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IntroductionDuring a wonderful first season in Norway with our inaugural Norwegian trip, the Jotunheimen Tour, we returned to Norway and set about researching a trip which explores a slightly different part of Norway. We aimed to cover three distinct areas of Norwegian walking which can be combined as one long trip or walked as superb separate trips, each with a different feel. The theme is a North to South crescendo from the wooded hills North of Lillehammer, through the famous Rondane national park, to the tough peak of Snohetta in the wild Dovrefjell national park. It’s really as Norwegian as it gets! We hope these might be enjoyed by those who prefer a trip without the occasional extremes of difficulty which can be found in the Jotunheimen and those who would like to explore a less well-known area. When these three trips are combined they form the SAGA trek, a name coined by the Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT). A continuous two-week trek in full from Lillehammer to Snohetta. Please ask us for the options around Rondvassbu, the meeting point of the two routes, where it's possible for thru-hikers to save a day if they wish. The trip naturally falls into three sections for description, the first being Lillehammer to the Rondane.
Lillehammer to Rondane.
The trip begins in Lillehammer, famous for hosting the 1994 Winter Olympics. A friendly, neat town and a local hub for Summer outdoor sports. Lillehammer is easily reached by train from Oslo and the route begins from the town. The walking on the 8 stages of the Lillehammer to Rondane route is gentle, crossing moors and through forests without high peaks. This section of walking is particularly attractive to those who are drawn to experience of Norway’s self-catering huts. A unique experience in the wilds! These cabins are stocked-up with food and fuel. You enter with a key, light the fire and make dinner from whatever you select from the store cupboard. We recommend the Reindeer meatballs. The walking from Lillehammer is steady, following the Mesna river and passes many waterfalls running strongly in Summer. Pass through meadows and forest to Nordseter, a village set amongst gentle hills and best known for its cross-country ski pedigree. Rolling forests and lakes are the scenery for the next two days to Djupslia before the terrain leaves the tree cover and turns to lichen covered moorland, windswept and wild. From the heather covered hillsides we reach Venabu Fjellhotell, a highlight in the region, a grande cabin build in the 1940s and still run by the Tvete family. Known to many in Norway as a centre for Winter crosscountry skiing, we hope you enjoy the cosy hospitality! North from Venabu we cross moorland and the remote Vesidalslægeret valley to Bjørnhollia, a large mountain cabin and one of the jewels in the DNT’s portfolio. The hills turn to mountain peaks and the route enters the Rondane national Park, Norway’s oldest national park founded in 1962 when public sentiment turned to preserving the nature of the country.The mountains here can be rocky and sparse, lichen and heather covered, they can be exposed and walking amongst the sheer faces can make for dramatic days.
Through the Rondane Tour.
At this point the route from Lillehammer meets our Rondane Tour. From Bjørnhollia we take the path West to Rondvassbu past the chain of lakes lining the Illmanndalen valley. There are higher options on this day if you would prefer to experience the famous Rondane peaks. From Rondvassu the day North to Doralseter is quite long at 21km but it can easily be shortened by taking the ferry the length of the Rondvatnet lake which cuts off 6km. Rondane to Snohetta
North of Doralseter the walking has some trickier sections not seen so far on the walk as we enter the Dovre National Park but certainly still within a Red difficulty rating and not to the extent of the Jotunheimen! The path follows the twisting shape of the valley until narrowing dramatically as it reaches the Dørålsglupen gulley.The Dørålsglupen valley lies in shadow until the afternoon so it’s likely any recent snow will be slow to melt. Their striking green lichen is quite slippery after rain so the boulders should be crossed with great care after poor weather! The boulderfield is short lived and the day is better characterised as two fairly gentle cols. The Dørålsglupen followed by the wild Gravhotangen plateau and a descent to the Grimsdalshytta hut through birch. We follow a hillside traverse along the lush Tverråi valley, a crossing of the broad plateau between Gråhøe and Pikhett. A descent through wetlands to Hageseterhut then skirt the easterly flank of Vålåcjøhøe to Hjerkinnhus. Hjerkinnhus is a large outdoor centre with a good cafe. From here we take the regular afternoon shuttle bus through the military training range to Snøheim, a large hut marking the boundary of the Dovrefjell national park. Surrounded by wild, rocky landscape and the looming Snøhetta peak occasionally visible through the cloud. We can get mentally prepared for a tough walk the following day to the summit. The hut warden will advise in the morning with their thoughts on whether you should make the summit based on the weather but if the visibility or weather conditions are poor then it’s no problem to take the valley route to Reinheim. The route to the summit is bolderfield to the top and marked by poles at 20m intervals. Navigation would be tricky in snow or heavy cloud so care is advised and you should be prepared to turn around for the easy valley route if conditions change. We would consider today a black route. Once at the summit we retrace our steps and take the path east along the spine of a gentle ridge line to the Reinheim hut just as boulderfield gives way to lush valley. Reinheim is a wonderful self-catering hut where trekkers rub shoulders with weather worn hunters. The fire should be going strong by the time you get there! From Reinheim the final day is the superb, broad Dovre valley slowly descending to the populated valley. This is a special day as it’s home to Norway’s Musk Ox population, roughly 250 unusual ancient mammals. These remnants of prehistory are certainly a curio and can be spotted grazing in small family units throughout the valley. They can be defensive so if you see one on the route do give it a wide berth! We finish in the historic mountain lodge, Kongsvold Fjeldstue which has been welcoming travellers in some form since the 12th century. The current buildings date to the 1700s and it has a wide reputation for gastronomic dining and its wine cellar. For those who fancy a less opulent finish, the train station is 500m away with good links to Lillehammer and Otta.
The walking covers a hugely broad range of conditions but expect a lot of fjell walking, sometimes wet underfoot with frequent small stream crossings and some large ones.The paths are generally good, firm underfoot and overall there is little boulderfield to cross with the exception of Snøhetta. A stout boot is called for with good ankle support and a pair of gaters can really help to keep water out in the occasional boggy sections or small stream hops. How is the navigation?
Navigation is thankfully quite simple compared with the alps! The path network is generally simple with often only one or two path options to take on a given day. Paths are well waymarked when needed and the Norwegian mapping is solid with clear coverage at 1:50,000. Paired with our route notes you should feel confident.
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