Snøheim Death March

August 6, 2014

When we got off the train at Kongsvoll the weather didn’t look all that inviting, but at least it wasn’t raining. The station was old and unstaffed, but there was a large waiting room which was unlocked. So we went in there to have a bit of breakfast and also to reorganize our packs. And we found out from a maintenance crew which happened to be working at the station that there was a secret toilet at the other end of the building, which was also very useful.

Kongsvoll station

When we had visited Kongsvoll 24 years ago, it had been raining heavily, and while we were getting ready to go it started raining heavily again. So it was after 11 am when we were ready to go, all rain gear in place. After reading the signs warning us about the dangers of musk oxen we started off. The first section was uphill through a birch forest. The trail was easy to follow but it was rocky and rooty, so we needed to watch where we were stepping. We finally reached the tree line after an hour and the trail levelled out for a while as well.

Route-finding on Dovrefjell

For some reason we had thought the distance to Snøheim hut was 16 kilometers, but we would soon find out we were wrong. Our path across the Dovrefjell was quite wide, in fact in some places it looked like a cart track. We followed that for quite a long time. After a couple of hours the rain let up partially, which made things easier. After another couple of hours we saw a small group of musk oxen. These were the guys we had come to see! They were far off on a hill, but they were big brown things which clearly weren’t rocks or reindeer. Seeing them made the rain and the distance worthwhile. Luckily for us we didn’t have to worry about being charged, because they weren’t near the trail.

Musk oxen

The trail went slowly upwards through heather and rocks for a long way. We saw a couple of lemmings which scurried under bushes, cute fat little rodents which were a bright creamy colour. And then after another hour or so we saw another small herd of musk oxen, near a couple of small lakes.

Reinheim hut

More musk oxen

About 5 pm we were greatly relieved to arrive at the Reinheim hut. It was a self-service hut so we probably could have stayed there, but a lady who was outside told us that Snøheim was only about two hours away over a good rocky trail. So after having a snack we decided to push on. The first part of the trail climbed up a stony slope with a bit of snow, which wasn’t too bad. There were musk oxen here, too. But then the trail levelled out and went through a boulder field, which unfortunately was made very slippery by the nasty rain squalls which were hitting us. Eventually we could see the hut in the distance with a “superhighway” trail leading to it, but even that contained a lot of boulders. That was definitely not what we had planned on, and our 16 kilometers had turned into more like 25! We finally arrived at Snøheim at 7:45 pm, just in time for last dinner at 8 pm.

Snøheim superhighway

Having arrived so late we didn’t expect to get the best room, and in fact we were put into a room with a Norwegian couple and their two dogs. The dogs were Norwegian Buhunds, which is a special and quite rare breed, and they were perfectly well-behaved. Dinner was asparagus soup, followed by potatoes, barley, carrots, and pork. Dessert was prune compote with cream. It was an extremely tasty meal, although we were too tired to really appreciate it.

(At the DNT huts they always announce the dinner menu before they start serving. Paul managed to pick “visky kompote” out of the stream of Norwegian words, but we didn’t get whisky compote. The actual word was “sviske” which means “prune”.)

August 7, 2014

Snøheim was the first DNT hut we had stayed in for 24 years, so we were still getting used to the procedure. The breakfast buffet was quite extensive, but we started out with porridge and boiled eggs and avoided the canned fish. We also made our lunch sandwiches from the buffet; to wrap the sandwiches they provided a roll of wax paper that had a map of Norway with all the DNT huts on it.

Snøheim sign tree

We had been told early in the morning that we could move to room 3 in the main building for tonight. We were perfectly happy with our room-mates and their dogs, but apparently the room was needed for a large group which was arriving today, so this was an offer we couldn’t refuse. Room 3 wouldn’t be ready until noon, so we packed up our bags and left them in the main hallway, except what we needed for a day walk.

Excellent trail

Most of the hikers were following the wide and well-trodden path which led to the top of Snøhetta. The DNT had done a lot of work on this path, including moving enormous boulders to form bridges across a couple of stream beds. But we had no particular destination in mind so we wandered over to a sign tree and arbitrarily chose a path to follow. This path seemed like a good choice because it was quite level and was more path than boulder field. But after an hour we looked at the map and realized it was leading us off to nowhere in particular. So we turned around, retraced our steps, and followed a different path which led to a lake below a glacier.

Istjørni

We sat down near the lake and had our lunch. The wind was cold but the sun was nice to have shining on our backs. Snøhetta was mostly cloud-covered but we did briefly see both of its peaks. We sat and enjoyed the scenery for a while before heading back to the hut.

Trail to nowhere in particular

Our new room was in the original 1952 building, which we hadn’t even been into yet. This part of the hut was beautifully painted in the old style and apparently it’s been designated as a heritage building. While reading the fire evacuation plan Paul noticed that there was a drying room—we should have realized that, because every DNT hut should have one, and this hut had two. With laundry tubs. So we headed down there to do a bit of laundry. Socks and underwear were high on the list, of course.

Snøheim lounge

We then went to sit in the lounge, which had been the dining room when the hut was first built. Most people were still out hiking, so we had the place to ourselves as we caught up with journal-writing, looking out the window at the stark and lovely view, and so on. We had signed up for early dinner, which was at 6:30 pm. Today’s dinner was cream of leek soup followed by lamb sausage and some kind of beef which was pickled or salted or something, resulting in a taste rather like corned beef, with apple cake for dessert. Once again, very tasty. Sitting next to us was an English couple from Oxford and their Norwegian friends.

Next: Dovre

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