Jotunheimen

Last week friends and I drove up to Jotunheimen, a national park stretching more than 3500 square kilometres in the heart of Norway. Here the highest peaks of Norway is found, the tallest at 2469m elevation, the second only 5 metres below. The latter was the goal of trip: Glittertind. The summit is at 2452m, but a glacier lifts it up to 2565, giving Galdhøpiggen only a slight advantage. And so we set out, with tents, wools and wind proofs, several bars of chocolate, and, of course, my camera. We had a long drive ahead, but we had not seen each other in a long time so we had much to talk about (these guys also have the worst, but strangely entertaining, humour). We arrived at seven, and the clouds lay low over the mountains, hugging them closely. One often wish for views in nature like this, but there is something about the mist that I really like. We set up camp, had a little bbq and played a game where one person say a word and it’s first one to start singing a song with that word in. When we snuggled up in our sleeping bags I was warm enough to think I would sleep, but slowly the cold crept in and I spent the night in a shallow slumber. Despite sleeping poorly when I camp, I always wake up oddly refreshed, and so I did the following morning. We breakfasted and tied on our hiking boots, packed water and chocolate, and went on our way.

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The fog from the day before had lifted, but the highest peaks were still hidden from view. As we hiked up the side of the valley we looked across to gaze at Galdhøpiggen, but it stayed hidden from view. The sun was out and it got quite hot on the first stretch. I took off all my clothes and hiked only in wools, but still I felt warm. I liked the hike because it flattened out a little after the first ascent, and we hiked for a few kilometres on almost flat terrain. The mountain winds met us, as did amazing views. We hiked along a stream so we could fill up our bottles whenever we had a drink. There is nothing more deliciously fresh as a sip of cold, Norwegian mountain water. When we reached the base of Glittertind it got hard, really hard really fast. It went up, up, up, and when I thought we were getting close, of course we weren’t at all close. Eventually we reached the snow, and as we continued on my legs became incredibly heavy as if my shoes were made of concrete. Our group had split into three, so Eirik and I laboured through the snow as we saw Thomas and Jonatan disappear into the fog. I began to count steps, 20 steps and then rest. I declared for the millionth time that I was out of shape, and that there was no way I was hiking even higher up the next day. The guys had decided they wanted to do Galdhøpiggen before we left. 20 steps and then rest. Eventually it flattened a little, and we didn’t need to take breaks. The snow was deep enough to have reached the glacier on the top, and suddenly people appeared out from inside the cloud. The summit was close to the edge of the glacier; we could see it outlined against the fog. I think we all wished we could have walked to the edge and look down, but none of us wanted to step anywhere close in fear of it falling beneath us. As the clouds rolled past us the fog thinned and thickened, sometimes leaving the view open for surrounding mountains, sometimes closing us up in a monochrome world. We made a snowman, ate our summit chocolate and hiked down, eager for dinner.

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The next morning the guys declared they still wished to hike Galdhøpiggen. We packed up camp after breakfast, and they marched off with optimism. I had decided that one mountain was enough for my legs, and since I had been up there last year I found a different trail that I thought lead to a glacier. I ambled, unrushed as the guys would take around 6 hours. I breathed in the fresh mountain air without panting, I stopped to take photographs and play around with my camera. I only met four people, despite it being July. The glacier I was going to, Svellnosbreen, is one of Norway’s most accessible glaciers and daily tours are arranged there with a certified guide. I assumed that I was too late to see this group, and that not many hikers were as interested in seeing a glacier than in climbing mountains. My trail was an easy ascent, but my thighs felt heavy. I felt extremely content with my decision of not joining the guys. After a while, the trail changed from a terrain of lichen and low-growing plants to rubble and massive rocks. I heard rushing water, and shortly after I turned around a small bend and saw the sharp edge of a glacier peaking over the mountain side above me. Several streams ran down the mountain, which had been smoothed out by erosion. Excited I left the trail to get a closer look – I have never seen a glacier properly before, not the way you think of them. It’s true that only the day before I had hiked a glacier, but it had only looked like snow fall. This glacier was melting, and blocks of ice had fallen off, leaving the edges sharp with crevasses. I sat down on a rock to eat some bread, and while I sat there the shape of a man emerged on the edge of the mountain. I decided I too would hike up there. I was convinced this was a different glacier than the one I had intended to reach, as I expected it to be further around the mountain. I would go on to that later, but first I wanted to see this one up close. I began to scramble up, crossing the streams and climbing through rocks and parts consisting entirely of rubble, so that my steps fell away from underneath me. It was hard, I  sweated, I was hot. Close to the top two hikers appeared above me, and I realised that there must be a trail. Embarrassed I tried to appear as if I had wanted to climb up the mountain and that the trail would bore me, until I could escape their view behind a massive rock.  After that, however, I was only a few metres from the top. As I walked over the final bit the glacier spread out, it was not at all small like I had imagined. It was several metres high, and at the bottom lay a pool of icy blue water. The pool’s surface was entirely still, but a force of water ran down the mountain.

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A quick consultation with the map revealed that it was, indeed, Svellnosbreen. I was the only person there, so I ran around and took pictures. I filled up my bottle where the water ran from the pool, I jumped on rocks. The views were good on all sides, and the only sounds were the ever-running water. There is a stillness to nature that you can only experience by yourself. To be alone with your thoughts, and no people blocking your view. It is good for your health in all kind of ways. I took the rest of my lunch at a grassy spot overlooking the valley. I listened to my audiobook and gave my feet a break from the boots. In the morning before setting out the guys had hesitated, they didn’t want to leave me alone, was I sure that I would be fine on my own for that long? Eventually their desire to climb Norway’s roof won any arguments for not leaving me stranded in nature. I cannot imagine a better way to have spent the day. I had told them I’d wait by the base of the mountain for them. but when I arrived back at the car park I could see them coming down the mountain side – I didn’t even wait for five minutes.

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