Sunday, July 7, 2013

Highlights from Alvdal Vestfjell

This year Joe and I chose Alvdal Vestfjell as the location for our annual summer trip. After hiking Jotunheimstien together two years ago we´ve become good friends, and we both look forward to hitting  the trail again for new adventures. I want to share some highlights from the trip in this post - I won´t do a blow-by-blow account which tend to turn out too long :).

The landscape
Alvdal Vestfjell is situated east of the Rondane national park. The terrain is gentler, less alpine, but you´ll still find some pointy bits (highest mountain is Storsølnkletten at 1827 m), and the weather is definitely typical of the mountains: quite unpredictable and making it essential to know how to dress properly and in general take care of yourself and look out for your hiking partner(s). Since the landscape is so open and vast, the wind easily picks up speed as it accelerates down the smooth valleys. One minute you´ll be walking in an area with just a gentle breeze and then around the corner the wind will whip your face red and make you put on your windshirt in a hurry to keep warm.

Having a lunch break out of the stiff wind. The SL-3 was great to have for this purpose!

You´ll also find green valleys with plenty of wildlife, flowers and streams and lakes with crystal clear water that you can drink without filtering (except when you spot sheep in the area). We didn´t see any wildlife except for birds, sheep (of course, what´s a holiday without stepping in sheep poop) and 1 lemming (only Joe saw that mind), but apparently there is a 1000 strong reindeer population in the area, as well as moose and wolverine. I reckon we probably were in the proximity of larger animals at some point, but I guess they heard or smelled us long before we would´ve been able to spot them.

Some flowers still thrive in the tough environment.

Soft, moist ground covered in Reindeer Moss.

Beautiful trail from Breisjøseter to Flatseter.

Places to stay
We opted to both camp and stay in cabins. The area used to have several cabins, around 6-7 I think, but nowadays there are only 3: Breisjøseter (privately owned, staffed), Korsberghytta (DNT, 13 beds, food storage) and Storgrytdalsseter (DNT, 6 beds, food storage). We ended up staying at Breisjøseter and Korsbergytta, as well as Bjørnhollia (pitched outside) when entering Rondane at the end of the trip. Our first camp was idyllic with beautiful views of the plains and a small pond right in front of us. The mozzies were around, but didn´t really bother us much.

First camp site at Follandsvangen. Slept great. Understood why there is a floor in mesh inners.

Approaching Korsberghytta. It´s the three buildings in front. There is a private cabin just next to the lake too.
Enjoying our stay at Korsberghytta. It was a bit worn down, but the food storage had lots of goodies and the visitor´s log was an interesting read :). We had the cabin to ourselves. The last visitors had been there a week ago. A couple did appear later, but chose to stay in the annex instead.

View from the living room at Korsberghytta.

At Breisjøseter enjoying a beer and a well stocked library of books about the mountains. The owner was super friendly.

The slightly scary camp
After staying at Breisjøseter we hiked down the valley, passing Flatsteter, and then changed direction to climb further up for a high camp. We were once again hiking into a stiff, cold wind. The landscape was more barren and uninviting. We´d planned to hike to three small ponds in an intersection of several valleys, but chose to set camp earlier in what seemed a sheltered spot - at least it was a lot calmer than further up as Joe found out when he went for a recon up there. We pitched our SL-3s and made sure every peg was firmly in the ground and all guylines deployed.

Pitched for the night.

Everything looked great, we had dinner in Joe´s crib and then retired to each of our shelters. The wind then picked up and shook our mids quite a bit, but then calmed down again. It didn´t take long before it picked up again and it started raining. I didn´t feel 100% secure that the SL-3 would be ok for the whole night so I gathered my stuff so I would be ready to move over to Joe or get out if need be. After some hours I fell asleep, waking up occasionaly when the shelter shooked. At some point it really picked up and I zipped open the door and peaked out - it looked dark, cold and alien out there. I got what I call "the awe of the mountain" feel and to be honest wished I was somewhere else, or at least in a shelter that I had more experience with.

"The awe of the mountain"

The tent did make it through the night fine though and the morning greeted us with sun and glorious views.

The definitely a bit scary mountain plateau traverse and the amazing cloud bit
After our high camp we had a long day ahead of us to cross a mountain plateau to get into the valley leading to the entrance to Rondane. A cold and stiff wind still faced us as we climbed higher, noting that setting camp the night before where we did was a great call. At some point we had to cross a snow field in blazing sunshine and with clouds passing over us at high speed. We had entered the cloud layer. Almost across the snow field I stopped and looked back to check that Joe was ok. A window in the cloud then suddenly appeared and I saw a towering cumulus cloud that was so close that it made me dizzy - it felt like watching a great mountain right in front of you, it was amazing. We both fumbled with our cameras to no avail - it was gone as soon as it had appeared.

After the snow field we reached the plateau and started heading west. It was blowing hard now, I had to hike in my Xenon. Visibiblity was low, but we were able to spot the cairns and made good progress. The thought of this section going to last 4 hours like it said on the map made me quite depressed - it was a barren, godforsaken place to travel through. Not a place you´d want to be alone in case you´d be sick or hurt yourself. With that kind of wind and temperature (4C or thereabouts) you wouldn´t be able to survive long without shelter. That´s why I´m getting one of those "Fjellduken" arctic bags before my next trip, something I never thought I´d need to carry in my pack. Thankfully we moved below the cloud cover after maybe an hour and had some great views in front of us.

Valley opening up in front of us as we got below the cloud cover.

Later that day we reached the DNT cabin Bjørnhollia after abandoning a pretty terrible camp site (wet, no proper place to put pegs, lots of mozzies) for the comfort of a well manicured lawn in front of the cabin. It also gave us access to showers and great food, something we both welcomed at this point.

Our little adventure ended the next day after hiking through Illmannsdalen and out to the Spranget parking lot where people tend to access the national park. We´ve already agreed to do another trip next year - looking forward to it! Thanks for the trip, Joe.