Hedlo (945m) to Torehytten (1340m) - 12 km
Tale of the tape - the shortest distance today but most of the climbing so a good breakfast was in order. The summer berry breakfast from Real Turmat is so good I could eat it every day washed down with some coffee and a Snickers to kick start the ol' fuel tank. I also had piss like Iron Bru when I woke up so the getting some fluids in was order of the morning. Luckily within five minutes of getting started I found a perfect snow fed stream cascading down the hillside. As I rounded the next bend in the path a stumbled upon an adult Ptarmigan and two chicks, one chick froze still like she was told while the other panicked and flew off, no doubt it would be hearing about that later. I was within 3 metres but still the birds sat like statues, hoping I wouldn't notice them. Unfortunately they were sat in the middle of the path and their mottled brown camouflage wasn't working on the ash grey path. I tried to shoo them along gently and when I did all hell broke loose. The other adult and half a dozen other chicks jumped up out of the surrounding undergrowth like a feathered landmine. There was squawking and flapping and much pretending that wings were broken. I almost felt embarrassed for the scene I had created.
Minutes later I was face to face with more Norwegian wildlife when some brightly coloured birds were behaving very strangely, agitated at something on the path ahead. Then a rascal of a stoat came bounding down the path towards me, oblivious as he taunted the small birds above. Then he saw me and his little face went 'Oooh SHIT!!'. He froze still for a moment. Like gun-slingers in the wild west we stared each other down, slowly I tried to ease my camera from it's holster on my shoulder strap. The stoat took his chance and bolted.
The rest of the morning was spent slowly following the river bed as it meandered through the valley. Periodically the path went up over rocky outcrops and down over tarmac smooth granite slabs. I passed through centuries old summer farms, still not yet occupied for their short season. All the time Hårteigen remained in the distance, never seeming any nearer.
Eventually I reached the tourist hytte at Hadlaskard. It too is based at a crossroads in the trails that cover the Hardanger only this time the crossroads was on the other side of a really wide stretch of the river. Thankfully this bridge looked fairly recently refurbished although the wooden pallets seemed a bit flimsy in the middle. I took big strides, making sure there was wire work under each footfall between me and the thundering, foaming water below. The climb up Kyrkjesteinsbekken was pretty gradual. The path crossed several streams and I took a half hour break there for lunch. The sun was beating down at that time but I forgot to reapply the sunscreen, a mistake that would haunt me later. At Viersdalen there is another crossing of trails one of which goes directly to Hårteigen. I had read up on climbing the granite beast, it's not too technical and protected with wires and ropes at the exposed parts but I thought better of it, I really shouldn't do it alone, and left it for another day.
My reward for choosing the righteous path was the biggest river crossings yet, two of them the Sandhaugo and the Olbogo, less than five minutes apart and both very cold and deep. I unbuckled my waist belt and gingerly waded across, thigh deep, a little concerned to find the deepest water just under the far bank of the Sandhaugo. The tracks here had seen more traffic around here, human and Reindeer by the looks of the footprints that peppered the muddy track as it crossed Grondalen, a wide green valley that was mostly flat and featureless. At one point a toad decided to leap out of the undergrowth and landed on my foot. I didn't know who was more surprised. I leapt about involuntarily but thankfully neither of us was hurt in our brief attempt at being dance partners. Across the valley a hill appeared to be steaming but it wasn't until I was inline with the gorge that I heard the thunder of a waterfall. The Sandhaugo river had split the hill in two and filled the void with noise and spray. The path turned towards it and as I got closer I could make out the river, trying it's best to melt it's winter coat of snow and leaving a very precarious looking snow bridge. I was glad the path didn't go over that.
The path kicked up hard again, gaining elevation and surprising me at every turn with gorges, steep snowfields pocked with sun cups and huge lakes including the tragically named Lake 1268. It is a travesty that such a pretty aquamarine lake , with it's swirling coloured sediments has such an unimaginative moniker. Gradually, after a quick directionally challenged detour across one too many snowfields I crested the high point of the dayd, finally in the shadow of Hårteigen and looked down on the ice strangled lake and Torehytten (1340m), the tourist hyttes that sit on the edge of this stunning bowl of snow and rock. I managed to find six feet of flat grass and threw up the Laser Comp.
I spent the next few hours taking dozens of photographs, washed my sweat drenched clothes and ate a fine dinner of Wolffish Casserole. There were less bugs here but they were still here, hardy little specks of biology that braved the permanent cold and snow on the off chance of a sweaty backpacker or climber would be staying in that spot. The sun couldn't make up it's mind. It wasn't going to set, it was quite sure of that but it didn't know wether to shine into the frozen hollow or hide behind the cirque of rocks. In the end it did both. Sometime later I curled up in my sleeping bag and was serenaded to sleep by a nearby waterfall.
(more photos here)