A skier returning from Vetlepiggen
Vesle Galdhøpiggen/Vetlepiggen is the 6th highest mountain in Norway (all higher have primary factor >100m). The leading name "Vesle" (Small) is quite misleading for this beautiful mountain, but the 100m higher Galdhøpiggen facing opposite, attracts the overall attention.
Most people that visit this mountain begin their journey at Spiterstulen (1100m) or Juvasshytta (1840m) huts. From Juvasshytta, one may hike over Galdhøi (2283m) and down to Løyfti pass. This is a glacier-free approach. From Spiterstulen, one must cross the Styggebreen glacier (roped) in order to get to Løyfti pass. An alternative in winter, when the snow goes high, is to advance up to the Vesle Galdhøpiggen ridge just south of Løyfti (from Styggebreen glacier). Note that crevasses may occur close to the mountain, so caution is advised.
Described below is an alternative mid/late May route from Geitsætri in Leirdalen. Please note that snow conditions in this period may change from year to year.
Geitsætri - Vesle Galdhøpiggen via Porten (mid/late May on skis)
Locate highway 55 over Sognefjell (Sogndal - Lom). Exit towards Leirvassbu (signed) and pay toll fee shortly after the exit (currently NOK 50,- for passenger cars). From the highway 55 exit, follow the road approx. 5,7Km and find parking alongside the road. From here, you should have the Geitsætri cabin (not a public hut) just behind you. Up to your left, you should see a valley (which is also the first valley on your left since you left the highway).
Follow a fence up towards the valley. In this season, there may be no snow at this elevation, and you should be able to see a trail leading into the valley. Stay on the right hand side on the yt. Illåi; river, and climb the foothills of Sauhøi (1770m). This is where you might reach the snow. Leave the Sauhøi ridge, and head down to the S. Illåi river and try to find a safe passage over to the other side (Skardbakken). This river may be extremely hard to cross if the snow bridges are gone, and fatal injuries have occured along this river. Use ice axe/crampons down towards the river if the snow is frozen.
Continue up the strenuous Skardbakken hill with Svarttinden in view up on your right. Eventually the steepness falls off, and you move from the ridge you're on, down towards the valley. Use axe/crampons here if the snow is frozen. You don't want to slide down into the N. Illåi river coming down the valley.
Once you're in the valley, at approx. 1450m, the steepness up to the N. Illåbreen glacier, and the foothills of "Illåbandet" (a glacier divide at approx. 1800m) is moderate, compared to the trip so far. As you move up the left-hand side of the glacier, you have the mighty Skardstind (2373m) and the characteristic Nåla (needle) up to your left. (Small streams of water come down from Nåla in melting season, in case you're low on water).
Switchback up towards Illåbandet, and arrive Storgjuvbreen glacier at approx. 2100m. The upper parts of Illåbandet may feel steep, and under hard snow conditions, axe/crampons may be preferred. Under better conditions, this hill should please most skiers (coming down).
As you cross the Storgjuvbreen glacier on the right hand side, below the Storgjuvtinden peak (2344m), you have Vesle Galdhøpiggen straight ahead. Once past Stoggjuvtinden, adjust course from north to north-east, heading into the pass between Vesle Galdhøpiggen and Galdhøpiggen (2469m). This pass is the entrance onto Styggebreen glacier, and is marked "Porten" (gate) on the map. The climb up Porten is steep, and the skis come off here. Although the climb is not very long, axe/crampons should be used if the snow is hard. Drops of water also come down this mountain side, in the melting season.
Once onto Styggebreen glacier, follow the east side of Vesle Galdhøpiggen (on your left) and look for an access point just south of the Løyfti pass - where the glacier falls off to your left. This access point is determined by the amount snow. The more the better. Bergschrunds are said to be found between the mountain and the glacier. The access point may require making steps (if not already made) up to the plateau. A fall will send you down a hill, and that's most likely the worst that may happen. However, the access point may feel a little scary, and can be somewhat tricky, dependent on the snow.
Once onto the plateau, the hike up to the summit (approx. 15 minutes) is easy. If the weather permits, you will probably see crowds on the 100m higher Galdhøpiggen, just south-east.
Trip report May 18 2002:
My friend Petter Bjørstad, his son Pål Jørgen (PJ) and I had planned a long Jotunheimen "project" the week-end including May 17, our national day. As we left Bergen mid-day the 17th, we naturally had our thoughts on the weather, as most people who go to Jotunheimen, do. So far, it looked like we were in for the greatest week-end possible.
After 6 hours, we arrived Geitsætri 20:30PM, happy that the road to Leirvassbu was open. The plan was to camp down in the valley, but since it was still some time until sunset, we decided to advance up towards the Illåbreen glacier. We hiked up to 1450m, before we camped for the night, 22:15PM.
The next morning we woke up to a cloud-free sky and moved the camp up to Illåbandet on Storgjuvbreen glacier, at 2100m. The plan was to do Storgjuvtinden, but I had some second thoughts about the apparent steep summit block. We decided to do Vesle Galdhøpiggen instead. We skied across Storgjuvbreen alongside Storgjuvtinden and then head-on towards Porten. We decided to use a rope up Porten, mostly so I could get some practice with rope and crampons. We met a couple at top of Porten who was heading for Galdhøpiggen, but obviously took a wrong turn somewhere (quite amazing). Since we left our skis below Porten, we walked in rope over Styggebreen glacier to a point where someone had climbed up to the Vesle Galdhøpiggen plateau, using steep vertical snow as a "ladder". Since we already were in a rope, we used the rope on the 4 meter climb. Sliding down towards Løyfti was in no one's interest. After a nice visit on the summit, we took the same way back, as we found the ridge down towards Løyfti somewhat messy and obviously time consuming. We arrived the camp on Storgjuvbreen 3,5 hours after we left it.
Next stop: Storgjuvtinden, 2344m
Pictures from the May 18 2002 hike:
See pictures from the whole trip