2019/03/27-04/08: Skiing hut to hut, 230 km
For us, this year’s ski trip in Norway followed three weeks in Oslo, where we helped look after our Norwegian grandchild. We were joined by three friends who date back to my McGill Outing Club days four decades ago. The five of us have enough shared history of adventures together that we knew we could travel comfortably as a group with similar skills and a common approach to risk management.
Suzanne and Toivo arrived from Alberta, with all their luggage in tow; Karen, arriving from the Yukon, was not so lucky. When she was switched to different flights, her luggage – including skis – failed to follow her. It still hadn’t arrived when we took the train to Lillehammer and the start our ski trip, but we were assured that it would be delivered to our hostel.
The daily delivery of luggage to Lillehammer happens in the evenings, so when Karen’s missing goods failed to arrive on our first night we were disappointed, but we quickly agreed to stay another night. The next day, the other four skied while I lay in bed nursing the flu. Karen borrowed some ski boots and used my skis, poles, and outer clothing. To our great relief, her gear arrived late that evening. She quickly organized herself into skiing mode, and deposited her duffel bag of non-ski gear for safekeeping at the hostel. We cannot begin to thank Ger, the manager of HI Lillehammer Stasjonen Hotel, enough for his helpfulness and can do attitude.
The next morning, we were off. The hostel is in an excellent logistical position, with train platforms to one side and bus station to the other. We took a bus to Pellestova, and set off on skis to Djupslia, a self-service DNT (Norwegian Trekking Association) cabin. We shared the hut with an Australian couple who have grandchildren in Trondheim, and like us were discovering the possibilities of the DNT hut system. Vetåbua, our next hut, was a busy place with an international mélange of small groups as well as a large organized tour. From here, we adjusted our route to make sure we had an electrical outlet available every third night to recharge a medical device. The following night not only did we have an electrical outlet, but also a pleasant meal and a cozy cabin at Måsaplassen. At Gråhøgdbu we met four French skiers, Carène, Nathalie, Patrik, and Pascal, and we continued to get to know them as we followed roughly the same route for the next few days.
From Gråhøgdbu to Eldåbu, we got a taste of the howling wind and blowing snow that the fjells can produce. During pre-trip discussions of gear, Toivo had questioned the need for goggles, and we’d insisted they were essential. This was the day he said he really understood why.
Two days later, we were at Rondvassbu, a well-appointed full-service cabin that Chris and I had been to before. The next night at Dorålseter the pantry stock was very limited, so we were especially happy to arrive the following day at full-service Grimsdalhytta. My old body was not doing well, as I was still fighting the flu. Ski conditions were, according to the French group, the worst they’d seen in 20 years. The snow was disappearing earlier than usual, and at lower elevations on this trip we became expert in finding our way to the next patch of snow as we carried our skis across reindeer moss or rocks. The snow that remained often had breakable crust.
After a rest day needed more by me than the others, we merged with the French foursome and set out to Hjerkinn as a group of nine. We took the summer route which followed a narrow ravine at first, then started up one of the steep valley sides toward the open fjell above. Chris traversed upward using skins, taking off his skis to kick steps only once he had reached a steep convex section. He missed his footing and tumbled down the slope, losing his grip on one of his skis which flew quite a bit further down, landing in some grey birch. It was gallantly retrieved by Nathalie. Merci! The moral of the story that Chris and I have drawn from this adventure, which could well have ended far less happily, is that it is safer to take off your skis and switch to step-kicking before the slope becomes steep and exposed. Sensible Suzanne had wisely done this.
Once on top of the fjell, the view was glorious. On the descent toward Hjerkinn, we met a large DNT group coming the other way. We had coffee in the village before taking our leave of our French companions. Arild, a fellow skier from our 2016 Jotunheimen and Skarvheimen trip, arrived with his ski partner about 45 minutes later. They’d left Grimsdalhytta right behind us, but had followed the staked winter route. On reflection, the minor advantage in travel time that our route had given us was not worth the extra risk of the climb out of the steep-sided gully.
We skied a few kilometres further to picturesque Hjerkinn train station, took the train a short distance to Kongsvold station, and walked to the historic Kongsvold Hotel. There we enjoyed an elegant four course dinner featuring reindeer, muskox, and trout. This was the extravagance of our journey.
The next morning, we were joined by three more ski companions, also part of our historic McGill Outing Club network, who arrived at Kongsvold station from Trondheim. The eight of us skied into Reinheim DNT hut in Dovrefjell National Park. Muskoxen were introduced here in 1932, using animals from Banks Island in Canada’s Arctic Archipelago, in what is now Nunavut. This herd was eliminated by hunting during World War 2. A second introduction took place in 1947 using animals from Greenland.
The reunion of old ski companions was very special, but neither Chris nor I was feeling well. The others made a partial ascent of Snøhetta the following day, and Suzanne, Toivo, and Karen spent another night at Reinheim. Chris and I skied gently out to Kongsvold and caught the train homeward. On our way, we noticed plenty of muskox droppings. I would love to have seen one of the huge beasts themselves. I think we may have good reason to return to Dovrefjell and perhaps climb Snøhetta as well.
Takk til alle for turen.
See Flickr set for more images.