Friday, 18 September 2009

Farewell to Norway

This is the last blog of our 5 month trip! Its been an amazing experince and was brilliant to share it with you - thanks for checking up on us!!

As I hinted in the last blog, we had to bring our trip to an abrupt close because of an invitation for a job interview in Scotland. We decided to spend our last few days in Norway in the high mountain plateau of Jotunheim and Dovrefjell national parks. This area of Norway is famed for its very arctic climate caused by its high altitude. As a consequence the wildlife also has a distinct arctic feel to it with Musk Ox, Arctic foxes and alpine flowers.

Our first port of call was the town of Lom. We hiked up the hill behind the town and enjoyed spectacular views of the glacial landscape... before an enormous cloudburst sent us hurrying in a comedic half running style down the very steep path back to town.

The area had some interesting plant life such as this Autumn getian violet and blueberries growing through thick carpets of lichen.

These cows decided to lick the bottom of Neils wellies. They got really excited about it. I wonder what he had trodden in!?

Public transport around the area had stopped as the tourist season had ended. But a very helpful man in tourist information managed to organise a ride with a schoolboy into the remote mountain lodge at Spiterstulen. This place is a mecca for mountaineers and who play in the high icefields and glaciers. The highest mountain in Norway (Galdhoppigen) is also climbable from this direction.

The scenery at the mountain lodge. Its a lovely place but be prepared to leave with you wallet a little lighter than when you arrived e.g. it costs £5 to hire bed sheets and a tiny room with 2 tiny bunk beds is £25 per person which I think is quite a lot... but average by Norway's standards.

The river was in full flood and looked beautiful because of its the chalky glacial salts it was carrying.

Starry saxifrage growing by the river.

Even the mountainsides in this remote spot have sheep grazing them during the summer. These sheep have been gathered from the mountains on foot and are about to be taken across the bridge to spend the winter in a warm barn least that is what Neil told me... I have a feeling some of them might end up on the menu at the lodge :( .

We did a fairly hard-core hike up the 2nd highest mountain in Northern Europe called Glittertind (2465ish m). The hike gave us great veiws of the surrounding mountains including Galdhoppigen (the highest at 2469 or so) but the very top was covered by cloud. Here are some pictures from the hike:

The trail was maked all the way by the iconic red 'T' sign painted on cairns.

The mountain lodge is in the bottom of this valley and the hike up to Galdhoppigen in on the opposite side.

Galdhoppigen has three peaks. All look down onto the glacier. Most people hike across the glacier to get to the top. To do this you need to hire a guide and rope yourself to other hikers as there are many open crevasses.

Hiking to glittertind takes you across this wide open valley high in the mountians. You have to ford this river which is easy as it is entirely made of stepping stones.

As you climb higher you begin to see the landscape opeing up. We counted six glaciers at once. The final two hours of the climb are brutal. The trail goes directly up a though an almost vertical boulder field.

It was t-shirt weather to begin with but as we got close to the top we found ourselves hiking through freezing fog.

The top of Glittertind is a snow peak and as a result is very often in fog. This can be extremely dangerous because you cannot see where the snow finishes and the fog begins...and it is a LONG way down. I am standing as close as I dared to the peak. If you look very closely you can just see the snow ridge at about the level of my waist. Below is a picture I found on wikipedia of what we were walking on without knowing it!

These pictures show the steep boulder climb... just as difficult on the way down!!

A pale pasque flower growing amongst the boulders.

The next day we decided to do a little hike... which turned into another quite big hike up to a waterfall. It was steep and slippery and when we got back we were told that somone had lost their life in this place after slipping. Don't worry Mum, we would never go outside of our comfort zone when we are in the hills!! It was a sobering reminder of how dangerous mountians can be.

Our last nights in Norway were spent around Dombas where we stayed in a little cabin. Norway has lots of these cabins and they are excellent accommodation when you are on a shoestring budget.

We really wanted to see some Musk Ox while we were here and managed to meet up with a Musk Ox guide who showed us the best spots, taught us about their life-history and told us the Do's and Don'ts of musk ox watching! Did you know musk-ox are very badly named, neither ox nor musky. They're actually the biggest member of the sheep family.

They can be quite feisty during mating time in autumn and have been clocked at 63kmph. One dog with a careless owner was lucky to escape this group.

We did a 17km hike across the plateau to reach a mountaineers hut where we stayed a night. Here are some of the pictures we took along the way:


Reindeer antler modelled by Neil

The mountain in the background is Snohetta, a little over 2300m high

Our accommodation for the night. You just turn up and stay and there are no staff. There is a kitchen with canned meats with unappetising names!! We were suprised to see that you have to pay for your room as this type of accommodation is free at home... it was actully quite expensive too!

...but it was well worth it for the veiws at dawn.

And that was it for Norway! Time to go home. We couldnt be sad though as we had a brilliant welcome home from our freinds in Aberdeen - Thanks guys!!!

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