For our final training trip we made our way back to Jotunheimen, one of Norway’s most amazing national parks. We decided to make a detour on the way home to Oslo after finishing a summer of work in Flåm. With its 2469m, Galdhøpiggen is the highest mountain in all of Scandinavia. Lying in a spectacular Alpine area, we kept the best tour for the last: a summit hike from Spiterstulen on to the 3 peaks of the mountain. Yes, the three peaks!
We tried to transform September into training month but because we still had so much to take care of before the hike it didn’t really happen in the beginning. After getting the bulk of the logistics done we finally had more time on our hands again to go outside. By making it to the peak of Galdhøpiggen, Aurland’s highest peak Blåskavlen and hiking in the mountains around Finse we’ve done over 23.000 meters of total ascent and descent this summer. We aimed for 20.000 so we were very happy with this result.
Even with all the preceding height meters the way to the top was a hard one. Last week we were watching the duel between four Norwegian media figures on the program Senkveld med Thomas og Harald. Two teams were challenged to set the fastest time for the top – they left with two hours in between and carried backpacks weighing 10kg. The fastest team made it in 3 hours and 22 minutes. The Norwegian trekking site ut.no lists an average of 5 hours to get to the peak from Spiterstulen. PJ was sure we wouldn’t get there under five, I was guessing at four.
We arrived in Spiterstulen the evening before to set up camp. It was pretty cold at 1100 meters so after dinner we dived into our sleeping bags to get some rest for the hike. But as temperatures fell below zero that night and both of our sleeping bags didn’t hold up to their minus degree comfort zone promises, we didn’t get that many hours of sleep and didn’t manage to get out of the tent by 7 and on the road by 8. Instead, we warmed ourselves for a bit more time after the sun came up and started hiking at 09.38.
Just like all Norwegian mountains, there is no gentle warm up before starting the hard work. The track leads steep up for 200 meters until a saddle leads on to a rocky landscape that will last until the summit. Nothing seems to be able to grow in Norway over 1400 meters: the landscape transforms into a moon like scenery filled with endless piles of fractured rock and nothing more. Over the saddle some snow started to pop up between the rocks and the occasional snowfield came by. After 1,5 hours, we made it up to 1800 meters of altitude. We both got very optimistic and for a while started believing we would beat the tv crews to the summit.
Of course the optimism came to soon. We didn’t know that both the height differences and the distances between the peaks were so large. From the ascent to the first peak the trail runs up a steep and narrow ridge bordered by glaciers at all times. Getting across each of them took much more time than we expected. But at every consecutive summit, the views just got better and better. At the second summit we doubted for a couple of minutes if we would go on to the final and actual peak because we were both exhausted, cold and a bit concerned about the way down due to all the loose rocks, the ice and the amount of snow we encountered. But it was definitely worth the push to the finish. The view from the top is a 360º breathtaking scenery of rugged mountain peaks and countless glaciers.
With 4,5 hours we didn’t even come close to our optimistic thought of beating the tv teams, but we didn’t care. It was too amazing up there to put any further thought into that. After 10 minutes on the top we felt our hands freezing off and as we saw a group of approximately 70 people coming in on a guided glacier tour from Juvasshytta we took our lunch break a bit further down. Just as we managed to get a sandwich in, the weather started turning around and the first fog was flying by. Thinking about the steep and slippery ridges, we started hurrying back to get across the three peaks before visibility was strongly reduced. Every time we made it up or down a ridge we saw the fog following closely behind us so we kept moving fast. It started snowing as well and a lonely hiker from Sweden teamed up with us for the descent. Under those conditions this is not a place to be wandering around alone.
After about an hour of running away from the fog we had made it across the steepest part of the trail and sat down to take a break. The rest of the descent went surprisingly well and the total 3400 meters of altitude difference took us 7,5 hours to complete. Happy and cold, we decided not to spend another 70 NOK per person to freeze our asses off on a campsite without any services at all and started the long way home.
The summer is over and with our last training summit done it’s a straight line until we take off to New Zealand now. Can’t wait to get started on the trail! Three more weeks until adventure begins.