Helen Rose's Hillwalking Diary: September 2003 - Norway

Briksdal Glacier

Photo: Briksdale Glacier. This month I am writing about a trip to Norway, which was somewhat different from my usual travels as it was a cruise with the luxury of sitting down to dinner in evening dress and lazing around the ship during the day. Pre dinner saw us having an aperitif in the piano bar while cruising in the Norwegian Fjords passing glorious scenery where the almost vertical mountainsides covered in trees with granite rock showing plunged down into a greeny blue sea. I love Scotland but even I had to admit it is difficult to compete with the mountain scenery in Norway.

Some days we ventured ashore for various walks and sightseeing trips and I am going to tell you about the walk to the Briksdal Glacier. We wakened up in our cabin in the morning in the Nordfjord at Olden, which is a small hamlet at the end of the 65 mile long Nordfjord. Ashore at Olden, we were transported by bus to the path to the Briksdal Glacier. The glacier is the largest in Continental Europe, the largest in Europe being the Votsjokull in Iceland, which I have written about previously when I did a hut to hut trek which involved crossing the Votsjokull.

Photo: Lake. Anyway, back to the Briksdal Glacier. It is surrounded by farmland with rich fertile soil, which makes farming a viable proposition in the area despite the harsh snowy winters. The Briksdal Glacier is an arm of the Jostedal Glacier, which covers mountain peaks for hundreds of square kilometres and feeds into the lake. The lakes are a greeny blue colour as they are mainly snow melt containing morain which is debris washed from the rocks with the force of the water.

We followed the path for about 45 minutes to the snout of the glacier alongside a rushing river on a pleasant warm sunny day. The glacier came into view and looked very spectacular frozen in time. There are reports that the glacier is now advancing but this depends on heavy snow falls which will take around 5 years to impact. In 1800 the glacier was around 300 metres further down the valley so it has been in retreat some of the time.When we were close, we saw the shimmering blue ice as glaciers absorb the red component of light.

Photo: Turf House.We walked around the edge of the glacier on the morain but there were groups of people roped up in safety equipment walking up the glacier. I have already experienced walking on a glacier in crampons in Argentina on the Perito Moreno Glacier which I have also previously written on in the article on Patagonia. A cold wind blew over the glacier and we returned to the comfort of the coffee house at the end of the path for tea and home made cakes.

Before boarding the ship, we had a look around Olden including a visit to the Olde Kirkke built in 1759 and with wooden pews which had hatstands looking like antlers! It was back on board for more cocktails before dinner as we glided back along the Fjord. In the photo you will see the houses where the shingle roofs are covered with turf for insulation. We were told that sometimes a goat is put on the roof to graze which acts like a lawn mower!

Coming attractions Strathfarrar in two parts and return to Braemar for the weekend.

E mail me at [email protected]

Thanks to Frances Rickus for photographs