Opptakshaugane are two snow-domes that connect to the southeast part of the Jostedalsbreen glacier - Norway's largest glacier. The high point can be reached from Nystølen, north of Lake Veitastrondavatnet. One route runs up via Midtnovi and one via Nystølsnovi. This web-page describes a round-trip across Opptakshaugane.
The surrounding landscape is spectacular, with Langedalsbreen as the dominating scenery above the head of the Langedalen valley. The high point of the trip is the amazing views you get when you enter the Opptakshaugane - Jostedalsbreen saddle. Nystølen and Tungestølen (a private tourist hut) are located where Langedalen and Austerdalen valleys meet. The famous British mountaineer William C. Slingsby referred to the Loke, Tor and Odin glaciers (falling down to Austerdalen) as "the finest ice scenery in Europe". Quite a statement from a mountaineer who has seen more mountains and glaciers than the most of us.
The round trip is challenging in terms of being a long day-hike. Both Midtnovi and Nystølsnovi can be reached on marked paths (steep terrain), but the glacier traverse across Opptakshaugane requires rope, ice-axe and crampons. That said, the proposed route on this web-page is quite friendly - for the most part - just a long walk on snow. Depending on the season, you may cross blue ice just after Midtnovi. You should also take the time to visit the famous viewpoint Kaldakari, on your way from Opptakshaugane to Nystølnovi.
The name "Opptaksbreen" (the glacier below Opptakshaugane) is hard to translate, but can be thought of as the "Ascent glacier", and ascent in this context (probably) means that the glacier is a gateway to the Jostedalsbreen glacier. "Opptakshaugane" would then mean "Ascent hills", which is a truly boring name for a snow-dome in this landscape.
Also visit the Austerdalsberget page for alternative routes in this area.
Opptakshaugane (M711: 1687m, Ø.K: -) has a primary factor of 237m towards the higher Jostedalsbreen glacier. The saddle is found in the Opptaksbreen - Vetle Supphellebreen saddle. Ref. the 1318-II map (20m contours), you cross the 1460m contours on the high route, but not 1440m. The saddle height has been interpolated to 1450m.
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.
Nystølen - Opptakshaugane round trip (autumn)
From Sogndal, follow highway RV77 ("Lom") approx. 13,9Km. At Hafslo, turn left towards "Veitastrond" and follow this road 36,8Km to a self-served toll booth (NOK 20,- for passenger cars per Oct 2005). The road now turns to gravel. Proceed 3,5Km to the Nystølen/Tungestølen junction. Turn left towards Nystølen and drive to road end. Find parking here.
From Nystølen, follow a visible path up Langedalen. You stay on the west (left) side of the river Langedøla and you have to cross several streams coming down the mountain. Depending on the amount of water, you may need to ford some of these streams. After approx. 3Km, a side-stream will route you towards the river from Opptaksbreen. You cross the river at approx. 310m elevation. A ladder may be found here. If there is no ladder, the river must be forded.
Locate a marked path (red paint on rocks) that runs up the ridge to Midtnovi. If you have problems locating this path, traverse the ridge until you find it. The path runs mainly up the center of ridge until 660m elevation, where the path curves around (to your left) a steep section of the ridge and returns to the center at approx. 860m elevation. The path continues up to a tiny lake (not on the map) at approx. 1105m elevation. From here, up the hill to the top of Midtnovi, where you have a clear view of your further route on the glacier.
From Midtnovi, you can keep a straight southwest bearing (230 deg.) to the Opptakshaugane - Jostedalsbreen saddle. You may encounter blue ice just after Midtnovi, and depending on how late it is in the autumn, snow on the way up to the saddle. The crevasses we saw on our Oct 2005 hike, were tiny. The overall route seemed quite harmless.
In the saddle, turn left and begin your ascent towards Opptakshaugane. You may want to bypass the first rock section to the south, but soon you need to get onto the snow-dome. Unless you want to visit the 1687m high point, you may follow the 1580m contour until you are east of point 1496m - the Opptakshaugane - Kaldakari saddle. Follow the ridge towards Nystølsnovi's point 1458m, but there is no reason to go higher than the 1440m contour.
The entire route from Nystølsnovi is probably marked by small cairns, and *probably* runs down the west side of the ridge until approx. 980m elevation where the route runs on the east side of the ridge. I write "probably" because we followed the sharp ridge which offered steep and awkward terrain. At approx. 980m elevation, we joined the cairn route and concluded that the cairn route probably ran closer towards Nystølsbreen.
At approx. 750m, the route traverses westbound, down to the river from Nystølsbreen. Do not cross the river and locate the visible path (no cairns here) that run close to Nystølsnovi and then down the hillside towards Nystølen.
This trip was planned shortly after Bjørn Eirik Hanssen and I climbed Store Skagastølstind in August 2005. The date was set to October 1st, realising that we were against the odds in terms of weather and daylight. After "selling" the concept to friends, Anni Eide and Ragnar Aasgaard (friends of Bjørn) and Agnete (a colleague of mine) joined in for the trip. I had met Ragnar on a climbing session on Øygarden back in June, but I had never met Anni. I was impressed when I learned that she was (a.o.) a skydiver and had per date over 800 jumps - or whatever skydivers call the event of jumping out airplanes.
We watched the weather closely the days before the trip and "GO" was given (under doubt) late Thursday evening. The forecast promised heavy rain during Friday night but they forecasted it to clear up (some) on Saturday. In any case, we would expect fog. Bjørn and Anni would be driving from Oslo and meet Agnete and me (coming from Bergen) at Tungestølen late Friday evening. Ragnar had just arrived from the Canary islands and would arrive Tungestølen much later.
Agnete and I reached Tungestølen in darkness and heavy rain. We got the campsite up and running and watched Bjørn and Anni drive up the valley. We had chosen to put the tent up on the Tungestølen terrace. The terrace was draining good, and it was level. In my opinion, it was a perfect campsite. After a small gathering in Bjørn's tent, we went to sleep. The rain hitting on the tent was the last sound I heard before I fell asleep and the first sound I heard when I woke up the next morning.
When I woke up, I was convinced we wouldn't be attempting the glacier. Perhaps a hike up towards the glacier, but hardly across. Ragnar had arrived early Saturday morning and gave us a more precise weather report from outside our tents. All of the sudden, the trip was on and I was totally unprepared. By skipping breakfast, I managed to get ready at the same time as the others. I felt stupid. I updated my "virtual book" of "things to get better at" with a) Prepare the backpack before I go to sleep and, while I was at it - b) Prepare a bag of things that will be used in the tent (cooking equipment, food, etc.) Running from and to the car in pouring rain was not very clever.
We drove down to Nystølen and began the hike up Langedalen valley 09:30AM. Numerous creeks and streams coming down the mountain and the valley were time-consuming. Not getting our feet wet this early became a priority for those of us who had leather boots. Book note; "I should have brought my T4's". 10:40AM, we arrived the streams from Opptaksbreen. These streams form a river that must be forded unless there is a ladder in place. The ladder was there, and it was fun to watch the various ways of walking across. Ragnar and I walked upright. Ragnar excersised graceful balancing while I performed my ridiculous "Penguin traverse". Very safe, but time-consuming.
To the glacier
I felt we had a very late start and was convinced that we would make it up to the glacier, realise that we were running out of time and then turn around. The time was now 10:45Am and we had 1300 vertical meters ascent ahead of us. I expected it to get dark by 19:00PM, which gave us 8 hours to get up, across and down. 8 hours is a long time, but I had my doubts.
We struggled to find the path up the Midtnovi ridge. Locating this path was crucial, but eventually we got on the right track. Rainshowers came and went. Rainbow above Langedalen with Langedalsbreen glacier in the background was a pretty picture. Fog came and went. So did the sunshine. We had a lot of weather. We took a break just above 1100m, by a tiny lake. I was having a "project" regarding clothes, and this pause was an important part of it. Bjørn and Anni had brought down jackets, Agnete a cotton wool sweater while Ragnar seemed to travel very light and got cold. I wore my traditional wool sweater and fleeze jacket. I took on a fleeze sweater and made everything air-tight with a fleeze neck. The principle was to spare the gore-tex jacket until it was really needed. I was soaking wet, and the combination was heavy. But I was warm. I have used this combination of wool and fleeze in snow-storms, but never in rain. I concluded that the concept worked well.
We continued up to Midtnovi (1210m) and had the Opptaksbreen glacier ahead of us. We had a small field of blue ice ahead of us and chose to put the crampons on. We roped up and assigned the most experienced (Bjørn and Ragnar) the middle and tail position. I was the point man and felt a bit disappointed when I realised that our route didn't include any exciting crevasses. On our Greenland trip back in 2004, the crevasses would "swallow" the entire team of 6 if the snowbridges collapsed. This was a very gentle landscape in comparison.
Nevertheless, the walk was enjoyable. There is a certain atmosphere around a roped team. The distance between the members of the party is too large for small-talk. There is total silence, and one gets the opportunity to get "in touch" with the nature. When the fog and the snow unite in shades and colors (white-out), the focus becomes more and more dominating. I guess everyone had different thoughts while heading upwards (a glacier often tend to seem "endless"). Perhaps one person has cold feet, another one is hungry while the third can't wait until the next stop to adjust the crampons that nearly fall off. But no one speaks. It's silence, and there is atmosphere.
We reached the Opptakshaugane - Jostedalsbreen saddle (approx. 1450m) 15:05PM. It had taken us 5,5 hours to get here, and we were still 3Km away from Opptakshaugane's high point. With 4 hours until darkness (according to my assumption) I doubted that we would make it down before dark. The consequence would be nothing more than a 12-hour bivouac somewhere down the Nystøsnovi ridge. But how cool is that? I proposed that we should hike up to the dome high point and then head back the same way. If not back in time before darkness, we could follow our GPS tracks the remaining distance. Agnete agreed. Bjørn and Ragnar proposed we should continue and Anni didn't mind as long as we got back down before dark.
This situation had to be solved quickly. I gave Bjørn an "extra vote" for being the trip initiator and for having walked this route twice before. There was no risk attached to the decision. As we could not make it down Nystølsnovi in darkness, bivouac was worst case. I felt OK about the outcome. "State your point of view, then go with the flow".
There was no time to visit the high point, so we followed the 1580m contour south of the Opptakshaugane hills. We mainly navigated based on the GPS but from time to time synchronised with the map. After watching Bjørn and Ragnar map UTM co-ordinates to map location in REAL-TIME, I added another note in my "virtual book" - get better at this - fast. Another good point was - if there is more than one GPS - synchronise map level of detail and orientation up front.
The view was close to zero and it was snowing. We felt somewhat cheated for the astounding views we could imagine was out there. But this is part of the game. This was my third trip up to the Jostedalen glacier and all three trips ended up in white-out. But I ain't giving up. The reward is just too great.
We passed the Nystølsnovi high point 17:35PM and I realised that darkness didn't come 19:00PM. We stuck to the center of the ridge, which got more and more steep the lower we came. After passing 1000m elevation, we discovered that there was probably a cairned route that went further to our left. We looked back up the ridge and agreed that if we were ascending this route - there was no way we would have followed our descent route.
At approx. 750m elevation, the route traversed sharp to the left (west) down to the stream from Nystølsbreen. The cairns ended here and it took us a few minutes before we figured out where the path was. Once on track, the descent down to Nystølen was easy. By 19:40PM everyone was down, and it is fair to say it was rather dark 5 minutes later. And the gore-tex jacket never came on....
We had been walking for 10 hours, and after a quick dinner, it was time for sleep. The rain set in again and I fell asleep to the sound of rain. We broke up camp early next morning and headed back home. Thanks to Bjørn for taking the initiative to this trip and to the others for being excellent company!
Move cursor to read notes, and click on the images to see full version.
Some of the thumbnails may have been cropped to fit the format.
ERRATA: Pictures that refer to Bjørnakyrkjebreen actually show the north part of Opptaksbreen.
Up to Midtnovi
Up the glacier
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