Jotunheimen Area Mountains Guide

Jotunheimen Area Mountains

Introduction

"Jotun" means giant, and that is exactly what Jotunheimen is - home of the giants. In ancient Norse mythology the gods lived in Åsgard, the humans in Midgard, and the bad giants - in Jotunheimen. This analogy doesn't seem strange when walking in Jotunheimen today. If the giants of the viking age had the dimensions of the mountains in Jotunheimen one would surely be afraid of them!

The place Jotunheimen had in the Norse mythology has in newer Norwegian history been replaced with the typical National Romantic view. "Explorers", many of which foreigners, set out in the 1800s to discover the highest mountains of Norway. What they found was stunningly beautiful nature, people living in it; having a tough everyday-life herding their sheep, goats and cattle in the high mountains. The visitors wrote stories from these journeys and such contributed to the national-romantic wave in Norway in the late 1800s, leading to Norways independence from Sweden in 1905.

All this means that Jotunheimen has a special place in Norwegians hearts. For many in east-Norway, Jotunheimen is the Mountains. And for most Norwegians Jotunheimen is the great symbol of mountain-holidays, although you can find beautiful mountains elsewhere. The last years also many foreigners has begun to learn the secrets of Jotunheimen. The secrets of sharp peaks, deep valleys, glaciers ...

Terrain

As mentioned, Jotunheimen is the land of the giants. Most of the terrain in Jotunheimen is shaped by glaciers thousands of years ago. This means that most of the terrain consist of valleys where the elevation is between 800 - 1400 meters, steep hillsides and peaks where the elevation is 2000 - 2500 meters above sea level. All the highest peaks in Norway are in Jotunheimen. The highest is Galdhøpiggen at 2469 meters. When you are at Galdhøpiggens summit, you are at the highest point north of the Tatras and west of Ural. Glittertind, not far from Galdhøpiggen is 2452 meters, and the second highest mountain in Norway. Some people still incorrectly believe that Glittertind is the highest, as a measurement in the 60s showed 2472 meters on Glittertind. Later measurements has proved this incorrect.
Galhøpiggen, seen from the west
But Jotunheimen has more than the two highest peaks. In fact most of the more than 250 peaks in Norway above 2000 meters are in Jotunheimen. Glaciers lie under the summits of the mountains, and the grey/green colored streams that escapes them fill up green-colored lakes and rivers in the bottom of the valley, 1000 meters under the peaks.

Jotunheimen is situated in the centre of South-Norway. In the north and south are other mountain areas. In the east, the furthest arms of the valleys of east - Norway reach up, and in the west the steep mountains fall directly into the Sognefjord. The differences in terrain in Jotunheimen is not very great. There are traces from the difference in climate. The west has more snow, and the glaciers are thus bigger. Though Smørstabbreen, Jotunheimens biggest glacier is vast, it's only a snowflake compared to it's bigger neighbor in the west; Jostedalsbreen. But the mountains are also steeper in the west. The range of Hurrungane, the westernmost part of Jotunheimen, is steep enough to attract climbers. While the climbers probably have fun, most others will be satisfied by just looking at them.

Wildlife

The wildlife in Jotunheimen does not differ much from the wildlife in other mountain areas in Norway. The reindeer is present, although not in amounts as elsewhere, the reason for this beeing the difficult terrain. But the historical presence of reindeer and reindeer-hunters can easily be seen just by looking at the map. Jotunheimen is full of reindeer-related names. Dyra- (Deer), Simle- (Female deer) and Bukk- (Male deer) are prefixes your will often find on the map. Other animals present are rabbit, red fox, arctic fox, lynx, wolverine and various smaller animals (mouses, weasels, lemmings) as well as different kinds of birds (including everything from small sparrows via seagulls and ravens to eagles).

Legal status

DNT proposed a national park in Jotunheimen already in the fifties but for some reason the national park delayed until 1980. Today only the central areas of Jotunheimen is in the national park, while Utladalen is a landscape protected area. There was not so much debate over Jotunheimen as a national park as other areas as Jotunheimen for the most have small economical value. Today's environmental problems in Jotunheimen mainly come with tourism.

Jotunheimen - Routes

Getting there

The easiest way to get to Jotunheimen with public transport is to use one of the regular buses from Oslo to Gjendesheim that are put up in the seasons by the Norwegian Mountain Touring Association (DNT). You must have a reservation on these buses. Ask at the DNT office in Oslo. Alternatively, you can go with train to Otta, from where buses cross the Sognefjell mountain road summertime. Good starting points by this road are Krossbu and Turtagrø. Other than this it's diffcult to get to Jotunheimen with public transport. But in summer season there are so many people going to Gjendesheim, Spiterstulen and Eidsbugarden that hitching should be no problem.
Jotunheimen Mountain Routes
In Jotunheimen as many other Norwegain mountain-areas, you are much more free with a car. Remember that Jotunheimen is a very popular area and that parking often is limited. The roads to Spiterstulen, Juvasshytta and Leirvassbu are open for normal traffic, but it will cost you 50-100 NOK fee. The roads to Spiterstulen is open year-round while the two others are closed in winter. The road to Glitterheim exceeds the national park, so it's closed the year round. The road to Eidsbugarden on the south side of Jotunheimen is free but is closed in winter. Anyway, in the winter there is operated a weasel-route on this road. The road from Turtagrø to Øvre Årdal doesn't really take you to good starting points unless you're going to climb, but it's a spectacular road to drive, and can be a smart shortcut. This road is private, has a 60 NOK fee and is closed September - May. Some of the public roads in the area are also closed in the winter. This goes for Valdresflya between Gjendesheim and Bygdin which is closed November - April and Sognefjell between Bøvertun and Turtagrø which is closed September - May. The other roads are usually kept open, but might be closed during bad weather. Check with road-authorities if you come in winter!

Routes

Hiking

Jotunheimen is very well known among Norwegians for it's natural beauty and the hiking routes in Jotunheimen are considered classics for mountaineering in Norway. This especially goes for the day-hike from Gjendesheim to Memurubu over Besseggen. This route was described by Ibsen in his "Peer Gynt" which partially explains it's popularity. Anyway it's a nice hike, following a sharp ridge with the green lake Gjende on one side and the clear blue Bessvatn on the other. But in my opinion this hike is normally too crowded. You'll find other routes with just as beautiful views elsewhere in Jotunheimen, and you don't have to use your elbows when walking...

The other most famous "classics" are the hikes to the mountains of Galdhøpiggen and Glittertind. Galdhøpiggen can be approached from Juvasshytta or Spiterstulen. The elevation-difference is highest from Spiterstulen but this is a much nicer trip with less people and more views. And the best is you don't have to pay the glacier-guide to get you across Styggebreen! Glittertind is more remote than Galdhøpiggen and is much less visited. It's worth the trip though, espescially in winter, when the 1300 meter high hillside down to Glitterheim is the best ski-slope you can find!

Generally Jotunheimen consists of high mountains and valleys, with a normal difference of 800-1400 metres between the highest peaks and the bottom of the valleys. This means that the best hiking routes between lodges go in the valleys. You should take this into account when making your plans. To climb one or several of Jotunheimens peaks is very rewarding. You get a beautiful view, and the hike up is totally different from the hike in the valley. But this means that you have to plan for this, it is normally tough to both go to the next lodge and on a peak on the same day. All of the lodges in Jotunheimen have peaks nearby that give breathtaking views.

Hiking in Jotunheimen is generally best to do July - September. At other times of year there might be too much snow.

Skiing

Skiing is Jotunheimen is also popular, although not nearly as popular as hiking. It seems everyone come in the easter, and that's it. Usually routes are marked and lodges opened sometime in March, and they stay open till the end of April, some places sometime in May. Many of the staffed lodges in Jotunheimen have selv-service huts that can be used when the lodge is closed.

Although Jotunheimen is one of the most beautiful places in Norway to ski-tour it can also be dangerous. Beacause the terrain is very steep many places, many of the summer-routes can not be used because of the risk for avalanche. You should be experienced if you go by yourself in Jotunheimen wintertime, especially when going to peaks.

Of the more famous routes, Glittertind is already mentioned. Be aware that the westside often has much less snow than the eastside, which means the eastside is best to ski down. You will generally find that the western parts of Jotunheimen have much more snow than the eastern parts, but then again: The east often has better weather!

The western parts of Jotunheimen has snow till late June. Ski-tours in Hurrungane (from Turtagrø) og Smørstabbreen (from Krossbu) are beautiful in May or June!

Glacier-Tours

Jotunheimen has quite a lot of small glaciers, ranging from flat glaciers to more steep icefalls. There should be something for any taste here, except for those thinking of long steep icefalls who probably want to go to Jostedalsbreen instead. Day trips with guide are arranged on Smørstabbreen from Krossbu, on Svellnosbreen from Spiterstulen and on Glitterheim. DNT has week-long glacier-courses at Krossbu and Glitterheim.

Some of the marked hiking-paths involve crossing glaciers. There are normally daily guidings on these, check when you arrive the lodge the previous day. These crossings include: Leirvassbu-Krossbu (crossing Smørstabbreen), Juvasshytta-Galdhøpiggen (crossing Styggebreen) and Spiterstulen-Glitterheim over Glittertind. Never walk on glaciers without a guide or proper equipment. There are accidents with people doing this in Jotunheimen every year.

Climbing

Jotunheimen has a lot to offer climbers. Hurrungane, the area south of Turtagrø is a great climbing area, with a lot of alpine peaks including Store Skagatstølstind (2405) which is the third highest mountain in Norway. The area has everything from easy alpine routes to serious routes of 15 ropelengths and more. But Hurrungane has a unstable climate. Rememeber that you're not in southern France!

Climbing is also possible in other areas of Jotunheimen, but is not so popular due to problems with loose rock. The Jotunheimen National Park, the Jostedalsbreen National Park and the Breheimen and Stølsheimen mountains are the most popular areas for mountain walking around the Sognefjord, although every village along the fjord also has great walks to choose from.

Suggestion

Easy

Speaking of easy trips in Jotunheimen feels strange, but this one is at least not too tough: Gjendesheim - Memurubu - Gjendebu - Leirvassbu - Spiterstulen - Glitterheim - Gjendesheim. 6 days.

Intermediate

For people with some experience and good shape I would suggest the following: Start at Gjendesheim. Follow this route. Gjendesheim - Glitterheim - Glittertind - Spiterstulen - Olavsbu. This last day was long so you stay a day at Olavsbu and go to the marvellous peak Mjølkedalstind. (If you are afraid of heights, you should maybe take the day off at Spiterstulen and take the daytrip to Galdøpiggen instead.) From Olavsbu you continue to Skogadalsbøen and then to Eidsbugarden. Here you can get transport to Tyin and further to Fagernes where it should be possible to get back to Gjendesheim. All this should take about a week.

Advanced

Those with experience and good shape have thousands of possibilities in Jotunheimen. DNT arranges a "summit-ski-tour" each winter. The route goes like this: Gjendesheim. Day trip to Rasletind, Gjendesheim-Glitterheim over Nautgardstind, Day trip to summit at Glitterheim, Glitterheim-Spiterstulen over Glittertind, Spiterstulen-Gjendebu over the Hellstugubreen-glacier and finally Gjendebu-Eidsbugarden with a pop-off to the summit Galdeberg. Have a nice trip!

Tourism Offices Around Jotunheimen Area Mountains

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

Visit Breheimen Area Mountains Guide

Tourist Information Centers Around Jotunheimen, Rondane and Dovrefjell Mountain Range:

Visit Reinheimen Area Mountains Guide

Visit Dovrefjell Area Mountains Guide

Jotunheimen National Park Walk



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