Climbing northern Europe’s highest mountain – Galdhøpiggen

Spiterstulen mountain station is a popular starting point for the trek.

Spiterstulen mountain station is a popular starting point for the trek both up to Galdhøpiggen as well as the second highest mountain, Glittertind.

Norway is often considered one of the most beautiful places on earth. The fjords, valleys and high mountains make the country a marvel to behold. I went there on a five day expedition between 11-15 July. The mission? To climb northern Europe’s highest peak – Galdhøpiggen.

My partner for the trek is Linnéa, a biologist specialized in large carnivores and reindeer.

Galdhøpiggen is 2 469 meters above sea level. The peak is surrounded by a dramatic landscape and Jotunheimen National Park – protecting this pristine environment.

Approaching Spiterstulen mountain station, the “Oh’s” and the “Ah’s” come more and more frequently as the mountains next to us grow steeper and steeper. We see waterfalls and glaciers on both sides. We have a brief lunch by the river, pack our gear and begin the ascent.

The mountain walls are steep. We need to stop to catch our breath every once in a while. We encounter the first snow a few hundred meters up. Surprisingly, we also see domestic sheep grazing on the mountain. Norway is home to more than two million free-ranging sheep. It is one of the main reasons why the Norwegian government has decided only to have three wolf packs in the entire country; the rest are shot. The country is also home to a lot of free ranging semi-domestic reindeer and free ranging cattle.

Linnéa has studied the implications of bear predation on reindeer herding.

Linnéa finds the antlers of a reindeer. Norway, unlike Sweden, has a population of wild reindeer.

The route we follow does not involve crossing a glacier but if you come in from the north then you need a special guide to cross it as there are glacial cracks in some places. These cracks appear to be more than ten meters deep in some places – possibly much deeper.

We continue upwards on the barren rocks. The vegetation is now only lichens. Thunder can be heard from the north and we see clouds carrying rain all around us. Yet the sun is still shining. There are a few steep areas along the way which provide excellent views. As we approach the peak we need to cross the top of one of the glaciers. I have been up in the Himalaya but never before stood upon a glacier. It is a great sight and amazing to see snow in the middle of July. Due to global warming the glacier on the second highest peak in Norway, Glittertind, has shrunk about ten meters. The debate on which peak is the highest has therefore been settled in favor of Galdhøpiggen.

The view from the peak at Galdhøpiggen just as it starts raining.

The view from the peak at Galdhøpiggen just as it starts raining.

It starts raining just as we reach the peak. There is a small rock-cabin on the peak where you can rest and buy hotdogs and postcards. We hurry up to the top and take a few pictures before the rain intensifies and thunder starts striking around us. We go into the cabin to rest and have a few well-deserved peanut butter sandwiches. Peaking out through the window, we can barely see more than 50 meters. We are literally up in the clouds.

We wait until the rain has eased. Linnéa takes on her jacket and hat as we go outside of the cabin to begin the descent.

“It feels like I am being bitten by an insect”, she says.

I have never - ever - seen such a big spruce tree! This picture was taken on 14 July on a trail outside of Lom in Norway. This country has amazing old growth forests leaving Sweden far behind in terms of forest conservation.

I have never – ever – seen such a big spruce tree! This picture was taken on 14 July on a trail outside of Lom in Norway. This country has amazing old growth forests leaving Sweden far behind in terms of forest conservation.

And then another, and another. The static electricity up in the cloud is literally charging her clothes making for a really eerie experience. We quickly go back into the cabin and wait a little longer. On the way down we are joined by a nice architect couple from Czech Republic. The descent is made easy by sliding or jumping on the snow. We do, however, come across an incident where a woman has fallen on a rock and has to be rescued by helicopter.

We spend the next days in Norway relaxing, doing a short trek up on another alpine mountain, seeing old-growth forests, waterfalls and other experiences making a visit to Norway worthwhile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The field season of 2014

Field Season in 2014

This year’s main field season had lots to offer.

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Trekking on Lillfjället in Jämtland one day in June.

After the big field season of 2014, with 50 field days, in May and June, I am finally home.  I have driven 7735 kilometers with my Volvo 940, which on 24 June easily went past the 350 000 kilometer mark. At the longest I had 23 field days in a row staying at various places in Sweden.

In these two months I have gone through 10 out of 21 counties and stayed at ten different places. I have spent eight nights in the field car, waking up to the beautiful sound of nature.

One morning, waking up, I wrote: “I open my eyes to the first rays of the morning sun. It is a blissful sight after what feels like two weeks of continuous gray skies. I lean to the left and open the door to my car and am met by a world of bird twitter. After starting the day with a couple of hours of field work in the taiga I head down to a nearby lake. The water is cold. It is interesting how quick a bath can be yet still be amazingly refreshing. Two thunderstrikes can be heard from the distance but the sun shines here.”

Working in Gävleborg on 22 May I came across a bear that nearly killed a moose calf. After being dragged into a thicket the moose calf managed to escape. I have also seen beautiful fox pups playing and a wild boar family grazing.

Taking a break from work I one day went to the nature reserve Kilsravinerna in Värmland. Later, working in Gävleborg I walked through oceans of the wonderful Lily of the valley (Swedish: liljekonvalj). I have never before seen such amounts of this flower. In southern Sweden, while crossing boglike areas I was stunned by the awesome smell of wild rosemary (Swedish: skvattram). Coming across sweet gale (Swedish: pors) is equally enjoyable.

In the beginning of June I worked up by the foot of the Swedish alpine mountains. One day I trekked on Lillfjället enjoying the vast scenery of the Swedish landscape. I also worked around Sonfjället, known for its bears.

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Down in Falkenberg enjoying a bit of time off.

In these two months I have worked 120 % in the field and at the same time 75 % with the snow leopard book. It is progressing steadily and we are now editing the texts. In August the book will be sent in for layouting and it will be out on the shelves in October. You can read more updates on our work on our Facebook page.

Field Season 2010-2014

Five years of summer field work involves a lot of traveling, working in some of the most remote areas of the country.

In these five years of summer field work I have worked over most of Sweden, seeing the smallest of towns and villages and the grand nature of the country, bathing in waterfalls, climbing mountains and encountering many of wild Sweden’s inhabitants.

It is time for some time off.