Langfjellene Ski. Section 1. Reinheimen
The Reinheimen is a new National Park largely of high undulating moorland cut by a few large gentle valleys. It is a wild and somewhat unglamourous region but has great reindeer pastures. In the west of Reinheimen this alpine moorland becomes much more dramatic as it becomes riven with the much deeper valleys and the fjords of the Tafjord Mountains. My plan was to ski south for 3 days between this undulating moorland and the Tafjord Mountains from Bjorli in Romsdalen to Pollfoss in Ottadalen.
I took the train straight from Oslo Airport up to Bjorli in Romadalen and got there in the evening, having already decided to spend the night in the cheaper hotel. It was cold and clear and there was masses of loose powdery.The weather forecast was fantastic for the next days and I went to bed optimistic after a long day’s travel.
I woke early and had breakfast with the construction workers who also staying in the hotel. I found some local maps of the ski touring routes around Bjorli and skied off down the frozen pavement to the train station a km away to find them. I could ski on tracks round the north side Rånåkollen for a few km and then drop down to Brøstdalen by a bridge. I could see that bottom of Brøstdalen valley was a ravine and impossible to cross without going over the bridge at Ulvåbrua. However there was nearly a km of virgin, loose, deep, forest snow to ski through to join up the Rånåkollen track to the Ulvåbrua track and this made me wary even if it was downhill as the snow was bottomless.
The ski round the north side of Rånåkollen was fantastic. There were groomed tracks covered in a dusting of new snow and frost. The pines twinkled in the sunlight and the heavy snow bent the birches saplings double. I made good time in the bright morning light and within an hour after leaving the hotel was at the point where I thought I should descend through the forest to the Ulvåbrua track. I was a bit worried as I might be bogged down in the snow up to my armpits. However I found an old snow scooter furrow, some 3 foot deep, and thought it would be wise to follow it.It was steep and I crashed twice into the banks. I was virtually submerged in snow. I put my arm out to push myself up and it dropped down into a feathery void. I had to take my rucksack and skis off and virtually had to wade and climb back to the snow scooter track. With some relief I made it through this white quagmire of quicksand-like snow and made it to the Ulvåbrua track. I could see the area had an old working mill which was a summertime museum.
There was now a long gentle climb up a cleared road which served the farms up in Brøstdalen. There was easily enough snow to ski up the road where I could look down into the impossible ravine which I deliberately avoided. After an hour the trees thinned and I reached Fremmer-BrøstetFarm, it’s old sun-burned wooden buildings sitting dark against the gleaming fields. The pines were thinner now and the dominant tree was birch.
I skied down to the frozen Ulvåa river and had a snack in the bright sun under blue skies. From there I followed snow scooter tracks up the shallow valley to the summer farms at Horgheimsætra and then Kabben and finally Tunga some 3 hours later. Here the landscape split with a valley heading NW up to Vakkerstølen hut and a valley continuing SE to Pyttbua hut. I took the latter and climbed gently into Puttbudalen where the last of the birch continued in copses. Where the wind had been blowing the snow was firmer, as the windblown snow crystals had broken and compacted.
As the trees finally disappeared I had a small rise to ski up to reach an open junction of two valleys. Between these valleys was the Queen of Tafjordfellene, namely Puttegga, which just misses out being a 2000 metre top by some 60 cm. It steep ridges were fringed by a large overhanging cornice, which would come crashing down in the spring. Pyttbua hut lay just at the bottom of the east ridge It had 2 separate accommodation huts and the toilet/utility block. There was a young German couple there already who had come to this area a few times in the summer and this was their first winter trip. They already had the fire going and had melted a few buckets of water. The larder was well stocked and I quickly found and prepared my favourite items after a long first day of some 30 km.
I rose early and set off before the Germans were up. It was another glorious day with horizon to horizon blue sky and no wind. In the shade of the mountains it was cold at below -20 Centigrade . The route was marked by birch twigs stuck into the ground. I climbed gently to the south up a shallow slope into a white sunny bowl to the north of the crags on Karihøa. I crossed a few frozen tarns and was looking to see where the route went, assuming it was to the east
However to my surprise it went up a very steep snow drift to the south of this sunny bowl. The snow drift had formed a ramp which I had to traverse up for about 50 metres. It was marked with the twigs but it looked quite steep and in avalanche conditions I would not think it save, and would have found a longer route to the east. My short skins would not let me climb the ramp in anything but a long series of side steps.
At the top of the ramp there was a lovely still small valley with Radiovatnet lake across it and then a wonderful descent down to the vast flat expanse of Tordsvatnet l;ake. I kept as much height above the west side of the Tordsvatnet which left me only about 5 km to ski across the lake to Torsbu hut. It was a very easy pleasant day. Almost a rest day as it was over in about 4 hours.
This hut also has two cabins. I could see there were already two people in one of the huts, and looking at the gear and literature they had assumed them to be British. I lit the stove and was just getting the last bucket full of snow to melt when an large man with a beaming smile slid to a halt speaking Norwegian with the unmistakable British accent.
We introduced ourselves. He was Chris Stockbridge who had previously work in Stavanger as a oil field geologist. He guessed my name and said he had read my book and had followed my www.skipaddlenorway.com journey 9 years ago as I skied up Norway. Pretty soon his wife Christine arrived and we went into the hut. Both Chris and Christine were bright, good humoured and gregarious and we chatted easily. It transpired we both intended skiing the same route for the next week or so. The more we chatted the more we discovered mutual friends and interests. This was the Norwegian hut system at it’s best.
The next day we were to part ways for a bit as I was skiing to Pollfoss where I had already arranged to spent the night and then Sota Seter tomorrow. Chris and Christine were going half way to Pollfoss and then taking a taxi to Sota Seter, where they would spend 2 nights; so we would meet again tomorrow. I set off first and started the long descent to Billingen.
Initially the route was virtually flat but it soon started a long easy descent traversing down the slopes of Tverrådalen valley. Towards the end it got steeper and I had to make large shallow swings as the snow was too inconsistent to telemark straight down. Even then I fell once as the harder firm snow changed to soft deep snow when I was not expecting it. The slope ended as my legs were burning with effort and it spilled me into Torddalen. I looked up and saw Chris and Christine starting down in the same cautious manner I did.
It was surprisingly long to ski the 6km along Torddalen to the area where it narrowed and climbed over a spur to begin the final descent. My skis were slippery as I did not wax them, as I constantly hoped for gentle downhill sections, and this cost me a lot of energy on the shallow inclines and flat sections. I passed the tracks of a wolverine which as always looked like they were on a mission with very little deviation, even in gnarly terrain.
The final descent to Billingen was quite steep in inconsistent snow with very fast skis. Again I fell twice as my legs just disappeared into deep loose snow and my torso and rucksack carried on. It was only when I reached the first of the summer farms the terrain became easier as there were some snow scooter tracks which other skiers had followed.
Again with burning leg muscles I skied down through the last of the sun burnt cabins and barns of these ancient summer farms which had stood for centuries, to the road at Billingen. The farms where covered in dollops of thick snow which were glistening in the sun making every glance look like it was from a postcard. At Billingen I crossed the main Riksvei 15 road with my skis still on and skied down a short snowy track to a bridge over the Otta river and to the hamlet of Åsen. The frozen Otta river was buried under huge mounds of snow, twinkling in the sun and just disturbed by a few fox tracks.
From Åsen I was lucky that my hunch of a cleared track came to be. It was not only cleared but it was a prepared cross country ski track. It was about 6 km to Pollfoss but it went past in a flash as most of the track was either level of down hill. Once at the bottom of a steeper fast section the track veered off to the right so unexpectedly it took me unawares and I could not make the turn. I ploughed of into the deep loose forest snow in a cloud of spindrift. Once I came to a stop i was partially submerged with snow up my nostrils and behind my glasses.
Pollfoss is an old historic hotel now owned by a Dutch couple. There are open during the spring by arrangement only and they were expecting me. It was a very characterful place and a nice stop to reorganize after 3 days skiing. I had now finished the Reinheimen Section of my Langfellene Trip and I had been blessed with great weather, nice scenery and company at Torsbu cabin.