New for winter 2019 - the fabulous Hallingdal Track!
Written by Lindsay Cannon
17 April 2018
Artwork by 'Nature'
What a stunning route, 135 km of cross country skiing through the heart of the Norwegian mountains. The Hallingdal Track, to the east of the famous Hardangervidda, is one of the lesser known long distance ski routes, but it's a cracker! We saw a grand total of four other skiers on the whole route, can you imagine how wonderful it felt to be out there in the wilderness and feeling as though you had the mountains to yourself. Such tranquility and solitude, and searing blue skies. Having just returned from our 'recce' trip I can't wait to get back there next winter to see how you like the latest addition to our ski portfolio.
One of the great joys of working as a Ski Instructor is the need to be constantly on the look out for new journeys. It usually starts with Jim Wilkinson, an exceedingly loyal client, giving me a verbal nudge that he wants new trips on the agenda for his next outing on 'skinny' skis. Out come the maps, and the highlighter pens. Then the head scratching begins, the hunt for a bed for the night along the route gets underway, and slowly things start to take shape.The fact I never know what is round the next corner is definitely a great incentive, or indeed, whether the tracks were cut this morning, or a month ago, all adds to the sense of adventure. The more I ski tour on Nordic skis the less inclined I am to ski in an alpine downhill resort with its queues and noise, and skiers full of lunchtime beer.
We know that many of you love the 'journeying' aspect of ski touring, and it really has to be calling out to the adventurer in all of us, the 'will I make it to the next accommodation', 'what's it going to feel like today climbing that mountain', 'what if the weather turns vicious', all the tantalising thoughts that drift through our minds as we drift off to sleep to the sound of the wind in the eaves. One thing you should realise is that it is quite 'normal' to be a little anxious at the start of a ski trip, but everyone settles down once that first day has been enjoyed and they realise that they can ski the distance after all. I have never left anyone out on the mountain yet, though it's a threat that can be useful with our guests that have come to know us well over the years and are inclined to give the 'guide' a hard time! Tracks and Trails has been running for over 11 years now and so many of you have become regulars, and friends, that exploring a new area is a true joy.
So what did I find on the Hallingdal Track? How does it compare to our other trips? Well, it's certainly different in that it feels more mountainous with a lot of the skiing above the treeline. We very quickly claim a summit early in the trip, and then have several days in high open complex terrain with crags, and knolls, cliffs and hummocks, high tops, and lakes. A truly beautiful landscape that totally blew me away. And we had some wonderful surprises!
Our first taste of the unusual was at Fagerhøy Fjellstue (a Fjellstue is the name given to a 'high mountain lodge') where the new owners Isabella and Øyvind have fast gained a reputation for excellent food. They've been extremely inventive in terms of getting a reputation for themselves by creating the Fjellplanken! Such has its fame spread that international magazines and TV have visited the Fjellstue. Imagine a Norwegian take on 'tapas' and add in 5 different beers to go with each tapas and you have the Fjellplanken. Absolutely delicious!
Next stop - Langedrag, where we were told 'It is not what you will expect.' Well, what do you think we were expecting? Certainly, not sharing our space with 4 lynx, overgrown pussy cats in my opinion, though when one hissed when I got too close, the size of her incisors made me re-think the pussy cat description. Add in a muskox, amazing pre-historic looking creatures; reindeer, artic foxes, elks, wild boar and wolves and I can agree it was not what we were expecting for our overnight companions. Langedrag is an amazing nature park high in the mountains where the emphasis is on educating young people (and old) about the wild animals of Norway while allowing them to live as naturally as it is possible to live in a Park situation. That combined with the location and the views to the huge lake of Tunhoovdfjorden make it a wonderful overnight stop.
There are, in fact, over 3,000 wild reindeer in this area and they are often to be seen on the high ground on the ski journey from Langedrag to Haglebu.The reindeer are so well adapted to their wintry environment and the first thing you notice is that they 'click'! Essentially a tendon moves over the bones of their legs just above the hooves and makes a very audible clicking sound. Apparently, it is to help them follow each other in 'white out' conditions. How cool is that! "Hang on Rudolph you need to 'click' louder, I didn't quite catch that!"
The day from Langedrag to Hagelbu is probably our highlight day. It's a big day, only 30 km, but the high terrain and the amazing long descent at the end to our log cabin make it not one to be taken lightly, but it is to be savoured. Another interesting overnight stop at Haglebu and different lodgings again, this time in basic, but cosy cabins in the valley. A warm welcome from Mona who was surprised to know we were skiing the Hallingdal Track. She told me that she rarely sees people skiing the route, but would love us to spread the word and keep her little Fjellstue in business feeding and sheltering cross country skiers.
Another wonderful day swooping through gullies, and round lakes, and some fantastic downhills brings us to Tempelseter. Well, how disappointed were we to find that Tempelseter Fjellstue had burned down a few years ago and there was 'no room at the inn', in fact 'no nothing at the inn'. So a descent of 700 metres to the valley was required to find a bed for the night. Eventually we ran out of snow and skis on our packs we marched down the road, more than ready for a drink and a meal.
Tim, my long suffering 'significant other', is usually of a very upbeat and positive disposition, but even he wasn't enjoying the march on tarmac. Standing in the middle of the road when the next vehicle passed, and climbing onboard before the driver had worked out what was happening soon solved the problem. Norwegians are definitely the most generous people when it comes to helping other mountain people. 'Nature' is such a huge part of their lives that they welcome anyone who is also out there enjoying it. A staggering 70 per cent of the population of Oslo heads for the hills at Easter weekend, and the long standing tradition of having a family home, a 'hytte' in the mountains is alive and well with demand for second homes in the high places continuing to rise. At the moment there are some 60,000 hytte for sale in Norway, many of them new builds, as developers try to meet demand.
So did we find somewhere to rest our weary heads after our long march? Did we ever! What a find! In a little village in the middle of nowhere we found Eggedal Borgerstue. What a treasure, wonderful decor, artwork and four-poster bed complete with chandelier. If you like a trip with amazing skiing, stunning views, and constant variety this is the one for you! A huge thanks to Elisabeth for taking us in! I hope you enjoyed your holiday and that we actually get to meet you next time.
Oh, one last thought. My education in all things Nordic was complete this winter when I discovered 'hygge'. Where have I been? Why did none of you tell me about this trendy movement before? I was oblivious to the fact that finally the rest of the world has woken up to the Nordic way of things and that it's cool to get into the hygge. Those of you who know about 'hygge' will know what I mean and the rest of you can 'google' it.