Looking for an interesting challenge in Norway this summer, I decided to climb Norway’s and Scandinavia’s highest mountain: Galdhøpiggen.
Jotunheimen – which aptly translates as “home of the giants” – is a mountainous area in Norway that contains many of the country’s tallest peaks. This includes the highest mountain of Norway and of the whole of Scandinavia: Galdhøpiggen at 2469m. Jotunheimen, which also includes the Jotunheimen National Park, is a hiker’s paradise with its spectacular mountains, lakes, waterfalls and glaciers.
The above was abundantly clear to me while driving through the national park on the incredibly scenic “Route 55” last summer. Because my girlfriend was 6.5 months pregnant at the time, we had discarded the option of doing any serious mountain hiking for that holiday. But seeing the beautiful scenery I got an urge I couldn’t suppress and decided to leave my girlfriend for a day to pursue some mountain cravings. As I only had one day, I decided to go for the most striking thing to do in the area: ascend Galdhøpiggen. Don’t worry, my girlfriend was ok with this. The promise of an extra visit to the bakery in Lom with its amazing cinnamon buns helped a lot.
There are two main routes up the mountain. The first one starts at the mountain lodge and summer ski center – Juvasshytta – at 1850m, which can be reached by car, and it is an easy, relatively short hike over a glacier. It will take about 3 hours, but you need to go in a group with a guide. This didn’t appeal to me. I was looking for a little more of a physical challenge and I decided to go for the second option. This one departs from the mountain lodge at Spiterstulen (which can be reached by car by a half-paved toll road) and it involves a 1300m climb that will take about 4 hours to complete. The descent can be done in a little more than 2 hours.
The start of the hike at Spiterstulen, where many hikers camp for the night.
In summer, the hike from Spiterstulen is perfectly doable for most experienced mountain hikers. However, it is of course necessary to be in good shape to be able to climb 1300m, and as always in the mountains, the weather can be harsh and changeable. The hike does involve a few short scrambles and the crossing of some snowfields (even in the middle of a heatwave in August apparently), but bringing your mountain boots and maybe some poles will suffice. If you are in need of a rest when you reach the top, there is a little mountain hut there that serves hot drinks.
I found the hike well worth it. You are rewarded with some spectacular views over huge snowfields, glaciers and the other peaks in the range. On the other hand, I was quite surprised by the sheer amount of people going up the mountain. I have never experienced anything like this. I could see that it was even worse with the route from Juvashytta, it looked like there were hundreds of people crossing the glacier at the same time. Granted, this sunny August day was probably one of the busiest days of the year, but it did detract from the pure mountain experience a little bit. There are many other peaks to choose from in Jotunheimen, so the next time I am in the area I will definitely try to explore one of these less frequented alternatives.
Good place to get your shot of caffeine on the top of Galdhøpiggen.
Galdhøpiggen: the facts
Where: The hike up Galdhoppigen starts at Spiterstulen mountain lodge, which can be reached by car by a small toll road that branches off from national Route 55. You can pay your toll inside the mountain lodge.
When: The summer is the best time for hiking in Norway. The winter offers opportunities for other mountain activities, such as cross-country skiing.
More info: https://jotunheimen.com/