We woke up early and hit the trail for what would be our longest day of hiking. The trail started at Finse, wound around a glacier, then followed a river to the Kjeldebu hut. The map said this should take us about 8 hours. We now know the time estimates were way off- it was basically to let hardcore hikers carrying a light pack in perfect trail conditions how long it will take without a break if you are really booking it up the trail.
Ignorance is bliss though, and we set out in the cold, sunny morning cheerful and happy.
Finse is where Hoth, the Ice Planet in Star Wars was filmed. I don't think the crew stayed in the DNT lodge though.
The trail climbed all morning as we started to get more views of the glacier.
The rocky tundra was actually the easiest terrain to get around on.
We did hike through a whole lot of snow though.
It was high enough and far north enough to have plenty of year-round pack snow.
I was happy to have my hiking poles. They really helped- without them I would have been crawling along across steep snowy slopes on my hands and knees.
It was easy to loose the trail on rocky ground, so we kept having to check for our red blazes.
Another really awesome benefit to hiking here is that you carried minimal water. You are up so high and all the water is pure glacier melt, and we were crossing streams almost constantly. We had asked about needing a purification system and told it was unnecessary, unless it's a "Lemming Year", which this year wasn't it.
Hardangerjøkulen is one of the largest glaciers in Norway.
It was some of the most gorgeous scenery I've ever had the pleasure of hiking through. Completely remote and nothing but the sound of the wind, and an occasional groan from the glacier.
All day long, we only encountered 3 other hikers. We did know that someone hiking with a dog was ahead of us as we saw prints in the snow and mud the entire time.
Once we got around the glacier, we hit terrible swampland for miles. It was slogging, terrible hiking. The trail disappeared at some points completely and we had to wade around in knee-deep mud to find it again. It was bad, tiring hiking. The mud was so sticky, it would suck your boots right off. It started to get really bad when the mosquitoes came out. I've never ever seen mosquitoes this bad (and I grew up in the Maine woods). They were this huge arctic variety that would BITE THROUGH YOUR CLOTHES. Anywhere that our packs weren't touching, they would get us. I had bug spray but it was fairly ineffective as they just didn't seem to care. They were so thick, breathing became a problem as I kept sucking more in with every breath. Never mind the distraction of having a million bugs swarming you. I had a pretty good fall while I was trying to rock-hop across a river and swat mossies at the same time.
Finally, we got to the hut. Such a welcome sight! It was getting dark, and the sun doesn't set there until after 10. It took us a lot longer than we thought it would. The couple with the dog who we followed the whole way was there as well, all settled in. They hike with their dog all the time.
The hut was unstaffed- meaning you pay on the honor system. They stocked cans of food that you cook yourself on their gas range. There is no hot water- you fetch your water from the stream to wash up in and to cook with. There are bunkbeds, and they provide blankets provided you have a sleeping bag liner to sleep in.
After a meal in the dark of reindeer meatballs, undercooked pasta and instant ice tea mix, I was pretty happy to be fed and have a bed. It was nice to know that the hardest, longest day of hiking was behind me and I could look forward to an easy stroll in the park after this.