Gjegnen seen from the north
Gjegnen, or Blånibba as the mountain also is referred to, is located in the north-west of Sogn og Fjordane fylke, just south of Nordfjorden. The peak connects to the Gjegnalundsbreen glacier and the Ålfotbreen glacier can be found just west of the mountain. Several routes lead to Gjegnen and the adjacent glacier. I have only seen one of these routes, but I would dare suggesting that none of the routes may be classified as trivial. If not necessarily technically demanding, then at least strenuous. When weather conditions, glacier crossing and steep, dramatic nature is taken into consideration, then this truly will be a trip you will remember.
Despite the hilarious drops towards the north, west and east, Gjegnen offers a surprisingly easy ascent from the south. Coming from Gjegnabu, the summit looks everything but dominating and majestic, and this is clearly not the best viewpoint for this grand mountain.
Gjegnen is the highest mountain in an area defined south of Nordfjorden, north of Sognefjorden, and west of highway E39. The views from the top are astounding, provided you have picked a day where the fog is not covering the summit and the glacier. This is truly a majesty in Sogn og Fjordane Fylke.
Gjegnabu is a fascinating DNT (The Norwegian Mountain Touring Association) self-served hut, located a few kilometers south of Gjegnen, just below 1200m. The hut was set up by Flora Turlag in 1990. The major parts was flown in by helicopter and assembled on the mountain. The hut is open all year around, and provide all the comfort that a tired hiker or skier may wish for. From Gjegnabu, one reach Gjegnen on skis within 2-3 hours, and the route up is quite friendly.
The Gjegnalundsbreen glacier is Norway's 27th largest glacier (13 sq.Km) while Ålfotbreen is Norway's 22th largest glacier (17 sq.Km). Gjegnen is the highest mountain in Bremanger Kommune, and the Bremanger/Gloppen Kommune border cuts across the Gjegnalundsbreen glacier.
Source: Petter Bjørstads list of mountains in Norway with PF > 1000m.
"Saddle: The saddle at Skei, near the end of the big Jølster lake is 210m,
The entire area west and south of Nordfjord is dominated by this mountain.
Note that there is a slightly higher (only 23m) saddle along Hwy. 615,
closer to the mountain, see Botnafjellet"
Gjegnen is ranked as the 5th highest mountain in Norway, based on primary factor.
Note: Class ratings are in reference to YDS (Yosemite Decimal System).
Hope - Gjegnabu - Gjegnen (late April)
There is, as far as I understand, significant avalanche danger during snow conditions, and it is difficult to determine the conditions due to limited views higher up. As such, this is primarily a summer trail. As we hiked and skied this mountain in late April, there was enough snow to cover terrain features that may be of interest to hikers in summer. However, the below description may be of interest as an addition to other information you may have gathered about this route. The safest approach to this route is to be accompanied by someone who knows this mountain well.
This link points to how the area is described by DNT.
From Bergen, follow highway E39 towards Førde. You will need to take the ferry between Oppedal and Lavik across Sognefjorden. From Førde, you have two options: a) follow highway 5 through Naustdal and the Naustdaltunnelen (toll tunnel, passenger vehicles NOK 45,- per Apr 2003) and highway 615 towards Hyen. b) follow highway E39 to Sandane and highway 615 towards Hyen.
Depending on where you are coming from, drive to Hope, just west of Hyen (highway 615). Near Hope, watch for a sign pointing towards Gjegnabu. It is perhaps easier to keep a watch on the terrain for the Skordalen valley. Follow the road upwards and go left at the first junction. An arrow (red) on a building points towards Gjegnabu. Consider where you should park, as the road turns into a forest road. It is possible to follow the forest road upwards until you reach a meadow, where a sign (in Norwegian) says that further driving is prohibited.
Depending on where you park, this is where your route begins. The forest road continues beyond the point where further driving is prohibited. Ignore the forest road going up to the left. At forest road end, the trail to the inner valley begins. Make sure you don't lose this trail, as it is not very wide or visible. The trail runs through forest, most of the way high above the stream down to your right. The trail is harder to follow when you arrive the inner valley basin. A wide gorge extends the valley up the mountain and is the obvious route for ascending the mountian. The route runs on the left-hand side into the basin but turns gradually towards the stream to the right. If there is avalanche snow in the basin, it might be safer to walk around, as more snow may be on the way down the mountain.
Your entry point up is near the main stream coming down from the gorge, on the right hand side of the basin. You should also see red paint on rocks indicating this. The first notable point is in the very beginning, where you need to use your hands to pull yourself up one level. There is no exposure, and the difficulty is (US) class 2+. Make good sure you follow the red marking up along the stream. Turn around from time to time, to check that you also see the red marking. This will make you feel better when descending. After a while, the route turns from the stream towards the mountain wall on your left. Here you need to follow a ledge that has one narrow point. If you are carrying a large backpack, this point may feel a little awkward. But it is possible to put one foot below the ledge and move safely beyond this point. The route then moves towards the center of the gorge.
Higher up, you arrive a point where two major cliffs are almost blocking the gorge. A small gully with a series of smaller waterfall runs down inbetween. The route moves up to the leftmost cliff and apparently takes you around the cliff on a ledge system. We failed to see this route, and climbed up in the waterfall. The gully route clearly the most difficult part of the entire route we followed, but is not a part of the regular route. A convenient snow bridge provided a useful ascent up the gully. On top of this gully, we had to move onto the ridge to our right for a short ascent to the above level. This route was short, but had limited handholds. It would also have been possible to climb the entire ridge up to our right, but this route was much more exposed.
Once above this gully, regardless on how you ascended, you will soon enter a plateau at approx. 600m. Turn west (left), and hike up a steep section to 800m, along side the large wall. This is apparently a boulderfield, but was covered by snow when we came up here. The route from 800m to 900m turns slightly south-west and takes you to the corner of the large wall. Turn right and follow this wall all the way to a small pass. This route will take you directly to lake 1147. Gjegnabu is just on the other side (NW) of the lake. Walk around the lake and enter the Gjegnabu tourist hut.
A possible route we didn't explore, is down to the X and Y lakes, between the lakes and up the ledges to point 1336, which you clearly see from Gjegnabu. Then northbound towards Gjegnen, which is easily accessible from the south. This route will bypass the glacier, but I don't have details about descent to the lakes and ascent up to 1336.
If there is snow on the glacier, then the easiest route is NW along the ridge on which the hut is located. Bypass the nearest cliff to the right, and cross over point 1170, descent to approx. 1050m before going up the glacier. When you get Gjegnen in view, head for the south end of the mountain. If visibility is good, the route is rather obvious. Gjegnen has a long, flat summit plateau with broken cliffrocks. The summit cairn is located far north on the summit plateau.
Petter asked if I wanted to come along to this Gjegnen. Without really knowing anything about the mountain, I said I was happy to come along. *Then* I checked the map, and based on the contour lines, I safely concluded that life on earth as I knew it, was about to end. I couldn't believe the density on the contour lines. But people apparently went up this way, and there was even a DNT hut on of this seemingly complex mountain. That gave me some comfort, but still I dreaded for the departure day. I did however realize that I had to see the mountain before potentionally bailing out, so Saturday morning, Apr 26, we were on our way towards the mountain.
Finding the Skordalen valley was easy. We followed the forest road upwards for a little while, and parked just before a bridge. By 13:30PM, we were on our way up the forest road. Walking through the forest was a real pain. The skis on the backpack were hitting every tiny branch along the trail, and soon I noticed needles inside the clothes, also in the lower regions. When we arrived the end of the Skordalen valley, a monster of a basin appeared in front of us. But I was a somewhat relieved of the fact that an seemingly obvious route presented itself up the gorge. As we crossed huge amounts of snow that clearly was the result of an avalanche, I had a creepy feeling, and advanced quickly over the snow, to the start of the route.
The route started with a easy class 2+ move, which caused additional difficulty when I forgot to take the skis on the backpack into consideration. As I lifted myself up the first minor obstacle, the skis hit rock and I bounced back. I strongly reminded myself to remember the skis when meeting harder obstacles. We made sure to follow the red paint on rocks that indicated the route. Going up was much easier than I had dared to hope for. There was a lot of safety in the terrain, and I never felt any significant exposure. A bit higher up, the route traversed the gorge from the waterfall to the mountain on our lefthand side. Here we moved up on a fairly long ledge that had one spot which was not quite compatible with a large backpack with skis. Above this point, we continued to walk on avalanche snow that provided easy ascent up the gorge. Next notable feature was a deep gully with a stream (small waterfalls) running through. A snowbridge was running up the right hand side of the gully, and the bridge looked like it was about to collapse any day now. It wouldn't be a long fall, but still it was something that clearly should be avoided. It didn't seem logical that this gully was part of the route. But as no other route seemed obvious, we carefully climbed the snowbridge up this gully. When we were just below the top, we had to climb onto the mountain to our right. Not very hard, but still it was a short section of class 3 climbing with limited handhold, and with the option to end up in the stream below if the snow collapsed.
Next, we reached a distinct plateau at approx. 600m, and we had proper snow all around. In front of us was a large wall, and we decided that it would be logical to go up to the left, staying close to the wall. The ascent from 600 to 800m was indeed steep, and we decided to keep the skis on the backpacks for a while yet. I was now in a type of terrain that I'm not terribly happy about. But this hill was OK. There was mental safety in the plateau below us, and even if there was a big drop to our left, the hill was more than wide enough. Halfway up this hill, we heard deep, roaring thunder, and realized that there was an avalanche going off nearby. We couldn't see anything, and continued to move upwards. Next, snowfall set in, and it was obvious that visibility would be limited higher up. As we came on top of the first hill, we saw large crevasses in the snow ahead of us. We picked a route between the crevasses. Petter had put his skis on. I was happy on foot for a little while longer. As the wall we had been following (on our right) ended, we noticed where the avalanche had started. A large section of snow had been cut like a cake from the plateau we were on, a few hundred meters ahead. Naked rock was all there was left, and the sight was creepy. It seemed quite obvious that this avalanche had ended at the bottom of the mountain, where we passed a few hours earlier. A wide crack in the snow seemed to run from the avalanche area all the way to the spot we came up.
Then the fog set in, and visibility was down to zero within minutes. We manoeuvered around the crack, and switchbacked upwards, hoping to get a glance of something distinct. But in the white-out, we had to use the compass to determine the direction. With excellent navigational skills, Petter led us in the right direction. Soon after, there was a small break in the white-out, and we could identify the hut just across a small lake. As we reached the hut 18:15PM, our first goal had been met. I was soaking wet after stepping in soft snow and from the snowfall that had set in. The hut held 2 deg. (C) and it was imperative to get the stove operational. Our next surprise was when there was no sign of any food. The map indicated that Gjegnabu was a self-served hut (which means food is available), but we now began to wonder if this was not the fact. Some oak meal leftovers was all that we found, and the spirit turned significantly lower than planned. Food was eventually discovered, stored under the sofa, and a meal for lords and kings was prepared before the night came silently creeping in. As we went to sleep, the temperature was now 27 deg. (C) and there was a uniform decision that the temperature was more than sufficient.
Petter checked the weather conditions at approx. 05:00AM. Fog. We dozed for another hour, and at 06:00AM, Petter announced that the glacier was fog-free. After a quick breakfast, we headed towards Gjegnen at 07:15AM. The only obstacle on the entire route was just beyond the hut. A smaller cornice had to be crossed in order to get on the ridge that led to the low pass between the hut and the glacier. The glacier looked quite friendly, and soon we were on a plateau where we had Gjegnen in view. We reached the summit 09:15PM and let the amazing views sink in. It was a blessing to reach the summit when the views were clear. The weather was unstable, and we saw large clouds building up down above the valley we came up. After 20min on top, we returned to the hut and cleaned it up before we headed down towards the car.
We left the hut 11:50PM, skied the normal route down to 900m, where we started to pay attention to the crevasses in the snow. I decided to continue on foot, as I was one of the Norwegians that was not born with skis already on. Once in the steep hill from 800m to 600m, the nervous feeling was over. Now it was just a matter of sticking to the route. The hill was still steep. I hardly saw Petter, who was skiing behind me, on the 200m descent route.
The first obstacle was the gully with the suspect snowbridge. It was a whole different matter to take on this route coming down. We decided to lower the backpacks using a rope. I climbed down and received the backpacks. With very limited balance, lifting a heavy backpack was quite difficult. Petter was obviously getting impatient as I struggled to find the necessary balance. Things worked out eventually, and we downclimbed the snowbridge, face in. The descent also involved a hairy manoeuver to escape from the snowbridge. Trying to think rational got me nowhere. I just had to jump. The remaining route down to the valley was uneventful. As we reached the basin, we witnessed the results of yesterday's avalanche. A significant piece of snow had fallen more than 700m and slammed down into the basin, where we crossed the day before. I tried to imagine what my thoughts would have been if I was standing there during the avalanche. My conclusion was that "Sh.." was all the creative thinking time would allow for. Eventually, we reached the car, sound and safe. A very exciting trip had come to and end and it was time to head back to the daily life.
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