Altering Expectations: a Traverse of Jotunheimen National Parc, Norway

Discussion in 'Trips Reports' started by Arne L., Aug 12, 2018.

  1. Arne L.

    Arne L. Section Hiker

    'So, we could always go the French Alps.'

    'True, true. But why not go to Norway? I've been there a few times, Jotunheimen is an amazing place.'

    'Yeah, Norway, why not? Never been there before, and it's pretty high on my list, so...'

    'So... Norway then?'

    'Norway.'

    In 2013, Jeroen and me cycled along the famous Danube-cycling-tour from his hometown Bruges to Tulcea, where the river finally meets the Black Sea after an epic trip trough Europe.

    Safe to say that it was a pretty amazing experience. After that, we started working, bought a house and, unavoidably, 'adult' happened. Not that it's a bad thing (on the contrary) but our free times were a bit cut back.

    Suddenly 2018 started, and we figured it was time for another trip together. Our first plan was to complete my walk of the GR54, but then Jeroen came with a much better idea: Jotunheimen, Norway. He had been there several times beforehand, so his experience could come in handy.

    I created a route, booked everything that needed to be booked and on July 31st, we were sitting on a plane.

    Destination: Oslo.

    Day 0: Brussels -> Oslo -> Sletterust

    But first, we had to make it to Brussels Airport. Not an easy task, given Belgian public transport.

    The alarm went at an unholy hour (maybe because he organised a barbecue the night before) and before I realized I was alive, I found myself sitting on a train towards the airport.

    We couldn't complain. Everything went smooth as silk, and we even arrived on time.

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    Terminal T of Brussels Airport. The new & fancy one.

    We drank a cup of coffee, bought some overpriced (but, well, hopefully tasty) whiskey and boarded our plane.

    Turns out not a lot of people shared our idea, given the size of the plane.

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    Small & cozy.

    In the air it was fascinating to see the change in landscape.
    Farmlands slowly made room for massive windfarms in the sea.

    Norway was easy to spot: forest, rivers & lakes as far as the eyes could see.

    Around 10.30 in the morning our wheels touched Norwegian tarmac.

    The difference in temperature was noticeable: temperatures in Belgium rose above 30°C.

    None of that in Norway. A nice 20°C welcomed us.

    Finally.

    We got our bags, re-organised our packs and most importantly swapped the heavy glass whiskey bottle for a plastic one.

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    One of the cleanest train stations I ever laid eyes on.

    We hopped on the train towards the city center of Oslo and were amazed by how easy this all went. No confusion, no fuzz.

    In under 10 minutes, we had walked from the luggage-hall, bought a ticket & were sitting on the track, waiting for the train to come.

    Efficiency.

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    Halls of the train station.

    Oslo didn't feel like a true city. It didn't look all that big and it all looked so very clean. Most of all, it lacked that big city-feel. It just felt cozy and even welcoming.

    If you enter the city by train, you are welcomed by an architectures wet dream. Modern, clean buildings. What a difference if you enter Brussels by train via the airport; maybe that was the way Trump entered our capital when he called it a hellhole.

    But: Brussels is a lovely city. But that's not why you're here for.

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    Exploring Oslo.

    Since we had over 6 hours to kill, we decided it would be best to behave ourself the way proper tourists do.

    We searched for a gas canister, bought some food for the long busride & walked around.

    There might also have been beers involved. Efficient killing of time.

    It felt so clean. And so liveable.
    And so expensive.

    I'm not a city boy. I don't like city trips. But I did like Oslo.

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    One of the newer districts in the Norwegian capital.

    Despite the length of the ride we were looking forward to sitting on the bus. The mountains were calling.

    When we boarded, the driver asked us for our destination. When we answered 'Sletterust' I could see in his eyes he didn't have the faintest idea where that might be. The only thing he probably knew for sure that it indeed was printed on our tickets. He grabbed his phone, talked some Norwegian to (hopefully) someone who knew the place & simply said 'ok'.

    Hm. Oh well. I couldn't blame him, though. Not even Google Maps is aware of Sletterust.

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    Bus break.

    Never ending forests, huge lakes and massive rivers were our company during the trip. Beautiful being an understatement.

    I thought about home, where every square kilometer is build to the brim & forests/nature are an exception. Jealousy, perhaps.

    Still, I know that I like living in Belgium.

    But that didn't matter. I saw the snowy giants of Jotunheimen in the distance, accompanied by threatening dark clouds. I was here now. It felt strangely comforting.

    Around 10 in the evening the busdriver dropped us at Sletterust, close to our trailhead. I could understand his 'ignorance'; it was nothing more then a bunch of holiday houses. No stores, no church, no nothing. Not even a sign.

    We started walking, found a flattish spot next to a small river and pitched our tent.

    The bottle of whiskey wasn't far.

    Finally.

    Day 1: Sletterust - Skogadalsbøen (26,17 km / 1440 m ascent / 1665 m descent)

    The wind tried to beat our tent down that night but my trusty old MSR Hubba Hubba HP didn't seem to care. 5 years old, still kicking.

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    Good morning.

    We crawled out of our tent and the threatening clouds were still there. We brew some tea and started to pack up, only to witness the sun trying to find it's way trough the cracks in the sky.

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    Our last view of a proper road.

    Finding the trail was an easy feat. Norway has a pretty extended trail system, all marked by red 'T'-signs. They can be everywhere, but most are found on rocks and/or trees if possible.

    Depending on the popularity of the region they're pretty well maintained & marked by DNT, which stands for Den Norske Turistforening or the Norwegian Trekking Assocation.

    This was it. We wouldn't see houses or roads for another week, apart from the huts. Finally.

    Accompanied by wind in our backs we walked towards Jotunheimen. Although this is far from true wilderness, it did feel like that. At least kind of.

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    The first 'T' of the walk.

    Everywhere we looked was beautiful. Dozens of lakens everywhere. Water in abundance.

    And we were still a day away from the 'true' Jotunheimen.

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    View after the first climb. We had breakfast a bit lower.

    Although the winds were pretty brutal, we managed a decent pace. There was no rain for now.

    We climbed and followed red T's.

    And enjoyed.

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    Despite being - mostly - very well marked, trails in Norway tend to come & go. One moment, you're following a splendid, clear trail only for it to suddenly dissapear. Mostly, the markings bring rescue but especially during the first day there were moments we had to check our position and route on our maps.

    But no complaining on our part. It's amazing that a country offers this to their people. And let's be honest; in a treeless landscape it's hard to truly get lost.

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    We reached the highest point of the day and the wind dissapeared. Classic.

    The first views of the giants in the distance were handed, but the clouds decided to spoil it for now.

    Not that it was a bad one.

    Big mountains make their own weather, we thought, and we trodded down the hill. Straight into a beautiful green valley.

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    One of the few times we weren't on the 'trail'.

    We met a stream and got out my filter.

    'What are you doing?' Jeroen said.

    'Well... filtering...?'

    'That's not necessary. Just drink it! Not a human or beast in sight here. I've never filtered anything in Norway'

    Thoughts about giardia and other horrible diseases popped in my head; I could see myself dying in my cosy little green tent, completely dehydrated. I've filtered pretty much every drop of water in my backpacking-career.

    Well, I reasoned that at least Jeroen looks very alive & kicking; I filled my bottle and drank it.

    Spoiler: still alive. My Sawyer-filter sat unemployed in my pack for the length of the trip.

    We wandered on and I noticed a pretty big river on the map, with a bridge sign on it.

    Once we arrived at the water I discovered two things: the river wasn't as big as I thought it would be & there was no bridge whatsoever.

    I'm not the best at crossing rivers (@craige can chime in on this) but Norway made me sharpen my skills. Besides, the other options were pretty non-existent.

    I just went in. What could go wrong?

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    Jeroen brought his Teva's. I wasn't sure if I was jealous to be honest.

    Truth to be told; it wasn't all that difficult. Norway had a bit of a drought (like the rest of Europe) so the river wasn't flowing that fast.

    Still, I was pretty proud of myself.

    Time to let the socks & shoes dry out. Onwards.

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    View from our lunch-place. Not a bad terrace.

    After some tortilla's we reached 'Vetti', a small collection of houses without access to roads (or elektricity). I suppose you could rent them; others looked like they were the property of hunters or fishermen.

    We also felt the first rain drips of the trip. I stuffed my camera in it's bag and pulled on the rain shell.

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    Close to Vetti.

    After Vetti, it went up again. I felt it. My legs needed some time to adapt & they weren't really getting that.

    We started meeting more & more people.

    I have a strange love/hate-relation with other people on the trail; I'm glad they're here. It's kind of comforting, knowing there are other people in the vicinity. Knowing that people came here before you.

    But on the other hand; sometimes people can get me out of my experience. But I know that's a selfish thought.

    It didn't really bother me. Norwegians are extremely friendly. The smile on their faces when they say 'Heyhey!' is one of the most genuine I've ever seen in the mountains. Also: they all carried massive packs.

    Uphill, though. It's tough but at least there's a reward.

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    Looking back.

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    Looking right.

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    Looking forward.

    On the top it started raining. We had a pretty long downhill in front of us.

    It turned out it wasn't as easy (trail-wise, at least) as going uphill. Lots of loose & sometimes slippery rock made for an interesting descent.

    Just before we arrived at the hut, it started pouring. Was that thunder in the distance?

    Hm.

    'Pf. Let's just camp at the hut, pay the fee & drink a beer.'

    'Or two.'

    'Make it three. It's raining, right?'

    It felt kind of strange to pay to put up your tent in a country where you can legally camp almost anywhere. Allemannsretten.

    But it was raining pretty hard, and the thunder got pretty close. You should forgive us.

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    Taking shelter under a tiny shed. The man in the picture was a very kind Danish guy, who just bought supplies at the hut & had to walk back to another cabin where his family stayed.

    Norwegian huts - especially the staffed ones in Jotunheimen - are unlike anything else. They're almost hotel-like; showers are included, delicious food & breakfast and you can even charge your electronics here. There's a whole bunch of people working in the huts and they're all very genuine & friendly.

    We enjoyed a few local beers.

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    Truth to be told, we earned it.

    We were absolutely knackered.

    Day 2: Skogadalsbøen - Olavsbu (19,81 km / 983 m ascent / 468 m descent)

    It rained troughout most of the night, but in the morning we were greeted by thick fog.

    We weren't all that worried, though. The forecast for today was splendid & in the distance we could see the sun, trying to do it's job.

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    Foggy hut.

    Munching over our breakfast, it was clear a day like yesterday wasn't going to happen every day.

    My proposed schedule might have been a bit too ambitious. We took a look at the maps & decided to walk to Olavsbu, which was on our planned route for the day. We could see when we got there what was still possible.

    Altering expectations.

    In the meanwhile, the fog started to clear.

    With the sun on my face I couldn't wait for today's walk.

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    Packing up.

    We walked back to where we left the trail the day before & started to follow the trail upstream next to the Skogadøla, the river we would follow most of the morning.

    It promised to be a beautiful day in the Norwegian mountains.

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    Flying off.

    Once again the trail was very clear and mostly well trodded. A lot of the times the trail also functioned as a river; makes sense given water also choses the easiest route. Who could blame them.

    It wasn't long before I stopped hopping from boulder to boulder and embraced wet feet and easy crossings.

    They'll dry, I thought.

    Well. Eventually.

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    Trees have a tough time here.

    According to the maps, we officialy walked into Jotunheimen National Parc.

    Jotunheimen (Home of the Jotuns, a race of giants in Norwegian mythology) is one of the many national parcs in Norway. It houses the highest mountains in Scandinavia, the highest one being the Galdhøpiggen at 2469 meters. Close contender is the Glittertind at 2465 meters, more or less on the other side of the Galdhøpiggen. Both of them are relatively easy to summit if you have some walking experience.

    The parc also counts dozens of very impressive glaciers.

    It's also immensly popular, given the amount of staffed huts & trails in the vicinity. The huts are even open & staffed in winter (well, most of them start in april) since ski-touring is very popular in Norway.

    Looking left & right I completely understood why some many people came here.

    Waterfalls were everywhere, the sound of roaring water never far off. I loved it.

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    Walking further upstream and ascending relatively gently, it became clear we had to cross the river.

    Since it came straight out of a glacier at high speed, crossing didn't seem like the easiest of tasks. On the other side, a group of Norwegian teenagers faced the same problem and started walking further upstream.

    It didn't look like that would help a lot, though. We found a spot that looked crossable; it has a little 'island' in the middle.

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    The spot were we crossed. I know.

    I wasn't really all that comfortable going in, looking at the force of the water coming straight out of a waterfall.

    But once in the water it was pretty ok; a lot less powerful then I imagined. My only concern was that it was hard to see how deep it actually was. My shorts got pretty soaked but all in all it was ok.

    Another victory. My feet were wet anyway.

    We climbed up the hill & it was time to air my feet, eat and dry out our tent.

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    View from our lunch break; looking back at where we came from.

    During the day, we noticed quite a few young people, roaming around solo or in tiny groups in the mountains.

    Later we heard it is perfectly normal for teenagers/young people to go out by themselves in the mountains. In some schools the Norwegian children are being thought how to 'survive' in the wild; making campfires, what fruits are eatable, how to signal for SOS, etc...

    We were a truly amazed, because it was hard for us to imagine this in Belgium. I rarely meet teenagers in the hills, let alone solo.

    Obviously, different culture. These people grow up surrounded by nature. They absolutely love the mountains. Well, most of them at least.

    We said goodbye & went our ways.

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    No words needed.

    The map showed us that we had to cross the big hills to the left, but the only thing we saw was a giant vertical wall.

    No worries. There's always a way; just follow the T's.

    There was a way. Just heinously steep.

    Norway doesn't do switchbacks.

    500 meter climb.

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    Looking back at the traversed valley.

    Slowly but steady we went up; we must have climbed 10 meters every second.

    Or that's at least how it felt. 100 meters left.

    Like always, the top was there. Suddenly. The views were, like always, amazing.

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    Nameless pass, 1617 meters.

    We looked into yet another beautiful valley. It already looked pretty different compared to the one we just came from.

    This day did not lack variation. In fact, it did not lack anything.

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    View from the top of the other valley.

    The general feeling between us two was that the descent was fairly easier then the ascent, although it's a feeling I always have.

    The descent surely felt long, but the views were rewarding. Nature in abundance.

    We didn't meet a soul since that girl around lunch.

    I loved how wild it felt & looked out here, whilst civilisation was actually pretty close.

    Apart from the huts, the maintained trails & one tiny dam we've seen, there wasn't all that much human interaction. A huge difference from my walks in the Alps; I remember following huge powerlines the second day of the TMB, for instance.

    None of that on this day in this area. The only sound we heard was water & our footsteps.

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    Strolling next to Rauddalsvatnet (the name of the lake).

    Quickly we realized that we weren't going much further then Olavsbu. Our planned destination was still quite a bit further, over yet another steep pass.

    That wasn't going to happen. Maybe tomorrow, but definitely not today.

    When the (self-service) hut came into sight, we found a suitable place for our tent next to a big river.

    We pitched and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

    And whiskey.

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    We made plans for tomorrow & crawled into our warm bags.

    Day 3: Olavsbu - Gjendebu (21,95 km / 373 m ascent / 785 m descent)

    The alarm went early, the air felt chilly.

    We were up & away before 7 in the morning, after a fresh brew of tea.

    Life can/should be simple on trail.

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    Morning ritual.

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    10/10 campsite.

    Just before reaching the huts, we noticed 4 other tents we handn't seen the night before.

    Almost all of them were Hilleberg-tents. Obviously.

    A red wire on our walk: Norwegians do not leave early. Other days we passed tents at around 9 in the morning and we the inhabitants were having breakfast.

    On the other hand, the sun doesn't set until 10 in the evening. Plenty of daylight.

    We set course for the only climb of the day; the rest would be gentle downhill, according to our maps.
    But this was Norway. It was bloody steep, and bloody rocky.

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    Over the pass, it was just one huge boulderfield. I don't mind boulder fields; IF the boulders are pretty big. Hopping from big boulder to big boulder makes me feel 10 again.

    Alas, these were all just tiny rocks & stones. Our pace was pretty slow but we were cracking (awfully bad) jokes.

    We were moving.

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    First snowfield of the trip.

    We sheltered behind a big rock for our breakfast. As always, I got out my pot, my granola and... my spork.

    Right, my spork. Right...?

    I couldn't find my spork. I realized I must have left it at our 10/10 campsite this morning after tea.

    The only problem was; that was already almost two hours ago. Returning, even without a backpack, would be a major loss of time. Especially over those small annoying boulders.

    That will teach me to put a gray spork on gray boulders. I just hope someone found it and makes good use of it.

    In the meanwhile, Jeroen & me shared his spork; maybe I could pick a new one up at the hut later that day. Maybe.

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    Unnamed lakes.

    We descended the pass and crossed yet another river. Jeroen succesfully hopped from rock to rock whilst I just waded trough. Since it was raining a bit, my feet would get wet anyway.

    As long as they're not cold I didn't really see the problem.

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    Looking at Lake Langvatnet. On the little peninsula there was a tiny cabin; if only I had the money.

    For the rest of the morning we walked next to Lake Langvatnet. We noticed a tiny beach that was looking very inviting.

    It proved to be a big mistake: suddenly midges came popping out of nowhere. As they do.

    I snapped some pictures and we fled to higher grounds. They were annoying as ever but didn't bite.

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    Skarddalstinden, 2100 meter.

    All in all it was a very easy morning. Sometimes there was a small stream to cross, sometimes there were midges, but those were the biggest challenges of the morning.

    Above all we just enjoyed the landscape, talked about everything & nothing and just walked.

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    Talking about a lovely trail.

    Most of the time, walking in Norway is an effort that requires at least a bit concentration. Rare are the times you can just 'walk' and drift off mentally.

    A lot of the times a rock, a boulder or something else that lies in the middle of the way will require your attention. Or sometimes there is no trail and you have to look for a red T. And other times, there's no red T, so then you have to figure it out by yourself.

    I loved it so far. But I would be lying if I said this wasn't a welcome break.

    At least I handn't stumbled. Yet.

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    After our lunch break we noticed more people on the trail. Our path joined the one that came from Leirvassbu, a huge mountain lodge/hotel that is connected by a road. Busses stopped there and from the hotel it was a very popular walk to Gjendesheim, taking multiple days (and multiple huts) and also taking in the very famous Besseggen-ridge.

    Soon the trail got 'busy', and we saw (or heard) why. A massive waterfall (Hellerfossen) came crashing down the mountain as we descended further into the valley.

    All the water from the lake we were following most of the day, fed by some other glacier streams & rivers.

    Powerful, to say the least.

    It's one of those 'pictures can't do it justice' type of scenes.

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    Jeroen staring how Hellerfossen crashes down into the Storådalen-valley.

    Another few things that marked how popular this walk was, were bridges. After not seeing one for 3 days (except for right at the huts), we now saw a very fancy one.

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    Summer bridge over one of the many nameless streams flowing into the Storåe-river.

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    Looking back at the Hellerfossen.

    We descended along a very gentle and easy trail.

    All of the sudden, Jeroen made a very weird move with his feet.

    I laughed, as we always do: 'some very fine dancing skills you got there, mate!'

    No response.

    Jeroen started limping, and went laying on the floor. His face suddenly looked pale.

    'I don't feel so good, I think'

    Internally, my alarm bells went off; they were pretty loud.

    I threw my pack on the floor, immediatly lifted his feet, gave him water & some food.

    I took off his boots & examined his foot. Obviously, it was too early for swelling.

    Damn, I thought. Damn.

    The reason behind my train of thought was that my friend was a pretty tough one. He wouldn't just go sit if he wasn't in true pain.

    It was amazing to see how fast he returned to his always enthousiast, happy self.

    'Well, that was stupid', he laughed.

    Between the minute he did his weird move & the moment he said the above, I had already worked out a couple of alternatives. At least we had 3 epic days, I thought. Well.

    Jeroen tried to stand up. I asked 'how do you feel?' but I knew the answer when I saw him limping across the trail.

    'Off all the trails we had the few past days...' He laughed again. Sometimes I wonderwhat it takes to get Jeroen truly down; I'd rather not find out.

    I offered to carry his pack, to no avail. He swung his pack on his back and decided it was time to move.

    'Let's get to the hut', he said. 'We'll figure this out there.'

    So we went on. I tried to stay optimistic & enthousiastic myself, but couldn't help feeling that this might have been our final day in these gorgeous mountains.

    Altering expectations.

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    Walking next to the Storåe-river. The sun really tried.

    A couple of kilometers later we arrived at the hut. Jeroen had made a walking stick out of a straight branch of wood (trust me, a rarity in the Norwegian mountains) and his foot seemed ok.

    We camped at a beautiful spot a bit before the hut; shame I totally forgot to take pictures.

    I decided we should eat & drink in the hut. Not a cheap affair, but well worth the money.

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    Gjendebu.

    We sat next to a very friendly Norwegian family and chatted about politics and history all whilst feasting on a huge pile of meatballs, potatoes & vegetables.

    It was so good I totally (once again) forgot about taking pictures.

    But really, it was insanely tasty.

    We stayed a bit longer in the hut. Jeroen thought me some card games, and we drank quite a bit of Norwegian ale.

    Despite the foot-affair, this was one of the best nights so far. Norwegian huts are beyond everything I've ever seen.

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    Playing cards.

    Suddenly we were the final people in the hut. It was nearly 11PM, so that made sense. We finished our beers & walked back to our tent. No stars in the sky yet again.

    Accompanied by the comforting sounds of a flowing stream, I rapidly fell asleep.

    The foot-issue was a thing of the past, at least for this night.

    And I got a shiny new steel spoon at the counter. Stainless!

    Day 4: Gjendebu - Memurubu (12,77 km / 778 m ascent / 755 m descent)

    The fourth day on trail is always the one where everything starts to click. Your body becomes used to the constant walking & climbing. The packing is more efficient & faster.

    Our packing routine in the morning on the other hand was pretty simple; just throw all of your stuff outside the tent and shove it into the pack. Tried & true.

    A routine, like most things in life.

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    Preparing breakfast at the hut.

    We had not set an alarm for today. We had altered our plans and today's walk would be a relatively short one.

    We shoved everything inside our packs & walked towards the hut for breakfast.

    My keen eye spotted the first lightweight backpacks on the trip: a ULA & a Gossamer Gear. They turned out to be the property of some American walkers.

    Norwegians don't really care so much for lightweight, it seems. Although most of them spend the night in the huts, they all carried a tent & sleeping system. Gives you extra flexibility.

    But light, it wasn't.

    We had our breakfast whilst most walkers were moving out; it was around 9.30 in the morning, a nice hour to start the day.

    Time to go. Jeroen told me not to worry.

    But I did; off course I did.

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    Walking next to Lake Gjende.

    The first hour or so were very easy walking next to the river; ideal for my company's foot to acclimatize to the walk.

    But after that, things got steep & rocky. According to the map, we had to ascend roughly 500 meter in 2 km.

    Saying that it was easy, would be a horrendous lie but it was good fun.

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    Some chains as assistance.

    We passed quite a few groups of people walking up. The only thing I could was the fairly horrible stench of my shirt.

    Sorry to all I might have offended on the climb, smell-wise. And on the other days of the walk.

    All things considered, my friend did an amazing job. Mental resilience. Very inspiring.

    The views were, despite the lower clouds, brilliant as ever.

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    Looking back to Gjendebu.

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    We reached the plateau sooner then we expected. Since we were pretty much surrounded by people, we decided to walk a bit further.

    Snacks were consumed. We listended to the howling winds & stared at the incoming clouds.

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    Last of the blue skies.

    It wasn't long until the first drips fell out of the dark sky. After a while, one knows rain; this edition wasn't planning on stopping any time soon.

    Despite the rain, I felt pretty comfortable. My shorts stayed miracously dry (that kind of rain) & we were walking on a lovely ridge.

    The rain did force me to put away my camera, sadly. The darkness that surrounded us was pretty impressive to look at.

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    Final climb to the top of Sjugurdtinden; 1490 m.

    In truth, I didn't know to feel relieved or worried about the state of my partner. His pace was pretty good, he didn't limp... I just hoped he wasn't forcing it. Although it was a short-ish day, the terrain wasn't exactly a walk in the parc.

    The hut wasn't that far away anymore; our chances of a correct injury-analysis would drastically improve by drinking a fresh beer.

    We thought.

    Did I tell you Norway has splendid views?

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    A spectacular river (Tjønnholåe) crashing it's way down out of the Nørdre Tjønnholet (name of the glacier).

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    Looking at river Muru.

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    Looking at Lake Gjende. On the left center, you can see the famous Besseggen-ridge.

    The descend was far easier then we expected looking at the map; in no time we reached Memurubu, the destination for the day.

    We found a nice spot for our tent & the moment everything was unpacked, the rain decided to call it quits.

    Off course it did.

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    Inside Memurubu.

    Memurubu is one of the biggest huts I've ever seen. If you looked at it from our highest point of the day, it looked like a small village. They even have an actual toilet.
    Everyday big amounts of people arrive at the hut by boat to climb Besseggen, one of the most famous walks in Norway.

    It wasn't on our list; all the fuzz about it made us decide not to do it.

    Jeroen decided to take a shower. I decided to see how long I could go on without one.

    [​IMG]

    We didn't get comfortable at the hut; maybe it was too crowdy, too noisy. Too much. Perhaps.

    We left the hut, cooked up our dinner & retreated back in our tent.

    No sound but roaring water. Lovely.

    [​IMG]
    Good night.

    Day 5: Memurubu - Glitterheim (20,40 km / 980 m ascent / 602 m descent)

    I put my sleepy head out of the shelter & a blue sky was waving at me.

    Good morning.

    6 o'clock. Not a Norwegian in sight.

    As usual, we brew some tea (mint, today) and got on the move. Headed towards the sun.

    [​IMG]
    Looking back at Lake Gjende and the village that was Memurubu.

    Behind us we could see the first people walking towards Besseggen.

    'It's like being chased by White Walkers' Jeroen said.

    [​IMG]
    The ridge we walked on the day before.

    [​IMG]
    Lovely place to pitch.


    Soon, we turned left. Suddenly, not a person in to be seen: only a new beautiful valley waiting to be discovered.

    Lake Russvatnet was smiling at us.

    [​IMG]

    We briefly stopped for breakfast.

    Granola with dried fruit & milk powder is a weird beast. On most multi-day walks in the past I get pretty sick by my breakfast by day 3; now, weirdly, it tasted better & better everyday.

    [​IMG]
    Brushing teeth with a view.

    It's not a lie: I like walking with Jeroen. On the 3750 km towards the Black Sea we were almost constantly making fun.

    Good memories.

    His mental strength is pretty huge; it's impossible to get him down. Or that I presume.

    I like that he's not a gearhead. He's been using the same rucksack since I known him and doesn't really think about his gear all that much.

    If it works, it works. Right?

    We walked on, passing several tents in the valley below.

    [​IMG]

    We might have met 4 people in the morning; a great constrast with the day before. We couldn't be happier.

    It was nice walking with others, but it's also nice to - at least have the feeling - have it all to yourself.

    Moments later, we stumbled on a amazing waterfall. Pictures - like always - don't really do it justice, but in our humble opinion it was far better then the one we had seen 2 days earlier.

    But: not a soul in sight.

    [​IMG]
    The name of this thing of beauty: Blackwellbue.

    Gently, the trail went on. Walking close to the lake also had a downside: midges.

    They were pretty fierce, flying into my ears and being their usual irritating self in great numbers.

    But no bites. Maybe it's not a Norwegian thing to do.

    [​IMG]
    If you look closely you can see a swarm of midges in the upper right corner.

    Finally, the trail ascended again. When we looked behind us, we were surprised to see some very dark clouds forming above Lake Gjende.

    'Don't worry, they'll stay there!' Jeroen said, and he hopped up the hill.

    [​IMG]
    Threatening clouds.

    Like most of the times, Jeroen was right. We walked further away from the clouds but they did not seem to come any closer. In front of us, there were still multiple patches of blue sky.

    The landscape changed quickly during the ascend. From a lush green valley to the moon in no time.

    [​IMG]
    Glaciers, mountains & rivers; Jotunheimen. Home of the giants.

    We reached an unnamed pass & the highest point of the day (1685 meter) when the wind started to pick up.

    In the distance, we could spot Glittertind. The second highest mountain of Norway was our objective for tomorrow.

    But first, the long & winding descent was waiting for us.

    On small boulders. Ugh.

    [​IMG]
    Glittertind (centre of the image) in the clouds.

    During the descent, we saw our first herd of reindeer.

    They were far better at descending these terribe small boulders then we were.

    Jealousy. For sure.

    [​IMG]
    Veobrantinden (2183 m) with the Veobran-glacier. Magnificent sight.

    To the left we saw a massive glacier coming into the sight. On the other side, the hut was coming closer & closer.

    At that moment, it started raining. Big drips combined with fierce winds made me get out my rain pants for the first time this trip. We were sure this could take a long time.

    Fully rain-suited out, it stopped after 10 minutes. Maybe we didn't know rain at all.

    [​IMG]
    Glitterheim.

    We approached the hut & found a nice place for our tent, overlooking the magnificent valley.

    [​IMG]

    As per usual, we decided it would could be interesting to taste the beers inside. And take a look at the weather forecast.

    [​IMG]
    Fine regional beers.

    The weather forecast wasn't all that amazing, considering we were taking on Norway's highest mountain.

    Low clouds, light chance of rain & 60 km/h winds in the valley (Glitterheim is at 1374 meter)... I don't know the exact maths behind it, but I guessed the winds would be pretty fierce at 2364 meter.

    I tried not to think about it all that much. We could still go around the mountain, our original foul weather. alternative.

    But it's so nice standing on a summit. But clouds and wi...

    Worrying wouldn't help, I reasoned. Time for some Yahtzee. These huts have everything.

    [​IMG]

    After I lost the game, we walked back to our tent & put some rocks on our stakes.
    We placed ourselves behind a big boulder, seeking shelter for the wind.

    The whiskey was still good. Just as the company. And the foot.

    Day 6: Glitterheim - Spiterstulen (19,49 km / 715 m ascent / 1003 m descent)

    The first thing I saw when I crawled out of my tent was a massive herd of reindeer, searching for food & water.

    And a rainbow.

    Beautiful morning light made for excellent scenery.


    [​IMG]
    Raindeer are somewhere in the middle of the picture, next to the river. There's even a rainbow to be seen.

    Sadly, the forecasted winds were pretty accurate. Strong bursts came from pretty much anywhere.

    The summit of Glittertinden was in the clouds.

    We walked to the hut for some windshelter & brew our tea. Sadly I had left my Earl Grey at home but mint was growing on me.

    The tea felt good; the wind made sure it was the coldest day to date.

    I regretted leaving the wind pants at home. 60 grams. My steel spoon from Gjendebu was heavier for sure.

    [​IMG]

    When we started our climb we reached a plateau fairly soon. The windbursts were fairly harsh and we were not even above 1500 meter.

    'Can I tell you my, ehm, personal opinion? Chances are you're not going to like it' I asked.

    'Yeah, off course, what's the matter?'

    'I'm not really looking forward to standing up a mountain in the clouds being blasted away by heavy winds.'

    I was almost screaming. Probably not.

    'I can understand. Just say the word. There's no point in climbing a mountain if you're not both up for it'

    He was right. I wasn't really up for it. Fair Weather Summiteer.

    A couple of seconds later I made the call to go down and take the Foul Weather Alternative, around the mountain.

    I felt guilty but didn't really know how to express that.

    'Don't worry, we'll see what tomorrow brings!'

    Truly, nothing brings the guy down.

    [​IMG]
    Walking in the valley, fighting the windbursts.

    The weather was doing it's best to behave odd; despite the sun, there was a constant light drizzle. We could see rain clouds forming above Glittertind & the other high tops, so we reasoned the wind brought them here.

    We continued against the wind. I still felt a bit guilty, but knew I had made the right call.

    Altering expectations.

    Further on, we saw the pass we had to cross accompanied by a huge bouldertrail.

    Just follow the T's. There's always a way.

    [​IMG]
    Always a way.

    Just in front of the pass we took a break. The difference in temperature in or out the wind was astonishing.

    We enjoyed the views and a sporadic, lost raindrip. It didn't really bother us all that much.

    Across the pass we encountered several beautiful small little lakes (Veslgluptjønnen). For a minute, I thought it was back walking towards Lairig Ghru in the Cairngorms, Scotland. Maybe a bit more boulder-esque.

    [​IMG]
    Veslgluptjønnen.

    We hopped from boulder to boulder & tried our best to follow the red T-signs. Yes, they were big boulders, so we were pretty happy.

    Jeroen his foot also seemed pretty happy. I hoped. At least he looked the part.

    [​IMG]

    After the boulder-hopping along a few little lakes, a massive moon landscape showed himself.

    Damn. Tiny boulders.

    The only thing that came to mind.

    [​IMG]

    However impressive the landscape had been, after a while it got... tedious. It was the first time that word hopped into my mind, which is not too bad given we were on route for 6 days.

    We talked about movies. There are quite a few Tom Hanks films I haven't seen, I thought.

    Appearantly Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is also quite worth the view.

    Oh well.

    We joined the trail coming from the Glittertind & the trail turned, straight back into the wind.

    But also: straight back into an epic valley.

    [​IMG]
    Spiterstulen hut & Styggehøe (2200 m.).

    We decided it was time for a break. The packs were taken off & before we knew it, we both douzed into a tiny sleep.

    You do have to know it was pretty windy & also basically raining. But the sun was shining so we didn't get really wet.

    Maybe, just maybe, we were a bit tired.

    30 minutes later, we started descending.

    I handn't eaten enough; I did 2 clumsy falls during the downhills, luckily without consequences. I wasn't really paying attention; and I didn't feel like eating anything in my pack anymore.

    We walked into Spiterstulen & grabbed a beer.

    The view by the window was pretty brilliant: rain smashing against the window & dark clouds rolling from the mountainsides.

    Suddenly, Jeroen came back.

    'Do you think 180 crowns is a lot for... PIZZA?'

    Wait, what?

    [​IMG]

    I'm sure it wasn't, but at that place & time it was the best pizza in the whole wide world.

    With that being said (... or eaten), we took a look at our maps & the forecast.

    Technically, today was our final day. But we both felt something was missing. Since our bus was departing at 4 in the afternoon the next day, we still had time for... something.

    'No wind or rain for tomorrow, and based on the maps Galdhøpiggen is a lot closer then Glittertind. Besides, how stupid would it be to walk all the way back?'

    Galdhøpiggen is the highest mountain in Northern Europe, 2469 meter. It should be a relatively easy walk, given the amount of people that do it yearly. Not Ben Nevis-numbers, but still.

    'How cool would it be to be the first one on the mountain?'

    A plan was made. We were to get up at 5.30 in the morning, take the necessary equipment in my backpack & leave the rest at the campsite.

    We enjoyed a few beers outside & watched the wind calming down.

    It's going to be a good day tomorrow.


    Our thoughts exactly.

    Day 7: Spiterstulen - Galdhøpiggen - Spiterstulen (13,62 km / 1433 m ascent / 1474 m descent)

    For the last time in Norway, I made my way out of my tent onto a tea-brewing mission.

    I looked around & concluded this couldn't be better as a final. The wind was completely vanished & the sun was peeking behind the mountains.

    [​IMG]
    Morning light.

    We decided to take my pack and made sure to make it very light.

    All other tents were still silent & there was no one to be seen around the hut.

    Only two guys were already ahead of us.

    Damn.

    After our final tea my walked towards the trailhead of Scandinavia's highest peak.

    [​IMG]

    Making altitude was the least of our worries: there was over 1400 meters that had to be climbed in just over 6 kilometers. Not too shabby.

    We moved light & quick. We felt great. The weather agreed.

    [​IMG]
    Oh hi, hello there.

    Soon we got hold of the two Swedes, they told us this could probably be the final stream before the summit.

    Looking at the map, they could be true. Although the mountain is surrounded by glaciers, water is scarce above 1500 meter.

    We ate breakfast, drank as much as we could, filled the bottles & pushed on.

    How cool would it be the be the first on the mountain?

    Runner's spirit.

    [​IMG]
    Looking where we came from, all those days ago.

    Soon, the grassy fields & alpine-like trail made way for boulderfields & light snow.

    The rain from yesterday had left his marks on the mountain.

    It sure was beautiful, but it made for some slippery boulders.

    But our packs were light (for at least of one us) or even non-existent (for, again, at least one of us).

    Pace was good. Did Jeroen roll his foot a few days ago?

    [​IMG]
    Onwards, higher.

    The snow got slightly thicker the higher we came.

    Clouds passing trough made the environment even more stunning.

    This was it. This was what was missing yesterday.

    A summit.

    [​IMG]

    After some time, all signs of a trail completely vanished & all that was left were the T-signs guiding us trough the debris.

    We had to scramble, hop on boulders, and generally had a amazing time.

    [​IMG]
    Glittertind on the left.

    Before we knew it, we had summited our first peak: Svellnose at 2272 meter.

    Next to us were two gigantic glaciers, Svellnosbraen & Styggebrean.

    The silence surrounding us was as amazing as the views.

    Not a sign of the two Swedes behind us.

    [​IMG]
    Styggebrean.

    [​IMG]
    On our first top. In front lies Keilhaus (2355 m) & finally Galdhøpiggen (2469 m)

    [​IMG]
    Jeroen posing next to Svellnosbraen.

    We were blessed with such a clear sky. On the other side we saw dark clouds coming in.

    Time for the summit, we thought.

    The temperature was just below freezing but we were nice & comfortable.

    [​IMG]
    Almost at the summit.

    After another pretty steep climb, we noticed a small cabin/hut standing not too far from the top.

    I couldn't believe it.

    I had read reports about there being a small cabin on top of the mountain, but I thought they had taken it down by now.

    Sadly (in my opinion off course, I get the appeal of it) it was still there, ready to open in a few hours. You could buy some snacks or drinks there.

    Unreal. And not fitting. But hey, that's just my opinion.

    We passed the hut and went straight to the summit.

    We had climbed Galdhøpiggen in a little under 4 hours.

    And yes, we were the first on the mountain. It might be silly but we loved it.

    [​IMG]
    The roof of Scandinavia.

    We just stood there, saying nothing. It was perfect.

    The sky was pretty clear. There was almost no wind. It was cold but ok.

    Although - on paper - this walk was nothing special, we felt amazing. Complete.

    After a while, the two Swedish guys joined us on the summit. They had started early for the exact same reason as us: they had a bus to catch.

    Interesting: one of the guys carried a ULA Ohm that had literally seen the world & was riddled with holes.

    [​IMG]

    We started our descend & quickly realized we were lucky; soon, a thick cloud rolled over the summit & snow started to fall out of the sky.

    Since most of the snow was gone already, the descent was not nearly as slippery as I had thought.

    We descended in just over two hours, meeting tons of people. Some in sneakers & jeans, some fully kitted out. Some with little kids, others with big dogs. Different people, all walking up to the highest peak of Norway.

    Down, we packed up & waited for the bus.

    We looked back, satisfied.

    Sooner then we hoped, the bus waited for us. The hardest part is leaving the mountains. After that, you just want to get home.

    In Lom, we decided to ignore society for a bit. We followed a small trail & finished our last bits of whiskey at a big river.

    Fitting ending to an amazing trip.

    A little past 1 in the night, a bus picked us up. Destination: Oslo.

    Straight towards home now.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2018
    kamov, Erik Haaland, Diddi and 21 others like this.
  2. Teepee

    Teepee Thru Hiker

    Wow! :inlove:

    The RX100 nearly does that immensely beautiful landscape justice....

    Stunning, and a great narrative..thanks for posting.
    Arne L. likes this.
  3. DuneElliot

    DuneElliot Ultralighter

    Norway and Sweden are just two of the top reasons I am excited to be moving back to the UK...so many untapped hiking opportunities.

    I've heard about people not filtering water in Europe...I doubt that giardia and cryptosporidium don't exist in Europe but even in the high mountain regions of the US I don't filter at high altitude.
    Arne L. likes this.
  4. MartinK9

    MartinK9 Section Hiker

    Fantastic trip report,thanks for sharing.
    Arne L. likes this.
  5. OwenM

    OwenM Ultralighter

    Fantastic read and excellent photo's.
    Arne L. likes this.
  6. Mole

    Mole Thru Hiker

    Brilliant write up Arne!
    Love it.
    Want to go!
    Arne L. likes this.
  7. craige

    craige Thru Hiker

    Damn! No wonder it took you so long to write! Fantastic story, stunning pics and a great looking trip in good company. Makes me want to go to Norway even more :thumbsup:
    Arne L. likes this.
  8. edh

    edh Thru Hiker

    Waiting to view this on a laptop...

    Now I have; a lot of hard miles there - really enjoyed the report, especially the narrative.

    Scandinavia I have yet to visit.
    Arne L. likes this.
  9. tom

    tom Section Hiker

    Nice one Arne :) and a good read. Will have to look at pics again when I get to a proper screen....
    Arne L. likes this.
  10. Bopdude

    Bopdude Section Hiker

    Great pictures and story, I say story because I was reading it as being there, great stuff, thanks for taking the time to share it :)
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2018
    Arne L. and HillBelly like this.
  11. HillBelly

    HillBelly Trail Blazer

    A perfectly distilled account of your trip. Enjoyable to read, to the point I almost want to get on a flight and experience first hand.
    Arne L. likes this.
  12. Robin

    Robin Thru Hiker

    Great write up and pictures.
    Arne L. likes this.
  13. NEEpps

    NEEpps Trail Blazer

    Great read, really enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing.
    Arne L. likes this.
  14. snow

    snow Summit Camper

    Looks amazing! Thanks for writing it up so thoroughly.

    Where exactly did you start/finish? Asking for a friend... :whistling:
    Arne L. likes this.
  15. Chris2901

    Chris2901 Section Hiker

    @Arne L. : Feels like being back there again!:) Thanks for the great report and pics!
    Arne L. likes this.
  16. theoctagon

    theoctagon Thru Hiker

    Great write up and some beautiful images Arne, great stuff :D
    Arne L. likes this.
  17. Munro277

    Munro277 Thru Hiker

    excellent really enjoyed that....hmmmm Norway next year would be nice
    Arne L. likes this.
  18. Arne L.

    Arne L. Section Hiker

    Thanks everybody for all the very nice words.

    I had an absolute blast writing it, that's for sure.

    It's actually a Sony A6000 paired with the Sigma 16mm f1.4 :oops:

    I still think the RX100 is a great camera but IMO the A6000 is far sharper and I prefer shooting with it. The extra weight is quite something though.

    I started out in Sletterust, which can be hard to find on maps because it's technically not a town; just a bunch of holiday houses located next to a lake called 'Torolmen'.

    We stopped at Spiterstulen, one of the biggest huts in Jotunheimen which is connected via a road with Lom. We took a bus from the hut to the town.

    If you'd like, I have a GPX of my intended route laying around and can make you one of our actual route.
    Teepee likes this.
  19. Teepee

    Teepee Thru Hiker

    @Arne L. ..shows you how much knowledge I have of photography. :biggrin: Now you say, some shots do look a little wider. An A6000 plus that lens...a kg? Not too bad...at least over there there isn't much water that needs carrying.
    Was it worth the extra weight do you think for this trip?
    Arne L. likes this.
  20. Arne L.

    Arne L. Section Hiker

    Including 2 spare batteries, lens filter & a protective camera bag it was probably over a kg although I didn't weigh it.

    I love photography so the weight didn't bother me; most of the time the camera was attached to the Peak Design Capture Clip.
    Teepee likes this.
  21. Teepee

    Teepee Thru Hiker

    I was just looking at those as it goes, seems a good way to go for a bigger camera. There's some good dynamic range in those shots. Polarising and ND grad filters?

    I shall be back to Jotunheimen one day, one of the most impactful landscapes I've ever visited.
  22. Arne L.

    Arne L. Section Hiker

    The only filter I use is a clear filter, to protect the glass. I only use ND filters for long exposure shots and for those I need a true tripod and the latter is just way too heavy for any serious backpacking.

    But, thanks!
    OwenM, Teepee and Munro277 like this.
  23. Diddi

    Diddi Section Hiker

    Beautiful thanks for sharing...
    Arne L. likes this.
  24. gixer

    gixer Thru Hiker

    Absolutely amazing
    Really enjoyed that write up, thanks for sharing
    Arne L. likes this.
  25. el manana

    el manana Thru Hiker

    Fantastic @Arne L. - the urban pics give a great perspective. Want to go there now.
    Arne L. likes this.

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