An easy 2000m peak in the Jotunheim
From Skjolden at the head of the Sognefjord, the narrow road enters a deep dark defile. The sheer walls of this valley are thousands of feet high and liberally hung with silvery waterfalls. If Tolkien's Stone Giants or the trolls of Norwegian legends did exist, it is here that they would be found.
On reaching the end of the valley the road, instead of stopping and going back to the sunny meadows of Fortun, finds a breach in this apparent dead end and climbs in an incessant ascent of over 2500 feet. The gradient is constant and the hairpin bends many during the vertical half mile up to the open high country of Turtagro. It is a good idea to ensure that the road is completely free of Dutch caravanners before tackling this section.
The hotel of Turtagro, once patronised by the English writer and mountaineer Slingsby, is in a fine spot, overlooked by 2 of Norway's greatest peaks. The country's third highest point, the difficult Store Skagastolstind and where I was headed the impressive but much easier Fannaraki which rises to 2068m or 6785ft.
I crossed the road which continues up over Sognefjell to Boverdal on the far side, and at the first hairpin bend above the hotel, joined a path off to the right. The Sun shone warmly from a cloudless summer sky as the track entered a broad valley. There was no difficulty route finding, the path being in places, wide enough to drive a car along.
The bulk of Fannaraki rose steeply on the left at the valley's end and became gradually nearer as I progressed. Passing a grazing herd of cows - who's prescence was later to become significant - the route began slowly to climb the right hand slope, gradually contouring around to the left to bring me to the opposite side where the valley began to climb more steeply. This was maybe an hour or 3 miles from Turtagro.
Just after here, the main path carried on up the valley, leading towards a lonely pass, whilst my route forked off to the left before crossing a bouldery river by a couple of stepping stones and climbing the slope above passing a small hut on the mountainside. By the map the distance was very little to the top from here but most of the ascent was yet to come. The peak is roughly 4000 feet or 1200m above Turtagro and over 3000 feet of that remained to be climbed.
There was no difficulty as the path remained clear but frequent rests were needed because of the steepness. I ascended firstly the southern slope facing the Skagastolstind's glaciers and then the stony zigzags up the westernfacing slopes. This section reminded me of the upper part of the tourist route on Ben Nevis though it was a little steeper than The Ben.
When you can see over Steindalsnosi to the west, you're nearly up and the gradient eased as the summit hut appeared just above on the stone littered crest of the ridge.
The days in the mountains when the mist stays down or the rainfalls or the blizzard rages are compensated for by days like this one. last year it had been snowing up here but today the Sun shone on the windless summit and the view was about as good as it gets. To the far side of the mountain, the Sognefjell road could just be made out, threading its way over the high wilderness. Galdhoppigen, the highest mountain in Norway, could be seen roughly north eastof here and a myriad of sharply defined peaks appeared between there and south east - the Jotunheim. The rocky spire of the Skagastolstind rose in the south while in the west I could see back down to the valley nearly 7000 feet below. Beyond lay the distant ice of Jostedalsbreen.
After taking a few photos, I made my way back over the boulders of the summit and began my descent. The route down was uneventful until I reached the valley at the bottom. Remember the herd of cows, peacefully grazing in the Sun? Well - they chose this moment to spring into action. Whether they thought I was the farmer and needed to be followed - I'd once descended Snowdon at sunset, preceeded by 50 or 60 sheep - I don't know - but follow me they did. It's quite impressive how fast cows can run when they put their minds to it and quite unnerving when they're running towards you.
I was relieved to see that they seemed intent, not on getting to me but in crossing the path just in front. That was until 2 of them stayed on the path blocking my way, their horns looking bigger and sharper the closer I approached them.
Clapping my hands above my head induced one of them to continue on its way but there was still the question of the last one. I'm sure that the animal was just being curious - they are known for it - but it is quite daunting to be faced with several hundred pounds of beef with the ability to run fast over this terrain and the additional advantage of horns! Luckily this particular beast decided at the last minute to rejointhe herd rather than to charge at this two legged creature on the path. They probably didn't see many people - I'd seen nobody all day.
Glancing back at my recent companion from the safety of 50 metres down the path, I happened to notice that unlike the others in the herd, HE had no udders!
Pete Buckley September 2002