Text: Sonja L. Birch-Olsen
Åsmund is preparing a small group of tourists from England, the US and Norway for a hike and a bit of ice climbing on the Folgefonna Glacier in Hardanger.
The group is a little nervous, many have never sat foot on a glacier before, let alone tried ice climbing. Arvind Dorai from the US and his girlfriend Ingrid Elise L. Rekaa from Norway, two of the particioants, are quite excited and they listen attentively to everything Åsmund has to say.
- It's my first ever time on a glacier, so this is going to be interesting and pretty cool, says Arvind.
To cross a glacier demands experience and glacier equipment, so before they can set off, Åsmund must give instructions about safety and how to walk on a glacier.
- Walk slowly and with your legs apart, pretend you are a bow legged cowboy. And make sure the rope behind you does not trail to the ground, says Åsmund.
A white desert
After the safety lesson it is time for the group to start their hike up to the glacier. Starting from the Folgefonna Summer Ski Centre, 1,200 metres above sea level, they go slightly uphill for an hour. Then finally they reach the glacier; an amazing white desert with patches of blue and turquoise ice.
Roped together, with Åsmund in front, and armed with ice axes, the glacier explorers venture out on the glacier which in total covers 203 square kilometres, making it the third largest glacier on mainland Norway.
From the summit of the glacier at 1,400 metres above sea level, the group can see Hardangervidda Mountain Plateau and the Sørfjord to the east, and the North Sea and the Hardangerfjord to the west. To the south they can see the rugged mountains of the astonishing Rosendal Alps.
The glacier hike consists of both calm, flat ice and more challenging crevasse areas. All through the trip Åsmund tells interesting facts about the thousand-year-old glacier which is in perpetual change. In the middle of the blue ice those wanting an extra challenge can try their hand at ice climbing.
Safely back down at the summer ski centre the group agrees it was a wonderful trip allowing them to experience the contrasts between winter and summer during one day. Armand and Ingrid Elise are satisfied with the hike and their own effort.
- Doing the ice climbing was the best part. It was fun and suited to beginners such as myself, grinns Arvind.
Folgefonni Breførarlag offers diffrent tours from three - six hours. Book in advance or meet at the ski centre, depending on vacancies.
Who can join
The blue ice trip fits everyone over seven years in normal good shape. The tours are adjusted to the participators wishes and abilities.
What to wear/equipment
Since the Folgefonna Glacier is at high altitude you should be prepared for all types of weather from summer sun to winter storms.
It is very important to bring sunglasses and sun cream. You definitely need:
- Windproof and warm outer jacket and trousers
- Windproof and warm mittens/gloves
- Warm socks
- Long johns, preferably in wool
- Long sleeved vest, preferably in wool
- Mountain boots
- Packed lunch and something to drink (water is recommended)
All necessary equipment such as helmet, crampons, harness and ice axe is provided by Folgefonni Breførarlag, which also has boots and some outdoor clothing you can borrow.
Mid-May – mid-August
From NOK 490 (includes all necessary climbing equipment)
Getting to the Folgefonna Glacier and Folgefonna Summer Ski Centre
By car from Bergen
Follow the road rv. 7 – passing Arna and turn right at Norheimsund. Then follow rv. 49 to Tørvikbygd for ferry crossing to Jondal where you follow a local road trough Krossdalen to the Folgefonna Glacier. Total travel time: 2 hours and 30 minutes.
By car from Stavanger
Follow the scenic road rv. 13 – passing Lauvvik, Oanes, (or ferry directly to) Tau, Sand and Røldal. Then drive to Odda, Utne and Jondal where you follow a local road trough the Krossdalen Valley to the Folgefonna Glacier. Total travel time: 6 hours.
By car from Oslo
Two options: A) Follow the road E134 – passing Drammen, Notodden, Seljord, Haukeligrend and Røldal to Odda and Utne. Then drive on to Jondal where you follow a local road trough Krossdalen to the Folgefonna Glacier. Total travel time: 7 hours and 30 minutes. B) Follow the road rv. 7 passing Sandvika, Hønefoss, Geilo, Eidfjord and Kinsarvik, ferry to Utne. Then drive on to Jondal where you follow a local road trough Krossdalen to the Folgefonna Glacier. Total travel time: 7 hours and 15 minutes.
By car from Kristiansand
Follow the road rv. 9 - passing Evje and Hovden to Haukeligrend. Then follow road E134 – passing Røldal and Odda ad Utne. Then drive on to Jondal where you follow a local road trough Krossdalen to the Folgefonna Glacier. Total travel time: 7 hours and 30 minutes.
By public transport
From Bergen you catch the bus to Norheimsund, and from Norheimsund you take the ferry to Herand. The ferry runs daily between 1 May to 30 September. From Herand you catch the Glacier/Ski Bus, runs daily between mid-June to mid-August, up to Folgefonna Glacier and the ski centre. Travel time from Bergen is approximately 3 hours. Travel time between Herand and Folgefonna is approximately 50 minutes.