For the next five hours, we will be walking a slippery slope. Linn Larsson, certified glacier guide at Jostedalen Breførarlag, is about to hand out gear for a much-awaited hike on nature’s own giant ice cubes. Our eager group consists of twelve people from China, The United States, France, Italy, and Norway.
In the sharp morning 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 the most important today. So listen carefully.”
Linn’s prime task will be to lead us safely up the steep instep of the glacier and then back down again five hours later. Our ice axes make us look tough, and we can’t help feeling proud.
A long solid safety rope ties our group together, fastened to outfits that look like a curious mix of leather belts and underwear.
Linn and a colleague carefully check that everyone wears warm, windproof clothes, before she patiently answers our numerous questions as we slowly begin the walk up the glacier front.
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.
“Ready for a photo session?” Linn grabs our cameras and smartphones 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.
In the area around the glaciers Nigardsbreen and Jostedalsbreen, you can join several glacier walks that are both less and more demanding and time-consuming than ours.
Read more about Norwegian glaciers.
Jorid Rajala, The Norwegian Trekking Association
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.
Read more about hiking in Norway.
Marius Haugaløkken, Jotunheimen
“Sustainability is our nerve”, says Marius Haugaløkken. Since 2011 he has run the staffed lodge Gjendesheim, which is situated at the natural entrance to the eastern part of the Jotunheimen mountains, very close to the famous Besseggen hike.
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 celebrated 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.
It is easy to get to Gjendesheim by public transport, with daily bus connections from Oslo, Fagernes, Gol, and Otta during the summer season.
Trine Lyrek, Trasti & Trine
Return to hike another day
Norway is an incredible place to explore, with untamed mythical landscapes, mountains, valleys, and fjords. Before you enter the outdoors, get familiar with the nine simple rules of the Norwegian mountain code to help you stay safe.
1. Plan your trip and inform others about the route you have selected.
2. Adapt the planned routes according to ability and conditions.
3. Pay attention to the weather and the avalanche warnings.
4. Be prepared for bad weather and frost, even on short trips.
5. Bring the necessary equipment so you can help yourself and others.
6. Choose safe routes. Recognize avalanche terrain and unsafe ice.
7. Use a map and a compass. Always know where you are.
8. Don’t be ashamed to turn around.
9. Conserve your energy and seek shelter if necessary.
After an adventurous ride with eager dogs in the snow-covered forests around the northern city of Alta, Trine and her team also serve local, award-winning, organic food. “Whether it’s breakfast, lunch in the mountains or seven dishes in the restaurant, we know each ingredient’s origins”, Trine says enthusiastically. As a bonus, their summer cafe and bakery have become meeting places for the local community in the small town. “All this is very important to us”, adds Trine, whose company is certificated by Norwegian Ecotourism.
Solbjørg Kvålshaugen, Fondsbu
Yes, Norwegians pride in local food goes all the way into the mountains.
Solbjørg Kvålshaugen has run the place Fondsbu in the southern part of the Jotunheimen mountains for more than ten 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”.
Mads Mørch, Oslo
"Our aim is to become the first alpine resort with a CO2 neutral operation”, Mads Mørch, the snow manager at the Oslo Winter Park, says.
"Despite a recent heavy 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”, Mads informs us, before he plunges down the hill on his own freshly prepared snow surface.
Geir Maan, Whale Safari Andenes
“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 take the largest number of curious travellers on Norway’s ever-popular all-year-round 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 to reduce noise and pollution, and keeping a respectful distance to the whales no matter the situation”, says Captain Maan, before he heads out towards the open ocean with a new group of excited passengers in the wild and beautiful islands of Vesterålen, Northern Norway.
Read more about wildlife safaris in Norway.
Respect is key
Norwegians have a long tradition of respect for nature, animals, and local people. This passion applies to both sustainability and safety, and is in many cases determined by law.
As a traveller you are invited to share the passion and enthusiasm for sustainability and safety.
At your service
Your hosts and guides are constantly trained to take emphasize sustainability and safety all through your journey.
An increasing number of Norwegian destinations are officially certified as sustainable, and even more destinations are working purposefully to obtain the label.
Most hotels and other places to stay have an ongoing commitment to reduce energy consumption and cooperate on safety and sustainability with fellow activity providers.
The number of travellers to Norway are on the increase, and so is the local awareness of how to receive them whilst still preserving the nature and local culture.
Safety in the mountains, the wilderness and other areas is important because the seasons and weather conditions in Norway change so quickly.