Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Chasing Waterfalls - Four days in the Hardanger - Day 1

Fossli Hotel (670m) to Hedlo hytte (945m) via Fljotdalsfjellet (1200m) - 19 km

This trip is Route 1: Hardanger West in Connie Roos' book 'Walking in Norway'.

Even getting up 05.30 didn't get me to the bus stop in time so a taxi dropped me at the long distance coach stand at Bergen bus station for my trip to bisect the north west corner of the Hardangervidda National Park. Vidda in Norwegian is a mountain plateau and the Hardanger variety is the largest such plateau in Europe at roughly 6,500 km2. It contains one of Norway's biggest glaciers and has an alpine climate thanks to it's average elevation of 1100m. After 3 buses (including several near misses with other vehicles on the Road of Death) and a short ferry ride I was dropped at the side of the road, nobody else in sight and left to get on with it. Even starting at 15.00 I wasn't going to run out of daylight. There is an endless supply of that at this time of year.

The first part of the walk I'd done with family and friends a short while ago which was lucky as the first 6 km weren't on the map I had. The weather was boiling. 28C. Lovely on a beach, painful when your under a rucksack and climbing a mountain. Needless to say I took a few breathers and looked back across the valley to the Hardangerjøkulen glacier (1863m). After traversing Hallingehaugane the trail descended gracefully, sweeping this way and that down and across the hillside to a group of hyttes and the first river crossing of the day.

Now, when I was in the Bergen Turlag office/shop during the week a very helpful girl found me the right map (how having the first 6km of trail missing makes it the right map is another question) and pointed to various spots where I'd need to cross rivers that were un-fordable this early in the season. "Don't worry, we have reports this week that all the summer river crossings are operational". Operational in Norway means a few pallets tied with blue nylon rope to a couple of pieces of road sign post. To be fair, it wasn't that bad.

Time to put some hard graft in. The climb goes straight up over the shoulder of Fljotdalsfjellet (1301m) was out of the breeze and directly under the sun. The peak of my cap did a great job of hiding the truth about the distance to the top. It's easy to find excuses to stop. Taking photos. Filling my water bottle. Sometime later I made it over the top and swore out loud as I got my first glimpse of Hårteigen, a large granite prominence, sometimes referred to as The Top Hat that is visible from much of the Hardanger. I planned to be in it's shadow tomorrow night and it seemed an awfully long way away.

Down the other side and into the next valley I picked my way down the trail through fields of boulders towards the river bed. Below me a helicopter was delivering a load of supplies to the Hedlo tourist hyyte just out of sight on the banks of the river. The higher elevations across from me were peppered with snow fields.

I got to the hytte as the helicopter returned with staff members who would man the hut at this early stage of the season. I walked past a couple of groups of hikers who like me preferred a night under canvas, or whatever ripstop wonder fabric passes for canvas these days. The river is playful here, at once slow and mirror finished then boiling and washing machine chaos as it passes through the changes in geology. Around a big bend I found a flat, grassy spot near a glassy stretch and quickly set up the Laser Comp before being attacked by squadrons of midgies. I wasn't quite quick enough with the long troos or DEET and got nailed pretty good as I faffed around. It was 22.00 before I was all done and I sat around taking photies of the alpine glow and watched trout in the river not doing a good enough job of demolishing the insect population. I even gathered enough firewood to build a fire but as there is no darkness here at this time of the year there didn't seem much point so just before midnight I turned in and slept long.

(more photos here)


Hendrik M said...

Awesome photos, Joe. Really enjoyed the first day's tale - Norway and Finland seem to be similar when it comes to busses and their willingness to let you out in the middle of nowhere =)

Holdfast said...

Hendrik - thank you. I try and think about the photography more each time I go out. I'm inspired by all the other outdoor blogs, especially Hiking and Climbing in Japan. Chris' images are jaw dropping.

The public transport network was brilliant, slower than driving myself in a car but far more enjoyable and less stressful.