This is the first of six articles from my hikes in Jotunheimen (literally “Home of Giants”), a large mountainous area in southern Norway.
The series was first published on Sandalsand på norsk, the Norwegian language part of this travel blog.
Most of Jotunheimen is legally protected as a national park. It contains the 29 highest mountains in the country, all more than 2,000 metres high. In addition there are rivers, lakes, moors and plateaus making it a very diverse territory to climb or hike in.
The Norwegian Mountain Touring Association runs several mountain lodges inside the national park, and maintains a network of well marked trails between the lodges and the peaks. Visitors should bring a map and compass or at least a GPS navigator. The lodges are staffed and well equipped for accommodation, food and other amenities. They stay open in the summer season and at least part of the winter season.
What to discover
It was not obvious that this would be the first leg of a six days round trip of Jotunheimen. It is however a great hike that gives you most of what this mountain wilderness has to offer.
The reason why this hike to the Glitterheim lodge was not obvious, is its length. It is approximately 23.1 km if you take the route we did, and you will not find a shorter route from the lodge called Gjendesheim.
The map below is taken from the hiking website Lommekjent and may be seen in full size there.
Gjendesheim at the eastern end of the long and narrow Gjende lake is an excellent starting point for trips in the Jotunheimen, at least if you come here from the east of the country. The lodge is beautifully situated and is spacious enough to accommodate most. As we were on a round trip, we would be returning across the mountain of Besseggen on our last day.
A view of Gjende from the hill above Gjendesheim
We arrived the night before as it would be a long day across the mountains. Our first morning brought us fairly steep uphill from the lodge. Gjende lake is situated 984 metres above sea level and we would climb 400 metres higher the first hour before the ground levelled out. Halfway or so up the first hill we encountered the trail coming down from Besseggen, but we continued. There were good views down on the Gjende lake for a long time this morning.
When we arrived at an altitude of 1380 metres the trail started to turn slightly downhill until we reached the Bessvatnet Lake. Here we crossed the river Bessa and continued north along a long flat stretch. The next lake we arrived at was today’s second crescent shaped lake. Russvatnet also has a river to cross, not surprisingly named Russa.
There is powerful scenery in Jotunheimen. Here with Russvatnet lake and the mountain of Bessfjell behind it. In Jotunheimen we find 255 of Norway’s 300 peaks of more than 2,000 metres. Besshøy right outside this image is 2258 metres.
From here there is a marked trail along the lake for a while. We were now at this hike’s lowest point, about 1175 metres. After a kilometre and half, we started to turn north uphill between the peaks of Austre and Vestre Hestlægerhøe. Here we reached the highest point at approximately 1680 meters.
When we had come this far, it was not long before we could set our eyes on the mountain lodge called Glitterheim in the distance. We followed the slope down into the Veodalen valley and were glad we had enough strength in our legs to cross all the rocks and rockslides without falls and injuries.
Jotunheimen is full of rocks, and several sections on this hike had to be negotiated with full concentration, especially as it had become a grey and wet day in late summer.
Long gentle moorlands, here in the direction of Russvatn in an easterly direction
At the same time, this trip offers views of lakes and mountains, not least in combination with the nearly endless heather moors. Magnificent views in other words. It was however nice to finally get a mattress in the dormitory at Glitterheim and a good dinner.
Allow at least 8-9 hours to hike the approximately 23 kms. This hike is featured on Ut.no. Read about Gjendesheim and Glitterheim at Ut.no.
This is the description of a 6-day round trip from lodge to lodge in beautiful Jotunheimen in the late summer of 1989. Due to the tour’s age it was never meant for publication. However, the round trip was so perfect (“Jotunheimen in a nutshell”) that I included it anyway. I think neither text or images, let alone the basic experience will be significantly different today.
The map shows the route we followed and lodges we visited or stayed at. The boat ride from Gjendebu to Memurubu is not shown. We stayed at all marked lodges except Memurubu. Almost the entire round trip runs within the borders of the Jotunheimen National Park. The map is composed of single maps from Lommekjent.no. A detailed map is included in the introduction to each article. Click on the markers to reveal the names of lodges, click on the lines to get information about a particular leg. (Norwegian text and links only.) Extend the map into a new tab if you prefer.
All legs are described in separate articles. This is the list:
Day 1: Gjendesheim to Glitterheim over Hestlægerhøe
Day 2: Glitterheim to Spiterstulen over Skautflye
Day 3: Spiterstulen to Galdhøpiggen and back
Day 4: Spiterstulen to Leirvassbu
Day 5: Leirvassbu to Gjendebu
Day 6: Gjendebu to Memurubu by boat plus hike Besseggen to Gjendesheim
See photos from this particular hike below. Click for a larger size.