Sunday, July 24, 2016

Carrauntoohil..Welcome Back Frank

The prodigal son returned today and I was so pleased to have a day out with Frank after his sabbatical of nine months. Never being one to shy away from a challenge Frank opted to climb Carrauntoohil for his first climb back. On top of that he agreed to climb Curve Gully Ridge (Severe) so rope and a full rack were thrown into the bag and hauled up into the gloom. And gloomy it was to stay and the cloud stayed down and rain arrived when we reached the first level of Coumeenaughter. Alas this meant that the hardware was hauled up for nothing as well so we decided to climb Curve Gully itself. We discovered again why we generally give this route a miss in anything other than winter conditions as it is a horribly loose wet climb and when the mist is down has little to recommend it. On the plus side was how well Frank performed on the climb. Is absence hadn't done him any harm and he was quite strong the whole way up. The company was great as well and we were immediately back into our comfortably banter. We stopped for a bite of lunch on the summit and a funny aside occurred when a couple of "knowledgeable" old dudes warned us to mind the "sheer drop" on the far side of the cross. I think they should be told to "ferme la bouche" a bit more often. We descended the Heavenly Gates and back to the car in the ever improving day. It was lovely to have Frank back in the mountains again and we hope to get out again very soon.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Coomloughra Horseshoe

The second half of the horseshoe
I went back to Kerry again this morning for a blast of fresh air, a thing which is seldom in short supply on these hills. I opted for the Coomloughra Horseshoe as it is one of the finest walks in the area and takes in the three highest mountains in the country. It involves around 12 kilometers of distance and 1300 mtrs of ascent so it would make a decent outing. My ligament problem in my right knee still hasn't cleared up and I haven't been able to run at all this year but my level of fitness is still reasonable and I guess I gained some while I was in Norway. I was feeling pretty good as I left the car and set off up the "Hydro Road" that allows easy access to wilder country higher up. I made short work of the road and once I reached Lough Eaghter I turned left and opted for the steeper ascent of Skregmore and then onto Benkeeragh before crossing the ridge and climbing Carrauntoohil. This allows for a long but steady descent from Caher back to the lake and retracing my steps along the road and back to the car.
Lovely morning and lovely views....spoiled by a new scar on the landscape

Towards Skregmore.

Towards the East Reeks

Caher....always lovely

Caherconree and Baurtregaum

I was moving well and enjoyed the scrambly bits on the ridge to Skregmore and then  I just kept a good pace on all the way to the summit of Carrauntoohil where I enjoyed a bit of lunch. The weather was by now showing signs of change and clouds descended to around 950mtrs and carried the odd spit of rain. It never fails to astound me just how stupid some people are as I met guy on Cahers east top who was out in shorts and Tshirt with no backpack or any supplies. I asked him if he had any extra clothes etc and when he said no I recommended that he should consider heading down but he just laughed and carried on. I guess he wasn't laughing about an hour later when more continuous rain arrived on the tops. I continued on down and reached the car before the rain arrived. I was pleasantly surprised to find it had only taken me just over four hours. Peeing down now. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A Circuit Of The Gap Of Dunloe

All back to normal again today. After coming back from Norway and working nights I decided to take advantage of my only day off for a while to have a day on the hills. I opted to do a circuit of the Gap of Dunloe as it is around 17kilometers long and gives 1500 mtrs of climbing so it is a worthy outing. For a change I decided to climb Srickeen first and save Purple and Tomies for the end. It took me about 5 hours 50 minutes to complete the circuit and it must have rained for over 4hours of that.The cloud was well down as well until the end but I still enjoyed it. I also counted myself very lucky as I could just as easily have had weather like that for the duration in Norway.
About the only chance I had to enjoy a view all day. The Gap of Dunloe as I descended Drishana

Monday, July 4, 2016

A 10 Day Trip To Norway

Norway is a place I have long wanted to visit but for one reason or another I have never gotten around to it until now.What with trips to the Alps and Pyrenees, not to mention Scotland, Snowdonia and of course here at home I have been keeping myself busy and my love of each place and naturally limited time meant that exploring new places had slipped down the list of things to do a little. Anyway, thanks to seriously cheap flights from Ryanair it was an easy decision to finally book a trip to this most beautiful of countries. On Friday evening June 17th I found myself once again heading to Dublin in preparation for an early morning flight to Oslo (Rygge) on Saturday June 18th.

Saturday June 18th;

An 08.40 flight allowed for a relatively leisurely start getting from my B&B to the airport and I landed in Rygge about 11.40 and seamless Norwegian transport saw me catch my train north from Oslo central at 13.10. At this point I should perhaps say that I had only a part of a plan for the trip sorted and that was to get to Andalsnes where I could hopefully get to experience a taste of the world famous Norwegian Fjord landscape and get some quality walking done. High speed rail obviously isn't available in Norway yet and the train to Dombas took five hours and then another train took an hour and a half to reach the coastal town of Andalsnes in the Romsdal region so it was not far short of 8pm by the time I alighted in the damp town.The weather had been lovely all the way to Dombas but unfortunately as we trundled for the coast on the stunning Rauma line the clouds darkened and some rain scattered the skies. I had been really looking forward to this section of the trip as it passes the famous Troll Wall which is over 1000mtrs high and is the highest vertical rockface in Europe and ever since seeing Andy Kirkpatrick's show about his climb of it in winter I had been keen to see it "in the flesh" so to speak. Alas its top half was shrouded in cloud as we passes but it still looked intimidating and moody.

Not the most pleasant weather upon arrival
First impressions of Norway...the landscape from the window of the train changed from verdant agricultural rolling countryside with colourful and clean farms to wide valleys that held big rivers and woodland rose several hundred meters to gentle tops. The houses were different as well, being beautifully presented and almost exclusively timber clad and many had grass roofs. Its fair to say that I got the impression that this was a big country where there was lots of room for the populace to spread out and crowded housing etc was not an issue here. It reminded me a lot of Switzerland but it had a less developed more spacious feel and people had even more room to breathe. Anyway from the train station I set off on the three kilometer walk to the campsite. My luck was holding and the rain seemed to have stopped and I was hopeful that I might stay dry. Andalsnes is a small town that is one of the main stop off points for cruise ships and so is geared towards tourism but obviously not exclusively and as I walked there was evidence of considerable small industrial activity. There didn't seem to be and nice commercial centre and overall the town lacked any charm. There are several supermarkets on the outskirts of the town but these were closed but I managed to get a gas canister for my stove at the ESSO petrol station. I walked across the bridge over the Rauma river and set off for the final kilometer to the campsite. Unfortunately the rain that had held at bay started to fall gently and I was quite wet by the time I reached the busy campsite. Still it was a relief to get the tent up and I settled in for my first night in Norway.

Sunday June 19th;

It had rained most of the night and in my haste to get the tent up the evening before I hadn't realized that there was a hollow where the porch was and in the morning this was a pool of water. A couple of bits and pieces were soaked but overall it wasn't too much of a problem. A bigger issue was the weather forecast and the almost constant drizzle and rain that prevailed and was promised. I was at something of a loss as to what to do today. After breakfast I decided to walk around towards the mouth of the Rauma river and have a look to see if I could climb Varden, which at 1238 mtrs would make for a decent day out. I walked about 1.5 kilometers and had a long look at the northeast ridge and it looked steep and the bottom half was covered in forestry and since there wasn't any trail marked on the map I decided to give it a miss and I retraced my steps and decided that a walk through the woods that led towards Trollstigen would pass some of the day. The area is a little frustrating in that it is hard to find loop walks that can be done in either one or two days. I guess it is easily explained when the dramatic nature of the terrain is taken into account with long ridges soaring above deep valleys with very steep sides. The cloud was down at around 8 or 9 hundred meters so I still hadn't seen the tops of the surrounding mountains (except in pictures) and there seemed little prospect that I would today. The track I was taking today was a good case in point in that it stretched for perhaps six kilometers into the valley and then ends so if you wanted to continue all the way to Trollstigen a fair amount of walking on the road would be necessary. Anyway the walk is pleasant and as I said gave me some purpose to the day and some of the waterfalls that cascaded down into the valley were all the more spectacular in the rain. I went as far as where power lines cross overhead and the turned and retraced my steps back to the campsite. Perhaps it was just as well that I hadn't gone high today as I was fairly whacked by the time I reached the site. Thankfully the weather cleared in the late evening and it promised to be really good for tomorrow so I relaxed for the night and looked forward to better days ahead.
Its always beautiful to walk in the woods

Clearing in the evening..the Romsdalshornet 1550mtrs appears

Monday June 20th;

Oh what a beautiful morning..oh what a beautiful day....It doesn't get dark in this neck of the woods at this time of year just rather dull between 00.30am and 02.30am so it didn't feel particularly early to get up when I rose at 4am. It was a bit of a chore to try and eat a breakfast then but I managed it and set off from the campsite at 5am. The mountain tops that had so far been denied me were revealed in all their stunning glory this morning and what a sight they made. I was in danger of straining my neck muscles as I made my way back towards the town as I tried to take in the majestic landscape all around me. Now this was more like it.

Stunning Fjordal scenery

The Trollstigen valley
My plan for today was to hike the stunning Romsdalseggen ridge and throw in Blanebba 1320mtrs. The normal start for this route is to catch a bus from the town around to the valley of Vengesdalen at 571mtrs and climb the 600mtrs to the col before Balnebba and enjoy the ridge all the way back to Andalsnes. Unfortunately I didn't have that luxury as the bus was not running yet (it being very early season) so I had to start at sea level. I walked up to the little pond/reservoir and followed the track through the woods until it reaches the crest of the main ridge and so joins the main (obviously very busy/well trodden) track. This rises fairly steeply up through the trees until it arrives at a rocky bluff where there are some exposed little sections well protected by some ironmongery and steps. I was feeling good today and it felt wonderful to be finally getting into the meat of these wonderful mountains. Height is gained fairly rapidly and soon enough some wonderful views are to be had down to the valley below and to the impressive Alpine scenery beyond. After climbing up a long series of steps I suddenly arrived at a viewing ramp that sticks out into the open air above a rockface. This is a wonderful spot to enjoy the stunning views all about. You are at around the 600mtr contour so considerable height has been gained and the drops are almost vertical to the valley floor below. To top it off the last couple of meters of the floor of the ramp are made of open box iron which makes for a very airy couple of steps as you look at clear air dropping perhaps 150ft under you.
Looking down at Andalsnes

Viewing ramp

On the crest...easy walking

Anyway shortly after that you reach open ground above the treeline at about the 700 mtr contour and the angle eases back and basically from here on easier walking in to be enjoyed along the broad crest. I could try to wax lyrical about the glory of the scenery but to be frank I don't have the skills to do it justice so I won't even try. Suffice to say that I loved every step of the way and it required some discipline to keep walking as it would have been all too easy to constantly be pausing to try and take it all in. The ground rises in stages until you reach the main summit of Mjolvafjellet 1216mtrs where I relaxed and enjoyed a bite to eat. There had been one or two little narrow sections before this point and there are a couple of narrow sections on the 100mtr descent to the col before Blanebba but nothing too taxing and again some chains etc help to ease your progress. The twin tops of Blanebba form a fitting finale to the ridge and once you reach them you have unrestricted views across the deep valley to the amazing peak of the Romsdalshornet 1550mtrs and the proper alpine looking massif of the Venjetinden group that rise to over 1800mtrs. All morning I had been in blissful solitude but by now people were reaching the ridge from the valley and I had some company but not too much. I had a choice now as to how I would return. I could retrace my steps or I could drop down to the valley on the north side of the ridge and follow a track around and back to the crest of the ridge and return directly down to Andalsnes. I chose this route. Returning to the col the track drops steeply at times until it reaches the easy walking in the wide valley. I followed the stony track down past the lake and there was about a 150mtr climb to the crest of Hognosa. I hadn't looked very carefully at the map and I had thought that it was all downhill from here but there is a another drop and rise to negotiate and this I found tough on my now tired legs. Once on the crest of the ridge again the descent to the town is fairly straightforward and the track was now busy with people of all shapes and sizes making the most of this wonderful weather day. It was almost 2pm by the time I reached the campsite so it had been an almost 9 hour outing but I had enjoyed it hugely and to be fair I wasn't actually too tired. I had a long lovely evening to relax and recover.
Steep...really steep to the valley floor..4000ft below

Towards Blanebba with the Romsdalshornet on the right and Stor Venjetingen 1852mtrs highest

Stor Venjetingen looking alpine for sure


The awesome Troll Wall...over 1000mtrs of vertical rockface

On the return..worth pausing to look back

Final climb of the day...thankfully

Tuesday June 21st;

I had hoped to perhaps have a two day outing that would involve heading up to the spectacular peaks of Bispen and Kongen and then a hike to the top of the Trollveggan and peer down the Troll wall but again trying to do this without the benefit of a car and in the absence of a bus service to Innfjorden meant I had to abandon the idea. On the plus side the bus service to the spectacular Trollstigen had started this week so I decided that a climb of Bisben 1462mtrs would make a nice outing. The triumvirate of Bispen, Kongen and Dronninga (The Bishop, King and Queen) make a spectacular skyline on the western side of the valley that leads to Trollstigen and they while they look like technical climbs rather than ones suitable for hikers they thankfully they can be accessed without resorting to ropes and offer fine scrambling routes to the top. So I caught the bus just across the footbridge from the campsite and enjoyed the 17 kilometer drive to the top of the truly spectacular Trollstigen pass. This road is quite the feat of engineering and when it reaches the head-wall at the end of the valley it had to rise in a series of switchbacks that criss-cross the practically vertical rockface. Add to the spectacle a couple of big waterfalls and it is easy to understand why this place is one of Norway's top tourist attractions.
Bispen 1462mtrs on the left with Kongen 1614mtrs highest

Huge and spectacular waterfalls

I alighted from the bus at about 09.20 and set off up the steep track that leads to the mountain amphitheater that surrounded the frozen lake of Bispevatnet at just over 1000mtrs. There was a surprising amount of snow to be found here and in order to reach the col between Bisben and Kongen I had to traverse a fair bit of 30degree snow-slopes. Indeed this was the only place on the entire trip that I actually considered getting my ice axe and crampons out. I reached the col and turned to the right and started up the surprisingly broad north ridge. Loose bouldery scree gave way to nice scrambly rock sections that offered some good sport if taken direct. You could choose if you want to follow the selection of tracks that wound around the steeper sections but spicier options also present themselves. It isn't a long route with a total of around 350mtrs of climbing from the col but it is interesting and as you get higher the consequences of a fall in places would be very serious indeed. About 100 mtrs below the summit you reach a shoulder where suddenly on the left side the drop to the valley floor is fully revealed and is massive and airy in the extreme. I dare say that if you took a running jump from this spot you would freefall many hundreds of feet before a bounce would send you out into open air again. It is no wonder that this peak is one of the main ones used by those extreme adrenaline junkies that basejump using wingsuits. It wasn't too much later that I reached the airy crest of the summit and I enjoyed my alpine surroundings for about 15 minutes. Looking across to the imposing Kongen I was sorely tempted to climb it as well but in the end decided to give it a miss as I would have been too pressed for time if I was to catch the return bus from Trollstigen. I returned to the lake below and enjoyed a spot of lunch in total solitude before returning to the busy tourist centre below. It had only been just over fours hours since I set off but it was a nice rewarding outing.
Incredible fluted buttress behind Trollvegan

Kongen looking regal with its crown of rock

Huge drops from the summit

A frozen Bispevanet with the glaciated Finnan 1786mtrs beyond

Excellent tourist viewing platform at the busy Trollstigen

A small visitor to Aldalsnes


Wednesday June 22nd;

I have seldom gone away with so little in the way of a concrete plan in place as to what to do and since I arrived in Andalsnes I was trying to figure out how to fill the entire trip. I had printed off some maps of the walk from Kongsvoll train station to the high peak of Snohetta 2286mtrs and after some deliberation and with a better weather forecast to be found further inland I decided to leave the Fjords and head for the Dovrefjell mountains in the Oppdal region for a couple of days and then head to Otta and the Rondane area for the rest of the trip. So I caught the train back to Dombas and after a wait of nearly an hour for my connection to the short hop to Kongsvoll I alighted at 12.45 in basically the middle of nowhere. Literally outside the station the trail starts and within minutes I was climbing up through the woods and heading into the wilds. This was more like it. While it is nice to be in a well appointed campsite with excellent facilities and WiFi, I much prefer to camp in the wilds and leave the trappings of civilization behind if I can and as I left the birch forest behind and entered a huge wide open undulating plateau that stretched for miles in all directions I felt as if a veil had been lifted and my mood lightened like the beautiful weather. Snohetta could be seen rising gently in the distance and it looked to be inviting and promised a good challenge for tomorrow.
Aw..isn't he cute

Mammy appears

Snohetta 2286mtrs is still quite a ways away

Kongsvoll station is situated at almost 900mtrs and after reaching the open ground I was at almost 4000ft. I now had about 14 kilometers to go to reach the self service hut at Reinheim. Not that I had any intention of staying in it but that was where the trail went and it provided the perfect spot to climb Snohetta so I reckoned that I would find somewhere to pitch my tent nearby and take it from there. One of the main reasons why I chose to visit this area is that there are some Musk Ox to be found here. I was hoping to get a glimpse of one over the couple of days. Little did I realize that I would come up close, perhaps a little too close to one almost immediately after leaving the woods. I came over a little crest in the path and got a glimpse of a small golden hues animal ahead. I reckoned that it was a small pony but as I got nearer I saw it was an Ox calf. Once it saw me it clambered away into some scrubby ground by the path. I walked on and then I spotted the mother who was only 50 mtrs away and who gave me a very annoyed snort and shake of the head and fixed me with a stare. Suffice to say I left the path and circled around them and gave her plenty of room. I walked on but I was buzzing. Wow.
So thrilling to see Musk Oxen

Vast sand and gravel deposits

Still a fair bit to go

The ground now was completely tree less and I guess would qualify as an Arctic tundra type landscape where low ground cover heather and bushes were choked by a carpet of spongy lichen type plants. Wildflowers aplenty were to be found as well and from this scene rose stony mountains. It reminded me a lot of the Cairngorms except in a much larger and grander scale. The ground also seemed very dry and indeed in many places gravel and sand was exposed in the moraines that showed that the area was a giant alluvial plain and I was walking on the plant covered deposits left after the glaciers retreated. I was loving the whole thing and at about half was in I came across more Oxen. Eventually I spotted a great place for my tent about 700mtrs short of the hut and I soon had my home set up for the evening. I lazed in the surprisingly benign conditions (how often would you be able to be warm and dry on the summit of Ben Nevis?) and the sense of being thoroughly away from it all and the silence except for the birdsong meant I treasured every moment of the experience. This was what I had hoped to find in Norway.
The way way back

Wildcamp heaven

Thursday June 23rd;

It takes a bit of getting used to the fact that there is no darkness hereabouts this time of year and it is odd, to say the least, having things bright at 02.30am. It is fair to say that sleep patterns therefore suffer. I got up around 5am and after some breakfast set off towards Snohetta. It is a gentle climb with the main route ascending the long east ridge but I opted to go up the east north east spur which made no material difference to the difficulty but it allowed me descend a different way. It was another beautiful morning and as I gained height there was nothing to be seen as far as the eye could see but a mix of wilderness and mountains. Height is steadily gained and eventually I reached the snow line at around 2000mtrs but it wasn't necessary to don crampons. The summit is "adorned" with a military building and I would hazard a guess a communication tower which spoils somewhat the effect but I was delighted to reach this spot and sorely tempted to continue to the other three tops in the massif which would make a very worthy and good horseshoe outing. The last peak looked rather gnarly and probably technical so I dismissed the idea and contented myself with doing just the main summit. Here at over 7500ft and this far north it was also a bit chilly so I didn't stay too long and descended back along the east spur. By sticking to the northern rim of the spur I was for the most part able to use long snowfields to reach the flat ground before the last drop to the hut. I reached my tent 4.5 hours after I started and this gave me a nice bit of time to relax and recover before packing everything up again and returning to the train station at Kongavoll where I could once again get my train to Otta and I could begin the next stage of my adventure. I was sorry to be leaving this wonderful area and I would have loved to just wander and explore this wild place. I hope to return.
Gaining height looking back

The impressive coum and other tops from the summit

The view to the south

I wasn't sure the last two tops would go without a rope

To the north..lots of wilderness to explore

A lazy day

The beautiful Kongsvoll train station


Friday June24th;

I arrived in the town of Otta the previous evening and I stayed overnight in the nicely situated campsite on the banks of the wide fast flowing glacier fed river Otta. This joins the river
Gudbrandsdalslågen which coincidentally flows from a lake at the head water of the Rauma river. The morning dawned bright and dry but rain was forecast for the evening. I walked back into town and picked up a few supplies and set off up on foot (the bus service to the plateau above wouldn't start for another few days) towards Mysustaeter from where I wanted to head towards the Peer Gynt Hutta under the easternmost massif of the Rondane mountains. There is a path marked on the map but as is my usual form I couldn't find the start of it and I ended up walking a few kilometers on the thankfully quiet road until I found the way again that led towards the hillocky area of Kringsaeter and then on to Mysustaeter. My bag was heavy but I was pleased with how I was able to climb and it once again felt great to be heading into the wilds. That is until I lost the trail in a network of dirt roads that let to mountain chalets and ended up following a false one that abruptly ended and I found myself lost in the middle of birch woodland. I didn't fancy retracing my steps so I just headed for the high ground by taking a direct line through the woods (which thankfully weren't tangled with undergrowth) and I eventually reached open ground. I climbed the little peak at Holtjonnpiggen 1123mtrs from where I was able to get my bearings and thankfully rejoin the trail which I could see below. As Otta is down at 300mtrs I had already gained over 800mtrs today and I was a bit disappointed see that I had to lose almost 200 meters of of that hard won height to reach Mysustaeter. Eventually I ambled into the ski resort (without any of the lifts to be seen in The Alps) and found the trail for the hut at its edge.

Leaving Otta

A not untypical mountain chalet. I love the roof

Some of the spectacular falls

Entering the Rondane national park
 I had covered around 15 kilometers so far today and I still had a fair bit to go so I didn't waste any time in the village and set off towards the mountains that were visible ahead. Alas the weather was also showing signs of deteriorating and it promised to be a wet end to the hike. About l kilometer into the walk there is a beautiful and powerful waterfall that spectacularly cascades down a steep gorge which gave a welcome diversion. The path follows the river for a while before it enters the national park and crosses some very boggy ground on a series of boardwalks. As I left the woods and entered once again open ground the rain started to arrive and the mountains ahead were shrouded in mist. From the village it was around an eight kilometer walk to the hut but well before I got that far I was on the lookout for a suitable spot to pitch my tent and finally near where the path crossed a stream I spotted a reasonably level grassy patch on the waters edge that offered a place of sanctuary. I wasted no time getting the tent set up and I was able to use stones to tension it out using the guy lines and once everything was under cover from the ever increasing rain I was able to relax. Well not completely relax as I was aware that my tent was only about six inches above the water and with the rain getting heavier I was conscious that there could be issues if the stream flooded. It rained (at times quite heavily) late into the evening and night (such as it was) but I kept an eye on the water levels and I was quite safe. It was good to be out in wild country again.
The target for the following day

Hastily erected but surprisingly comfy

Saturday June 25th;

The plan for today was to leave the tent where it was and climb Bracdalsbelgen 1915mtrs before returning and packing up and heading across towards Rondvassbu that afternoon. The previous days rain had thankfully passed and it looked like there was the prospect of a decent weather day ahead. The mountains were still shrouded in cloud but I wasn't going to be put off by that so I stuck to the plan. I struck off across the pathless ground in a direct line towards the start of the southwest spur of the peak. Some quite rough and boggy ground barred the way but eventually I reached and crossed the still swollen stream below the spur. The angle of the climb in quite gradual but it is predominantly over boulder fields and the rock was super slippy and required care to safely progress. I soon entered the mist and as I reached the top the sun was tantalizingly trying to break through but the hoped for views never arrived. I relaxed a short while on the atmospheric summit and peered into the misty chasm on that dropped into the huge coum on the far side. If the morning had been better I would probably have enjoyed traversing around to the top of Ljosabelgen 1948mtrs from where I could just as easily returned to my tent but there didn't seem ant point without the views so I returned back the way I came. It was a very pleasant morning by the time I got back to the tent and I relaxed a while again before once again packing up and heading off again.

A nice morning but cloud still shrouds the mountains

Kept me company for a while

An archaeological discovery??
I had already covered about 12 kilometers up and down the mountain and now all I had left was around eight kilometers left for the day. My tent was at 1100mtrs and I had a gradual 270 mtrs to reach the path that let to Rondvassbu which wasn't too bad. Once on the path it was mostly easy ground and I was struck by just how dry it was. You would never have thought that it had rained all yesterday evening and I would guess that once the remaining snow had melted this would be a very arid place indeed. As I crossed the big landscape I spotted a pair of hikers ahead and I was astonished just how small they were because I had been looking at a snow patch near them and reckoned it was about 400mtrs away but when I spotted the people I had to double my original estimate, at least. In this place it is sometimes difficult to fully appreciate the massive scale of the landscape. The mountains on this side of the park were a bit more rugged and impressive than the west and the beauty of the scene was only enhanced when the stunning Rondvatnet lake came into view. The impressive collection of buildings of the Rondassbu Hut was an obviously busy place and to be frank didn't appeal to me as a place to stay so I had a good look at the map and scanned the ground in the distance and settled for somewhere beyond the main access trail towards the small lake to the east of it. I dropped down and crossed the rivers that flow south from the mountains and I was delighted to spot a wonderful bit of ground to pitch my tent before too long and well before I reached the lake. Even though I was less than a kilometer from the hut and maybe only 300 mtrs from the main trail I was hidden from both and I was able to completely chillax for the remainder of evening and enjoy the beautiful weather and cloud-scapes that enhanced the views that stretched all the way to the mountains of the Jotunheimen national park.
The mountains get a bit higher and more spectacular as you go east

Rondvassbu and Rondvatnet lake

More happy camping

Lovely skies looking southwest

Sunday June 26th;

I didn't have a clue what the weather was going to be like today but while there was a veneer of very high cloud that concerned me a little the tops of the mountains were clear so I was hopeful that I could get some mountain views today. I had initially thought to climb Stor-ronden 2138mtrs which was the nearest mountain and had a very obvious line to its summit but once I set off and the morning being so good I opted to climb Rondslottet which at 2178mtrs was the highest in the area. I was in great form this morning and feeling strong. The climb is on the same track as Storronden until you reach the spur and then it drops into the valley beyond and follows the river up to the steeper ground at the back. Along by this river many excellent places are to be found where you can pitch a tent and if perhaps things were windy it would make a good option. I climbed up to the col between Storronden and Vinjeronden 2045mtrs and was greeted by a spectacular alpine scene. Huge vertical drops on the far side were framed by towering rocky peaks. The gentler southern and western side of the mountains gave way to glacier scoured ground as fine as any I have seen. I hadn't been expecting this tableau and I was really grateful for it. To add to this, the way ahead now offered some excellent scrambling which I took on with relish. I moved swiftly and well and before too long on I was on the nicely airy summit of Vinjeronden. I chatted with a Swedish couple for a while here but the chill in the air meant it was best to keep moving so I set off for my final peak of this trip Rondslottet.

Entering the stony valley before the col

Spectacular ground from the col

Giant coum under Stor-Ronden 2138mtrs

Rondslottet 2178mtrs from the summit of Vingeronden 2045

Fine alpine scenery

There was still about two kilometers to the top and a steep drop where 100 mtrs of height had to be lost. All the while on the right hand side stunning scenery was to be enjoyed and it proved a fitting distraction from the rigours of getting to the top. The main summit is actually a big flat table but that doesn't detract from the beauty of the place. Here I felt I was in the heart of the mountains and I couldn't help but wonder at what it must be like  to be this high in the middle of a harsh winters day this far north. A little bit of cloud was skimming  across the summits by now so I turned and retraced my steps. I met a young guy heading up from the col and asked him if he knew what the weather forecast was for the day and he said rain was to arrive again in the early afternoon. It was a bit disappointing to hear but I wasn't too bothered as the beauty of this mornings views were adequate compensation. I was back down at my tent shortly after midday and as things still looked okay weather wise I relaxed a while before once again packing everything up and setting off on my return towards Otta. views back west

The rain has arrived...still lovely though

The wild way ahead

My plan for the remainder of today and the trip was to cross the wild open ground for the final time before returning to woodland and hopefully finding somewhere to pitch my tent by the shores of the large lake called Furusjoen which would make for around 12 kilometers of hiking to add to the 13 or so that I had done in the morning and tomorrow walk back to the town and begin the long journey home. By the time I was fully ready to start walking again the clouds had turned more ominous and within fifteen minutes of setting off the first of the rain arrived. I put on full waterproofs and rucksack cover so I then wasn't too bothered by the rain. Indeed things had a certain bleak charm as I walked across the rain-swept tundra but eventually I reached a wooded glen that marked the end of the open ground for this trip. In the glen things changed dramatically and the breeze that kept things fresh in the open spaces was suddenly gone and along with birdsong there came an abundance of mosquitoes. The trail itself was initially quite difficult as it wend and wound its was alongside a swift stream with much clambering over roots etc. Soon though the glen widened and leveled off which made the going easier but things didn't open out enough to allow a breeze and the flies remained a problem (especially since I had no repellent with me) so keeping moving was my only ally.
The glen starts to widen out

Furosjoen through the mist...the ground looked (was) a bit wet for camping

Sanctuary..sort of

The journey through the wood lasted for around six kilometers and it seemed that the nearer I got to the lake the boggier the open stretches of ground became and my dreams of a grassy expanse by the windswept shore were looking very unlikely to come to pass. Indeed for a time I was wondering would any suitable place be available at all. It was with some relief therefore that I came across a narrow strip of ground where some boats were stored and spotted a place that would suffice for the night. It was less than ideal, being a little slopey and the hoped for breeze was nowhere to be found and it turned into something of a race to get the tent erected and my gear stowed before being either drenched or becoming dinner for the growing cloud of mosquitoes. Thankfully by now I was pretty proficient at getting myself sorted out and I was soon inside in the dry and listening to the rain and watching the dozens of mosquitoes that lined the inside of the flysheet. It came as something of a relief to find that when I needed to open the inner section to cook etc that they seemed docile enough and happy to stay exploring the fabric. I actually passed a pretty comfortable night and was lulled to sleep much later by the continuing patter of the rain.

Monday June 27th;

My train out of Otta didn't leave until 16.40 in the evening and with it needing about four hours to walk back to the town I wasn't in any great hurry to leave my tent in the morning. The rain had stopped and a little breeze was blowing but not enough to fully disperse the flies but eventually needs must and I rose and fed myself and I was packed up and on the move at 09.30. It was quite a pleasant morning and once I was moving the bugs left me alone and soon I was enjoying myself again. I wasn't expecting a whole lot from today but I was pleasantly surprised several time en route by the continuing beauty of the scenery but also the wildlife (grouse and pheasant chicks on the paths edge) and a stunning wildflower meadow at an isolated little sheep farm not long into the day. I had plenty of time to reflect on the trip and while it was now winding down it felt like a good book-end to the adventure. I finally arrived back in the town and I was almost able to relax. The train I hoped to catch as far as Oslo was booked out so I had to catch a bus which made the five hour plus trip somewhat more uncomfortable, especially given the presence of two of the most unruly children it has been my misfortune to find. I'm sure the diet of sugar treats did no more than kept them fueled up for the duration.

Much more pleasant this morning

Glorious meadow

Before once again entering the woods

 Overall I was pleased with the trip. The weather hadn't been perfect but I was able to do everything I wanted to get done. I had fallen in love with the Musk Ox and wide open spaces that I found in the Dovre mountains and to some extent the Rondane. The amazing scenery of the fjords of Romsdal and the high regal peaks in the Rondane national park were wonderful but if there is anywhere that will draw me back it is Dovrefjell. It strikes me as the type of place where you could lose yourself for days and days. I hope to get the chance to do just that.