Day 31. Finse to Kongshelleren

Posted by: James on January 31, 2009

Distance 27km | Time 9hrs | Ascent 930m | Descent 690m

Day 31 Hardangerjokulen from Sankt PaalI had a late night organizing things, writing, charging batteries and phoning but I still did not sleep so well. I was still up at 0700 and packed before breakfast at 0800. I have an enormous breakfast. At least 3000 calories. It was like the breakfast of a condemned man. I then set of near 0900. I could not get away from the hotel quick enough. It was not such an easy going place as Haukeliseter.

I left in minus 15 and climbed the valley to the north of Finse. There were scooter tracks which led up to a small shelter at Klemsbu. This was not the best route as the other side was steep, but I decided to chance it. The map showed it was 1 in 5 and the advised winter route went a longer way.

As I reached the shelter the clothes were coming of fast. The chill of the morning was now replaced by the heat of the sun. I was down to a vest on top.

The views were fantastic. To the south just beyond Finse lay the huge dome of the Hardangerjokulen icecap. You could see it in all its glory from here just across the valley. The almost flat, slightly rounded dome of ice resting on a ring of steeper cliffs and crags.

From the shelter I continued up to Sankt Paal, a rounded hill on the crest of Hallingskarvet. Hallingskarvet is a well known landmark and mountain ridge in this region, and primarily to the east. It gives these mountains there generic name, namely Skarvheimen. I could enjoy the views from Sankt Paal in perfect conditions. Windstill and under the blazing sun. Even in my wool vest it was to warm.

Day 31 Looking west back across the frozen Ormsvatnet LakeThe descent down the north side of Sankt Paal was not a problem. The steeper sections were easy to avoid as I sped down some 400 vertical metres descending diagonally across the remnants of small glaciers and snowfonns to reach the outlet of Ormsvatnet lake. The north side was in the shade and considerably colder.

From Ormsvatn lake it was a very pleasant ski eastwards down the gentle valley to Geiterygghytta cabin. It was closed and had no self service facilities. I knew this before and decided to go all the way to Kongshelleren cabin today, another 12 km. I felt fit though and in these conditions I was not worried about getting to the cabin in the dusk.

I bypassed Geiterygghytta and started straight up the hill to a saddle. It was and easy ascent treading between outcrops and keeping to the smooth glistening snowfields. About half way up I came across a trampled road of reindeer tracks and then a bit beyond a herd of about 50.

Day 31 Reindeer moss is a lichen reindeer dig for in the winterThese were wild Skarvheimen reindeer and not used to human interaction unless they were being hunted, previously with arrows and in the last few hundred years with gun. As soon as they saw me some 500 metres away they were off. Initially they seemed confused as to which way to go but then they moved behind me.

I was going to the snowfield where they had been resting. All the outcrops nearby had been scraped by their hooves, removing the snow to get to their favourite food which is reindeer moss. This is a tennis ball size fluffy bundle of cream coloured lichen.

Day 31 Wild landscape with reindeer prints around Gieteryggen cabinWith the reindeer gone I carried on in the glorious weather cresting a small saddle and then descending slightly to climb into a significant gap in the mountains, one of them called Bolhovd. As I reached the saddle the sun set behind me and the smooth mountains to the north turned a shade of rose, then strong pink as the sun disappeared in a blaze of yellow and orange in a cloudless sky behind me.

Day 31. Evening glow as I approach Kongshelleren cabinI still had 5 km to go but I knew it was flat and the clear evening would ensure the light lingered long. The temperature fell quickly to minus 20, so back went on all the clothes again. For the last hour and a half I single mindedly drove towards the cabin not stopping. Indeed I don’t stop at all now except for the odd drink and today’s breakfast was still fuelling me.

At late dusk, just before the head torch would be put on and Venus and the crescent of moon were bright, I reached Kongshelleren cabin. It was a pearl Easy to heat, well stocked larder and once warm had a rustic and cosy ambience. It was only then I realized how tired I was. After a simple dinner I fell asleep in front of the fire. When I woke I was too tried to write and went straight to bed.

It had been another magnificent day. In fact today surpassed even yesterday as the best yet on the tour. Long may it last. Tomorrow should be an easy day to Lungsdalshytta cabin to let my body recover a bit after the last 2 days.

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