How to really see the Jotunheimen National Park in Norway

In July 2017 we spent some days trekking in the Jotunheimen National Park in Norway.

Getting there

We wanted to save money (not sure there were many savings in the end aka. time is also money) and therefore decided to get there by buses: Rødbillet from Horsens (in Denmark) to Copenhagen, Flixbus from Copenhagen to Oslo and a nationalbus from Oslo to Beitostølen. There we purchased all of our food for the next 5 or so days (very expensive!!) and then took the local bus to the Gjendesheim Tourist Hut. We reached Gjendesheim at around 13:00. If you prefer a faster way you could probably fly but then your luggage would be limited. But we definitely recommend buying your food before arriving in Norway.

Day 1

The first thing we did upon arrival was to purchase a local hiking map, with all the distances and approx hiking times between the huts noted down. We started hiking up to the most touristy place – Besseggen – right after we reached Gjendesheim and filled in our waterbottles. The route went up and up, filled with day-hikers (one can take a ferry from the end of the route back to Gjendesheim). Nevertheless, the view down left to Gjende and high up on the right to the lake Bessvatn was pretty wicked. There’s a decent grade 2 scramble down to the ridge between the lakes (shouldn’t be attempted with wet weather). We continued a bit more towards the Memurubu hut and set our tent up by the lakeside, right under a big mountain. The night was a bit windy but not too cold.

Day 2

The next morning we hiked down to Memurubu where we had a nice lunch under the sunny but cold sky and where we also purchased some more chips and cookies for the road. After lunch we headed up again towards Leivassbu. We were met with some rain and wind but also some sun. By late afternoon I was fully famished and after a long discussion about the perfect camping spot we set up our tent at another lakeside. The river was our background music and in the distance we could see the reindeers. Kristians spent the better half of the evening building a stone wall around the tent to give some protection from the wind. The night passed pretty smooth.

Day 3

Besides Kristians spilling all his oatmeal (prior to pouring in the water) in the tent, the day passed pretty smooth. Without planning it, we ended up hiking for around 8 hours, reaching Spiterstulen in the evening (23km). The summery morning started with a descent into a valley and then ascended all the way up to this huge lake, still surrounded by snow and ice. Besides me having forgotten my gloves and wanting to use this trek to wear in my jungle boots, our gear was pretty good. During the descent from winter to summer, I managed to faceplant on some slippery rocks and couldn’t get up because of the weight of my backpack.

We got to Spiterstulen, totally soaked, by the evening and decided to set up our tents at the campsite (showers!!). The stove at the common kitchen turned out to be way slower than our stove, though. We used the drying room to dry our clothes for the next day (how Kardashian!) and do some laundry. After checking the weather forecast, we decided to ascend Galdhøppigen the day after tomorrow.

Day 4

We woke up to frost – as it turns out, the valley floor is much colder at night than the hills. We decided to have a nice hike up to the glacier that day, where we tried to spot the Galdhøppigen peak (which we couldn’t) and spy on the tour group crossing the glacier. It was a nice shorter hike after the previous day’s havoc. In the evening we listened to the stories of the hikers who had returned from the peak – it had been as stormy and dangerous as the forecast had shown.

Day 5

After waking up to frost again, we started our hike up to Galdhøppigen (Norway’s highest peak) at around 8. The weather was superb and we felt strong, making good tempo. The summery terrain turned bouldery after an hour and then got to full snow. Before the final peak there is another smaller peak on the way – this up & down was pretty sketchy due to the melting snow and slippery ice. But at least the sun kept us warm. As usual – we didn’t really take any significant breaks, except for a water break here and there.

Kristians on the smaller summit right before the Glittertind main summit

It took us exactly 3 hours to get to the summit. The views from the top were of course amazing – all the countless peaks and glaciers were just breathtaking. The very peak, however, was filled to the brim with tourists so we decided to have our lunchbreak on some nice boulders below the top.

After downing our protein bars and nuts we joined the rest of the people going down in what was essentially snowrunning – getting down the steep slush as fast as possible, trying not to fall down on your ass. Pretty decent adrenaline rush, if I may say so. We finished the evening with a nice meal of mashed potatoes while admiring our new “sock line to shorts line” tan.

Day 6

In the morning we packed our three things and set our steps towards Glittertind (Norway’s second highest peak). What made this day more difficult than the previous, however, was the fact that we would be carrying all of our belongings (approx 15kg-20kg) with us up and over the mountain. The weather was once again on our side, though, making the ruthless ascent worthwhile. The climb in the end was once again snowy, resulting in a fall for me (after which my small finger hurt for months). On the way we met these two girls who were on their summer break from the army – making our packs look like nothing.

Reaching this peak was way more rewarding to me because of the heavier pack and smaller amount of people there. And the phone signal was great! We took the “fast” way down, repeating the running descent of the previous day (except that this time it went nearly all the way). If only the backpacks would slide in the slushy snow!

We camped at the Glitterheim campground and waited for the army girls to arrive – which they did, eventually. The bonus for the night was the fresh apples we could purchase from the hut for an insane price.

Day 7

This day was relatively calm and uneventful, even though the trail from Glitterheim back to Memurubu was fairly long. We did end up sort of getting lost (or the markings weren’t that great) and spent a fair amount of time on figuring out how to cross a raging river. Turned out there was a bridge 200m upstream. Later on our path joined that of Day 2. The vistas of the day (as all the other days) were as amazing as ever.

We had a late lunch by the Memurubu hut again and then started to hike up towards the Surtningssui path and found a nice camping spot close to the river. We managed to find a steep and sketchy path down to the water where Kristians then proceeded to have an ice cold wash.

Day 8

We packed our stuff early in the morning and stashed our big packs in some bushes close to the path, taking only food & water with. The plan for the day was to ascend the Surtningssui and take another path back. The path up was first meandering steeply on some sort of meadows but then turned into sort of a scramble with huge drop-offs and massive boulders. This amount of climbing left me knackered by the time for the final summit push so I let Kristians go ahead and descended towards the valley alone. After having some snacks and enjoying the sun, I had a nap, from which Kristians awoke me quite suddenly.

We proceeded by running a fair bit of the trail back, following the river on our right hand side. This trail turned out to be a tad bit longer than we had expected but we managed to retrieve our bags and once again had a very late lunch by the Memurubu hut.

Because by this point we were nearly out of food, we decided to start heading towards Gjendesheim, taking the lakeside route. The map claimed this easy route to be a 2h issue, allowing us to catch the evening bus to town. It turned out to be, however, an insane up-down hassle, mostly on boulders and steep ground. We quickly realized we wouldn’t make the bus and ended up camping a couple of kilometers away from the hut. The view to the lake was amazing and we were all alone at the site. Thoroughly enjoyed our late night cold wash and the cookies with peanut butter.

Day 9

We woke up early and hiked the last easy bit to Gjendesheim, making it to the 9am bus to Beitostølen. After filling our packs to the brim with the very expensive Norwegian food, we once again set off – this time right from the city. We hiked a decent way up this hill where during the winter there are ski slopes and had a MASSIVE lunch and a nap.

After this extended break we hiked up and over the mountain, heading for this solitary lake. We set up camp with the most amazing view, had insane wraps for dinner and settled in. Soon enough a thunderstorm rolled in, causing me not to sleep very well. The wind also made the waves clash against the rocky coast for the whole night…

Day 10

The whole day was very foggy and windy and we got very cold very fast. We had to hike a long way to catch the road towards the national park and then turned left after a couple of kilometers. By that time my hands were so frozen that I couldn’t open my pack to get my gloves out. Thankfully Kristians was there to help me.

After consulting the map, we found out we don’t have too much left to go, which was good news to me. So we kept pushing over the wet and muddy grasslands for an hour and so and then started the big uphill. After a few more hours of beautiful but muddy & wet landscape and countless wild reindeers we were at a loss – why hadn’t we reached the hut? After consulting the map again, Kristians realized that he had made an error: because Beitostølen was out of the 1:25000 map we had been using the 1:50000 map but still calculated one square to be 1km. Therefore what we thought was going to be 15km was actually 30km.

So we just kept pushing, descending an incredibly steep muddy slope and ascending the final hill late in the evening and finally reaching the hut as the sun went down. We were lucky to see some local girls staying at the hut for they allowed us to dry some of our clothes in the hut.

Day 11

That morning we started the hike a bit after the girls but caught up with them soon. The goal of the day was to reach the Fondebu hut. The first bit was a steep uphill, followed by a downhill, plateau, uphill and downhill. By this time we had lost sight of the girls (who never arrived in Fondebu at all) and had to cross a wide, shallow and very cold river.

After that shock we had another steep uphill to climb to reach an endless boulder-filled plateau. Jumping from rock to rock with big backpacks while being attacked by mosquitoes was a challenge on its own. But by the evening the boulders ended and we descended down towards the lake, enjoying the great views.

Once again we camped at the campsite and took advantage of the drying room and showers and even bought a couple of fresh fruit from the hut.

Day 12

This day boasted a relatively easy and not too long hike (up and over the hills) to the Gjendebu hut. By this day we were both very tired already and thus resorted to camping at the campsite and taking the ferry back to Gjendesheim the next day. Therefore we took it slow during the hike and enjoyed the last views of the glaciers, snowcovered mountaintops and countless streams.

Day 13

We took the ferry back to the hut and managed to get ourselves onto a bus towards Oslo even though our tickets were for the following day.

All in all it was a tough (total ascent over 12000m) trip but the scenery was otherworldly and our shape allowed us to enjoy it a lot.