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Woman standing on the Nigardsbreen glacier Woman standing on the Nigardsbreen glacier
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Nigardsbreen.
Photo: Karl Eirik Haug / visitnorway.com
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Many people work hard to make your trip safe and sustainable. Meet ten of them and get a peak behind the scenes of everything from glacier hiking and whale safari to the art of local food.

At your service for safety and sustainability

1. The glacier guide

Linn Larsson, Nigardsbreen glacier

She will be our role model, leading lady and heroine. At least for the next five hours. Linn Larsson, certified glacier guide at Jostedalen Breførarlag, is about to hand out gear for our much-awaited hike on nature’s own giant ice cubes to our eager group of twelve people from China, The Unites States, France, Italy, and Norway.

And in the morning’s sharp sunlight, the mighty Nigardsbreen, an arm of mainland Europe’s largest glacier Jostadalsbreen, seems more impressive than any world famous building. “Your safety”, says Linn and smiles, “will be all important today. So listen carefully.”

Linn’s prime task will be to lead us safely up the steep instep of the glacier, and down again after five hours. Our ice axes make us look quite tough, and we can’t help feeling proud.

Linn Larsson, Nigardsbreen Linn Larsson, Nigardsbreen
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Linn Larsson, Nigardsbreen.
Photo: Karl Eirik Haug / visitnorway.com

“Make sure to hold your axe down with the pointed part backwards. Never lay it on the ice, as the slippery surface may cause the axe to slide away”, Linn instructs us in a calm, but firm voice.

Then there are the crampons, a sort of armoury-like iron sandals with spikes pointing downwards to ensure a solid grip. Step by step Linn shows us how to wrap them extremely tightly around our newly purchased hiking boots.

A long, solid safety rope ties our group together, fastened to outfits looking like a curious mix of leather belts and underwear.

Linn and a colleague carefully check that everyone wear warm, windproof clothes, before patiently answering our numerous questions as we slowly begin the walk up the glacier front, one after the other.

The 27-year-old has three years experience with glacier hiking. Every morning the guiding company sends up to ten professionals to test the routes on the ice before they start the tours.

“Remember, this is powerful material: One cubic metre of ice weighs one tonne”, Linn says. The main glacier Jostedalsbreen is 600 metres at its deepest. Its most famous glacier arm Nigardsbreen moves downwards towards the valley with about one metre every day, and is expected to shrink with as much as 70 metres this year, compared to about 30 metres in a normal year. “Concentration, please!” Linn yells.

We carefully lift our mountain boots over narrow crevices that run ten metres or more into the ice. After half an hour, we are finally able to put our feet steadily on the glacier plateau.

“Ready for a photo session?” Linn grabs our cameras and smart phones one by one to help us capture the moment. As soon as we’re back on firm ground again, loads of icy photos are posted on social media for Chinese, Russians, Americans and the rest of the world to admire.

It’s time to hand Linn back the ice axe, though we would have liked to keep it. In retrospect, our glacier hike seems a bit demanding (as it should), but also rather uncomplicated. All thanks to Linn’s painstaking preparations and indelible safety measures.

Move on to meet some of the other professionals who take safety and sustainability as seriously as Linn.

2. The rescue leader

Sverre Molven, Red Cross rescue team, Odda

Sverre Molven Sverre Molven
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Sverre Molven.
Photo: Sverre Molven

If you happen to see the shape of Sverre Molven during your trip in Norway, you may be in the need for a serious rescue. Molven is one of several hundred men and women in The Norwegian Red Cross helping travellers in danger.

An alternative is to take his advice on how to avoid unwanted situations due to sudden weather changes, darkness in the early evening, hikes that are longer than imagined, or other surprises that may affect your whole holiday.

“Prior to your trip, make sure to read up on the specific hiking you want to do – in detail. Prepare your backpack with extra warm clothes in case you get wet and cold, and also bring sufficient food and drink for the worst case scenario”, Molven says. “And always listen carefully to the locals.” It’s nice to know that Molven and his colleagues are there, but laborious emergency call-outs can be avoided with reasonable planning at your end.

3. The volunteer

Jorid Rajala, The Norwegian Trekking Association

Jorid Rajala Jorid Rajala
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Jorid Rajala.
Photo: DNT / Jorid Rajala

As a hiker in Norwegian nature, you will find more than 20,000 kilometres of marked trails.

You know that you are on the right path when you keep passing cairns, rock walls, trees and poles marked with hand painted Ts. This important letter is the widely known symbol of The Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT), the country’s largest outdoor activities organisation.

The useful T signs are regularly maintained and repainted by voluntary members like Jorid Rajala, so that you can keep on hiking safely and find your way back to your base before it gets too dark.

4. The eco-friendly lodge host

Marius Haugaløkken, Gjendesheim, Jotunheimen

Marius Haugaløkken, Gjendesheim Marius Haugaløkken, Gjendesheim
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Marius Haugaløkken, Gjendesheim.
Photo: Kristoffer Mæle Thuestad

“Sustainability is our nerve”, says Marius Haugaløkken. Since 2011 he has been running the staffed lodge Gjendesheim, which is situated at the natural entrance to the eastern part of the mountain area Jotunheimen.

Gjendesheim has a seven-seated electric vehicle they use to pick up guests, and they recently installed a new charging station for private electric cars. The fresh food at the restaurant comes mainly from local manufacturers. “It may be a bit more expensive, and more laborious to get hold of, but it’s worth it”, says Haugaløkken – who has also stopped selling bottled water. “Our tap water is the purest thing you can bring on your mountain hike.”

Gjendesheim, which celebrates its 140th anniversary in 2018, is The Norwegian Trekking Association’s most frequently visited lodge. Gjendesheim also cooperates with other lodges in the area on ​​a so-called Besseggen patrol project, where a qualified person helps hikers in the mountains to return safely at the end of the day. “Our goal has been successful in avoiding dangerous situations where tourists get too cold or are unsure about the path” Haugaløkken explains.

5. The musher

Trine Lyrek, Trasti & Trine dog sledging, Alta

Trine Lyrek Trine Lyrek
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Trine Lyrek.
Photo: Trine Lyrek

“Trasti & Trine is our dog sledging company, which emphasise educational experiences and joy through the sense of achievement and deep respect for animals and nature. For a start, we encourage our guests to be active in the preparation of dogs and sledges. Our long experience helps us understand the individual skills of our guests”, says Trine.

Trine and her team also serve local, organic food. "Whether it’s breakfast, lunch in the mountains or seven dishes in the restaurant, we know each ingredient’s origins”, Lyrek tells enthusiastically. As a bonus, the summer café and bakery have become meeting points for the local community in the small town of Alta. “All this is very important to us”, adds Trine.

6. The ferryman

Johannes Borlaug, Fjord1, Sognefjord

Johannes Borlaug, Fjord1 Johannes Borlaug, Fjord1
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Johannes Borlaug, Fjord1.
Photo: Karl Eirik Haug / visitnorway.com

“Please get your car in line!” shouts Johannes Borlaug, the ferry deck organiser who has worked aboard for 30 years.

“It keeps me young, all that running between the bow and the aft during the many 15-minute crossings of the Sognefjord”, he says, before disappearing between densely parked cars and buses.

Like the rest of the crew, he is responsible for the safety of the passengers, and now the buzz-word “sustainability” has also fully reached the business. Ferry companies like Fjord1 are phasing out traditional oil-burning vessels and have placed orders at shipyards for environmental friendly electric driven ferries. Some of these novelties are already trafficking the fjords and have been warmly welcomed by both crew and passengers.

7. The local food lodge host

Solbjørg Kvålshaugen, Fondsbu, Jotunheimen

Solbjørg Kvålshaugen, Fondsbu Solbjørg Kvålshaugen, Fondsbu
Credits
Solbjørg Kvålshaugen, Fondsbu.
Photo: Mari Kolbjørnsrud

Oh yes, the rather recent Norwegian pride in local food goes all the way into the mountains.

Solbjørg Kvålshaugen has run the place Fondsbu in the southern part of the mountain area Jotunheimen for more than 10 years. Fondsbu has always been known for its passion for fresh ingredients. Typical highlights of their three or four course meals are lamb, veal and reindeer from local producers, and trout from the nearby lake Bygdin.

“Here at Fondsbu we prepare our own food with love and respect for our guests”, promises Kvålshaugen, who has given us glimpses of the busy country life at Fondsbu through the popular Norwegian TV documentary series “Mountain people”.

8. The ranger

Henrik Lilleheim, the parking lot for hikers to Kjerag

Henrik Lilleheim Henrik Lilleheim
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Henrik Lilleheim.
Photo: Henrik Lilleheim

Luckily, an increasing number of parking lots for hikers to major nature spots now have their own guards, also called “rangers”.

Henrik Lilleheim is waiting for you at the parking lot Øygardsstøl. He will explain to you that the hike to the popular Kjeragbolten is an eleven kilometre round trip, and that the six to ten hour walk has an elevation gain of 800 metres. At some points, you must be able to lift yourself up by wires.

“I never sugar coat the situation”, he explains. “I always check with hikers if they have appropriate equipment. It has happened that I have told people to turn around and come back better equipped. My major task as a ranger is to help you get a fantastic experience. Service and safety go hand in hand for a unique and extraordinary experience of the Norwegian nature”, Henrik says with a smile.

9. The snow manager

Mads Mørch, Oslo Winter Park, Oslo

Mads Mørch Mads Mørch
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Mads Mørch.
Photo: Ina Mørch

"Our aim is to become the first alpine resort based on CO2 neutral operation”, Mads Mørch says.

"Despite recent heavily extension of the resort we don’t consume more energy than we did back in 2002. In 2012, Oslo Winter Park was a pioneer in terms of electrification when we introduced the country’s first electric snowmobile.”

New snow cannons are supposed to be more energy effective than the ones they have replaced.

"Finally, we never stop encouraging our steadily increasing number of skiers, as well as our employees, to use public transport. All in all, we are certified as an Eco-Lighthouse by the respected label of the same name”, Mads informs us, before he plunges down the hill on his own freshly prepared snow surface.

10. The Captain

Geir Maan, Whale Safari Andenes

Captain Geir Maan, Andenes Whale Safari Captain Geir Maan, Andenes Whale Safari
Credits
Captain Geir Maan, Andenes Whale Safari.
Photo: Andenes Whale Safari

“For sure, my crew and I use all of our experience to approach the whales without disturbing them in their natural environment”, says Geir Maan, captain of one of the ships that takes the biggest number of curious travellers out on Norway’s ever popular whale safaris. And what a sight! These kings and queens of the ocean weigh up to nearly 60 tonnes.

For a start, whale safari companies in Norway work according to guidelines created by The International Whaling Commission and The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.

Moreover, most companies have their own strict locally adapted methods to respect the animals and the environment. “For Whale Safari Andenes, it means measures like ongoing work of noise and pollution reduction, and keeping a respectful distance to the whales no matter the situation”, says Captain Maan before heading out on the open ocean with a new group of excited passengers.

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