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Mountain safety in Norway: Always bring a map and a compass
Mountain safety in Norway: Always bring a map and a compass
Mountain safety.
Photo: Terje Rakke / Nordic Life AS / Visitnorway.com
Mountain safety.
Photo: Terje Rakke / Nordic Life AS / Visitnorway.com

Stay safe in the mountains

Things you should know before you go hiking
The weather and temperatures can change quickly in the Norwegian mountains. Read up on what to wear and how to stay safe on your hike.
Emergency telephone numbers

The Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC) has the overall operational responsibility during mountain search and rescue operations.

51 51 70 00 – JRCC Southern Norway
75 55 90 00 – JRCC Northern Norway

For other emergencies:

110 – Fire
112 – Police
113 – Ambulance
120 – Emergency at sea
22 59 13 00 – Poisons Information Center
1412 TDD (textphone for the deaf or hearing impaired)

There is much to enjoy among the peaks, valleys, and plateaus of the Norwegian mountains both in the winter and in the summertime, but the beauty and serenity can quickly turn dangerous. Even people who have been enjoying the mountains their entire lives have a healthy respect for them and take care to be well prepared for every eventuality. Make sure your training, your knowledge of the area, and your equipment are all equally well suited for the trip. You can find detailed packing lists in our article about hiking tips.

Before you go hiking in the mountains, you should be familiar with elementary mountain safety. Let people know where you are going and when you expect to be there. Consider the weather reports not only where you are going but nearby as well, and keep in mind that conditions might deteriorate. Plan what to do if it gets dark or if the weather gets worse. Should you turn around or can you take a shorter route to a hiking cabin?

Check the local weather forecast at Yr.no, delivered by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK). Download Yr’s free weather app for iOS or Android.

Any time you’re in an unfamiliar area, you should bring a map and a compass that you actually know how to use. You should also take a mobile phone because even though there are many places in the mountains without mobile coverage, you might get lucky. Don’t leave it behind.

A pile of rocks with a sign on the hiking trail of the Besseggen ridge, Jotunheimen, Eastern Norway
Besseggen in Jotunheimen.
Photo: Chris Arnesen / Visitnorway.com

Follow trails that are well marked on the map and pay attention to signs and information boards along the way. If you lose your way, however, be on the lookout for cairns of rocks or red Ts, which are usually found beside well-established paths. Spaced so that the next one along is within sight, they will guide you back to safety. This means that you must never make your own cairns, as these can lead other hikers astray.

Remember to bring a torch, a hat, gloves, and an extra set of warm clothes. You should also pack a safety vest. It takes up little space and makes you so much easier to find if you get lost.

The mountain code

Stay safe by following these simple rules of thumb.

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.

Read the mountain code with supplementary comments.

Safety in the winter mountains

When it’s cold, it’s even more important to dress in layers of wool, not get wet, and wear windproof outer garments.

Stay warm, dry, and hydrated

In the wintertime, you want to avoid hypothermia. Staying dry helps, as does having enough warm clothing. If you have an accident and need to spend the night, make sure you conserve enough energy to dig a cave in the snow or set up a snow shelter against the wind.

Make sure to insulate yourself from the ground or the snow if you have to lie down – skis are great for this, if not exactly comfortable. A large backpack can be used as a small makeshift sleeping bag, and even a small one may keep your feet warm and dry.

If you get thirsty, don’t be afraid to eat snow as long as it looks clean and untouched. It will cool you down somewhat, but dehydration will most often be a bigger concern than hypothermia.

Protect your eyes

Even though it’s winter, you should take care to bring sunglasses, as the glare from the snow can be quite intense and cause snow-blindness in extreme cases.

Signal for help

If you get lost, stay where you are and wait for help. Stick your skis in the snow, put on your safety vest, and signal with your torch or a signal mirror to make it easier for others to spot where you are.

Avoid avalanches

Avoid travelling on and below steep slopes and other avalanche-prone places, particularly if you spot traces of avalanches elsewhere around you. Dry snow avalanches are most common on slopes of 30–45 degrees. Always remember to check the avalanche forecast in advance. You can’t outrun or outski an avalanche, so the best thing to do is avoiding them altogether.

Offersøykammen in Lofoten.
Photo: Alex Conu / Visitnorway.com

Safety in the summer mountains

Even in the summer, when the sun is out and warming nicely, you should pay attention to what clothes you wear and bring. Make sure to shield yourself from the sun and to be prepared if the weather turns for the worse.

Dress for warmth

Rain and windproof outerwear is a must, as is woollen underwear, even on warm summer days. The mountain winds can get quite cold, and wool will still insulate you from the cold even when it’s wet, a property it doesn’t share with cotton or nylon fabrics, for instance. Dress in layers so that you can easily regulate your temperature. Jeans and trainers are not suitable for Norwegian mountain hikes.

Drink frequently

If you get lost, conserve your strength, but remember to eat and drink frequently. Sun, wind and strenuous physical activity may conspire to make you dehydrated, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Most running water in the mountains of Norway is clean enough to drink, but avoid water running through pastures or runoff from glaciers, as this may contain harmful microorganisms.

Keep your distance to wild animals

Remember that certain animals can be dangerous and should best be kept at a wide distance. Polar bears, musk oxen, bears, and moose are all faster than you and can cause harm if frightened, surprised, or if they are defending their young. But feel free to go on a wildlife safari – and remember to bring your camera!

Move downhill for help

If you have to be on the move to get help, walk downhill and try to follow creeks or rivers as these will often lead to people.

On glaciers

You must never venture onto a glacier alone, but many tour operators offer guided glacier tours.

Nature guide Johannes at Preikestolen in Fjord Norway
Safety first.
Photo: Kristian Paulsen (selvestepaulsen.no) / Bleed / Visitnorway.com
Safety first A guide to safe summer mountain hikes
Forest fire hazard – campfires

Campfires in or near forests are prohibited from 15 April to 15 September.

Campfires can nevertheless be allowed by the sea or on approved campfire sites.

In extreme drought, even grills, gas burners, and camping stoves are prohibited.

If you light a campfire or barbecue, you are legally responsible for ensuring that it is safe, does not escape, and is completely extinguished before you leave.

In case of fire: Call the fire department on emergency number 110, then try to extinguish the fire yourself.

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Different hikes for different people

One of the best things about hiking is that everyone can do it! Find a hike that suits your fitness level.

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