Reindeer encounter at the Besseggen Ridge
This article is also available in: Dutch
In the eastern part of Jotunheimen Nasjonalpark (national park) lies the Besseggen. All the way stretched out over the commune Vågå, province Oppdal, in the middle of fjord Norway. The Besseggen is known for the ridge (Besseggen Ridge) that lies between two lakes. The bright green Gjendevatnet on one hand and the deep blue Bessvatnet on the other.
The Besseggen Ridge guarantees a spectacular view. No wonder that the Besseggen Ridge is listed as one of the 20 most spectacular hikes according to National Geographic! A hike over the Besseggen Ridge is 16 kilometers long and takes approximately 6 hours (one way). It is recommended to walk this route from Memurubu to Gjendesheim, because the climb is less steep and the descend is easier. However, there’s only one way to get to Memurubu and that’s to cross the Gjende lake by ferry. You can buy your tickets for the ferry on the spot in Gjendesheim for 120 NOK a person. Make sure you’ve checked the departure times on the website to avoid long waits.
How do you get to Besseggen?
You can navigate to the address Gjendesheim (Vågå, 2680). Drive via Riksveg 51 to Gjendesheim. Once you’re on the Nasjonal Turistveg Valdresflye, look for signs that say ‘Gjendesheim’ or ‘Besseggen’. All the way at the end of the road, you’ll find a parking spot, turisthytte and the little harbor.
Tips & tricks:
- During high season (july-august) it can be really crowded. Make sure you arrive in time and don’t have to miss out on the ferry;
- It can be quite scary how easily the weather changes in this country. Make sure you bring a raincoat, maybe even dry clothes and wear layers so you can take something off / put something on in case you get too hot/cold;
- Don’t save money on some serious hiking boots. They can really safe your feet and mood while hiking;
- Bring sunscreen when it’s sunny, because you get sunburned super quick when you’re up high in the mountains;
- Last but not least: ALWAYS bring food and water with you when you’re going for a hike. This hike is not very long, but it’s quite hard. You might want to bring energy bars, some fruit and most important: enough water.
Gjendesheim to Besseggen
We wanted to do the trip from Memurubu to Gjendesheim, as recommended. Unfortunately that didn’t go exactly as we planned. On our way to Gjendesheim we got delayed, which ment that we missed the ferry and had to wait for two(!) hours for the next one. If we had done that, we wouldn’t be back at our car before sunset and we really didn’t want to hike in the dark.
So we decided to start at Gjendesheim, walk to the Besseggen Ridge and then turn back to the parking lot. It was better than nothing! Even though that ment we had to walk the longest climb up instead of down. GAME ON!
Steep climb into a blizzard
Because the climb was quite steep, the weather became cold quite fast. Luckily we were well prepared and brought enough clothes to keep ourselves warm. I even found a bandana in my backpack to keep my ears warm and put on my sunglasses to keep the wind from making me cry all the time. The weather was pretty hard on us, because the wind became colder and stronger with every single step.
The terrain was also way rougher than we thought it would be. Some parts you had to climb on hands and knees while trying really hard not to look down. And just when we thought the wind was lying down, we ended up in a SNOWSTORM in the beginning of AUGUST!
Walking on the moon
Because of the though winter and cold summer that Norway had in 2015, there was a lot of snow on the route anyway. But the higher we got, the more breathtaking the views were. We slowly got the impression we were on a total different planet! It almost felt like walking on the moon!
Which was gorgeous to see, but also a little dangerous. The loose rocks and stones made it easy to sprain your ankle. That’s why I really recommend to wear high quality hiking boots. They can literally safe your life in bad weather conditions. And your ankles in cases like this. Preferably wear waterproof hiking bots with a sole that’s made for rough terrains.
Because I broke my ankle in November 2014 (I had a little accident in the gym), I myself wear a little bit higher hiking boots to have some extra protection for my ankles.
Reaching the summit
After 4 hours of hard labor, we reached the Besseggen Ridge. Luckily it stopped snowing once we reached the top, so we could relax, have some food and catch our breath. Because of the weather, the view was a little bit disappointing. Beautiful, but not as beautiful as I hoped it would be.. Because of the clouds we could barely see the difference in color between the Gjendevatnet and Bessvatnet. It was still an achievement though.
Oh and do you see that ferry? The small white stripe on my left? That’s the ferry that sails from Gjendesheim to Memurubu.
This huge pile of rocks, right before you reach the Besseggen from Gjendesheim, marks the highest point of the hike. Bart-Jan is looking over the Veslfjellet at 1737 meters. From where he was standing you could see all the way over de Valdresflye mountain path!
Reindeer encounter at Besseggen
The biggest surprise however, was still ahead of us. While we were walking back to the parking lot, with our heads bowed down to seek a little shelter from the cold harsh winds, something really special happened.. All of a sudden I saw some sort of movement on my left and I was 100% sure that Bart-Jan was walking in front of me. When I looked up I saw the antlers of this gigantic alpha male rising up in the air. It almost felt like it happened in slow motion!
What?! A herd of reindeer on top of the Besseggen? Nobody prepared us for that!
Because we walked with headwind, they couldn’t smell us until we got super close. But not too close, because papa reindeer would get a little anxious. The herd probably belonged to a farmer because they weren’t really afraid of us and the alpha male was wearing a collar with a bell.
To me (and my obsession for reindeer) this was a dream coming through. We later discovered that there were two baby reindeer in the herd and that was probably the reason that the alpha male got a little anxious when we got to close. He would start sniffing and snarling at us.
Ask for reindeer help
No matter how cold it was up there, I just had to get a picture of my tattoo with the herd. To the amazement of some other people that crossed our path, since it was freezing up there and I was undressing, but I really cherish this picture.
“When the road ahead seems dark and daunting, ask for reindeer help. When you need strength and endurance to move forward and ‘go to distance’. When you feel the need to wander and want protection as you do so.”
As if that wasn’t enough, the sun showed up to make our walk down a lot more comfortable. If you look very close, you can see a little piece of a rainbow on the second picture below. It was so magical, we couldn’t even find the words to describe how we felt right then en there. Just WOW.
After snow comes sunshine
The view over the valley was even better when the sun showed up. On the picture below you can also see the lifesavers that Norwegians call ‘blood red T’s’. These (blood)red T’s mark all hikeroutes in entire Norway. As long as you follow these, you will always reach your destination ánd get back.
Behind the T you can see the parking lot in Gjendesheim where we parked our car a couple of hours before.
Look at the big difference! This is where we ended up after 2 hours of descending. In total it took us 6 hours to do the roundtrip. Which was pretty amazing, because that’s the exact amount of time you need to hike from Memurubu to Gjendesheim! It was a pretty intense walk, but it was absolutely worth it!
Have you ever hiked the Besseggen? Or do you want to do that after reading my story? Leave a comment! I’d love to exchange stories and/of personal advise!