…continued from my previous article about the Rondanestien route from Lillehammer to Rondane Nasjonalpark.
I woke early on the sixth morning, keen to get into the national park proper and surround myself with some real mountains. Almost as soon as I left the campsite I crossed the Rondane Nasjonalpark boundary and began a short and sharp ascend to the central gully of Ramstinden. With fine weather I decided it was time to knock off a peak and headed off-track towards the hulking mass of Store Ramshøgda (1463m). From the summit I got my first up close look of the Rondane Massif. Rondslottet (2178m), the tallest peak in the range, was unfortunately hidden in cloud, but nonetheless it was one of the most impressive bits of mountain scenery I’ve seen. While resting on top I had my first experience of a low-level jet fighter flyby, with a Euro Fighter hammering past at speed – a pretty amazing contrast to the mountains!
After descending down the north-west flanks of Store Ramshøgda I picked up the Rondanestien and continued on my way. The weather set in again and I stopped briefly for an early lunch in the vague shelter of Østkjølen Grunneiarlag, one of several locked private cabins scattered around the park. Continuing onwards for about another hour I arrived at DNT Eldåbu, the first of the DNT cabins within Rondane itself.
To be honest, after nearly a week spent almost entirely in my own company I was hoping to run into a few hikers at what I was assuming would be a bigger cabin that the ones on the Rondanestien. Unfortunately Eldåbu was essentially abandoned and after kicking around for a bit I hoisted my pack and headed off again.
Walking up the Djupbekken in the afternoon light the area’s glacial history became even more apparent as I came across countless peculiar looking gravel moraines. I had intended to continue on, hoping to reach one of the three major serviced cabins at DNT Bjørnhollia that evening. However, on arriving at Fremre Vulutjønna, a beautiful lake at the intersection of three major glacial valleys, I decided I’d done enough for the day and for the evening. A very quick, very chilly swim was followed by cocoa and pasta and an well deserved early night.
The next morning I decided on a short day and continued up the valley, passing a few lovely little lonely stone huts and boatsheds on the way as I climbed over more glacial debris. As I crested a small hill into Steindalen I was greeted with the full face of Rondvasshøgde, or the Rondane Massif; a series on massive peaks, ridges, valleys and hanging lakes, all carved out by ancient glaciation. It isn’t the soaring, aggresive profile that one would expect in the European Alps or the Himalaya, but it has a powerful and timeless immensity that in a way is even more imposing.
I continued for a few kilometres until I reached DNT Bjørnhollia, one of the largest staffed cabins in the park. In a moment of weakness I decided to fork out some cash and camp on the grounds, allowing me access to a much needed shower… After an early meal I went for a bit of an explore, making my way up the Skjerdalen along a faint pad. The valley gradually transformed into a narrow gorge, which I followed until the track entered the river itself and I gave up, defeated for the day.
The following morning I set off and finally found myself on well-trodden ground – the classic ‘triangle route’ that connects Rondane’s three big staffed DNT cabins; Bjørnhollia, Rondvassbu and Dørålseter. For the first time on the trip I began to regularly see other hikers, although the landscape itself was beginning to look considerably wilder as the track gained altitude and I began to walk amongst the mountains, rather than towards them.
The first half of the day was spent walking through Illmandalen, an impressive valley that divided Rondvasshøgde to the north and Illmanhøe to the south, creating a natural pathway between DNT Bjørnhollia and DNT Rondvassbu. The signs of winter were still very visible and huge lumps of ice bobbed around the valley’s many small lakes. During the early afternoon I arrived at DNT Rondvassbu and was promptly blown away… For someone used to the comparatively tiny, unstaffed cabins in the Tassie highlands, being faced with one of Norway’s biggest set-ups was quite an experience!
I was a bit bewildered by the sudden crowds (well, a dozen people is a crowd when you’ve been alone for a while…) and decided to continue. I’d chosen to attempt one of the minor tracks that headed north, hiking through the remote Kaldbekkbotn and Langholet valleys rather than taking the standard route northwards above Rondvatnet. The route would take me over 1800m and I expected to camp above 1500m – well above the vegetation line and into the left over snow from the recently finished winter. Unfortunately the snow was mostly slush from the warm day and pretty useless for camping, a situation compounded by the fact that most snow free spots were covered in boulders…
Eventually I found an area of smooth gravel next to a snow-melt lake. The ground was still partially frozen but otherwise it made a fantastic (if exposed) campsite and I quickly set up for the evening. Nearby was a neat stone ring (I’m guessing it was climbers work) that made a perfect dinner table and I went asleep pretty stoked with life…
…to be continued 🙂