Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Chasing Waterfalls - Four days in the Hardanger - Day 3

Torehytten (1340m) to Stavali (1024m) via high point of trip (1430m) - 21 km

The day started as they all have on this trip. I wake up, smile, snooze for a bit then have to get up because the sun is making the tent unbearably hot. Unbelievably the lake outside is completely frozen over yet it was too warm to sleep with my sleeping bag zipped up. The clothes I'd washed last night were all but dry and nicely cool as I packed up and left Torehytten via the westward path that climbs steeply away from the lake. Looking over my shoulder frequently Hårteigen started to slip out of sight as I made my way over the highest part of the trip, a lunar landscape where little grew and the path crossed many snow filled gullies. Sometimes the snowfield is level but sometimes the snow dips towards the gully base and water can be heard trying to escape with gravity driving the getaway car. Tense moments these, the bottom of the gully is poked with my hiking poles to ensure I don't end up falling through into the water.

Before long I reach the other side of the high plateau and the new day is greeted with a new landscape, one of many lakes and grassy valley. For the next two hours I traverse Valeggi's flank, high above the lakes of Kinsevatnet and Veivatnet. There are so many gorgeous panoramas that I have to concentrate and remember to watch my footing. I'm acutely aware that the sun is beating down on me today and I'm feeling lightly toasted from yesterdays absent mindedness with the sunscreen. I twist my cap to the side to protect my burning left temple and hope no one mistakes it for the new hiking fashion style. Then I laugh and realise I've not seen more than half a dozen people since I left the road back at Fossli.

The trail turns north and starts to descend towards Holmavatnet where I decide to stop for an early lunch. the problem is I can't decide where to sit. There are so many spots with amazing views. In the end hunger decides it should be in this one spot but not before I disturb a White Throated Dipper as it bounces along it's beat down a sheltered side-stream. After lunch and a quick application of some more Hydropel it's back on the path that is slowly losing altitude until it levels out in a rather flat area. The lack of gravity means all the nearby water decides to loiter on the path and it's a half hour slog through a very long thin puddle.

Thankfully it doesn't last too long and a short climb up to the trail junction at Hanastein allows my feet to dry out. Turning west the trail hugs along the shores of more idyllic lakes and I pass a German couple who are changing out of huge leather hiking boots and into Crocs to cross a stream while I quickly splash by in my trainers. Words are exchanged between the couple but my German is even rustier than my Norwegian so I'll pretend they said 'Wow! Look how much quicker and more appropriate those lightweight shoes are at hiking in these mountains! We should get rid of our monstrous, blister-inducing, slow-drying behemoths and get some'. Probably not...

The trail closes in down a narrow rocky gully, turns a sharp right and then pops you out in another valley where you appear behind some hyttes at Helnaberg and are greeted with views across to the cliffs of Nasanuten. By now my neck, shoulders and backs of my legs were sore from too much sun and too little SPF30. The path offered brief respite from the glare of the sun with a steep crossing of Rekadalen before traversing Helnaberg itself (1465m) along a very precarious path that cut north and finally east over a snowy col. The descent that followed was almost entirely on a snowfield that gradulayy got steeper and steeper. Slip here and there was nothing stopping you from sliding all the way into Lonavatnet lake, 150m below.

Along the shores of Lonavatnet there were lots of weird rock slabs, almost like giant brown slates, shimmering just under the surface of the water. Heading back northwest Lonavatnet released it's waters down a series of waterfalls and rapids running the entire length of the wide open valley of Stavalielvi with the Stavali tourist hytte down the right hand flank. I found a good pitch just at the top of the valley below Tverrelvi falls and after pitching my tent I spent a good few hours lying in it's shade and made Nuun Puppies (like a Slush Puppy made with snow and icy water). The longest day of the trip (in distance) had been tough simply due to the unrelenting sunshine. My engine felt good but my paintwork was starting to fade.

I chatted with another backpacker, a German girl, who set up her tent nearby. I'd lost track of time and realised that it was the weekend, hence the reason why I'd seen a dozen people in the last hour. Most were headed to the Stavali hut, to sleep in dormitory bunk beds. It didn't appeal to me and I made dinner and sat on a rock by myself looking down the valley at the light show. The sun disappeared around the mountains painting the rock pinky brown and the sky red. I noticed just a few tendrils of cloud in the corner of the sky. Obviously I didn't want the weather to turn completely shite but just a little less sunshine would be welcomed tomorrow. Miserable bastard!

(more photos here)


Hendrik M said...

Again magnificent photos! I think we will see some more folks traveling to Norway soon, thanks to you! And Germans, you find them everywhere! They're almost like Midges ;)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that's the trouble with outdoors blogs, they give people ideas and spoil the fun for the (once) happy few...

But those huge mosquitos: are they oot and aboot during the day too or just at dusk? It looks like they can bore through the flysheet nae problem at all...

(goes without saying: stunning photos, great write-up)

Holdfast said...

Hendrik - thank you for comment. I have a new camera arriving shortly so hopefully they can only get better.

I met more Germans on my trip than Norwegians!

Andy - those mozzies and midgies were about 24 hours a day, thanks probably to the 24 hours of daylight and lots of water. They only really bothered me in the evenings when I was still enough for them to get me in their sights. The big mozzies were actually easier to hear, spot and annihilate.