Norway, summer 2011

000
Our route

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

A day of travelling. First the train to Schiphol airport, flying to Oslo, waiting, then flying to Bodø. At the airport in Oslo we had an exciting moment. We can only pay by creditcard, that we normally don’t use. What was our personal code again? With sweating hands and hard thinking we manage to dig up the numbers from our memory. Phew…

Bodø airport is situated in the middle of the city. We even manage to buy gas for our stove at the Intersport. Great. Tomorrow we only have to go to our starting point with the bus. We’ve had times that is was much more difficult to start a tour.

From the Intersport it took us 45 minutes to walk to the campsite. A nice short walk after sitting in trains and airplanes for most of the day.

001
Sunrise from the campsite

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

Our bus is scheduled for 14.15, so we have the morning for ourselves. We wander around in the city, drink a cup of coffee and take a walk through the harbour.

For Kr 164 our backpacks and ourselves are allowed on the bus. It’s hard to find the right way to speak the Nordic language. After a few tries we can make ourselves understandable to the bus driver. We want to leave the bus at Børelva (pronounciation: Burjelva). It’s not an official bus stop, but a haystack with a farm near the road. Holding the map on our laps we follow the directions of the bus. Again, we leave a bus in the middle-of-nowhere. Our bus stop, Børelva.

004
Our starting point

We start climbing towards Børtinden. Right at the start of the climb, we meet a Norwegian guy with his dog. He has time for a little talking, so we come to know that the hunting season starts at September 10th (in a week), that dogs may not be used for hunting and that they shoot with hail (so it’s not dangerous). He trained his dog here and is going to hunt in Tromsø.

While walking we almost are blown off our feet, what a strong winds! We have a difficult time trying to find a place to pitch our tent. We would like to camp out of the wind, but most horizontal places are swampy. We find a place in a small bowl with a view to the local mountainridge, the Åselitindan. The striking summit to the right is called Børtinden, which we want to climb tomorrow. As long as the weather is good, we want to try and climb some summits.

007
The view from our campsite.

Each time we have to get used to the full backpack. The both of us are glad that the start is only half a day of climbing.

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

The first night in the tent was uneasy. Though the both of us were tired, we didn’t sleep that well. Normally the wind will lessen during the night, but this wind continues to play with our tent throught the night. Although the evening ends with an overcast sky, we set the alarm. We hope for the northern lights. Halfway through the night the rain starts. Our tent is made of nylon and will stretch when wet. So raining means getting up, going outside and adjusting the guy-lines.

We left for Børtinden and after an hour we left our backpacks on a rock ledge. We will come back here to continue our journey, so why would we want to haul our heavy backs up and down? Without the backpacks we’re faster. If only the lemmings will not find our food…

010
A lemming.

013
The summit of the Børtinden, to the left you’ll see Bodø, still in heavy winds.

We find our backpacks at once and still in one piece. We walk along the mountain ridge to the lake Skardvatnet. There we’ll proceed over the footpath, to the hut. If we look down the valley at the end of the ridge, it looks much easier to join the path from Børvatnet. We can go to the hut via a small bridge and do not need to wade.

In front of the hut we meet two Norwegians. They tell us that they turned the heat up in Lurfjellhytta, the hut. A pot of hot water is already waiting for us. Their definition of nice and warm is clearly different than ours. It is scorching. The hut itself is beautiful, neat, with a kitchen, a living room, bedrooms, incredible. The mountainhuts in Andorra (which we were also very happy with) cannot be compared with this. Even the manned huts in the Alps are uncomparable!

019
The Lurfjellhytta

Monday, September 5th, 2011

Today the weather looks menacing, but it doesn’t rain (well, a few drops). We don’t have to climb as much as the last days and we’re walking on a footpath. The pace is fast and we’re able to cross a great distance.

While walking we do not meet any people. We come across some sheep and it looks as if they are wondering what we are doing. We also see a lot of lemmings. The amount of lemmings seems to fluctuate each year. This year the amount of lemmings is at its peak and we know it.

Today Charissa caught a cold.

036
Our bivvy.

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

A tougher day than yesterday. The weather was not very cooperative, heavy winds and raining all day long. Enroute we met two Norwegian women. They were traveling from one cabin to the other and this was day 7 of their journey. Judging by their grey hairs, they were not that young of age anymore.

Our views become obscured by rain clouds. Yesterday great glaciers were visible, unfortunately today not anymore.

042
Rain clouds.

Our counter-of-the-wild-beast is incremented by a flock of raindeers and a bunch of lemmings.

Charissa’s cold is getting worse.

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Today we went from the Arnevatnetr lakes to just after Steinbua Bjøllåvatnet. Of course we came across some lemmings and raindeer.

060
Raindeer.

A stretch of today’s route is marked as “difficult in wintertime” at our map. We expected a steep path or other difficult terrain, but in autumn it is not difficult at all.

Again we’r lucky when wading. The water level is very low today and we can walk across by just hopping from boulder to boulder. If the level was 10 cm higher, we had to wade barefooted.

055
No need to wade.

During our break at hut Bjellåvasstua we talk to a Norwegian hiker. He lives in the neighbourhood and started this morning in Mo I Rana. Last summer he was also at this hut, while it was much more crowded. Some people had to sleep on the floor. He also explained about other huts around here, some even have a sauna! No, no tent for him.

We continue along the lake. The heavy wind makes it hard sometimes, we both hang in the wind while walking. Half way the lake a stone cabin was built, Steinbua Bjøllåvatnet. A fisherman is spending the night there. He has put some fishing nets in the lake, but cannot bring in the nets because of the heavy winds. He doesn’t talk English, but we understand that we may spend the night there. We decide to go on.

050
Walking along Bjøllåvatnet.

A few hunderd meter later we find a nice campsite. Just after a small hill, next to a creek. No direct wind with water nearby. Perfect.

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Tonight Fred’s throat started to ache. No surprises, two people is such a small tent. There’s no way to avoid this. The wind stopped blowing. In the afternoon we arrive at hut Midtistua and the skies are clear! Wow! Just sit a bit, eat a bit, and just lie down enjoying the sun. This really is land of the raindeer. While we’re having our lunchbreak a flock passes. We see flocks of raindeer throughout the whole valley.

One moment we’re watching raindeer at our right, while two raindeer try to pass us stealthly at our left. Funny to see them so close by.

After a long, wide valley we turn right to arrive in another wide valley, Riebivagge. To reach it we have to pass a small valley, over a meandering footpath, along a small creek.

065
On our way to Riebivagge.

We pitch our tent at the start of Riebivagge. The valley is wide and full of bogs and creeks. The weather is beautiful, before we start cooking we lie a bit in the sun. After dinner and dessert the rain starts again. Moving back in the tent.

Up to now we set the alarm each night. Perhaps we will see the northern lights someday. Unfortunately each night we had an overcast sky and nothing could be seen. Tonight is just the same …

Friday, September 9th, 2011
A beautiful valley, Riebivagge. Quite wet, the rain made all bushes wet. We choose to travel in autumn, especially for the colours. This valley looks great with all the nice colours.

068
Riebivagge.

Along the river we see a tipi with 3 guys. We say hi (“Hej”) and continue downstream. One hour later we meet 3 hunters and their dogs. We say hi and one of the hunters start to talk. He tells us about the tipi that they pitched near the river last week. It will be their base camp while hunting. Ah, it’s almost September 10th. On our first day in Norway we were already told that hunting season starts at the 10th. That’s why we see that many hunters. We tell them that their friends are already waiting for them at the tipi. They don’t understand. We tell that we saw three other guys near the tipi, their friends (we assume). No, they ensure us that those are other people. They nod to their shotguns and laugh a bit. No problem. We wish them all the best and leave.

074
The suspension bridge near Bukkhaugbua.

We meet the next hunter at Bukkhaugbua on the suspension bridge. He travels alone and wants to talk. He climbed from the valley with a backpack weighing 50 kg. Apparently they hunt grouse. Today the first hunters claim their spot in the cabin. During the weekend it can become very crowded and this hunter certainly does not want to sleep outside. He recommends us to go to a small cabin in the other valley, Reinhagen. A cabin for up to 2 people in a valley that is not open for hunting. A nice, small, old cabin. He also tells us that we need to look for snow-eagles in another valley, Gråtådalen. A lot of these beautiful animals live there .

We continue our climb for a bit and then pitch our tent. Enough for today. Overcast, no northern lights.

Saturday, September 10th, 2011
This morning we hear some shots fired in the valley. It is confirming that the hunting has been started. We finish our climb and descend in the next valley, Tverrådalen. If the clouds are higher we can go for the local summit, Tellingen. Unfortunately we are already walking in the clouds, it makes no sense to walk to a summit today.

No hunter can be seen in this valley, neither do we spot any grouse. Today we do not see anyone. We descend in a valley with a furious river and beautiful autumn colours.

075
Tverrådalen.

We arrive at the cabin the hunter told us about. Our tent is bigger to sleep in, so that’s what we do. In the cabin we find a stove, which is really good. Charissa’s shoes are leaking. When it rains, her shoes become wet, so do her socks. We light the stove and let everything dry. Nice.

076
Drying.

078
Reinhagen.

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Tonight our gear has dried reasonably well in the cabin. Even our shoes were quite dry. What a relief after so much rain last few days. Today is a beautiful day, with a bit of sunshine.

We descend through the forest and arrive in the village Tverrånes. We have to find a path at the end of a barnyard. A quest. The houses are scattered sparsely and they have been working with an excavator at the barnyard concerned. We found a path and a gravelroad, but no markings anymore.

We lunched in the sun and continued our way over the mountain ridge. This time with a view at Gråtådalen, a mountain range with a lot of great glaciers. The wind picks up and blows dark clouds through the valley in the south-east.

080
A view at Gråtådalen.

We sprint to keep ahead of the rain and take shelter in hut Gråtådalstua.

086
Shelter.

Rain and clouds = no northern lights.

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Despite of the rain we left. First we travel on a footpath sparsely scattered red T’s to mark the route. A moment later we find T’s everywhere, but no path anymore. We walk in the right direction, it’ll be allright.

091
Enroute.

At the crossing of Gråtådalen and Skavldalen the clouds open up and we could catch a glimpse of the amazing glaciers. We continue our way in Skavldalen. According to our map we should cross a snowfield here. There’s only a tiny patch of snow left. Global warming?

096
Crossing a small patch of snow.

Skavldalen is a rough valley with a lot of rocks and creeks. Beautiful to walk through. At the end the valley opens up and we arrive at Kvitsteindalsgammen. A hut like the Sami made it: thin tree trunks that form a tipi. The trees are covered in bark, which in turn are covered in turf. In the end it looks like an overgrown wigwam. We found a stove in the hut. It took a while to gather a bit of wood and try to dry our gear another time.

102
Kvitsteindalsgammen.

We pitch our tent at a few meters of Kvitsteindalsgammen. If our view is not obscured tomorrow, we would like to climb Vegdalsfjellet from here. From the summit we would have a great view over Svartisen. But first we need to set the alarm, perhaps the northern lights can be seen tonight!

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Incredible, but tonight the sky went overcast again. Despite of the alarm ringing a few times, no northern lights were to be seen. We prepared well. Practiced with the camera, took a timetable with us that shows the best times the nortern lights can be seen, but we have no luck. This is the 11th night we try.

104
Campsite.

This morning we opened our tent and the clouds are gone again. Wow, we didn’t expect that. We have a fast breakfast, prepare a backpack and leave for the Vegdalsfjellet. We leave the tent at its place. We start with a fast ascent. After two and half hours of climbing, our altitude is 1255m. The summit is at 1268m. We can see the summit, but it’s still a good walk away. It starts to rain again and we see Gråtådalen (where we were yesterday) is covered in fog. Time to turn around. There’s no path to the summit, so we need good visibility to return to our tent.

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View on the sea, from Vegdalsfjellet.

On our way down, we meet a raindeer with gaint antlers. He notices us late, then stops, looks at us, snorts loud and runs away.
Back at our tent, we gathered some wood for the next person to arrive at Kviksteindalsgammen. Hopefully they will enjoy the stove as much as we did.

We have half a day left, which we used to continue our trail. We pitched our tent at Litle Svalvatnet with a beautiful view at the mountains around us.

We spent the half day we had left by continuing our trail. We ended the day at Litle Svalvatnet with a beautiful view on the mountains around us. Today as well as yesterday we didn’t see anyone else. That might be because it is already autumn and there is a chance of snow. Certainly not the busiest time of the year.

120
Campsite.

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Dense, dense fog when we unzip our tent this morning. We cannot see the lake from the campsite! We use our breakfast, grab our gear and off we are. We have to cross the Svalvasselva river, which is very easy: The river runs partly under the ground and we can use the rock-bridge.

121
The rock-bridge over the Svalvasselva.

The visibility diminishes after we crossed the rock-bridge. The trail is still marked by painted red T’s, after which it becomes path-less. Unfortunately, the fog is getting thicker and thicker. Now we’re getting more problems navigating. We start to walk from cairn to cairn and find out that we’re heading in the wrong direction. This is not the path we want to follow. We head back to the last red T. Another good look at the map and then we find the next red T.

Eventually the fog becomes that thick, that we need to try to find the next mark. We walk one hundred meters in one direction. If we don’t find a mark, we walk back. Then we try another direction. It’s quite an exercice with only 30 m visibility.
The last hour we walk about 300 m. (3 marks in 1 hour). We would like to follow the red trail in the overview, Fellvasstua, Vakkerdalen, Glomfjord during 2 days. With a velocity of 300 m per hour, we’re not going to finish that in time. With enough visibility it’s not a problem for two days. Now it doesn’t seem feasible. When will the fog disappear?

Lunchtime. Perhaps the fog will open up. We eat a piece of tourbread and drink, but the fog remains. In the end we decide to turn around. We know that there is a good path to our finish point at about an hour back. What took us all morning, we walk back in 45 minutes. Back at our campsite.

123
The weir.

We arrive at the reservoir and see that the fog starts at 530 m of altitude, about the height of the reservoir. According to the description of the tour it is possible to walk over a gravel road and a large stair to highway 17. A bus will stop there at 7 AM or at 5 PM. We will stay here one more night, to descend tomorrow and take the bus at 5 PM. Tomorrow night we’ll be back in Bodø.

In the cabin near the reservoir we find the same map as we have. We even find some tickets with the map. His journey started in Germany at September 3rd, return at September 10th. Talking about a short holiday.

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

This morning we can take it easy. It’s only a few hours descending and the bus leaves at five o’clock.

We leave over the gravel road, follow a footpath and move along a few small lakes. After a few turns and a small forrest we should arrive at a bridge over the river. Not far after the bridge, the stairs should start. However we don’t see a bridge, we see the gravel road disappear in a furious river! Hmm, we’ll never manage to get to the other side here. A quick look at the map reveals that there is another road a bit higher. Let’s try to go there and hope it won’t take us too long. We don’t have that much slack in the planning, so we might need to spend another night in the tent.

We find the other path and a place to cross the river. This bridge is about 10 cm higher than the waterlevel. Again confirmation that the waterlevel is high this year. We find the stairs, 1162 wooden steps with iron chains to hold on to. It ends in a wooden (violently wobbling) suspension bridge. Half an hour later we arrive at the highway.

A friendly bus driver takes us to the centre of Glomfjord, where we can wait for our bus to Bodø. Three hours in the bus and we arrive at the campsite in Bodø.

The end

We have some spare time in Bodø and walk to the summit of Keiservarden. We’re rewarded by a beautiful view over Bodø, the fjord and the ocean.

131
View from Keiservarden.

The last evening the sky finally opens up. Although we’re in the middle of the city now with a lot of residual light, we don’t give up. In the afternoon we look for a good spot to see the northern lights. If Charissa looks outside in the evening, she sees white spots in the atmosphere. At first we think high clouds are forming up in the sky. The northern lights start as fuzzy, high white spots, so we hurry to get the photo camera and walk to our photographer’s spot. Our patience is rewarded and we spent 45 minutes outside enjoying this unique spectacle.
A beautiful end of a beautiful trip.

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Aurora Borealis.

Click here to see all photographs.

Film

Bibliography

Jolanda Linschooten – Bergtochten in Noorwegen
Voorbeeldtochten Saltfjellet/Svartisen DT4, MT8
Uitgeverij Dominicus, 2009
ISBN 978 90 257 4582 0

Salten Frilufsråd, Turkart 1:75 000, Sulitjelma – Saltfjellet

Salten Frilufsråd, Turkart 1:75 000, Sundsfjordfjellet – Svartisen

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