Baksafjellet seen from Myrdalen
Baksafjellet is a very prominent mountain, being the highest independent mountain (with exception of Hardangerjøkulen and its satellitte peaks Ramnabergnuten and Luranuten) south of the Bergensbanen railway and north of highway RV7. There are no higher mountains towards the west. The Sogn og Fjordane/Hordaland county border runs across the summit, and the mountain belongs to Aurland (S) and Ulvik (H) kommuner. Ruvlenuten is located within Ulvik kommune (Hordaland) and is also known as the Vossaskavlen glacier high point.
Myrdal railway station (866m elev.) is the best starting point for these mountains during summer/autumn, although the mountains can also be reached from various trailheads. There are several routes from Myrdal, ranging from quite trivial to moderately challenging. This web-page describes a round-trip that offers a few minor challenges along the way. Refer to Petter Bjørstad's web-page for description of a winter route from Uppsete.
Baksafjellet is found on the Hordaland top-40 primary factor list which indicates that the summit views are excellent. Hårteigen - the king of Hardangervidda - is easily identified 55,8Km towards the south. Other landmarks that catches your attention are the Hardangerjøkulen glacier, Hallingskarvet, Storeflåtten and the Vassfjøra - Horndalsnuten mountain range. Towards the north, you will see Jostedalsbreen glacier and sharp peaks in Hurrungane and Jotunheimen.
This is rough landscape. The easiest summer/autumn routes are trivial but things get tougher in winter. While Myrdal is a busy railway station in summer/autumn, few skiers start here during winter. I would not recommended skiing up Myrdalen (due to avalanche danger) unless you are familiar with this area. Even the Vossaskavlen glacier has some "pitfalls" that could be dangerous in fog.
If you prefer to visit this mountain without taking the train, drive to road end in Raundalen (via Voss) and ski across Øykjafonn or via Uppsete. You have to option to spend the night in Kaldevasshytta. If you prefer to go by train, visit NSB for train schedules.
Baksafjellet (1416-III: 1636m, Ø.K.: -) has a primary factor of 458m towards the higher Hardangerjøkulen glacier. The saddle is found just NE of Lake S. Grøndalsvatnet (1153m). This is the only place between Baksafjellet and Hardangerjøkulen where you cross the 1200m contour. Ref. the 1416-III map (20m contours), you cross the 1180m contours on the high route, but not 1160m. The saddle height has been set to 1178m as the 1180m contours are very close.
Ruvlenuten (1416-III: 1596m, Ø.K.: -) has a primary factor of 106m towards the higher Baksafjellet (1636m). The saddle is found N of the lake between Ruvlenuten and Baksafjellet. Ref. the 1416-III map (20m contours), you cross the 1500m contours on the high route, but not 1480m. The saddle height has been interpolated to 1490m.
Notes: Class ratings are in reference to YDS. Click here for more information.
The trails described below are not necessarily the *easiest* trails to this mountain.
Myrdal - Baksafjellet - Ruvlenuten round-trip (summer/autumn)
From Oslo or Bergen, take the Bergensbanen railway to Myrdal.
From the railway station, cross the westernmost track where indicated. Follow "Rallarvegen" (gravel road) for a few meters and descend a long stairway. Follow a path towards the B&B (Bed and Breakfast) and pass under the railway via a tunnel (combined path and river).
Follow the T-trail up to 950m elevation, and where the T-trail runs up to your right (towards Kaldevasshytta), continue straight ahead up Myrdalen. Stay on the west side of the river until the last hill before Lake 1171m in Baksabotnen. Search for a place to cross at the bottom of this hill, but above the lower waterfalls. Head up to Baksabotnen, turn left and follow an obvious ridge up to Lake 1306m.
The challenges begin here. Your ascent route is Baksafjellet's northwest ridge, but you can't get directly on it from Lake 1306m (without exposed scrambling). Follow a ledge just above the lake which will take you halfway along the lake. There are 3 narrow passages on this route above the lake where care is needed.
The first two passages (#1, #2) only demand focus while #3 is slightly more awkward; You must either traverse a short ledge with few good handholds or downclimb a short section. This point sets the overall route classification to class 3 (YDS).
The steep north side will force you northwest towards the sharp end of the northwest ridge. From this point, follow this ridge until the mountain broadens. Pass across point 1632m before you ascend up to point 1636m and the summit cairn.
Descend southwest from Baksafjellet. This is steep terrain, and you may need to look for the descent route. Some minor scrambling may be required, all depending on the route you follow. After the first descent, you will cross a T-trail that is not marked on the map. Proceed up to point 1523m and descend on a ridge that takes you directly to Vossaskavlen. Continue southwest, pass point 1588m and head up to point 1596m. Pass around the steep summit rock and ascend from the south side (no scrambling).
Head northbound along Vossaskavlen and pass the lake between Ruvlenuten and Baksafjellet. Just after the lake, turn gradually northeast and descend down a distinct valley leading to Baksabotnen. This valley ends suddenly, and you have 100m steep descent ahead of you. Zig-zag down the boulder/scree field down to Baksabotnen. There are other alternatives descent towards Finnabotnnosi. From Baksabotnen, stay on the west side of the river and you will see small cairns that show the way back to your ascent route.
I can't remember last time I saw a sun-only symbol (no clouds) on the weather forecast for western Norway. But here it was, for Sept. 10. It was due time that I continued on my top-50 Hordaland primary factor list, and Baksafjellet emerged as candidate #1. On Friday, I reserved the train ticket and I left Bergen on the 07:58AM train this Saturday morning.
The weather was just as good as the forecast had promised. The train was full of people heading up to the mountains. My dachshund "Troll" found the (close to) 2 hour train-ride a bit boring and complained often. Fortunately, I had a 3-seat area all to myself.
The train reached Myrdal 09:48AM, and we were on our way 12 minutes later. I wasn't quite sure how cold it would be on the mountain (it was 5 deg. C. on Mt. Ulriken the evening before) and I had brought enough clothes to climb a 4000m mountain. It's hard to fully trust the forecast on this side of Norway. The backpack felt heavy. And when Troll refused to walk any further after 100m, the backpack *turned* heavy.
I had no clue on how to ascend Baksafjellet. I knew that people hiked via Lake Paulvatni, and this was where I was heading. I was tempted to play it safe by following the T-trail towards Kaldevasshytta and then the long way around, via Kaldevassnuten and Vossaskavlen. But I decided to continue up the Myrdalen valley and take my chances. My only concern was the amount of water in the river.
I was able to - easily - cross the river 100 vertical meters below Lake 1171m and could proceed directly up to Lake 1306m. The temperature had been below zero during the night and the rocks were EXTREMELY slippery. A thin layer all over the mountain demanded that I focused on every step. The plan was now to attempt Baksafjellet's northwest ridge, but I had mixed feelings. It looked steep and icy. In addition, there was some snow on the mountain. I felt the "tension" I normally feel when I am heading towards something that might not work out. It is not a negative tension, but I tend to become very focused. And the good sensation comes along when I realize that the plan works out and the goal will be reached. To those who say that the trip is the most important thing in itself, I can only say that if it comes to reaching the goal or not - I *prefer* the first alternative.
When I reached Lake 1306m, I got a surprise. There was no way I could get on the northwest ridge without some serious exposed scrambling. The alternative solution would be to cross the river, follow Lake 1306m's north shore, cross the drain from Lake Paulvatni and attempt Baksafjellet further east. I did not feel for getting involved with two river crossings and decided to explore the terrain some more.
I was able to get past the steep cliffs below the northwest ridge. There were 3 places that called for caution. Nothing difficult, but the passages were icy and narrow. If I slipped, I would end up in the lake. An overhang caused some problems, as my ice-axe (strapped to the backpack) got jammed in the overhang. The pause caused Troll to think that he should leave the backpack, and I was busy trying to unlock the ice-axe while keeping Troll in the backpack. A very awkward situation, to say the least.
Once past these obstacles, I had a very steep mountain ahead of me. The tension persisted as I wondered if I would be able to get back to the northwest ridge. I did. The terrain did not cause any additional problems and by 12:40PM, I was standing on Baksafjellet summit. The problems with icy rocks diminshed now that the sun was rapidly melting the ice. Troll hadn't quite earned a lunch-box, but he was going to. No doubt about it. My shoulders were aching. I took my usual summit pictures while Troll enjoyed his lunch. I had shown amateaur talent prior to this hike and had forgotten food and the hiking sweater back home. Being very focused on my upwards, I also forgot to fill water from the river. I was able to find a icy rock on which the sun was shining. After a while (drop by drop) I had enough water to satisfy some of the thirst.
The summit was cold and the summit cairn told a story about recent rough weather. I had to put on gloves, hat and a wind jacket. This was more winter than autumn. It had taken me 2h:40m to the top, and I had to think about the descent. My train left 17:10PM and I'd better be there. Including Ruvlenuten on my trip had priority, and I figured I had sufficient time. 13:00PM, I put Troll in the backpack and descended Baksafjellet quickly towards Vossaskavlen.
Once down on the Vossaskavlen glacier, I let Troll out of the backpack. The snow was firm and the glacier looked harmless (yet knowing that there are some caveats around). We passed point 1588m and headed towards the very distinct Ruvlenuten summit. A large bird, I thought it was an eagle, passed above us and landed on the back-side of Ruvlenuten summit. I put Troll in the backpack, took out my ice-axe and made the camera ready. We reached Ruvlenuten 14:00PM but I saw no more signs of the bird. After 10 minutes and a round of pictures, I had exactly 3 hours to reach the train. That seemed to be more than enough, and I could enjoy the descent without worrying about the train.
While descending Vossaskavlen, I met Gustav - a Danish hiker who had been visiting Norwegian mountains for decades. He had spent the night at Kaldevasshytta and was on his way to Hallingskeid. It was quite strange to meet someone up here, as I had grown accustomed to the solitude. So had Troll (now walking) and froze when he saw the other hiker. It took some effort to convince the dog that it was a harmless human, heading up the glacier. After a nice chat, I proceeded down to a valley that would take me to Baksabotnen. I had no idea about this valley, but it didn't look bad on the map. I decided to take my chances.
The ice-axe came in handy during the descent. I was walking on ice, covered by a very thin layer of snow. If it had been any steeper, I would have been forced to climb over the rocks. When the snow/glacier ended, I had 100 steep meters of boulder and scree below me before I was down in Baksabotnen. The descent did not cause any problems, but I couldn't be sure until I was almost down. Once down in Baksabotnen, I felt the "tension" fade away. There would be no more surprises. I continued down Myrdalen and was back at the railway station 16:30PM.
My train left 17:10PM, but ran only to Voss. I had to wait one hour for the train to Bergen, and this train stopped at every single station between Voss and Bergen. We arrived Bergen 20:35PM and I concluded that for me - driving a car vs. taking the local train is a) a lot cheaper, b) a lot faster and c) a lot more relaxing.
To Baksabotnen and Lake 1306m
The northwest ridge and to the summit
Baksafjellet summit views
To Ruvlenuten and views
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