Text: Øyvind Heen
Lake Gjende and the Jotunheimen Mountain Area are located in the centre of Norway, and are part of the counties of Sogn og Fjordane and Oppland. The mountain area has the largest concentration of peaks higher than 2,000 metres in Northern Europe.
Kayaking to the Gjendebu Mountain Lodge
I started at the Gjendesheim Mountain Lodge at the east end of the 18 kilometre long Lake Gjende (984 metres above sea level) in Jotunheimen. It was in the middle of September, and Autumn had come far up in the mountains. It was early afternoon when my kayak glided onto the cold mountain lake. The sun came through now and then between the clouds. Because of the weak wind, it was easy to paddle the first half of the stretch to the Memurubu Mountain Lodge. I was alone in the mountain. The air was crisp and fresh. The silence, the scenery and the Autumn colours were amazing.
I had a short break at the quay beside Memurubu before continuing towards the Gjendebu Mountain Lodge at the west end of the lake. The wind had increased, and my home-made sail arrangement was "rigged" up. It was just perfect for sailing, and the wind came from behind. The water was probably not warmer than 41 degrees Fahrenheit, so I tried to keep close to the shore. After four hours paddling, I arrived at Gjendebu, where I spent the night. The staffed lodge was closed for the season, but a self-serviced cabin close by is open all year. This cabin had all the necessary food, gas and firewood.
Walking the Raudalen Valley
Next day I left my kayak and some equipment at Gjendebu and headed for the Olavsbu Mountain Lodge, a self-serviced cabin 4-5 hours walk from Gjendebu. It was another beautiful day, and the walk through the Raudalen Valley was nice and easy. At Olavsbu I fired up the oven, made some food, and had a quiet evening.
Back to Lake Gjende
The walk back to Gjendebu the day after was along Lake Sjogholsvatnet. The path was difficult with slippery rocks all over. It was raining, and the water level in the streams I crossed had increased rapidly. I was soaked from my knees down when arriving at Gjendebu. Thankfully some German tourists were already there, and the cabin was already warmed up.
Three in Norway (by two of them)
The last day was just perfect for kayaking. There was no wind, and the sun was shining between the scattered clouds, and soon I reached Memurutunga beside Memurubu.
Three in Norway (by two of them) is a travelogue from 1880 in Norway, written by J.A. Lees and W.J. Clutterbuck. The book describes in a humorous way the story of three young men who go on a fishing and hunting trip into the Norwegian wilderness. They travel by foot and canoe to Jotunheimen.
In the travelogue, they are said to have made a fireplace of stone close to the camp at Memurutunga. And after some searching, I found the fireplace; it was still there after 118 years.
After a short break I resumed kayaking towards Gjendesheim, and after three hours of paddling I was back where I started. It had been four fantastic days in Jotunheimen.
Jotunheimen is the most popular hiking area in Norway, including Norway's highest mountain Galdhøpiggen (2,469 metres above sea level), waterfalls, rivers, lakes, glaciers and luxuriant valleys. The area also has two summer ski centres, one for cross-country skiing and one for alpine skiing. The best time for walking in Jotunheimen is from mid-June to mid-September. Earlier in the year, there may be a lot of snow in the mountains. Most of the mountain lodges are closed from mid-September. The Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT) maintains a number of mountain cabins/lodges and marked paths in the Jotunheimen Mountain Area. They also have a list of all the cabins and when they are open.
The Gjendebu Mountain Lodge
The Gjendebu Mountain Lodge is the oldest mountain lodge run by the Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT). It was built in 1871, and there was then room for 12 people. Today, the lodge has 119 beds and more than 10,000 overnight stays each year.
Anne Syversdatter and Erik Hansen Slålien were the first managers at Gjendebu. One of Anne and Erik’s children was born there in 1871. The girl was named Gjendine after Lake Gjende. In the summer of 1891, the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg was hiking in Jotunheimen. At the Skogadalsbøen Mountain Lodge he met Gjendine who was a dairymaid there. He heard Gjendine singing a lullaby, and was very excited about the beautiful song. Using the back of a cow as a desk, he wrote down what became Gjendines Bådnlåt (Gjendine's Lullaby).
- Lake Gjende is long and narrow - 18 kilometres long and 1,5 kilometres wide at its widest. It is located 984 metres above sea level.
- There are three mountain lodges along Lake Gjende; Gjendesheim, Memurubu and Gjendebu.
- The Jotunheimen National Park was established in 1980 with a 1,151 square kilometres protected area.
- The most popular hiking route in Jotunheimen is across Besseggen, between the Gjendesheim and Memurubu Mountain Lodges.
- The Jotunheimen Mountain Area lies between 1,800 and 2,400 metres above sea level. Most of the valleys lie above the treeline, at an altitude of 1,000-1,400 metres above sea level.
- The Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT) has 12 cabins in the Jotunheimen Mountain Area. DNT members are given discounts on lodgings and meals at the staffed lodges.
- DNT members can borrow cabin keys to the self-serviced cabins against a deposit. This key can be used all year, and the cabins have all the necessary equipment such as food, gas and firewood.
- The highest mountain in Norway, Galdhøpiggen at 2,469 metres above sea level, can be found in Jotunheimen.
- The Fannaråkhytta Mountain Lodge, at the mountain Fannaråken at Sognefjellet in Jotunheimen, is Norway's highest mountain lodge (2,068 metres above sea level).
Warning and safety
Kayaking at Lake Gjende can be dangerous, always follow these safety tips before venturing outdoors in Norway. You need to be an experienced paddler with equipment designed for cold water. Since there are no kayak rentals in the area, you need to bring your own kayak and equipment. Alternatively, there are boats operating on the lake. Gjendebåten brings you and your gear to the Memurubu and Gjendebu Mountain Lodges, which are excellent starting points for hiking in the Jotunheimen Mountain Area.
The weather in the Norwegian mountains can change rapidly, and snow during the summer is not unusual. Remember to bring clothing and equipment designed for all types of weather. Solid hiking shoes are highly recommended. The Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT) is providing a summer hiking gear list.
Join a guided walk or hike by yourself
The Jotunheimen National Park is Norway’s most popular hiking area. There are well-marked trails, and most people arrange their own walk between the many mountain huts in the area. Walks from the huts to the surrounding mountains are also popular. The Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT) offers guided group hikes and tours in the mountains and on several glaciers in the area. Many private companies also offer guided hikes.
When to travel
The best time for hiking in Jotunheimen is between mid-June and mid-September, when the snow usually has disappeared from the trails. Most of the mountain lodges close from mid-September. Many of the mountain lodges are also open during Easter, and are popular among skiers.
Who can join
The walks in the Jotunheimen Mountain Area vary from easy to difficult, and you must be in relatively good shape. There are several walks suitable for families with children.
Getting to Jotunheimen
The Jotunheimen Mountain Area is centrally located between Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim, and is easily reached by public transport. You can travel to Jotunheimen with a combination of train, bus and boat, or by car and boat.
Train and bus
You can travel from Oslo or Trondheim to Otta in the Gudbrandsdalen Valley with the Dovrebanen Railway. From Otta, you can continue by bus to Lake Gjende.
Train from Oslo and Trondheim to Otta
For information, booking and prices, please contact the Norwegian State Railways (NSB). If you order at least one day in advance, you may get a "minipris" discount ticket.
Bus from Otta to Lake Gjende
For more information, booking and prices, please contact Nor-Way Bussekspress.
Boat transport at Lake Gjende
Gjendebåtene takes you from the Gjendesheim Mountain Lodge on the east side of Lake Gjende to the Memurubu and Gjendebu Mountain Lodges further west. For more information, booking and prices, please contact Gjendebåtene.
Where to stay
The Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT) has 12 cabins in the Jotunheimen Mountain Area.
As a DNT-member, you get discounts on lodgings and meals in the Norwegian Trekking Association's cabins. Read more about prices for lodgings, cabins and meals at the Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT).
There are also 29 private cabins and hotels in the area. Read more about where to stay in Jotunheimen.
The Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT)
Useful tips from the Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT)