Lavkarittet is a tough 68-kilometre (42-mile) bike race over the mountain between two valleys. However, we did Lavkaløypa as an excursion at our own pace, and experienced stunning landscapes and magnificent, undisturbed nature.
68 kilometres (42 miles)
Lavkaløypa is a 68-kilometre (42-mile) mountain bike trail that follows the route of the Lavkarittet, one of Northern Norway's most famous mountain bike races, held in the second weekend in August. The route starts in Hatteng, Storfjord's municipal centre, runs up the Kitdal valley to the summit, which lies at around 800 metres (2,600 feet), before descending into the Skibotndal valley, ending in the village of Skibotn.
800 metres (2,600 feet) uphill
The first part of the route follows the bottom of the Kitdal valley. Here there are farms and hay fields that feel like a green paradise surrounded by mighty mountains and sculpted peaks. But you can only enjoy this for a few kilometres before ascent begins. You climb several hundred metres in only a few short kilometres, along an old, half-overgrown track that winds its way steadily upward. The surface varies between hard-packed earth, puddles and sharp stones, and the higher you get, the stonier it becomes. Soon, the dense, broadleaved forest gives way to open mountain vegetation, and the view down the Kitdal valley and up towards the mountain peaks is impressive.
Finally, you and your bike roll up to the summit. The view is of still, blue mountain lakes, snow and sharp peaks, encircling a relatively flat, open valley. Suddenly, your bike has wings, and you sweep downhill along gravel tracks, with the odd gear-change needed for the occasional uphill section. But generally the direction is downhill. Plateaus and mountain lakes break up steep slopes, and after a while, the vegetation becomes denser, until at last you are down in the forest. The kilometres go by quickly.
Suddenly, you are down on the main road, and enjoying a fast 8 kilometres (5 miles) along a wide shoulder. There isn't much traffic, and the surface is excellent. However, a waymarker directs you into a stretch of pine forest, and the last 12 kilometres (7 miles) through the forest are a very pleasant ride along narrow paths and tracks. It's a bit bumpy in places, over tree roots and thick layers of brown pine needles. And there are a few steep uphill bits thrown in for good measure, before you can finally stop and look out over Skibotn, the Lyngenfjord and Lyngen Alps from a ledge perched above the village.
Who can ride the Lavkaløypa?
The Lavkaløypa is a tough ride. It's 68 kilometres (42 miles) long, and its highest point is at an elevation of 800 metres (2,600 feet), so you certainly feel it in your legs, bottom and back afterwards. However, it's not all that technically challenging. The descents are mainly on gravel tracks, good for less experienced off-roaders. The steep ascents at the start definitely make your thighs burn, but what do you do when you can't take any more? You get off your bike and push it. So the Lavkaløypa is a route for able-bodied people of reasonable fitness, not just off-road experts. If you think of the Lavkaløypa as an all-day excursion, build in several food stops and go at your own pace, then you will have a wonderful day in magnificent natural scenery. www.nordnorge.com rode it without any special experience of off-roading, and we completed it in fine style, though we definitely weren't contenders for the speed record.
- The Lavkaløypa is well signposted, but it goes through wild, uninhabited areas, which means that you must be prepared for any eventuality.
- Take plenty of food. Your body will run out of energy and need refuelling.
- Mountain bikes with front suspension (or front and rear) are an advantage.
- Make sure that you have plenty of clothes in your pack. You will sweat on the way up, but you will find it chilly on the mountain plateau.
- Get a map of the area
One of the most popular off-road bike races in Northern Norway is the Lavkarittet, which takes place in the second weekend in August. This race attracts off-road enthusiasts from all over Northern Norway, and even a few international competitors. The typical Lavkaritt rider is male, does several sports and uses the race as a summer test of endurance. However, increasing numbers of teenagers, women and older men are now participating.