Day 3: Flying into Norway, and driving up to Jotunheimen National Park

Having had enough of flat lands and good weather, we flew into Oslo, where we were greeted at the airport (unexpectedly) by my Norwegian friend Trond and his Aussie friend Adam. Adam had flown in from Australia the previous day, but his bags had not. After getting one of the two bags later that day - of course, the one without his mountain gear - they came to the airport to pick us up, but we still had to wait for Adam's stuff. Fortunately, the wait wasn't too bad: we went to Trond's place for a few minutes, dropped off our sneakers (just to make sure we wouldn't have any dry, comfortable shoes when our hiking boots got wet), and went to pick up Adam's stuff at the airport. British Airways hadn't quite succeeded - they managed to lose his sleeping bag - but with an extra stop planned to buy a new sleeping bag on BA's dime, we were on our way.

As mentioned, a slight change in the landscape. This is most of the way to Jotunheimen - probably near Lom.

If you look closely, I think you can see the Golden Gate Bridge.

A stave church in Lom. After 10 days in Norway, I don't think I really know what the definition of a stave church is (ignorant Jew!), but this is what they look like. This one is, of course, quite old: 12th or 13th century, I think.

A warm, accomodating landscape. This day was the best weather we'd have for a while (seriously).

The first of many waterfalls we'd see in Norway. Mountains + lots of rain + glacier runoff = waterfall heaven. There were lots of waterfalls off the side of the road that would be the centerpiece of a day hike in California, but didn't even merit mention in Norway. On the other hand, when I go to work today, I'll ride my bike, and I'm not going to bring my rain jacket or my umbrella.

The valley at Spiterstulen, in Jotunheimen. We arrived there in the evening; even in August, it didn't get dark until around 10:30 PM.

As I mentioned this was the best weather we'd get. But as you can tell from Elaine's attire, it wasn't 30 C anymore.

On the bridge crossing a river by Spiterstulen.

I don't think they have too many drought issues in Norway.

I guess it does get dark eventually.

Day 4: Climbing Galhopiggen

Spiterstulen was a lot closer to being a resort than I expected. We slept in bunk beds and shared showers, but got pretty nice and extensive breakfasts and dinners. We quickly figured out that the exchange rate was not in our favor, even more so than in Denmark. Breakfast, a buffet with cereals, bread, jams, and lots of canned fish products, was 100 Kroner - almost $15. And dinner, a nice simple meal of meat, potatoes, and steamed veggies, cost over $30 per person.

Alas, we had access to some unbelievable scenery, and some great hikes. After a leisurely breakfast our first morning, Trond, Adam, Elaine, and I headed up Norway's highest peak, Galdhopiggen. Mind you, that's not like climbing Everest - it's only 2469 meters, or a little over 8000 feet, and we were starting at around 1100 meters. But it's still a challenging day hike.

The lodge at Spiterstulen, seen from above.

Trond's friend Adam, an Aussie who, coincidentally, is currently at Stanford, getting his doctorate.


This is a great example of the kind of weather we got climbing Galdhopiggen. At low altitudes, a fair number of clouds, but some sun getting through. At the peaks, though, everything was covered with clouds, leading to very low visibility.

First of a number of glacier shots. This glacier is probably below 2000 meters, which tells you a little bit about the climate in Norway. Note the blue tints in the glacier.

Getting to the top...

Elaine, with stunning waterfalls, steep mountains, and twisting valleys behind her. Unfortunately, the view was a bit impaired.

At the top of Galdhopiggen, there's a heated hut which sells tea, coffee, candy, and the like. I kind of feel like that's cheating, but I guess people go for it. Galdhopiggen is a pretty popular hike, and we saw quite a few people at the top.

Getting back down out of the clouds.

We made it home safely in time for everyone to eat dinner, and for Elaine to take some shots of her favorite Scandinavian architectural technique: sod roofs. I gather sod does quite a good job of insulating a house from the cold, and it also provides a chic, urban design. You see them all over the place in rural areas in Scandinavia.

Day 5: Glacier Hike

On our second full day in the mountains, the plan was to do a hike to, and then on, a glacier. It sounded like a fairly easy day of hiking: two hours to the glacier, an hour or two traversing it, and then two hours back. When we started in the light, cold drizzle, there were kids and older folks: a whole variety of rugged, energetic Norwegians. Halfway to the glacier, the rain increased, but everyone persisted up the gentle slopes. But as we ascended toward the glacier, the hills grew steeper, and the rain and wind harsher, and close to half of the hikers headed back to warm and cozy Spiterstulen. By the time we reached the top, Elaine, Adam, Trond, and I found that our "waterproof" clothing could also serve as a sponge, and that being wet in 40-45 degree temperatures in Norway is less comfortable than, say, your typical 75-degree August afternoon in Northern California. Of course, we did choose to go to Norway.

When we reached the glacier, the guides told us that given the wet conditions, and the fact that we were going to be walking on a glacier (which tends to be, er, icy), we weren't going to be moving quickly. Thus, we wouldn't warm up much. Thus, if anyone was too cold now, they might as well turn back.

Adam and Trond took the bait. Adam wasn't overly enthralled by the prospect of an extra hour or two in the cold rain, while Trond had done glacier hikes before, and was just as happy to head back and get out of the rain. Being a masochist, I of course wanted to go on, while Elaine felt like we had come this far, and may as well take advantage. My one concession, given my soaking wet gloves (hence very cold hands) was to not bring the camera. So no shots on the glacier - sorry.

The glacier hike was, for me, nice. Everyone was roped up - I had the pleasure of being at the back - with the notion that if someone falls into a hidden crevasse, everyone else can help to pull them back out. I don't think there was too much of a perceived risk, given that the guides felt free to walk around without ropes, but that didn't really seem to comfort many of the hikers, including Elaine.

As anticipated, we moved at a slow pace, using the rope to navigate some fairly steep surfaces. We were wearing crampons, but they had only four spikes, and were thus almost useless on any sort of slope. The guides had good crampons, which probably explains their willingness to move around without being roped in.

The highlight was going through an ice tunnel, which is apparently something they don't encounter frequently. The tunnel was quite small, and was freed up by chiselling out a rock that was partially blocking the entrance. As is somewhat apparent in pictures, the tunnel's ice, and much of the glacier around us had a strong blue tint. As you'll see in the pictures, that's not the only thing in the area that had such a quality...

In a classic episode of Seinfeld, George fantasizes about (and eventually finds) a woman who will combine his three strongest desires: sex, pastrami sandwiches, and television. My notion of combining pleasurable actions is perhaps a bit less perverse: hiking in the mountains, and picking and eating berries on the way. This picture is a little out of focus, but you can probably get the basic idea. Wild blueberries are everywhere in the mountains of Norway. The bushes are very small, as are the berries, which means you can't (as Elaine and I did the month before at a Maryland berry farm) pick 17 pounds by hand in half an hour. But they're still a tasty snack.


As we made our way up to the glacier, the rain picked up, and we began to find ourselves increasingly wet. Likewise, the streams became more and more like rivers. Fortunately, as you can see, the bridges were very solidly constructed, so we had nothing to worry about.

Notice the glacier's blue tint. This picture looks to me almost like some sort of fake 3-D object superimposed onto a landscape, but it's real.

Lainey and me, as taken by an expert photographer (me, with arm extended).