Dovre

August 8, 2014

We didn’t want to miss the first shuttle bus down the hill to Hjerkinn, so we made sure to get up early to pack and have breakfast. We timed it perfectly and were outside waiting for the bus for only five minutes. Luckily the weather was sunny, and we hoped that it would stay that way the rest of the day. The bus left promptly at 9 am and as we started down the hill the driver pointed out a distant herd of musk oxen before we entered the military reservation.

Calm morning at Snøheim

When we had been here in 1990 we had almost driven our rental car into the area, not realizing that “skytefelt” was Norwegian for “firing range”. But now the military are phasing out their use of the area and cleaning it up, so the shuttle buses can pass through it. That also meant that the Snøheim hut could reopen after having been closed for 50 years.

The bus took about half an hour to reach Hjerkinn, and once there we donned our packs and set out along the Pilgrim’s Way towards Hageseter. Our final destination for today was Grimsdalshytta, which was a fair day’s walk away. The route was level for the most part and marshy in spots, but after an hour we arrived at Hageseter, where there was a large caravan park. We stopped here for some tea, and when we started up again we were rather disheartened by a sign saying “Grimsdalshytta 18 km”. We had thought the distance was only 16 kilometers, however we carried on.

View towards Hjerkinn

The Pilgrim’s Way continued down the valley but our trail headed up the hill, into the new Dovre National Park. The route was very easy to follow and was a gentle uphill grade, not very strenuous at all. Periodically we saw some sheep but otherwise nothing. When we finally reached a high point we could look back and see how far we had walked from Hjerkinn. Once we rounded the corner that view disappeared, so now all we saw was rounded hills and tundra.

Old hut

Just after lunch the clouds started to sprinkle on us so we dug out the rain capes. The shower didn’t last too long but we kept the rain capes on because the clouds still looked threatening. Before long the trail turned into a cart track which headed across the tundra like an arrow, so we were really doing a good pace. There was a clap of thunder and we were uncomfortably aware that we were the highest points in the landscape. Along we went, following red T after red T for quite some time.

According to our map we were supposed to come to a steep descent, but surprisingly we got our first view of the hut before that. There was a steep descent, which led down to a narrow wooden bridge across a stream, followed by a climb up the other side. The uphill section took less than 10 minutes and from there on it was just about level to the hut. The “18 km” sign was clearly wrong and maybe 16 kilometers was on the high side too.

Grimsdalshytta

When we checked in at Grimsdalshytta they didn’t have any two-bed rooms available, but there was space in a 14-bed dormitory, which was in a separate building with a sod roof. That was fine with us, and since we were the first ones in the room we both claimed bottom bunks. We laid out our sleeping bags and then hung up our wet rain capes. Pretty soon two other groups showed up and took the beds at the other end.

Grimsdalshytta sign

Dinner was at 7 pm, and the dining room was full with about 50 people. We started with fish soup, which was a cream soup with salmon and carrots. Rosemary wasn’t happy with cream soup for the third day in a row so she just took a little bit. Service was very slow but eventually the main course arrived: salmon with potatoes and vegetables, which was very good. Dessert was raspberries over a lemon yogurt.

August 9, 2014

Today dawned cloudy, but the weather forecast predicted sun in the afternoon. Nothing about rain, which was good! After breakfast we made our packed lunch as usual, but now that we knew that you pay per slice of bread, we took a fair quantity of flatbread (which we didn’t think counted as slices of bread, but that could be a translation issue). We were moving on southwards today, to the hut at Dørålseter.

Old sign tree

The first part of the hike went downhill from Grimsdalshytta to the highway, then over a footbridge across the river, and from here the climbing began. We had read that our path was “the old saeter road”, so it wasn’t very steep. But it did lead up and up through the forest of spindly birch trees until we came out into the open. From there it angled along the hillside, paralleling the main road down in the valley. All morning we could look back and see Grimsdalshytta getting farther and farther away, until finally we turned the corner. Soon we reached our high point at 1,300 meters and then headed down the hill to find a less windy spot for lunch.

Dandelions

The view from our lunch spot looked across a valley where a broad river flowed, and the sun came out so we had a nice rest. We still had half a tub of Nugatti left over from the earlier trip, and that went very well with the flatbread.

Lunchtime view

Donning the packs we continued our downward plunge to the river, and then walked downstream to the bridge. This bridge was built in 1953 and had a very unusual feature. It had steps made out of concrete, but instead being angled outward so you could walk up them, they were angled inward so you had to pull yourself up on the railings and just use the steps as footholds. From the other side we started on our second climb of the day. First there was a steep scramble up the sandy bank, followed by a long drag up the slope towards a narrow gully. The views were very nice but the climbing was very hard work.

Awkward bridge

We finally reached the gully which would take us through to the valley where Dørålseter was located. Refilling our water bottles from the stream we had a rest, and then carried on climbing. Our path wasn’t steep now, but instead it went through fields of large boulders like the ones we had struggled with on the way to Snøheim. This was very tiring, but luckily today was dry so the footing was good for the most part. The pass took quite a while to walk through and we were still gaining elevation, but the good thing was that the distance to Dørålseter was getting shorter and shorter.

Boulder field

Finally we reached the end of the pass and started to descend through the boulders, which slowly changed to smaller rocks, and from there it was only a few minutes before we saw buildings not far below us. The upper group of buildings was Øvre Dørålseter, and the lower group was Nedre Dørålseter, where we had a reservation.

Dørålseter

Last night we had shared our dormitory with a group of two women and two teenaged boys, and they were following the same route as us today. Surprisingly we had almost kept up to them on the uphill sections, but the boys were much faster on the descents so they were already here, on their way to the showers. Our room was half of a cabin and it was quite spacious, complete with its own toilet. We dumped our stuff there and finished off the rest of our lunch, and then Rosemary went for a shower. When she left the shower building the showers were all occupied, so Paul’s shower would have to wait.

The hut was beautifully decorated with painted hand-made furniture, and there were several small rooms where people could sit rather than one large lounge. Dinner was at 6 pm, which was good because we were very hungry. We had assigned seating, which surprised us, but like all the other huts we got a three-course meal. We started with tomato soup, followed by potatoes, rice, beef stew, and best of all a salad. Also on the main course buffet were two kinds of melon. At this hut we were served a second portion if we wanted one. Dessert was cloudberry sauce on something which wasn’t quite ice cream, but the rest of the people at the table couldn’t decide what its English name was.

After dinner we sat upstairs in the main lodge, writing journals and chatting with two Norwegian men who had been sitting at our table. Bed time was at about 10 pm.

Next: Rondane