Skåla seen from Loen
The name "Tindefjellbreen", although a glacier in itself, is often used to identify a north-west arm of the Jostedalsbre glacier (Europe's largest mainland glacier), stretching from Skåla to Lodalskåpa. The arm consists of several peaks and smaller glaciers and offers a challenging ski trip in rough and steep terrain. The views towards the surrounding steep mountains, glaciers and fjords are spectacular. In the spring, the mixture of colors from glacier white, valley green and fjord & sky blue, delivers unforgettable scenery.
The route runs from the village of Loen, by Nordfjord, up to the DNT hut at Skåla (Skålatårnet), over the Skålabreen, Tindefjellbreen and above the Skålbreen glaciers before descending towards the DNT hut at Bødalssæter, just south-west of Skålefjellet. You will have to walk approx. 20Km from Bødalssæter to Loen, unless you have already deployed one car near Bødalssæter.
Those who want to proceed onto the main Jostedalsbre glacier, must get around Lodalskåpa (the highest mountain on the glacier) before arriving the glacier plateau (requires deep understanding of the complex terrain around Lodalskåpa).
The trip over the Tindefjellbre glaciers is advanced. Once up, there is no fast and easy exits. The weather may shift in an instance and severe weather conditions often occur. Strong navigational skills are required when the fog (which can be thick!) set in. As with all glaciers, crevasses are plentyful and common practice for glacier travel apply as well.
Do not plan your trip based on information in this document. The level of detail is not sufficient. You should plan for your trip based on actual weather reports, snow conditions and maps. No responsibility is taken about the information here within.
Described below is a mid/late May route from Loen to Bødalssæter, over Skåla and the Tindefjell glaciers. Please note that snow conditions in this period may change from year to year. The month of May might be the optimal time for this trip, as the weather conditions are usually more favourable, and the snowdepth on the glaciers is normally adequate.
Note that all references to points (ex: point 1814) is based on the 1:100 000 Turkart map.
Loen - Skåla - Tindefjellbreen - Bødalssæter (mid/late May on skis)
From Loen (all the way east in Nordfjord, between Olden and Stryn), follow the road to Kjenndal/Bødalssæter for one kilometer, or so (the road begins near to the Hotel Alexandra), and look for a narrow gravel road going up to the left. Follow this to the road ends. No public parking exist (but no signs say parking/access is forbidden, either) so make sure you do not block for any access to the private properties around.
Up to Skåla
Get ready for one of the hardest uphills in entire Norway! Approx. 1800m straight up.
Where the gravel road turns into a forest road (also signed Skåla) take the forest trail (signed) that runs on the left-hand side of the Fossdøla creek. The forest trail is well used and does not offer any significant problems for your skis on your backpack. Perhaps your first break will be at Tjugensæter, a small pasture on the other side of Fossdøla, at approx. 300m.
The trail continues in the north-east direction up through the forest, and alongside the creek until you cross the creek on a bridge, somewhere around 650m, Where you can mount the skis changes from year to year, but normally the skiing terrin begins not too far after the bridge (and sometimes much earlier). Switchback up the first hill and pass the small lake Skålevatn (1142m). From this small lake, you have Vesleskåla (1238m) on your right. From here, the peak looks substantial. Almost amazing how insignificant this peak becomes, when you reach Skåla summit (up to your left). Straight ahead is a pass that runs between Skåla and peak 1572m. Cairns lead the way up to the pass, and the terrain is rather steep just before the pass.
At the pass, the route takes a sharp left turn and climbs north-east towards Skåla. This hill is also rather strenuous. Do not go too far to the left, as the snow may be unsafe here. Soon, you will have the Skålatånet DNT hut (The Norwegian Mountain Touring Association) in view at 1843m. Spend the night at the amazing tower, and recover for the long day ahead. The hut's ground floor consists of a rather small living room, kitchen and fireplace (stove). The upper floor consists of three "floors" of beds (20 persons). The toilet and wood for the stove is found in a building next to the summit. Make sure you stay away from the north wall, just outside the tower. The snowcap may not be very strong.
Get going early! You have a long day ahead. From the hut, follow the not-too-wide ridge that separates the tower from the Skålabreen glacier. In some seasons, the snow may pile up and form a very distinct ridge. In hard snow conditions, show extreme caution. This ridge (with snow) is most likely the true high point on Skåla, possibly 5-7 meters higher than the high point on solid rock (1848m) on the other side of the ridge. Once on the other side, take the opportunity to visit the high point (rock), 5 minutes away on your left hand side. Afterwards, go back to the same spot you left, and find a way down to Skålabreen that matches your skiing skills. Use the contours on the map to determine the best route for descent. One option (depending on the snow) may to seek to some visible rocks, almost straight ahead, and switchback in the basin between the ridge your're on, and the ridge leading down from the high point.
Crossing the Skålabreen glacier begins with light upwards terrain, but becomes steeper (although not steep) to the Tindefjell plateau. The distinct Tindefjell summit looks very insignificant when approaching from west, but as you move down on the Tindefjellbreen glacier, you will notice that this peak is not easily climbed. Again, use the map to decide the descent to the Tindefjellbreen glacier. A suggestion is to seek right, as you enter the plateau above Tindefjell, and find a safe place to descend. The descent may be somewhat awkward when there is little snow.
Seek left on the Tindefjellbreen glacier, which soon begins to climb steep up to the plateau below Bings Brekuppel (a bowl-shaped mountain, easily identified). This is the hardest climb on the entire route, with exception to the 1800m climb up to Skåla. Moving onto the upper steepest section of the hill, do not seek too far to the left, as the cornices facing the drop may be unstable.
After a short section on the plateau below Bings Brekuppel, use the map to determine the best access point for climbing to the top. A suggestion may be to seek towards the right hand side (west). The high point might not be obvious, and in fog, GPS/altimeter may be useful. Going down from Bing, one suggestion may be to seek a south-east route down until you reach the drop towards the south. Then seek a northern (switch-backed) route towards Tindefjellbreen glacier. The map/compass is crucial when navigating down here, if the mountain is fogged in. The northern approach is also steep, but quite doable. Another alternative is to pass Bings Brekuppel on the north side (withouth climbing the mountain). However, this route requires crossing a steep slope with considerable exposure. By going up over Bing, this stretch is avoided.
The route across the Tindefjellbreen glacier up to point 1814 (bare rock on 1814 should be visible) is less strenuous, although every hill is probably less welcome, by now. When skiing down from 1814 on the other side, seek north (left) and enjoy the awesome views towards lake Strynevatnet and the mighty mountains on Strynefjell. The route continues on a distinct wide and flat ridge that leads towards a snowy peak, pointing towards the north. A steep hill ends with a 3-4 meters high vertical snowcap, which must be climbed in order to advance. This summit is referred to as "point 1925", or "N.Ø. for Skålefjell" (north-east of Skålefjell).
Useful tools (depending on the snow conditions) are crampons, rope, axe and a shovel. Although you may be able to climb the snowcap without the rope, the rope is very handy for getting the backpacks to the top. A bed of rocks may be visible at the foothills, and this is where you should go up. You may see footprints seeking towards the left (the north face) or to the right (with exposure down to the Skålebreen glacier). Climbing up in the middle will in any circumstance stop you from any lengthy fall, and is the safest approach. If the snow is soft, climbing up the snowcap could be a strenuous project.
If this doesn't sound like your average skiing trip, use the map and determine a detour down to the Skålbreen glacier (normally from where the long ridge leading up to 1925 begins), cross the glacier and climb up 1925 from the south-west. This is a far easier approach, but is longer and with considerable loss in elevation along the way.
Down to Bødalssæter
Continue over the flat 1925 summit, and head down towards the lowest point in the basin between 1749 and 1831. Then seek west towards a distint ridge on the north side of lake Kåpevatn. Navigate to find a large cairn that marks where to descend. Switchback down the hillside (moderately steep) and arrive the lake at the north-west end. Find a safe place to cross the river and locate cairns that guide you down the (very) steep valley leading towards lake Sætrevatnet. The trail down the first cliff system runs in the middle of the valley, by a stream (not the one coming from the lake). Further down in the valley, you will have to make your way down another cliff, and the trail runs between the two rivers coming down.
From the lake, a wide trail takes you further north-west towards Bødalsæter. The views are spectacular, as small glaciers come down the mountains, all around. You will have to walk an additional kilometer before you get onto the 5-6Km gravel road that leads down to lake Lovatnet. Here you arrive the paved highway, and have a 14Km hike towards Loen ahead of you.
Trip report May 22 - 24 2002:
This trip was planned to begin in Loen, and end in Lunde, crossing the glaciers around Tindefjell, ascent of Lodalskåpa, Brenibba, and a handfull of other named summits, and a traverse over the Jostedalsbre glacier, coming down the notorious Lundeskaret pass. The trip had been planned for some time, and already postponed once, due to a non-optimal weather forecast. The strategy was - late in May is good weatherwise, but risky in terms of snowdepth on the glaciers.
Wed 21/5, Petter Bjørstad, Jan-Frode Myklebust and myself left Bergen and spent the night at Lunde Turiststasjon (between Skei and Fjærland). The next morning, we left one car, and drove the other to Loen, at the base of Skåla.
The backpacks were heavy - climbing equipment, tent, sleeping bags, clothes, axes, crampons, food, skis, the works. And the ascent up to Skåla spares no one. Above 900m the skis came on, and eased the ascent some. However, strong, sudden gusts made the ascent up the steep hills a little tricky. Several times, we had to fight to stand upright. 7 hours later, we arrived the Skålatårnet DNT hut and found great comfort while the winds howled outside. After a nice meal and some rest, a small expedition set off in order to get the high point at 1848m, just north-east of the hut. 30 minutes later, we were back in the hut with the first summit in the bag.
The next morning, fog and light rain was not what we had ordered, but was what we got. We switchbacked down the relative steep hill down to Skålabreen glacier before heading up the more moderate slope up to Tindefjell. At Tindefjell, Petter was somewhat surprised to see rocks where he had skied numerous times before. We had to climb down a small band of rocks before we could start the strenuous climb up to Bings Brekuppel (1890m).
While skiing up Bings, we entered dense fog and had to navigate to the high point. About to head down, Petter ordered me in the lead, for navigation correction. I couldn't tell fog from snow, and chickened out. Jan-Frode had the required guts and went past me. Only to make a "holy-cow!" sudden stop. There was no apparent ground anymore and we had no interest of exploring the "abyss" ahead. Petter conferenced with his map and compass and took the lead into the "abyss", which turned out to be a moderate snowcap. Being a freshman in this kind of terrain, my concern grew as Petter took us to one mountain drop after the other. He explained that navigating after drops was the safest approach. "Now I know where they are". Quite logical, indeed. But scary. Petter guided us safely down to Tindefjellbreen glacier, and the pulse could resume the more traditional beat.
Skiing, as I know it, took a more familiar face across the Tindfjellbreen glacier, and up to point 1814. There was no more fog, and the sudden sunshine called for sunscreen. Over on the other side, we enjoyed a nice meal (which had been on my mind for the last three hours). During our break, we also enjoyed the spectacular views towards Strynefjell. I had noticed a fun arrow-headed mountain further down in our direction, but had not seen any obvious route leading around it. I remembered that Petter spoke of a small snowcap we had to climb, and things began to dawn... Jan-Frode was sure Petter was kidding when he announced that we were climbing up the arrow-headed snowy mountain, but quickly realized that Petter was not joking around. The mountain side leading up to the vertical snowcap seemed incredibly steep at first. Fortunately, as we came closer, we saw traces of snowballs down the mountain side. This means that objects roll down the mountain - not falling down. I took these kinds of discoveries as good news.
I was nominated to lead up, and when Petter suggested we should use a rope, I was happy to be the leading monkey. Without a rope, I might have been more quiescent. Eager to prove advanced skills in snowclimbing, I had to give up after 4 attempts. The snow gave in and I fell down every time. Jan-Frode, a more seasoned climber had no better luck. Finally, Petter took the shovel and dug himself a path up the snowcap. Failing to lead up, my rank was reduced to bring the backpacks up the mountain. With this heavy load, my face was glued to the snow in the hill in front of me. I've had better moments. Well overdue (schedule-wise) we could enjoy the mighty view towards Lodalskåpa from the summit of point 1925.
While traversing steep west face of peak 1831, with lake Kåpevatn far down below, Petter announced that we would camp in the juncture between Lodalskåpa, Strupebreen glacier and Tverrfjellet. We were running way behind schedule. The plan was to hike up the glacier on the east side of Lodalskåpa, descend into a coulouir (supposedly some scrambling involved), get onto a ledge system, and climb Lodalskåpa from the east side. Then find a camping spot south of Lodalskåpa. All before making camp for the night. As this plan failed, the glacier juncture was the next best thing.
I never really fell to sleep, as the winds started howling. I had noticed that clouds dressed Lodalskåpa like a coat (kåpe = coat) and wondered if ugly weather was moving in. The wind howled all night, and in periods snowdrift whipped the tent. Early morning, the weather conditions remained the same. The snow was almost reaching the top of the tent, in the corners. The fog was dense, and only periodically I could see the lower foothills of Lodalskåpa. Not my idea of weather for an advanced hike around the mountain. 5 hours later, Petter announced that we were running out of time (in order to get back home late the following day) and we all decided we should exit down towards Bødalssæter. Far the best option, in terms of the car. Again, we traversed the steep mountain side above lake Kåpevatn, this time in dense fog. The winds calmed as soon as we left the juncture. I guess the pass functioned like an accellerator for winds blowing through.
Petter sat compass course and brought us head-on to the cairn indicating the safe descent to lake Kåpevatn. This descent was far more friendly than what I could hope for, in the wild landscape. Actually, the descent down through the valley was at times much steeper than the descent from the glacier. Late afternoon, we arrived Bødalssæter, and Petter volunteered to run to Loen and get the car. After 15Km, or so, he finally catched a lift with a passing car, and soon returned to Bødalssæter. We stopped by Lunde and picked up my car, and late, late in the evening we were back in Bergen.
The trip towards Lodalskåpa
Leaving the glacier