The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Saturday 22 July - Breidablikk, Stryn and Oldendale

Where's Bertie? He's in a picnic area in Oldendale overlooking a turquoise lake and a couple of arms of the Jostedalsbreen glacier (exact location: 61.75501, 6.80088)

Our original plan for two short walks from the same car park up above Geiranger were scuppered this morning when we couldn't access the car park. Legally we were within the width restriction, but it was a narrow road so we abided by the informal (laminated A4 printed sheet) prohibition on motorhomes.

Breakfasting instead at the first car park we came to, a new plan was hatched and as soon as cereal and tea had been despatched (and I'd had a stroll down to the nearby viewpoint) we were off again.

Another road that looked like a random doodle on the SatNav screen took us up to a pass and we were again in an incredible landscape. It kept me, as passenger, wide eyed all the way to our next stopping point.

View from the picnic area where we parked for our walk.

Parking in a huge picnic area on the main road, rather than venturing down a dirt road, added a couple of kilometres to our walk, bringing it to 8.5km, but with a modest 120m or so of ascent.

View from where we abandoned Bertie for a few hours

Whilst not spectacular in the same way as our walks of the last three days, it was still a fine outing. Being off most tourists' radars (not featured in any brochure this one), it was also very quiet. So much so that at one of the many lakes scattered across the high valley, I couldn't resist a quick swim .... even though I hadn't got my costume or a towel with me.

First ever skinny dip. First time in a mountain lake. It was at 930m and was fed by snow melt. Bracing!



Put a water feature like that next to a road and it'll be rammed with tour buses. Put it a half hour walk from a road and you get it to yourself

Having been back at Bertie for a while, it was feeling like time to move on. Stuff was stowed and I was just sitting on the toilet before the off when it felt just like Mick had tried to start the engine with it in gear. He hadn't. He thought I'd fallen off the toilet (although even if I'd shot off it like a rocket, I couldn't have made Bertie jump backwards that much).

"Has someone hit us?" I asked, the answer to which was "Yes".

The owner of the car, picnicking nearby (who had failed to engage her handbrake or put the car in gear), got all indignant when she noticed our bumpers touching, until Mick pointed out that it wasn't our vehicle that had moved. Fortunately there wasn't much of a slope, so although it felt like a big jolt on impact it must have happened at slow speed and no damage was done. And do you know, she didn't even apologise.

Onwards! Three long tunnels as we went under some hills led us to more stunning scenery, some of which I've failed to capture effectively here:

Taken during a pause at the National Park Centre but they didn't have any useful information leaflets

The town of Stryn provided us with a service point and a whole choice of supermarkets (we probably wouldn't have come so far today if our need for certain groceries hadn't been so desperate. We've been out of bread for days and today we finished the standby oatcakes too). The town also provided us with a shady spot in a large empty car park to sit and contemplate the best time to arrive in Oldendale so as miss the daytime visitors yet be early enough to secure a place to kip. We timed it just fine and arrived to find the picnic area empty save for a German Hymer (c.1980-1985) who had also just arrived. We've since been joined by another van three vans.

As outlined at the top, our view here is superb. The lake is a startling shade of green and two separate arms of the Jostedalsbreen Glacier can be seen, one out of the windscreen, the other out of the door.

View from the door, which fails to capture the colour of the water and allows the glacier to blend into the sky.

Around Trollstigen

After Wesnesday's exertions on the Romsdalseggen ridge, we found on Thursday, after we had relocated ourselves up to the Tollstigen Pass, that our weary legs weren't feeling like the length of walk I'd originally intended. Instead we opted for just a short circuit up to a nearby lake. The outward leg was just 1km but the 300m of ascent included in that distance took it out of the 'just a stroll in the park' category.

What a surprise we got when the lake came into sight - it was largely still frozen over:



What a shame I hadn't packed a picnic!

The rest of the circuit gave us a gentler descent route and we returned to Bertie happy that our laziness had netted us the experience of such a spectacular location.

Back at Bertie we checked the weather forecast and, seeing that it was staying fine for Friday, we opted to stay put on the pass overnight so as to do Thursday's originally intended walk a day late.

Setting off before most tourists were up and about yesterday, the first part of the walk was gently up a broad u-shaped valley. Whilst in a lovely area, we must be getting picky as we both found the route itself relatively uninteresting. Knowing that the only option for our destination was an out-and-back, it started to feel like we had been sold a dud.

Believe it or not, a relatively uninteresting walk at this point

Then we got up to the highest lake on the route and everything changed.

Elevenses at the lake. The arrow points to the distinctive rock on the ridge 'Mannen' that was our objective.

Snow patches and boulder fields had already been crossed to get to the lake, but beyond there they formed the entirety of the ascent up to the ridge. The snow was a good texture (although getting a bit soft at the end of the return leg) and I do like a good boulder field, even if they do demand undivided attention (I got distracted on one on the way down, losing first my rhythm then my nerve; they're a lot less fun when you're not able to stride across them).

Boulder fields...

...and lots of snow...

...and views down to more lakes...

There are two things of note on top of this ridge, one is 'The Man':


The other is a monitoring station, comprising a couple of buildings, helipad (under snow at the moment), a big water tank (we had followed the hose up from the lake below) and lots of CCTV cameras. As a result of the monitoring, it had been predicted that a huge chunk of this hill was going to fracture and fall at some point in 2014. It didn't happen and the hill has now stabilised. It was still a bit nerve wracking to be there amongst the monitoring equipment, and even more nerve wracking to stand on the edge and look down the almost sheer drop to the valley below:


We didn't start meeting people coming the other way until we were back past the highest lake, and we were a good way back before we paused for lunch. With this being a 14.6km outing with 600m ascent, I had expected to be back by lunchtime. However, I had also believed that this was a 'blue' (medium) grade of walk. It turned out when I looked again later that the blue walk stopped lower down the valley and the final section was of red (difficult) grade. What I expected to take 3.5 to 4 hours thus actually took 5 (although I suppose that did include elevenses and lunch breaks), but I have no complaints - contrary to first impressions during the first half an hour, it was a thoroughly enjoyable outing.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Wednesday 19 July - Romsdalsegen

An alarm early enough to get us on the road at 7 this morning elicited a few grumbles from a sleepy Mick, but, as we learnt later, it was very much worth it.

It was only an 11km drive around to Venjesdalen, at the entrance to which we were surprised to find a barrier and a payment machine requiring 75NOK from us to proceed up the road to the car park. After bit of a faff with the credit card not working, onwards to the car park we went. The motorhome and a car with a tent alongside had clearly spent the night; there was only one other vehicle.

We weren't immediately on our way. Breakfast came first and it was gone 8.30 by the time we set out, soon catching up a couple of groups who had gone before us.

The walk over the Romsdalsleggen ridge is highly promoted locally, the leaflet from the Tourist Office selling it as 'Norway's most beautiful hike'. We weren't going to do the whole ridge (if we had, we would have descended back to Åndalsnes via the viewpoint platform we visited yesterday afternoon), instead forming a lollipop from the easy and the difficult versions of the linear walk.

The difficult bits of the difficult route lie on the sharp ridge where there are a couple of awkward steps and a few places with notable exposure (i.e. narrow with sheer drops down both sides). I have no head for heights, but I managed it without any knocking of the knees.

Elevenses was had on the summit of Mjølvafjellet (1216m) in the company of just one other couple. One of the groups of four who we had passed just as we got to the trickier bits arrived just as we were leaving, the other group of four we had passed at the same time we didn't see again.

Once off the summit it was incredible how few people we saw. Turning off the main ridge to pick up the 'easy' path for our return leg, we not only had it to ourselves, but the line was surprisingly little trodden, although we did meet about a dozen people further along.

Our smugness at having set out relatively early came at 1pm as we had lunch looking up at the ridge we had walked, where we could see queues of silhouetted people stretched along its length, waiting for access to the tricky bits. At a rough estimate, we reckon there were 120 people in that line. I would have hated it, being both frustrated by the pace of people in front and feeling pressured by the people behind. It confirmed that our decision to drive and walk a lollipop, rather than catching the bus was a good one for reasons other than saving money (the bus would have cost £30 for the 11km journey). There is only one bus a day Monday to Thursday, which causes a busload of people to be setting out together at 10am, which also tends to be a popular time for car-walkers to set out: a recipe for crowds.

Against the flow, back down through the muddy sections we went, to a full car park. We didn't linger, relocating ourselves back down to Åndalsnes, which is also much busier (and in a much prettier location) under today's blue skies.

The weather is supposed to hold through tomorrow too, so it will be another early start.


The first evidence that the hype in the tourist brochures has a basis. I couldn't choose between the walks we've done with outstanding views, but this was up amongst them.

The first of the snow fields. There was only one short section where I thought 'You really wouldn't want to slip here!'




The photos don't show quite how unreal the shade of green in the valleys looked.


That was a long snow field on the return leg.

Rejoining our outward path.

Catch Up: 5 - 19 July

I've been lazy in updating this blog, concentrating my energies on daily posts over at thegateposts.blogspot.com instead. Here's a bit of a catch up:

A couple of days after my last post we left the glorious Lofoten Islands and started wending our way back south. Stopping at a few lovely locations on our way, the first stop of relevance to this blog was at the National Park Centre at Storjord (which National Park? I have no recollection!). There we pondered going up a big hill, but it was too late on the day we arrived, so that day we made do with a short stroll along a gorge:


Mick asked me to pose in front of this waterfall and I obliged

The following day was foul, so thoughts of the big hill were abandoned in favour of a much shorter and easier waterfall walk. Perhaps the rain helped, but the volume of water was impressive:




A few more days of driving and we arrived at Steinkjer. It was raining yet again, but in need of some exercise, we waited until it eased late in the afternoon and headed up Oftenåsen, the most local hill to the town. On top was a refreshment hut (only open on Sunday afternoons) and the world's largest garden chair:

The chair made up for the lack of view due to the weather.

More driving (there's a big distance to be covered between the Lofoten Islands and the western fjords) over the course of a few days, including another stop in Trondheim (the only town visited on both our northbound and southbound journeys), took us to the Atlantic Highway. In the hope of being able to appreciate the stretch of road better from above, we walked up a hill. Unfortunately, it was raining again, severely curtailing the view. We did visit a lake with a tiny bothy-like hut...


...and I'm sure the ridge above would have been a good walk on a nicer day.

That brings us to a couple of days ago, when we found ourselves in the car park for the Trollskyrka walk.

We hadn't arrived there with any thought (or, indeed, knowledge) of the walk. Rather, it was a last ditch attempt for somewhere to park for the night, having already visited and rejected five other locations (and all time record!), but having spent the night it seemed silly not to walk a couple of miles or so uphill to visit the Trollskyrka.

Continuing the run of wet, cool weather, it rained on us for the entirety of this walk, which made it worse that half way up to the cave system (that being what the Trollkyrka (Trolls Church) is) we realised we hadn't picked up a torch and thus weren't able to explore the caves once we got there. In the interests of not getting more stuff wet than was necessary, we had gone out packlessly, and thus also didn't have with us any food or drink, which wasn't a problem, although after some slow, rocky terrain, and having set out at gone noon without having eaten lunch, we were more than a touch peckish when we returned.

One advantage of the rain

The ropes weren't really necessary; the rock was really grippy.

Yesterday afternoon, the wet weather finally let up (more or less) for us to walk above the town of Åndalsnes to an airy viewpoint.

The arrow points to the viewing platform

Interesting solution to path erosion at the start of the walk. It zigzagged further up the hill than we expected...

...before we got to the eroded, muddy, root-infested path, which continued until...

...we got to the bit laid by Nepalese Sherpas. They do build impressive stone staircases.


Mesh floored viewing platform, protruding out over a whole lot of nothing.

That brings us to today and I've written (or, rather, cribbed from t'other blog) a separate post about that.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Accidental Hill Bagging in Norway

As we approached the village/town of Henningsvær, on the south side of the Lofoten Islands, yesterday afternoon, I spotted a snake of people heading up a path to a pass. The path wasn't shown on my map, but I could see that there was a lake up in that general direction, so assumed that was where everyone was headed. Finding Henningsvær itself to be unworthy of all the hype in the guidebooks and tourist brochure, we decided to see if there were better rewards to be had by a walk up to the lake this morning.

We started off by negotiating our way around and through some boulders...

...helpfully marked with some faded arrows spray-painted here and there. Once past those obstacles, the path simply went upwards, making the occasional pause, to look back and admire the view, welcome:


We had huffed and puffed our way up quite a distance when I spotted the lake ... below us and clearly not on the line of our path. Suddenly we were on a magical mystery tour, but as the path was so popular we expected rewards for our efforts, so on we went.

That lake is definitely not where we are going!

I did eventually crack and look at a map to see where our destination may be. Up a 541m peak was the answer I came up with and it turned out to be correct.

Finally the gradient eases and the summit is before us

A scramble up to the top had us agreeing that this was a far better way to enjoy Henningsvær than by walking around its streets, as we had yesterday afternoon:

The multiple islands of Henningsvær

Looking the other way from the summit

The descent, which came after a sit down for elevenses at the top, was slow and a bit of a knee killer, with erosion that, in places, gave a 'stepping on plates of ball bearings' effect, but even so our accidental hill was a fun way to spend a morning.


1 is where we left Bertie. 2 is the lake to which I thought the path would take us. 3 is where we ended up.

-------
Earlier in the week/at the weekend:
- On Sunday we were at Haukland Beach where we enjoyed a 5 mile circuit over a pass then back around a headland, on a track squeezed between the sea and some impressive rock walls. No photos were taken on that circuit as we both did it at a run. Here's a snap of the beach next to which we spent a couple of nights, and from where this circuit started:


- on Monday we were at Eggum where we took a stroll along the coast path, past an outdoor art installation in the form of a Head sculpture and up a couple of side valleys. Later that night (technically Tuesday morning, I suppose) we nipped out at just gone 1am to witness the sun not setting).

1.09am, the sun is not close to the horizon and is about to start rising again

There are plenty more snaps (and lots of words, but you can ignore the words!) at www.thegateposts.blogspot.com