Monday, 20 July 2009

Day Three: Skøgadalen to Olavsbu

I awoke to another gray day, and I was soooo comfortable on my Neo Air I was in no hurry to get out of bed, the result being a 10 am start. Thinking that it would be an easy day with a stroll up the valley, turn left and the head to the DNT hut at Olavsbu to find a campsite, how wrong I was. The climb begun following the trail which made for easy going and as I approached the 1400 m mark the ice covered lakes came into view. As well both sides of the valley were now covered in large snow patches which made for slow going through the well trodden soft snow. So much for an easy day. The further I climbed the snow coverage increased whilst towering above me to the East stood Mjølkedalstinden (2138m) whose western and eastern flanks of I was circumnavigating. Once into Mjølkedalen the lakes were covered in layers of thick ice with evidence of the ice beginning to break up providing a blue tinge of colour to the otherwise translucent ice. The climb continues and whilst not steep the snow makes for slow and sometimes slippery movement with the occasional “post holing” to further slow progress, I was now glad of my lighter weight pack and I wondered how some hikers manage in these conditions. I was soon to find out as I met 3 Norwegians and a dog coming down from the saddle, they had been out for almost 3 weeks and one commented “they had seen a lot of snow” The golden retriever had his own small pack on and seemed very happy stepping from stone to stone down the hill. Finally the trail reached the junction with the trail connecting the DNT huts of Olavsbu and Fondsbu. Fondsbu is located on an access road and often walkers drive to there pay the 50 NOK a day to park and head inland. Fondsbu is also served by a ferry service along Bygdin. From the saddle the trail then climbs further to the 1600m mark through snow softening in the afternoon sunshine. Yes the clouds had broken a bit and the sun was decidedly warm especially when out of the cool light breeze blowing. As I ascended to the highest point I passed an elderly Norwegian couple happily skipping down the hill with Ice Axes, the wife commented on my Pacer Poles stating that she could never use poles, and preferred the ice axe. The descent from this point enabled me to take in the views to east and north the snow covered peaks and the ice covered lakes, I was also fascinated by the winter snow pole routes marked on the map going across the middle of the lakes implying just how could it was up here in winter. Soon the trail to Gjendebu was passed and I headed north through more snow around the eastern flank of Mjølkedalstinden. Climbing up through another saddle before the steep descent down into the valley through more deep snow ensured that by the time I arrived at Olavsbu DNT shelter I needed little convincing that a soft bed, a pillow, hot water … was a better proposition than a tent. The benefit of Olavsbu shelter is that it is only accessible by foot and is a self catering hut, you can either bring your food or purchase what is available in the cupboards. The warden who was staying at the hut whilst I was there was on a 3 week holiday and for this period of time she managed the hut as well as having time to go out for day walks. The night I stayed at the hut there were 2 young Norwegian guys (camping nearby) and a couple, the hut can sleep up to 48 persons, but for tonight I had my own room. There is no running water (it is collected from the stream) and the hot water is heated on a stove. All in all a pleasant and relaxing night convincing me that the DNT huts have a useful role to play, though they will also attract greater crowds.