Langfjellene Ski. Section 3. Jotunheimen.

The girls Kaja and Kari-Anne headed off early, but Chris Christine and Myself had a slow start, as the weather was not good enough to go over the Smørstabb glacier to Leirvassbu. So the alternative was a relative easy day down to Skogadalbøen and we waited for the snow flurries and mist to clear as per forecast.

The first 6 km were quite uneventful as we undulated across the gentle slopes of Rundhaugan in generally poor visibility. It was good to have the twigs to follow on this stretch as it was quite featureless and the tracks the girls made an hour or two before us were already obscured. It was a shame not to see the spectacular mountain scenery around us.

24. Looking down the upper reaches of Utledalen on the descent from Sognefjellshytte Lodge to Skogadalsbøen Lodge

The weather then started to relent a bit as we reached the lip of a steeper bowl. The ski route goes this way to avoid an avalanche prone area in Vetle Utledalen just to the west..The slope was too steep for me to ski straight down even with the near foot of new snow, so I traversed down the slope with a energetic turn at each end of the zig-zags. I was careful not to go too far towards the west flanks of Hillerhø as I thought this might be avalanche prone.

Once the steep section was out of the way and we had dropped a few hundred metres the slope eased off and there was some great downhill skiing for a few km down to the treeline. We all enjoyed finding out own route down through the small knolls and undulations in the easy-to-turn-in, soft, luxurious, snow and were elated when we reached the first of the birch.

26. Looking down Utledalen valley on the last few km towards Skogadalsbøen lodge

We had a break here in the sun as the the patches of blue sky grew larger and the wind died off. We were at a junction of a few valleys, with the could-obscured giants of Hurrungane to our west and the 2000 metre mountains up Rauddalen to our east.  It was an easy and delightful 4km ski from here down through the forest on quite a uneven ski track to Skogadalsbøen lodge. The track was as narrow as a a snow scooter with deep snow each side and it was quite exciting in the short steeper sections.

27. Christine Teller and Chris Stockbridge approaching Skogadalsbøen lodge in Utledalen valley

The girls were already here, relaxing in front of the fire. Kaja had found one of my books and was reading it. The hosts fired up the stove in the drying room also and soon the accomodation was comfortable. We spent the evening dining together and chatting around the fire with the hosts, as the 5 of us were the only guests in this lovely traditional lodge.

We all set off together in the morning on the long ski to Fondsbu lodge. It was overcast and there were a few snow flurries. None of the mountains were visible. I knew the first 2 kilometres today were taxing as it was a steep climb up through birch woods. A few scooters had been this way in the last weeks and had compacted a furrow of snow and we had to follow it until we escaped from the trees and into the mouth of Uradalen where winds had slightly compacted the snow. It took a good hour and plenty of effort to slog through the forest.

Once in Uradalen the going was easy with a firm base and some gentle descents and rises for the next 4 km. It was a shame there was not more of a view, but that is a risk of skiing in a mountainous area. After these 4 km the climb steepened and there was a sustained but quite easy further 4 km climb up to Uradalsbandet, the high point of the day.

28. Climbing up the last of Uradalen valley to the Uradalsbandet saddle unter the steep slopes west of Uranostind

I was ahead of the others and did not wait at the windy pass with its snow showers so skied down the south side of the pass to Uradalsvatnet lake and had a snack while the others arrived,  The descent was quite steep, but the flat light and difficult visibility made it hard work and a bit nerve-wracking as it was difficult to read the slope. The others came down equally gingerly some even walking the odd section, except Kari-Anne. She came down with the intuitive skill of a Norwegian who had grown up on skis and put us the rest of us to shame.

It was now a long 10 ski across a few lakes and high snow covered moraine mounds to Sløtafjell. We split up in the snowy weather; all just keeping our heads down and ploughing into the flurries. There was nothing to see really except for the next 200 metres. It took surprisingly long to reach Sløtafjell, as things always do when there is no view to encourage you along.

I knew there was a long descent coming up which in good conditions is fun but in this flat obscured light with inconsistent snow firmness was probably going to be hardwork involving a lot of zig-zaging. There were two ways down; either clockwise or anti clockwise from Sløtatjernet lake and both looked the same. I chose the latter as I knew it having been down some 5-odd times before. Better the devil you know.

It was indeed taxing as I could just not make out the contours and undulations in the snowfields and crashed twice before I got down to the cabins at the west end of Bygdin Lake. From here it was a short ski to Fondsbu lodge. The others were well behind me up on the mountain, but all decided to go anticlockwise round the mountain. They arrived at the same time and said it was easy so I will remember this for next time.

I went in and met Solbjørg. She had been the host here for 20 years and was well known, not only locally but in Norway among outdoor folk. I had known her for about 18 years and always got a warm welcome. Fondsbu lodge was nearly always busy as it was an easy ski from the road and it was also served by a fleet of 50 year old Bombardier Weasels, which were like minibuses on belt tracks. I got my usual room and washed my clothes in the shower before the dinner where there were about 30 guests.

The next day the weather was again dull. However it did not really matter as I was just going across Tyin Lake to Tyinstølen where there was some accomodation. I said goodbye to Chris and Christine, and also Kari-Anne who were all stopping here.  As I skied up the shallow incline of the road between Fondsbu and Tyinholmen Solbøurg caught up on a scooter. We chatted for a good 10 minutes before she blasted off down to her hometown to get some rest before the Easter chaos started in a week’s time.

From Tyinholmen there were tracks across Tyin lake for 12 km all the way to Tyinstølen. There was no one else on the lake and I just went over in one go, skiing for about 2 and a half hours in the good conditions. It was only in the last km that I could make out the main road and the cluster of houses I was heading for such was the mist.

I climbed up the slope on the edge of the lake and found the lodge. I was not what I was expecting at all and was quite scruffy. However Ola who ran the place was very accomodating  and the prices were cheap. I realized I had met Ola before when he showed me his self service cabin here some 5 years ago, which I did not realize was adjacent to this place as I arrived off the bus in the dark then..

Initially I thought Ola, who owned the place, was a bit of a bungler. The place was spartan and lacked a woman’s touch, and my room in the cellar was totally soulless. However the more I chatted with Ola the more I realized he was quite a character. He was a local but had spent a few decades working in refugee camps in East Africa. There were just 2 other guests here Mads Skipanes and Natascha Vingereid who were also amused by Ola’s style. They were planning on going the same way as me for the next 5 days.

This was the end of my third section, Jotunheimen. It should have been the highlight, but It had been a disappointment. The dull and misty conditions meant I had to settle for 3 rather tame days rather than the spectacular possibilities which good weather would have allowed, like going over Smorstabbbreen or Memuribreen glaciers – which I had done before.

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