Breheimen Area Mountains Guide

Ascending the snowfields of the icecap.

Never ever was the man so little. Snow. Ice. Endlessly. A piece of eternity in nature!

Introduction

Jostedalsbreen is the largest glacier on the European mainland. The glacier totally dominates the nature in the area. The landscape is shaped by the glacier. The climate is greatly affected by the glacier. For the people living near the glacier, it has always been their enemy number one. Many farms have been crushed by giant iceblocks. And it kills too. But it is so stunningly beautiful! The deep blue wildness of the frozen ice falls and the vastness of the white snowfields continue to draw be back to Jostedalsbreen year after year.

Terrain

The glacier Jostedalsbreen is an icecap. The cap has a vast plateu of snow at about 1400 - 1800 meters. The thickness of this icecap varies but is at most about 600 meters. From the central icecap there are a lot of icefalls into the nearby valleys. Many places the ice falls very steeply into the valley making a maze of cracks and crevasses in the blue ice. Some places the ice fall ends directly in a lake of meltwater and icebergs.

The Jostedalsbreen area can be divided into two distinct areas, namely the glacier itself, and the area at the east of it called "Breheimen", dominated by high mountains and a few smaller glaciers. In both these areas you will find a terrain dominated by deep valleys at 0 - 500 meters filled with grey-green meltwater from the descending icefalls. The peaks are high, reaching from about 1700 to above 2000 metres. In "Breheimen", being closer to Jotunheimen, the peaks are generally higher, but so are the floors of the valleys.

Climate

The climate around a large glacier is somewhat special and is worth an extra note. In general the Jostedalsbreen area has the same weather as West-Norway which you can read about in the "general info" section. But the glacier often changes the weather. First, the high glacier puts a brake on the weather coming in from the west, so the weather is often better on the east side of the glacier. But second and more important, the low temperature of the glacier makes it's own high-pressure area over the glacier, making the weather on the glacier more stable than elsewhere. This is especially evident in the summer when the temperature difference is greatest. Because of the high pressure over the glacier, there is a flow of cold wind from the glacier into the valleys below. This chill makes the glacier-valleys inhospitable for vegetation.

Legal status

Jostedalsbreen became a national park in 1991. The national park was very much disputed and includes only the main glacier. Only a few of the valleys, and nothing of Breheimen is included. The national park came after the building of a giant hydro power project in Jostedalen, including the building a giant dam in Austdalen, today just outside the national park. Critics say that the national park proposal was delayed by the hydro power project. This is a typical example of a conflict between local economical interests and national environmental interests. Anyway, Breheimen hasn't got any protection yet and has a great potential for hydro power. So one can only hope that the demand for new sources of hydro power not will be very great in the near future.

Breheimen - Routes

Getting there

The options with public transport if you want to explore the Jostedalsbreen / Breheimen area are fairly limited. You can get to Fjærland with bus from Sogndal, to which you can get with bus from Oslo or Bergen. On the north side you can take bus to Loen, Hjelle, Grotli and Pollfoss. This bus goes from Oslo or Bergen once a day. Another option if you want to go to Fjærland is to take the boat from Bergen to Balestrand, and from here to Fjærland. It's also possible to take the boat directly from Bergen to Sogndal from where you can get on the bus to Fjærland. This boat leaves at least twice a day.

With your own car the options are many. Most people choose to explore Jostedalen and do hikes in to one of the many glaciers in the area. From Olden you can drive in to famous Briksdalen, and from Skjolden you can drive in the beautiful valleys of Nørstedalen and Mørkrisdalen. The road across Sognefjellet from Skjolden to Lom is a beautiful mountain road ascending over 1400 m directly from the innermost point of the world's longest fjord, but remember this road is closed September - May. The road across Strynefjell from Stryn to Lom is usually open year round.
Routes by Jostedalsbreen
Routes by Jostedalsbreen

Routes

The Jostedalsbreen area has something for everyone. The beauty of the ice falls can be seen from the window of your car as well as from a nearby peak. But remember that nature always is best when you go into it yourself. So take a hike and do a glacier tour. It will be an experience for life-time.

Seeing Ice falls

There are plenty of pretty icefalls around Jostedalsbreen with easy access. At the westernmost point, in the beautiful village Fjærland, the wild icefalls of Bøyabreen and Supphellebreen are visible from nearby parking spots. Further north, Briksdalsbreen is a 1 - 2 hour hike on unpaved road from the nearest parking. Summertime it's possible to get a ride with a horsecab. From Loen, you can drive in Lodalen and up to Kjenndalsbreen. The glacier itself being one of the wildest icefalls around Jostedalsbreen is about half an hour from the parking. On the southeastern side of Jostedalsbreen you will also find many beautiful icefalls. Nigardsbreen is the most known. It is about 1 hour from the parking, but you'll save som time by using the boat on the lake instead. The other icefalls in Jostedalen are not that much visited, but nevertheless beautiful. Bergsetbreen, Fåbergstølsbreen and Lodalsbreen are all about 1-2 hours walking from the road. Among these Bergsetbreen is the wildest and worth a visit. It's also possible to get an impression of the conflict between nature and modern technology by driving the road in Jostedalen all the way up to the Austdalen dam. From the edge of this dam you can spot icebergs breaking off the glacier Austdalsbreen into the dammed lake.

When seeing ice falls remember that they are dangerous. Do not go close to the glacier without guides. The signs that tell you to stop are not there for fun. People get killed on glaciers each year!

Hiking

The area around Jostedalsbreen offers plenty of opportunities to hikers. Many shorter hikes can be done around the glacier itself, but most of the longer routes are found in Breheimen, the area east of Jostedalsbreen. Of the shorter dayhikes around Jostedalsbreen the hikes to Flatbrehytta or Skålatårnet are especially memorable. These hikes will bring you from sea level and up to 1000 meters (Flatbrehytta) or 1800 meters (Skålatårnet). At both places you will have a marvellous view over the mountains around, the glacier, the icefalls and the fjord. Those who want a daytrip without such great height-difference will probably appreciate the nice hike from Greidung to Vetledalseter, a cosy old farming hut between the mountains.

Breheimen offers opportunities to those who want to take longer trips in the glacier-area. Most of the footpaths go in the valleys, but there are a lot of beautiful peaks and glaciers around worth day trips. The terrain is wild with deep valleys and high peaks. Breheimen is one of the less visited mountain areas in Norway, so there is plenty of space both on the paths and in the lodges!

Glacier Tours

Needless to say: Jostedalsbreen is an eldorado for glacier tours. The many different icefalls make the possibilities endless for everyone from the one-time tourist to experienced climbers. To walk on glaciers you need to be experienced and have the right equipment, or you need to go with a guide.

For newcomers the best is probably to take a short guided tour on one of the icefalls. Short tours are made every day on Briksdalsbreen and Nigardsbreen. In addition there are guides available for daytrips in Jostedalen and in Fjærland. Ask at the local tourist office. For longer trips you can hire a guide or you can join a glacier course. Weeklong glacier courses are arranged by DNT on Bødalsseter, Flatbrehytta and in Jostedalen. DNT Bregruppa also arranges "tour courses", where a course is combined with a tour of the different parts of Jostedalsbreen.
Lodalskåpa (2083) - The Queen of Jostedalsbreen
Lodalskåpa (2083) - The Queen of Jostedalsbreen.

For the more experienced there are endless of possibilities on Jostedalsbreen. Many beautiful trips can be done crossing the glacier. Some of these are: Flatbrehytta - Snoadvarden - Lunde, Tungestølen - Austerdalsbreen - Briksdalen, Fåbergstølen - Bødalsseter. This last one can be combines with a climb of the summit Lodalskåpa (2083), often kalled "The Queen of Jostedalsbreen". Climbing of the steeper ice falls represent challenges to the experienced. Nigardsbreen, Bergsetbreen and Briksdalsbreen are examples of ice falls that can represent challenges to climbers.

Skiing

Skiing on Jostedalsbreen wintertime is not so popular due to bad weather and vast amounts of snow. But Breheimen can be a nice area to ski in wintertime. But spring- and summerskiing is big. At Strynefjellet, by the old road between Grotli and Videseter you can find "Stryn Summerski" - a ski area open all summer. This is where you can ski in shorts in July! You may also meet the stars; most of the national alpine teams of Europe spend a few weeks here each summer.

More in the spirit of nature are skiing trips on Jostedalsbreen itself in late spring and early summer. The ski trip end-to-end on Jostedalsbreen has become popular the last years. The most popular endpoints are Vetledalseter, Skridulaupen and Grotli on one end, and Flatbrehytta on the other. Depending on where you start and end, the trip is 80 - 150 km and takes from 2 to 5 days. You will have to bring food, camping equipment and experience.

Suggestion

Easy

A day hike that most people can accomplish is the hike to Flatbrehytta. There are two routes. Use the inner route on your way up, and the outer route on your way down. On the outer route you will walk on the steep morain by the ice fall of Supphellebreen.

Advanced

One of my most memorable trips was the skitrip end-to-end of Jostedalsbreen. We made a variant and started from Loen up the 1800 meters to Skålatårnet. from there we went to Lodalskåpa, and then all the way to Flatbrehytta. A trip I will remember for the rest of my life!

Tourist Offices and Other important Info:

Breheimen is the mountain range between the two national parks. Fortun, Skjolden and Jostedal in Luster form excellent bases for hikes in this district. The area abounds in marked trails, and one classic hike takes you from Fåberg in the Jostedal valley to the Mørkridsdalen valley. Luster is the place where the Sognefjord meets the Jotunheimen mountain area and the Jostedalsbreen glacier, you will find Luster. The municipality covers a big area which holds great diversity in the natural scenery. Here are many beautiful villages and towns like Solvorn, Hafslo, Veitastrond, Jostedalen, Luster, Skjolden, Fortun and Urnes. Gaupne is the county centre. The area is connected to Jostedalsbreen National Park and offers good opportunities for hiking, skiing, glacier walking, climbing and summit tours.

The mountain areas surrounding the innermost part of the Sognefjord are among Norway's most popular hiking areas. The most famous mountain areas are Jotunheimen National Park, Jostedalsbreen National Park, Breheimen, the Aurlandsdalen Valley and the Utladalen Valley. There are many beautiful walks to choose from everywhere along the fjord.

The autumn has other qualities. The high mountains are at their most beautiful when the woods and heather change colour. The mountain area near Sognefjellet, Fortun and Skjolden offers favorable conditions for small-game shooting. In the fjord, rivers and lakes you are in for hours of fun, fighting salmon, trout, cod and coalfish. In the wintertime offer you the longest ski tow in the country, Heggmyrane, as well as prepared cross-country ski tracks.

Breheimen National Park

Hikes in the Jotunheimen mountain range, in the Breheimen mountain range and the Jostedalsbreen glacier area, as well as other mountains in Luster can be bought at local tourist information offices.

The Tourist Information Offices in the region sell route maps with text that describes the various routes and provides information about duration and levels of difficulty. Those who are looking for that special experience can book a tour with guide. You can also drive around the region or take a bus that leads you to the mountain district that you want to visit.

Bicycle rental at Breheimen and Jotunheimen In Luster

At Nordstedalseter in Fortunsdalen and Middalen you can bike ride downhill 20 miles down to Fortun. Nørdstedalseter lies uppermost in Fortunsdalen in Breheimen, which adjoins Jotunheimen.
Nordstedalseter
6877 Fortun
+47 950 76 382
E-mail: nordstedalseter@turistforeningen.no
http://www.turistforeningen.no/nordstedalseter/

Tourist Information Offices are available at:

Gaupne, Luster Tourist Information Office

Pyramiden,
N-6868 Gaupne, Luster
Tel: +47 976 00 443
E-mail: info@visitsogn.info
Web: www.sognefjord.no

Breheimsenteret Jostedal - The glacier centre

Skjolden Tourist Information at Fjordstova in Skjolden

Skjolden Tourist Information is located in the Fjordstova centre in Skjolden, at the head of the Sognefjord.
Fjordstova
6876 Skjolden
Phone: (+47) 97 60 04 43
Telefax: (+47) 57 68 62 63
Email: info@visitsogn.info
http://www.sognefjord.no/en/

Hafslo Servicesenter, Hafslo

Hestnes
NO-6869 Hafslo
Phone: 57 68 45 85
Fax: 57 68 12 44
Email: kundeservice@joker.no
http://www.joker.no/
Open during the season. Opening hours and info are available at: www.lustertourist.com
Breheimen



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