Any mountain hiker is accustomed to walking uphill, behind the next peak there is always one more. This hike violates that convention. It goes almost entirely downhill.
This article was first published in Norwegian on Sandalsand på norsk.
What to discover
The case is that we have a hundred metres increase in altitude from the mountain lodge at Leirvassbu (1,400 m) during our first two kilometres this day, but the next 17 km run steadily downhill until we arrive at our next lodge at Gjendebu (990 m).
The map below is taken from the hiking website Lommekjent and may be seen in full size here. The hike is about 19 kms and is estimated to 5-6 hours.
Leftovers from last years snow, here at Leirvatnet
Not only that, the trail also largely avoids the barren rock landscape we meet so much of in Jotunheimen. Here there is also grass and heather to step on. Sometimes it’s almost like walking in a field of flowers.
It is indeed as if we are back in the lowlands at least when approaching the lake of Gjende. In the beginning there are quite large amounts of snow left from last winter, even though we are at the end of the summer season.
Descending to Høgvagltjern
This was a really nice hike. To be true, the previous four days in Jotunheimen had been that to, the nature is so great here. Today’s hike would somehow be a little different and we thrived with it.
We start therefore the day on Leirvassbu, where we had arrived the day before from Spiterstulen on our six day tour of Jotunheimen, the national park in the middle of southern Norway. With a good breakfast inside we were well prepared to cross the snowdrifts from last winter going up from Leirvatnet towards the two small lakes called Høgvagltjernene, periodically also through rockslides.
From snow to grass at Langavatn
At the lowest of the lakes you will find that the trail splits. The right goes to Olavsbu (6 km), but we continue straight ahead towards and along Langavatn on the lake’s eastern side.
Langavatn means “long lake” and the name befits it. From the trail split there is another 6 km until we reach the end of the lake. Here we meet another trail split and will be able to meet up with hikers who choose to drop the lodge at Leirvassbu and prefer the direct route between Spiterstulen and Gjendebu.
End of Langavatn facing east
Not far afterwards we meet another little lake, Hellertjønne and the weak little waterfall that flows from it. We now enter the valley of Storådalen, the one which will lead us to the lake called Gjende and the tourist lodge Gjendebu at the western end.
A short distance below the falls there is a marked trail upward, above Bukkelægret, in the direction of Memurubu (15 km from here). We continue instead straight ahead, down towards Gjendebu and are well pleased with this day’s hike.
Going down Storadalen (“Big valley”), lower part
Gjendebu is The Norwegian Mountain Touring Association‘s oldest cottage, built in 1871. Do not worry about later changes and extensions. The original had after all only 45 sqm with 12 beds. When you are here on Gjendebu you should read up on the story of Gjendine, a girl born under dramatic circumstances in 1872 and with a hundred-year life ahead of her. The composer Edvard Grieg was greatly inspired by her and wrote “Gjendines bådnlåt” (lullaby).
Read a brief mention of this hike on Ut.no (walking the opposite direction). Read about the lodges of Leirvassbu and Gjendebu på Ut.
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.