A tear rolled down my cheek. Alone in awe with the landscape of majestic snow topped peaks and lower lush valleys. What was felt can only be described as complete joy and peace all rolled into one endorphin filled rush. I felt alive. We know these moments are both rare in nature and precious. Those who get it, get it. In that moment time seemingly stopped long enough to fully embrace the experience with gratitude. Well, as you can surmise, Norway, was a ‘fix’ in the most healthy, thought provoking, and fulfilling way.
The sun peaked out from over the ridge line warming my face, which felt amazing. The wind however, was enough to sucker punch you off balance at times. No matter, we were hiking up to Fannaråkhytta in Jotunheimen National Park and it was the best of days.
The Low Down
- Directions: Turtagro is located off Hwy 55 on a well maintained and paved mountain road. It is considered the gateway into Jotunheimen and a popular route for cars/buses/cyclists on their way to Lom.
- Cellphone Range: Excellent depending on your provider, there is always wifi at the Turtagrø Hotel.
- Trail Distance: Approx 8.5kms one way from the Turtagrø Hotell to Fannaråkhytta.
- Elevation Gain: 1184m elevation gain. Starting at 884masl to the peak at 2068masl (masl= metres above sea level)
- Duration: 4-6hrs one way depending on fitness level. (It took us moderate hikers 6 hrs from the hotel parking lot to the peak)
- Washrooms: There is an outhouse at the cabin, otherwise practice Leave No Trace bathroom etiquette.
- Entrance Fee: Free hike. Cabin stays are through DNT.
- Season: The Fannaråkhytta is open from late June/July to September, double checked with Turtagrø Hotell prior to hiking.
- More Information: Visit the UT.no, DNT, and Turtagrø Hotell for more information.
In Good Company
Little did I know that going to university for a degree in nursing would result in some of the best friendships and hiking partners one could ask for! Truthfully, traveling to Norway was a little bit of a lark. Davianna and I were musing after a hike one day last fall about how to celebrate the end of school. I’m not entirely sure how Norway was picked. Likely from scrolling through Instagram. It was though, and Norway seemed perfect for two outdoor loving hikers like us. By Christmas the tickets were booked. Et voilà, an apparent far reaching dream was becoming reality. After looking at highlights on social media, we befriended at kind-hearted Norwegian (aren’t they all?) who gave us so much insight that I don’t think the trip would have worked out as well without him.
As for Jotunheimen National Park, that was a no-brainer. It was both beautiful and accessible. So we made the one-lane-switch-backs-everywhere-foggiest-day-ever drive up to Turtagrø, deciding to camp the night at the Turtagrø Hotell and hike in the morning when the weather was more favourable. Our Norwegian friend made the trip out as well and offered to guide us up to Fannaråkhytta. Fannaråkhytta is Norway’s highest tourist lodge, and although it wasn’t yet open for the season, the experience and views still made it a worthwhile hiking goal.
Fannaråkhytta. Fannaråk + ‘hytta’ meaning cabin.
None of us realized however, was how impactful the day would actually be.
What to bring
- Wool Layers: Follow the Norwegian lead (and smart mountain habits) by hiking with a merino wool base layer and socks. Wool wicks away moisture, traps air for warm, and it one of the warmest materials while wet ‘just-in-case’.
- Rain Gear: Although it’s mentioned in the 10 essentials, we’ll mention it again because it’s that important. Always bring your rain gear (jacket AND pants) while hiking in Norway for safety’s sake.
- Cell Phone Battery Pack: There is excellent reception, so having a charger is great in case you’re like me and take all-the-pictures or for emergencies if you’re not hiking with a beacon.
- Hiking Poles: For the love of all holy save-your-knees! It’s a rocky terrain and having poles (especially on the down route) is a saving grace that you’ll appreciate.
We left from the Turtagrø Hotell following the signage for Fannaråkhytta (which you’ll see at both the starting point and at the base of the mountain trail). You walk through the valley following the dirt trail past private cabins and livestock. Once you hit the waterfalls on your right, it’s an easy steady incline of switch backs to the base of the mountain trail.
The mountain trail itself leading up to Fannaråkhytta is well marked trail with the infamous red ‘T’ symbol painted on rocks. We hiked in early June and ended up crossing a few snow filled sections with caution. It took us 4 hrs from the hotel to reach the false summit. At which point I stayed to enjoy the views while the others hiked up to Fannaråkhytta (4 hr return trip). It happened that I wasn’t feeling well and smartly decided to stay behind at the rendez-vous point. Normally, we wouldn’t break up a hiking team however I was in a safe spot, had all my emergency kit, communications, and food/water/shelter. It was Davianna’s first ever alpine peak and we didn’t want to miss the opportunity!
On the return, hiking poles were our best of best of friends. It was much easier to navigate the rock steps and steep trail with them. Of course, our Norweigan friend was skipping down the mountain with no poles and our lunch pot in hand…I assume that this is the perk of living in such mountain paradises, you become accustomed and strong. At the bottom of the mountain trail, the easy rolling meadows of the valley made a nice end to the 12hr day.
Hmmm, I’ll have to return to reach that peak another day! That said, my hiking buddies greatly enjoyed the snow covered peak and her views. Although truthfully, they had to be patient for the views as the clouds were fast moving and often covering the neighbouring peaks.
Fannaråken Points of Interest
Ok, ok, this is totally where I tell you that I really enjoyed hiking among the livestock. All the little lambs with their chiming bells along the alpine. They are cuuuuuute! So smitten. And there’s something about those bells that sounds like a peaceful melody in my mind. I dunno, call me crazy. There’s also the old stone foundations, private cabins, and waterfalls that make this hike both interesting and extremely photographic.
Let us say how incredible kind and informative the staff at the Turtagrø Hotell are! First of all, I think I went back up to the front desk at least 10 times in a 30 minute period to ask questions about camping, weather, trails, amenities. There’sa large map at the front desk to go over the trails, they’ll gladly look up weather conditions and share their suggestions with you. It was nothing but laughs and smiles and helpful insight. Kudos to them!
The camping fees (which includes showers, wifi, lobby use, and coffee) are quite affordable. Surprisingly, the rooms are as well. The comfortable lobby area and library was a welcome change to camping life. The building at the back offers up rooms, showers (heated floors!), and something I’ve never experienced – a drying room for your clothing/gear. It’s set up like a sauna and a complete lifesaver. Apparently a common thing in Norway and I was pretty happy to have dry boots after such a muddy/wet hike!
Wrapping it up
For those that followed along with our Norweigan adventures on social media, you know we had many! So this is the first of at least 10 posts that’ll outline our hikes, adventures, and insights. Are you planning to visit Norway? Or have you ever been? Thoughts? I’ve travelled quite a lot in the last 20 years and this was the first country that I’ve ever thought, huh…I could live here. These are my kind of people. Not that I’m leaving Canada any time soon but you can bet that we’ll be back, and often.