One summer day in the Norwegian Fjords
Norway is world-renowned for its spectacular scenery and is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts – but just how much can you fit into one day in this incredible country? As the Ski Club’s Digital Editor Chris Madoc-Jones found out on June 28th, you can manage quite a lot…
7.30am – Breakfast
I was staying at the historic Sandven Hotel in the small town of Norheimsund, situated in a peaceful inlet right on the western side of the Hardangerfjord. The previous evening I’d made the most of the long daylight hours by visiting the Steinsdalsfossen waterfall – made famous by the fact you can walk behind the rushing water. But back to the here and now. A rich breakfast of local smoked salmon, fresh brown rye bread, local meats and strong cheeses was my fuel for the day – and I would definitely be needing it!
8.30am – A ferry to go skiing
A quick 20 minute drive from the hotel took me to the port village of Tørvikbygd where the ferry would take me over to Jondal. Dressed in full ski gear and with a set of skis in the car boot did feel strange – but as I continued to find out in Norway, new experiences were around every corner! This small town was by far in a way the most picturesque settlement that I saw in Norway, with colourful wooden houses set along the fjord’s edge and fruit trees in every garden. The 19km road up from Jondal was spectacular as it wound its way up past the treeline towards Fonna Glacier Ski Resort.
9.30am – A couple of quick laps at Fonna
I bundled out of the car and walked the 50m to the bottom of the Fonna Glacier, an arm of ice and snow extending down from the northern edge of the Folgefonna plateau. A 1250m long T-bar whisked me up to the top and with race training lanes packed with young racers to the right there was a real buzz around the glacier. The pistes were perfectly prepared and thanks to hours and hours of hard work (and a little bit of help from overnight salting of the slopes) from the Fonna team, the pistes and park were in pristine condition. Yes the sun wasn’t beaming down but after five laps on perfect packed spring snow I had my ski fix for the day and was ready for the next challenge!
10.30am – Getting kitted out
Although I had only heard of the Fonna Glacier thanks to the ski centre, the guys working there assured me that there was much more to the area than is immediately obvious from the car park. And so it was time for me, under the tutorage of the excellent Folgefonni Breforarlag, to explore more of the icy world of the glacier plateau. My guide, a jovial Dane called Anders, handed over crampons, an ice axe and harnesses for the hike to the Juklavass Glacier – famous for its spectacular blue ice.
12pm – Lunch
Lunch could not have been more different to the previous day. Then I had been tucked away in the cosy café at the base of the ski slopes, but today I was huddled behind a rocky outcrop sheltering from the wind that had picked up significantly during the morning. Some smoky local salami (which I think was venison but my Norwegian sadly was not up to scratch) and sweet bread was my lunch for the day, and fuelled by this and breakfast I was ready for the afternoon’s hike.
2pm – Blue ice caves
After an hour of walking roped together as a group and in crampons we encountered our first crevasses – an intimidating sight for someone used to skiing on glaciers covered in metres of snow! But Anders assured me it was safe to stand with one leg either side of the smaller cracks, offering a chance to stare right down into the icy depths below – not for the feint-hearted… Then as Anders took us further down the glacier it began to steepen and fracture, resulting in a truly incredible landscape. The highlight was crawling through a freshly formed ice tunnel, which according to Anders, was brand new overnight – a stark reminder that the seemingly solid ice I was standing on moves at more than 20m each year.
4.30pm – A howling gale
After exploring and climbing through the ice of the Juklavass Glacier the weather took a turn for the worse, with sleet showers rattling in across the glacier in an ever strengthening wind. Although not what I was expecting of a summer trip to Norway it was a really nice change to feel the cold, but seriously fresh, air on my face. By the time I had reached the carpark, the ski area was empty and I was a bit damp to say the least – definitely time to head down to Jondal. The drive down with Anders (I’d given him a lift) gave ample time to reflect on what was a very special day on the glacier and to discuss England’s disastrous defeat to Iceland at the Euros 24 hours previously.
5.30pm – Time to hit the water
With every minute we descended down the windy road to Jondal the temperature rose and the wind began to drop. By the time we were in Jondal it was flat clam, a balmy 18°C and the sun was even poking out of the previously leaden skies. Using the Folgefonni Breforarlag’s kayaks, Anders took me northwards along the coast towards a lighthouse guarding the straight between Jondal and Norheimsund, gliding past sheer granite cliffs and the forested slopes of the fjord’s coastline. At one point a pod of porpoises swam past – a beautiful but another odd sight having spent the morning on skis and the afternoon clambering through ice caves…
7.30pm – Back on the road
Back on dry and land and after waving goodbye to Anders it was time to head underneath the Folgefonna Glacier once again – but this time through a series of long tunnels on the road to Odda. Emerging from the tunnels to bright sunshine in the precipitously steep Sørfjord was a stunning sight and capped off a fantastic day in the Norwegian mountains. I checked into the Trolltunga Hotel and enjoyed a fantastic dinner of local salmon before heading straight to bed! I felt like it was well earned.
I travelled to Norway thanks to the support of the team at Fjord Norway and Visit Hardangerfjord. Flights to Bergen were provided on Norwegian by Innovation Norway. Thanks must also go to the team at Fonna Glacier Ski Resort for providing lift passes and Folgefonni Breforarlag for their excellent guiding on the Folgefonna Glacier.
Look out for more updates from Norway on www.skiclub.co.uk over the next few weeks.