The Holy Grail of hiking in Europe
“Norge på langs” is a classic among the European long distance trails. The route runs through the Norwegian mountains from Nordkapp to Lindesnes and is approximately 2800km long. On average a through-hike takes anywhere from three to five months. After reaching Lindesnes we wanted to hop on the ferry to Denmark and continue on bikes to my hometown in Belgium. That was the original plan, to start at Nordkapp and go all the way home. Pj and I were really excited for this trip: after three long-distance ventures in different corners of the world we were both looking forward to an adventure on our home turf.
Summer through-hikes are most common, though many winter traverses have already been made. However, to our knowledge no one has ever crossed the country during the autumn and deep of winter, starting in October and continuing through February. That became our goal. In October we stood at Nordkapp and started south on foot. By the beginning of November we added snow shoes to our kit. One month later we put in a small pulka as well to make the long mountain crossing from Abisko to Sulitjelma, so we could transport over 20 days of food with us. We didn’t get far out of Abisko before we had to retreat.
The autumn of 2018 was unusually warm and turbulent in the Arctic. Until the second half of November we had positive temperatures even high in the mountains. Storm after storm swept over the north. The warm temperatures meant that even by the beginning of December the rivers and lakes were not frozen. Those that had a thin layer of ice were not safe. There was barely any snow below 700m until the end of November, when a blizzard raged for two days and left over half a meter of fresh powder in its wake. We came to a point where there was too much fresh snow to force a way through the mountains while following the summer routes. But the ice was too unsafe to travel on winter trails. We both broke through the ice and when we shortly after reached open water we knew we had come to a dead end. It would be really dangerous to start wading icy rivers in the darkest time of the year while temperatures were plummeting. We had to stop, retrace our steps and return to Abisko.
We tried once more to proceed in the end of December, only to find out that the situation hadn’t improved much. Half a meter of fresh powder made any progress really difficult and the ice was still not safe in many places. The avalanche danger was immense. Again, after being stuck in a storm for two days, we had to retrace our steps and return to Abisko.We were aware that it might take a while before we would be able to proceed. We worked and waited in Abisko for two months in order for the snow to settle and the light to come back. On March 2nd, we strapped on our skis and gave it a third attempt.
By the time we started skiing again in March we already knew that we would not be able to finish it on skis. Southern Norway had barely seen any snow that winter. The ground lay bare in many places from Rondane national park and southwards. We kept going for the fun of it, to make it as far south as we could. Børgefjell was the goal, or maybe even Blåfjell. But again, it couldn’t be. The storms kept coming, the avalanche danger kept soaring and progress remained painstakingly difficult. After fighting and biding our time we threw in the towel just south of the Arctic circle, 1200km and five months after we set out from Nordkapp.
Before we set out I assumed that crossing Norway would be the easiest one of the long distance trails we’ve completed after the Bibbulmun track. It was much more challenging than I assumed, even taking the unusual weather aside. The terrain is not always easy to navigate, many remote regions need to be crossed and physical paths are absent in multiple areas. Truly, it was a proper challenge and I am happy we made it through the northernmost part of Norway at least. If you are looking for a good mountain challenge without too many contact points with civilization and far from the crowds, Norway is an excellent destination to consider. Plus, it provides a cultural experience too. The Sámi villages and their reindeer herds roaming the mountain plateaus are a different world to the well-established tourist association hut-to-hut treks in the south.
For more information, visit:
- Overview of completed trips and practical tips (in Norwegian)
- Hiking Europe: E1 route
- Our logistics and gear list pages below
1. Season It is most common to start walking the length of Norway in spring or summer, though winter crossings have been made before. We started in the second week of October on foot. We estimated that we would need to change to a winter kit after about 1 to 1,5 months of walking, though… Continue reading Norge på Langs Logistics & Planning
Gear Eef Clothing (autumm): Underwear: Devold Breeze Hipster Underpants (x5) + Devold Wool Fleece Bra Baselayers: Kari Traa Vossa long-sleeve + Kari Traa Tikse long john’s Extra warm wool: Devold Alnes half zip neck, Devold Alnes Long John’s, Aclima Warmwool hood sweater Wind jacket: Montbell Tachyon jacket Hardshell jacket: Arcteryx Alfa Hybrid jacket Softshell jacket:… Continue reading Norge på Langs Gear List