This seems harder than we thought as the train we wanted to take to the Dovrefjell National Park is fully booked. Getting your tickets 20 minutes before departure time is not a good idea apparently. The next train is tomorrow, no night trains in the weekend.

We head into town with most of the group. The nice lady at the tourist information counter gave us a good tip to pitch up our tents for the night, only a metro ride away from the city. With our backpacks we walk around the rainy Oslo. First stop: the parliament, where we watch the guards march around.

We walk around talking, have some coffee in a crowded Starbucks knock off and head to our camping spot. Line 5 to Sognsvann, a lake in the green belt around Oslo. It’s a place often used for recreation by the city’s inhabitants. Even on this drowsy day we see many people run passed and even a few on those skies on wheels.

This is the first night  we put up our tents and roll out our sleeping bags, heat up some water to put in our fries dried food bags and enjoy the nutritional goop that is created this way. We crack the bottle of rum we bought in the airport back in Belgium … just to keep us warm.

 

Day 3: Oslo – Kongsvoll – Reinheim

Our train to the wilderness leaves at 10 o’clock near the airport so this morning the alarm goes of early, very early. Necessary if we don’t want to miss our ride… again. The five hour ride flies by in a sleepy slumber.

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Kongsvoll station consists of two black wooden houses where we prepare the last things for our hike i.e. pouring the booze into plastic bottles so we don’t have to carry the glass ones.

 

The hike starts with a climb between small birch trees. The sun is radiating on our faces and soon we have to stop to take off some layers of clothing. The following hours are filled with breathtaking views and an animated discussions about the biodegradability of banana peels in this environment and carrying your own poop on hikes as to leave nothing behind.

Thick layers of moss and moorland cover the rocky terrain, sometimes the path is muddy or soggy. More than once we have to hop stone to stone to cross small streams. Good boots or perfect body coordination are recommended if you want to avoid wet feet.

Before the rain clouds can fully catch up we arrive at the Reinheim cabin. The cabins are usually unmanned but a fee is required  to go inside or stay the night. We put up our tents behind the cabin and start the ritual of watering our food.

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Day 4: Reinheim – Snøhetta – Åmotsdalshytta

The night is cold and as a consequence, for many, with little sleep. Waking up is hard and our morning routine isn’t very efficient, hiding from the cold wind most of the time, trying to ignore the mist. It takes a good while before we are all ready to leave for our toughest day, the longest hike with the most altitude. But leaving the cabin we could never have imagined how tough of a day it was actually going to be.

We start with a climb that leads us to a mossy plateau. It seems boundless because of the mist. We walk from red T to red T, finding the path as we go. We start to climb again while the wind is joining our trek. It sprays us with cold droplets. The higher we go, the more the wind picks up and the harder it gets to balance on the rocks that make up the path.

By this time we are separated in groups, the fast ones ahead, the slower ones behind. The weather is not allowing us to wait for each other. Soon the rain that is hitting us from the side changes into hail which changes into snow as we climb higher and higher on the side of Snøhetta. First the rocks are covered in only a thin layer of snow, accumulating mostly in between the rocks with the tops still sticking out. Near the summit the layer of snow becomes thick and bridges the gaps between the rocks. The precipitation is attacking my bare face with a painful ferocity. The only thing that keeps repeating itself in my mind is “At some point you will get out of this situation”. I drag myself forward while my clothes start to soak by the relentless downpour of  wet snow. A thick layer of snow and ice is forming on my left side as I try to keep myself upright in the coldness that is surrounding me.

After what seems an eternity I reach the top. A large chimney like structures emerges from the mist and behind that there is a gray cabin. My heart  rises but sinks just as fast as I realize the cabin is locked completely. Here I am, all by myself: the rest of the group is behind, cold, wet and tired. I have no idea what to do. Luckily two of the guys show up quickly and we decide to go back seeing we can not find the path down on the other side of the mountain. On the way down we meet the last two of our group. The wind has picked up even more, keeping upright is an almost impossible challenge. Back up to the cabin it is, on the side of it there is a place where the wind is not as strong. A place to regroup, stuff some food in our face and make a plan. We decide not to go back but push on. A good decision; as soon as we start descending and get behind the mountain ridge the wind can not get to us as much. A relief that gives us new energy to keep going.

Soon we see the tracks of the first half of our group. First in the deep snow, the more we descend, the more  the rocks start sticking out and the more precarious our path. We all end up on our butt a few times because of the slippery rocks. The only thing we can do is keep on going, so that is what we do. The snow slowly disappears around us as rain starts pouring down again. The cabin we are trying to reach is down in the valley. It is visible hours before we actually reach it. The descend consists of short steep bits with long flat stretches of landscape in between them. Again it seems like this ordeal is never going to end. new levels of this valley keep materializing in front of us after every steep descend.

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Many hours later we finally reach the cabin. Warmth and shelter, food and rest. We made it! Someone pushes a hot cup of tea in my hand as I stare at the burning stove, completely depleted of energy. Food, heat and dry clothes quickly get me back out of my zombie state and we talk the evening away, discussing what we have learned from this day and what to do different next time.

 

Day 5: Åmotsdalshytta – Langvatnet

We spend most of the day in the cabin, making sure everything we have is dry and just enjoying the comforts of indoor living as long as we can. There is a lot of eating and talking, some packing and cleaning. We have to leave before 6 o’clock because if we are still in the cabin after that we have to pay the fee for a nights stay.

In the afternoon we get going again. For the first half of today’s hike the sun is so inclined to join us but behind us the clouds are catching up quickly. In the late afternoon we reach a very small hunters cabin right next to one of the stunning lakes that are scattered through the landscape, Langvatnet.

Enough flat and rock free spots can be found in the vicinity so we start putting up our tents and exploring the surroundings. Close by there is a small hill we climb to see the vast and rough terrain that surrounds us as far as the eye can see. Except for a lone hunter we spot in the distance, there is no one around. Sadly the weather is changing and we are joined by the rain yet again. We manage to build a small camp fire as the rain comes and goes.

 

Day 6: Langvatnet – Flatskrådalen

We wake up, it is still quite cold outside and yet again I don’t feel much for getting out the tent but we have to move on. We take our time for breakfast and cleaning up our camp, making sure to leave nothing behind. Following the red T’s we continue our trek over the rocks and moss. The trek is not very technical, passing lakes and rocky ridges. We take it easy today, stopping regularly to eat, drink and rest. In the afternoon the sun peaks through the clouds and a few brave souls decide to go for a swim in one of the lakes we pass.

The path leads us to some magnificent views and the landscape is absolutely breath taking. For every valley we leave behind, an even more beautiful one follows. We put up our camp in the most beautiful spot yet: a splendid patch of grass looking out onto a lake. The perfect night for some stargazing.

Day 7: Flatskrådalen – Dindalen

We start our last day in the Wilderness; tomorrow a bus to Oppdal will bring us back to civilization. Our path continues, descending slowly. The slope is barely noticeable but the further we walk, the taller the trees grow. After only a couple of hours walking the first houses show up in the distance, a remote village down in the valley.

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Around noon we pass a car park with a few off-road vehicles and a bit further a touristic cabin that is unoccupied for the moment. Civilization is creeping closer and closer. After a short stop for lunch we head on down the path that has become wide and very clear.

We pass the beautiful Gammelsetrahytta , a fully stocked and cozy looking couple of cabins. A perfect hideout for cold winter days. We keep on going seeing we really have to catch that bus tomorrow. Passing several private cabins now, the hills rise high next to us while we descend into the valleys.

In the afternoon the terrain around us starts to get soggy and covered in short, rigid bushes. Finding a good camping spot turns out to be a bit of a predicament but after a while we are succesful. On a little hill we find just enough space to put up all our tents and enough trees in the vicinity to make a warming fire for the evening.

As we sit huddled around the flames someone notices a distant glow in the sky behind the cloud cover. The discussion whether this are the Nortern Lights or not goes on till we all go to sleep.

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Day 8: Dindalen – Oppdall

I wake up early,  everyone is still asleep. It is very quiet in the misty morning air. After a while noises start coming from the different tents and other people start appearing. After breakfast and packing the tents we start the very last bit of our trek. At the Dindalshytta, two of our companions decide to take the “scenic route” through the hills. The rest of us continues on the shorter and well marked path. Soon the gravel under our feet turns into paved roads and the rough bushes on the hillsides make way for green meadows filled with sheep. The last kilometer to Løset, where we will take the buss to Oppdall is on a busy road where cars and trucks whiss passed.

The bus is nice and warm, I struggle to stay awake on the bendy roads through the rolling hills. The typical red wooden houses and sheds are scattered between the trees. Once in Oppdal we nestle ourselves in a restaurant on the top floor of a shopping mall. It looks like the dining place in a retirement home and smells a bit of old people. We don’t mind and stay the entire afternoon having food, coffee and enjoying the warmth.

It is weird how lost you can feel being in a town after a few days in nature. Dragging around a back pack full of stuff you don’t really need anymore. As the night sets in we don’t really know what to do with ourselves and end up drinking supermarket bought beers on the square in front of the mall before we move to the train station’s waiting area. There we just hang out for a while, eating the last of our hiking food, seeing if somebody can fit into one of the lockers, dancing to the music on our phones and enjoying the luxury of a full functioning toilet. We put up our tents on a little overgrown square next to the station, hoping that no one will notice till the next day.

Day 9: Oppdall – Oslo – Home

At 8 am alarms start going off in the tents. We need to make sure we don’t miss our train to Oslo. The ride is long but comfortable. Some sleep, some talk. We are worried we are smelling bad and annoying our fellow passenger but nobody complains.

It is early afternoon when we reach Oslo. In a local swimming pool, the ones that packed swim suites enjoy a refreshing dive, relax in the sauna and have a necessary shower. After some pizza and a visit to the roof of the opera house we make our way back to the airport. There are still a few hour to kill before our early morning flight so we roll out our sleeping mats and get some sleep.

And so ends another wonderful journey through another beautiful part of the world.

 

 

 

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