Norway’s highest peak is normally climbed from the mountain lodges of Juvasshytta or Spiterstulen. We had stayed on the latter and were all set to realise a childhood dream.
This article was first published in Norwegian on Sandalsand på norsk.
What to discover
It is obvious that in order to reach the mountain top of Galdhøpiggen at 2,469 meters (in the old days we always learned to say two four six eight, but never mind), any hike to the summit would involve going upwards. The distance of around 5.5 km one way is not much, but Spiterstulen is after all at a modest 1,106 metres and then it immediately becomes a decent ascent to talk about.
The map below is taken from the hiking website Lommekjent and may be seen in full size there. Calculate approximately 6 hours for the 12 km roundtrip.
To the extent that we can talk about a massif, the massive rock wall facing us seems just like that. The mountain area of Jotunheimen, the “home of giants” as it translates into English, has plenty of mountains but also moors, glaciers and valleys. We started in the valley of Visdalen and crossed the river just below the Spiterstulen tourist lodge and immediately after commenced the climb.
Climbing the Galdhøpiggen. Styggebre (“Ugly glacier”) to the right.
We were heading in a straight westernly direction, and the hike went quite easily in the steep terrain. Indeed the climb all the way up to Galhøpiggen is steep, but at a fairly steady ratio.
At times the view was also quite good when we got higher up, towards Svellnosbreen to our left and Styggebreen to our right. However, the grey weather that had haunted us the preceding two days in Jotunheimen, really hit us with full force today.
Well trained as we are, mountaineering rule number 3 slipped to mind; show respect for the weather and the weather forecast. Fair enough, we were not anticipating on a day like this to enjoy a full 360 degrees view from the country’s highest point, it would be rewarding just to get there. We continued uphill, looking down the cliff to the right and into the thick mist ahead of us.
Svellnosbreen, the “fairy tale” glacier
Mountaineering rule number five would now have to be applied; Listen to experienced hikers. A group of people were coming down and had apparently been on the peak of Galdhøpiggen in the early morning. We asked about the weather ahead and how far it was to walk. Their reply was that there is quite a distance left, and the fog is heavy all the way.
The ascent to Galdhøpiggen with demanding large and wet rocks, poor visibility and with a vertical cliff face to the right. We had at this point passed 2,000 metres, but it did not look promising.
We continued a little longer, but decided to swallow our pride. Mountaineering rule number eight states there is no disgrace in turning back, in time. This day it felt correct to do so, but it was no easy decision anyway. This was a huge disappointment.
The indoor pool at Spiterstulen is nice, but it was not as nice dipping into it today, gazing out the panoramic windows towards the base of Galdhøpiggen right outside.
Read about the mountain lodge Spiterstulen on Ut (Norwegian only) and on its own website (also in English and German). The latter describes alternative routes (more difficult) to the summit.
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.