7.22.2009

Rondane Day 3: Langholet to Langluppdalen

The wind didn’t abate in the night as it had on the lower slopes of Randen. It had changed direction though. As we bedded down a fresh wind had been blowing from the North. Early on in the night it changed its mind, blowing from the South, from where we too had come, sharpening its edge over the snow fields we’d picked our way through before funnelling through the saddle at the head of the Langholet. We’d arranged our bags according to the wind. Feet into the wind so that it would skim over us and go on its way. Half awake in the early hours I became aware that I was lying in a windsock. I pulled my sleeping bag up over my shoulders, zipped my bivvy bag half shut over my head, stuck my face out of the opening and pulled the excess fabric in under my chin. I gratefully noted that, either due to the wind or our altitude, there were no mosquitoes and slept further.

The wind still blew in the morning. I was glad of my down pullover. The days start was relaxed. Muesli, brew and packing. Time to take in the majesty of my surroundings. Four of us where up and about. Theo slept in and took breakfast in bed. My mood had changed. I’d bivvied high in a spectacular corrie, a truly wild place, and any negativity from the day before had washed away.

The change of plan means that we have a very different day ahead of us. The intention is to follow the Langholet down into the Doralen, find a suitable traverse to the Bergedalen and head up to the Bergdalstjonnen. Perhaps even heading further into the Langluppdalen. Including that last stretch would make for a big loop of fifteen kilometres or more. We’d exchanged climb and descent for distance but I didn’t expect the technicality of the day before. We’d be passing through rough country but for about half of the distance on waymarked paths. For the other half we’d be following an old route, the use of which is now discouraged, but which I expect, although less used, will still bare the old route markings. Navigation should be a doddle, the incline, both rise and fall, gentle and although we’re promised more of yesterdays weather today water should be plentiful. The outcome of the day is as certain as these things can be. However, the reasoning behind moving up into the Langluppdalen is to get into position for a crossing of the DNT route over the big 2000m tops Rondslottet and Vinjeronden on the last full day. However, the good weather is set to break in the evening and our experience on Smuibelgin suggests that high up in Rondane could be a challenge in wet weather and low visibility. In the mountains, there always seems to be a bogey man lurking just around the corner.

We move off through the wide, boulder filled Langholet. I feel good. Little by way of stiffness from the exertions of the day before and no sore spots or blisters. Hooray for light packs and boots! Hooray for the Neo-Air, widely spaced contours and thick beds of dry moss! We can see about a kilometre or more down the valley and it’s clear that we’ll be on boulder for at least that distance. Rock-hopping, however, is a much more enjoyable sport when played on a flat field. As we move through the Langholet it occurs to me that we’ve been extremely lucky, had we not caught site of that gravel bed in the distance, had we not made the effort to backtrack and check it out, we’d have had a long and difficult walk to the next suitable pitch. I don’t see another half decent pitch for quite some time.

It turns out to be a fascinating route. A day spent looking up at rather than over the edge of the frighteningly precipitous cliffs of the Smiubelgin and Sagtind group. First under the near vertical Trolltinden wall then under Vassberget. Sore and Nordre Smedhamran on the opposite side of the valley are our constant companions. There is plenty to catch the attention and the long curving aspect of the North bound route means that the vista opens up slowly. Enticingly. First you get a little more of the Langholet, then a peek into the Doralan, then look over your left shoulder and you get a little taste of the Verkilsdalen, the desolate head of which we’d peered down into over the edge of Ljosabelgen. Can it be that we are so close to where we started? Bit by bit the Doralen valley opens up until, when the traverse of the western flank of Nordre Smedhamran is complete, the path straightens out and the full vista reveals itself. We can see right down valley, its floor a hotchpotch of glacial debris, its mouth a massive terminal moraine.

All the way down the valley I’ve been looking ahead for signs of reindeer. The use of the Langholet track, long a popular DNT Route is discouraged because it runs through the heart of Reindeer country. Apparently this wild heart of Rondane is home to one of the most important herds of non-domesticated European Reindeer that still roam in Scandinavia. It’s said that if these beasts get spooked that they will bolt, running for several kilometres before coming to a stop. To avoid risk to the animals the DNT has closed the route. Instead of the thick read of the major routes the Turkart now shows a faint black dashed line. Before travelling, whilst still mulling over alternatives, I’d brushed up on my wilderness etiquette with my Norwegian friend Randulf. He’d said that it was acceptable to go through the Langholet but that caution was warranted. That we should be prepared to reroute to avoid the Reindeer if necessary. In the high-walled Langholet itself, avoiding the reindeer would be difficult. Rerouting would entail turning back. Once out of the Langholet we would have more options with room to manoeuvre on the open ground at the foot of Nordre Smedhamran. I’d like to see wild reindeer, but I’d prefer to see them lower down the valley and at a distance.

Once out of the Langholet the going gets easier too. So easy in fact that for the first time in a day and a half I can walk without looking at my feet. The big boulder field gets left behind and we find ourselves on a narrow but clear path running through patches of vegetation and short stretches of boulder in turn. The path suggests that there is still some traffic through the Langholet. The way markings of the DNT, boulders marked with a red “T”, are still clearly visible. The sun beats down still but the sun cream makes regular rounds and water is, as anticipated, in good supply with becks running at intervals across our path. We make good time, but also make time to stop and take in the scene. We even stop for an early lunch and, luxury of luxuries, boil water for cuppa soups that Thim supplements with a rookworst conjured out of his food bag.

We continue further loosing more height and the path parallels the bank of the Dorae through knee high dwarf birch. The valley bottom, which looks flat from on high, brings with it more up and down than I’d expected. We find ourselves skirting the steeps banks of an impressive lateral moraine and on occasion the path runs over the top into lush green fields of cotton grass. Once again we see some people in the distance. Kayakers on the opposite bank of the Dorae? Seems unlikely that the water is deep enough. Besides, on closer inspection, if they are kayakers then they’ve lost their boats. First signs of a change in the weather appear. The sun continues to shine but now dark clouds jostle for position with the fluffy white ones we’ve grown accustomed to. This all makes for extra photographic interest but, as we approach the Smedbekken, it starts to rain. We give it a few minutes before donning waterproofs but the rain gets heavier and, convinced it’s setting in, finally give up and pull on jackets. The stream is more than we’d bargained for. The thing is wide and in full flow and there’s no obvious crossing point or a bridge. The latter a clear disadvantage in choosing to follow a non-maintained route. After some searching up and down the bank it looks like we are going to have to wade but then Willem-Maarten appears to have found suitable stepping stones. Too few to cross comfortably but with a bound and a well placed leading foot it should be possible to cross. Wet rock requires faith in friction or Vibram or both. Willem-Maarten gets the honour of trying first and crosses with dry feet. One by one we follow without incident.

A scan of the map suggests that it’s a good time to leave the path, cutting the corner over open ground to make for the Bergedalen. It’s warm, oppressively so wrapped in Paclite, and as the rain subsides I don’t hesitate in stripping back down to my base layer. The others follow suit. What then follows is an easy jaunt over gently sloping ground decorated with reindeer moss and bilberry bushes. The same landscape we’d experienced on the walk in. The landscape that gives Rondane its autumnal reputation.

As we traverse the shallow slope, just south of west, Digerronden shows the way. From this perspective the mountain appears as an unfeasibly perfect pyramid of scree. Weathered round with flowing contours and steep sides. All the drama of its northern corrie hidden from view. We had toyed with the idea of bagging it without packs but 600m of head-on scree doesn’t appeal and an out and back would leave a lot to do before evening. Equally the traverse of the full ridge to Hogronden is far beyond what we can realistically achieve in the rest of the day, perhaps even in a full day, especially since the weather is looking uncertain. As we make the path, and turn back on ourselves, heading South West along the Bergedalen, the idea gets killed without so much as a discussion. We find ourselves scooting along the winter route which connects the Dorralseter hut with Rondvasbu and Bjornhollia. Although not the main summer route it’s well scarred. Bamboo canes placed to guide Nordic skiers lie by the side of the track. Right now it’s hard to imagine Rondane in a whiteout. Talk turns to that winter trip we’ve been promising ourselves for so long. Perhaps we should consider skiing from hut to hut in Rondane?

We break for a snack. It’s time to decide, once and for all, precisely what we are going to do today. From where we sit we can just see the western end of the Langluppdalen. It’s grey, cloud filled and uninviting. The alternatives on the table are to make camp by the Bergdalstjonnen just a few kilometres further along the track, to proceed up into the Langluppdalen or to take the boat along the Rondvatnet to the Rondvassbu hut. Although Theo doesn’t seem too perturbed by the last option it’s quickly ruled out. One night in a hut is an acceptable proposition but two is out of the question. Staying in Bergedalen would leave more options for the morning: the boat and an out and back in the Rondslottet group, the high route over Rondhalsen with a detour to bag Veslesmeden or, the original plan, a traverse of Rondslottet from the north albeit with a longer walk in. The group seems uncertain again. Memories of the first day coupled with the view of the clag hanging in the Langluppdalen casts doubt over the traverse of Rondslottet. We now know that the DNT paths are well marked but how will it be crossing all those boulders in the wet? How severe are the scrambles that we will encounter, predominantly in descent.

Notwithstanding the uncertainty the only real choice is to carry on into the Langluppdalen. We gauge, on very recent experience, that the traverse of Rondslottet to Ronsvassbu will take us around nine hours if we start from the pass. The extra kilometres and climb from the Bergedalen might be stretching things just too far. To boot, the area around the standing water of the Bergdalstjonnen is most likely mosquito heaven. On the other hand, after overnighting in the pass, and having assessed the weather in the morning, we can always run away with tails between our legs. In the worst case we can still use the boat. The group, now resembling a weak coalition, makes for the Langluppdalen. Loose coalitions are something you have to get used too when living in Holland.

The walk up through the Bergdalstjonnen and the climb that follows are actually very pleasant. As we close on the Langluppdalen the sky, now a patchwork of blue decorated with lightly laden cloud appear less foreboding. Rondslottet does its best to intimidate though. The shear vertical wall of its huge northern face, black and streaked with snow filled gullies, dominates the view. The thought “are we really going to go up that?” streaks through my mind on more than one occasion but I do my best to suppress it. A little way back I had wondered if the valley walk under the Hogronden ridge would heighten my disappointment of not being up there but Rondslottet steals the limelight.


The otherwise uneventful walk along the main path is spiced up by the crossing of the Galenbotn downfall. The cut is filled with snow but the stream can be clearly heard running, at full pelt, somewhere underneath. Great, a snow bridge! Willem-Marten is given the honour of going first yet again. Lucky boy. He follows old footprints to the otherside. Instinctively we cross one at a time. I’m across second, the best policy where snow bridges are concerned I think, and sense a photo opportunity. The rest cross without incident but the photos are still nice enough.

As we move up the final kilometre towards the pass we stop once again for a snack break. It’s not been long since the previous rest stop but tea time is approaching and reserves are getting low. We lounge out of the wind in a small grassy hollow. A perfect place to bring through the night albeit a bit close to the path. Flat, soft and sheltered. However, I insist that the more distance we put behind us now the less we’ll have to do in the morning. After a while we move off, I sense some reluctance. A few steps further Theo calls for another discussion. It’s clear that he doesn’t relish the idea of all the hard ascent and descent associated with crossing Rondslottet. The idea that we might have to do it in adverse weather will certainly take all of the fun out of it. I reiterate that we are taking the best option and that things aren’t set in stone. Overnighting at the pass puts us in the best position to make the call and backing down remains an option. I’m not sure Theo is convinced but he moves off anyway. A little way along the track we are passed by a couple heading in the opposite direction. These are the first people we have encountered within speaking distance since leaving Mysuseter over forty eight hours earlier. At least catching sight of the Norwegian lass is sure to have cheered Theo up.

It’s been another great day. Different but still a great day in the hills and, although less adrenaline filled and easier underfoot , the time to put down my pack is getting near. I’m surprised in fact by how much this route has taken out of me. As we approach the top of the pass we find ourselves back in a place of boulder and scant vegetation. The pass summit is wide and flat and holding a surprising amount of water. Rondane has been relatively dry up until this point but this place would give the great moss a run for its money. Looking out over the plateau it’s clear that a good lie will be hard to find. It looks best up against the northern side and we head that way fanning out as we do. I meander from green patch to green patch but they are unanimously saturated. Finally, after some minutes I see what appears to be a low stone wall. I’ve seen these things several times in the last days. Apparently wild campers are resorting to clearing stones and building walls to create level pitches with some shelter. Not exactly “leave no trace camping” but right now I’m not complaining. Next to the wall is a good, dry site which I may otherwise have walked straight past. I wave and the others join me.


The weather is closing in again. Low cloud drifts through the valley and a bank of cloud hangs low in the valley to the east, backed up against the pass summit. If I could be bothered to walk half a kilometre further I might get a nice shot the cloud inversion. I can’t be bothered. For the first time in the trip we break out the tarps. The curse that has followed me all my life resurfaces. Apparently I can’t take a shelter out of my rucksack without it starting to rain. At least I now feel at home. The pitch is small, just big enough to lie five, so there’s no point in pitching the tarps separately. Instead we opt to pitch the big tarp and tag the micro tarp onto its end, extending the coverage. We need just to cover five torsos and the bivvy bags will take care of the rest. Pegging out is hard, we are sitting on a meagre layer of green with the now familiar Rondane boulders just under the surface. Nevertheless, violence overcomes all obstacles, and all available guys get used. Against my principles we move stones placing them on the unconvincing Ti nails as extra security. My principles apparently dissolve rapidly when faced with the prospect of a rough night. The result is a weird construction comprising two tarps and four walking poles. I’ve been known to strike and re pitch my shelter several times until satisfied. This evening I suppress the urge to put together a more photogenic, drum-tight shelter. This thing will do. It will serve its purpose and it’s not going anywhere in a hurry. We quickly throw our sleeping bags into bivvy bags and get them under the tarps.

The evening meal is prepared using the meths burner. Patience is required and what’s left of the border of Willem-Maartens plate gets incinerated. In order to keep pot washing to a minimum we eat out of the big pan. Standing in a circle in rain shells, Jef holds the pan in the middle, and we take turns to spoon Thims curry into our mouths. Freeze dried curry but spiced up with chilli and finished off with curry leaves and coriander. It’s good. We lick our spoons clean and follow the curry up with yesterdays unused desert. Adventure Foods, apple and apricot compote. Just add cold water and go. Great stuff.

The pots get washed and while we drink a brew Jeffrey checks the weather forecast on his blackberry. Things should clear up in the night but close in again in the afternoon. We agree that we should aim to be starting the descent at 2:00PM to get the worst out of the way before the weather turns. We do our sums and decide we need to be underway by 8:00. We turn in and as we try to find sleep are serenaded by rock falls high up on Rondslottets sinister face. The mountain is doing it’s best to put me off but I resolve not to let it get its way.

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