Snøhetta 2008

Of tall mountains, and primeval beasts.

Norway is shaped (loosely) like a spoon, with the handle pointing northeast (curving over to the east at the end), and the bowl to the southwest. The bowl contains most of the cities around its edges, most of the well known fjords on its west coast, and an almost continuous range of mountains running from northeast to southwest across the bowl. These contain all of the tallest peaks in Norway, though tall is a relative word, since the base of the mountains is at well over 1000 metres, with only a selected few glacial valleys dropping lower.

The mountain range is liberally strewn with national parks, each covering a large massif or smaller range, separated only by important valleys used for human habitation and farming (something very important in a country with precious little farmland). From northish to southish, the important ones are Sunndalsfjell, Dovrefjell, Rondane, Reinheimen, Jotunheimen, skip over several, then Hardangervidda. Reinheimen is mostly famous for containing Trollveggen, the tallest vertical rock face in Europe, at 1100 metres (there are obviously taller cliffs in the Alps, but they are not truly vertical). Jotunheimen contains the 23 tallest mountains in Norway, and Dovrefjell contains the 24th; Snøhetta.

So far, I have done trips to the southern Telemark area and northern Hardangerjøkulen/Finse area of Hardangervidda, and from there, nothing until Nordland, half way up the handle of the spoon (inside the arctic circle). My existing altitude record in Norway was 1353 metres, in Hardangervidda. Snøhetta seemed like a good chance to break it, and a great way to spend 4 days in the Norwegian wilderness.

Up the Stropla

It's not as painful as it sounds...

We caught the night train from Oslo to Kongsvold, 5 hours, stuck again in the seats that do not recline. At Kongsvold, we waited for the sun to start lighting the path up before heading up there, so we would be able to see any Muskoxen that might have strayed into the forest.


While we were there, we saw an idiot semi-official making up rules to squeeze money out of some visitors who did not know enough to defend themselves. Make sure you follow the real rules: if you enter a hytta only to buy from the store, then you do not pay any rate, apart from the costs of whatever you buy. If you use it during the day (sit in the lounge, read a book, use the cooker, etc.) you pay the day rate (currently 50 NOK for non-members). If you use it after 18:00, then that counts as a night, and you must pay the nightly rate. If you camp, you must camp at least 150 metres (not 300, as some people incorrectly say) away from the hytta - this is a Norwegian legal requirement. The day/night rates are different for young adults, children, and members - fees are normally listed visibly somewhere in the hytta, but the note about 18:00 may not be immediately visible.

Return to Reinheim

Back to a world with electricity

This was easily the best single walk I have done in Norway, and by far the most successful in terms of accomplishments and wildlife. Well worth it. In case you are interested, the park guidelines are:

You may: Go wherever you wish on foot and on skis. Hunt and fish like elsewhere. Pick mushrooms, berries and common plants for your own use. Camp.

You may not: Damage plants, or fell characteristic trees! Disturb animals and birds! Use motor vehicles or motor boats! Cause contamination or discard rubbish! Spend the night in a camper or caravan!

Cycling is only allowed on a designated dirt track (which is lame). Not sure about climbing or caving, since the leaflets only cover tourist versions of both, not the real stuff. Then there are the contradictions; hunting without disturbing animals, and walking off-trail without damaging a few plants. But the rules generally seem to be just common sense, while allowing a lot of freedom.