Trekking in the Norwegian Wilderness

Extras — By on July 27, 2012 at 10:02 am

Sunniva Guneriussen pΠNonstind i Lofoten foto Laila Guneriussen, Norwegian Trekking Association

By Felcia Brenoe
Special to Lost Girls 

Norway is famous for having one of the world’s longest coastlines, rugged mountains, glaciers, and deep fjords. Most foreign tourists in Norway admire the wild landscape from the safety of tourist buses and cruise ships; the more economical, and by far the more authentic way to get to know the wilderness is to do what the Norwegians themselves do: Go trekking in the vast and varied mountain areas that cover most of the country.

Norwegians have truly democratized the use of the wilderness through the Norwegian Trekking Association (Den Norske Turistforening) who maintains 430 cabins and over 13,000 miles of marked trails in almost every corner of the country. Even for the relatively inexperienced hiker, the well-marked routes and accessible lodging with food service make multiday hikes into the vast and scenic mountains a real option. For hikers with experience, there is no end to how long and strenuous you can make the trek.

Accommodation:

The lodges and cabins in the Norwegian mountains vary greatly in size and style. The smallest ones (usually in the less used areas) may only sleep 2-4 people whereas the larger lodges have up to 200 beds. The rule is that everybody who shows up gets a place to sleep. The cabins come with three types of service. Some offer beds and firewood but no food. Many are self-serve, meaning they have a stocked pantry and you pay for what you need to make your own food. Full-service cabins have a staff that serves breakfast and dinner. Given that most cabins are hours away from road access, it is pretty amazing to receive a three-course meal and a glass of merlot in the middle of the arctic wilderness. The food is usually flown in by helicopter or brought by snow-scooter in the late winter.

Skålatårnet foto Merete Habberstad Norwegian Trekking Association

Where to go:

The different mountain areas vary greatly in their geology and formation. The major trekking destinations of southern Norway are particularly easy to access by train or bus. Hardangervidda, a huge mountain plateau in the southern part of the country offers fewer steep hills to climb and has a great central glacier. Jotunheimen to the north offers the highest and craggiest peaks in Norway. Rock climbers as well as hikers often visit the area. Rondane gets is name from the tall rounded mountains with spectacular vistas, whereas Trollheimen is known for is stunningly picturesque valleys and rich flora.

Climate and Weather:

The rule is to always expect rough weather, but pack the bikini and shorts just in case. It is not uncommon to experience high temperatures with intense sun and to spend the entire day hiking in a bikini top while slathering on sunscreen. However, hikers should always be prepared for rain, wind, and even the occasional summer snow or hail shower. Because of the northern latitude, the summer nights are light with only a very few hours of relative darkness in the middle of the night when the sun dips under the horizon. North of the Arctic Circle the sun is up 24 hours a day in mid summer.

When to Go:

The best time to go is July through mid September. The summer is relatively short in the high mountains and in the early summer the ground can be very wet with significant amount of snow still lingering in some places. Late September brings with it an increased chance of snow and wintery weather and the cabins are usually shut down.

Romsdalen foto Martin Hauge-Nilsen, Norwegian Trekking Association

What to bring:

As with any trek or longer hike, comfortable hiking boots (preferably watertight) and a good backpack is a must. It is also necessary to bring warm layers and wind and waterproof outerwear like a Gore-Tex shell or similar high quality gear. Make sure your backpack contains sunscreen, mosquito repellent, blister aid, thermos or water bottle, a warm hat and scarf, as well as a sleep-sack or thin sleeping bag.

Planning your trip:

Start by assessing how fit you are and how long and strenuous you want your trek to be. The Norwegian Trekking Association maintains a great website for all aspects of trip planning. They also have a central office in Oslo as well as regional offices that you can call or visit to get specific help planning your trip. The offices can advise you on local transportation to get from the major cities to your trailhead. Afraid of going solo in the mountains? The trekking association offers multiple group treks with experienced guides during the summer season.

 

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