We do not normally travel in high season. One, it’s usually too warm for folks who must protect themselves from the sun. Two, high season means more people and higher prices. Given that Norway is one of the most expensive countries in the world (or is it the most expensive?), spending time here in high season was a hard decision.
But we wanted to hike in the Norwegian mountains and stay in the mountain huts. Hiking season doesn’t start til mid-June–before then, people ski to the huts–so we extended our trip to mid-July. With great expectations, we got the master hut key in Bergen. It was supposed to work in all huts.
We assumed the weather would be iffy on Svalbard, so we allowed plenty of time there, which we didn’t need, but we assumed the weather would be getting better farther south as we waited.
Not so. This spring, Norway has had record snow and rain. Huts that would normally be hiked to in June are still being reached by skiis. And it rained every day since we came south.
Until Wednesday. Finally, after all this waiting, a clear day for a hike from Å to Munkebu hut on a path mostly clear of snow. We arranged to leave my pack in Å, shopped for food, and set off Wednesday morning. The weather was finally beautiful. The trail had muddy spots,
some scrambling spots,
a scary-to-me cabled ledge,
the friendliest cat we’ve seen since we left home,
friendly Ukrainians who wanted their picture taken with us because “You are our heroes. You are so strong,”
and toward the end, lots of snow.
There were several plateaus along the way with astounding views. We could see the ocean on three sides:
and even the mountains on the mainland.
Remember the massive rock overshadowing Å? It doesn’t look as massive from above (right of center), and this photo was taken less than half way up:
Finally, the hut came into sight in one of the most dramatic settings I’ve ever seen for a hut:
We were ecstatic–until we realized that we didn’t have the right key. This was no “Maybe I didn’t do it right.” This was “Skeleton key doesn’t fit a Yale lock.”
“Disappointed” was an understatement. “Pissed” comes closer and we turned back.
However, about halfway back, and before the chains, we met a Canadian couple and their grown daughter going up with the right key. The daughter lives in Norway and thus knew that this hut requires a different key that could have been gotten at a store near the start of the trail had we known (that is, if the Tourist Info hadn’t moved without advertising the fact). They invited us to go back with them.
So we did. We were wiped after climbing 3,000 feet, but we had a fantastic night at the hut. We even stayed up for midnight sun.
Some photos from the hut:
We came down today (Thursday) in time to catch the bus to that infamous Tourist Info. They offered to not charge us for the stay at the hut, but we paid anyway, and we finally got the ferry schedules we wanted.
As we waited for the bus back to Å, we were treated to bucket loaders of dried fish.
Tomorrow, we take the fjord ferry across the interior of the island, then hike to a beach on the west coast.