Josten på Langs is one of Norways most iconic ski-tours. It crosses Jostedalsbreen, which is the biggest glacier on the mainland of Europe. The entire tour usually takes three days, and it consists of 50-60 km of skiing and around 3000 vertical meters. Camping equipment and food have to be carried the entire way.
This weekend I had the chance to guide the trip for Jostedalen Breførarlag together with Lisa. I was quite excited, as I hadn’t done the trip from Jostedalen before (an alternative start is from Erdalen, on the west side of Jostedalsbreen). The trip also marked the start of this summer’s guiding season on Vestlandet for me.
14 guests and two journalists (who would be making a piece of the trip) greeted us on Bretun Wednesday evening. After a short brief it was time for bed, as Thursday would be an early morning. In typical Vestland fashion, however, the morning arrived gray and wet. Non the less, the spirit seemed relatively high and it wasn’t even dampened by the fact that we had to carry our skis half way into Fåbergsdalen.
Closer to Fåbergsbreen we finally got to put our skis on and the ascent up on the north side of the glacier went fast enough.
The visibility came and went all the way up to 1300 vertical meters, where we got to enjoy a lunch break with a bit of sun. However, the weather deteriorated quickly when we got up on the plateau of Jostedalsbreen. The westerly wind increased (according to the forecast up to 15 m/s) and it constantly threw some form of precipitation into our faces. In addition, the visibility became so poor that we had to walk on a compass course for the remainder of the day. An early camp, a good night of sleep and a fair amount of hope for improving conditions for the next day seemed to be in order. You can check out our route for day 1 here.
Alas, Friday morning arrived with even worse visibility. At least the wind had decreased a good deal, even if it still was far from calm.
There was nothing else to do than pull out our map, compass and GPS again. The pace was steady, but it was still mentally challenging, as there was no visible indication of progress. We took turns with Lisa to stare into the whiteout in order to keep our wits. However, the entire group soldiered on admirably and not even yesterday’s ascent of 1500 vertical meters seemed to bother anyone too much.
After around seven hours and some 20 odd kilometers the hard work finally paid off. The low clouds and mist cleared, and revealed a blue sky and an endless sea of white in all directions.
The sun also had a dramatic mental impact, as laughter and chit-chat finally out-voiced the endless howling of the wind.
Sadly, the weather window only last for about an hour. After that, it was back to navigation again. Luckily, Lisa had a GPS track from a previous trip, which we followed all the way down to Bings bregryta, where we set camp after some 11 h and 30 km of skiing. You can check out our route for day 2 here.
The second day is by far the most strenuous on the trip, so it was with great relief that we woke up on Saturday to a blue sky and sunshine. Despite waking up around 5 am, the camp was bustling. Everyone seemed eager to get on the go to enjoy the nice weather. We also wanted to make it to Flatbrehytta before the slopes leading to it would become prone to slush avalanches.
The day started with a short ascent of around 200 vertical meters up from Bings bregryta and towards Grensvarden.
From there it was only downwards towards Supphellebreen, although with an ever so slight inclination at times.
Before reaching the steeper sections of Supphellebreen we put on our harnesses, just in case. Luckily, despite some visible seam-lines, no creavasses were big enough to warrant the use of our rope. This allowed us to make short work of the 10 km we had to slide down in order to get of the glacier and into the couloir that leads down to Flatbrehytta.
The couloir is at times quite steep, the view is magnificent and everyone had a camera, so most of the time only half of the group was moving, while the other half was taking pictures of them.
It didn’t take too long before the roof of Flatbrehytta was visible at the end of the couloir.
Having started early, we had plenty of time to chill out at the cabin, before we continued down on foot.
We had to walk around 100 vertical meters in our ski boots, but then, finally, came the best part of the day. Switching to light approach shoes after living three days in ski-boots was fairly spectacular.
The remaining 800 vertical meters went fast enough in the light shoes, despite having to carry both skis and ski-boots, thanks to the weather, which had turned into full summer. Finally, down at the parking lot in Fjærland a bus picked us up and drove us back to Jostedalen, were we started. You can check out our route for the last day here. (Note that the first 1,5 km and 200 vertical meters up from Bings bregryta are missing, because I forgot to turn on my watch when we started).
All in all, despite the challenging conditions for the first two days, the trip was very much a success. At least most of the guests were happy enough to thank us afterwards. It was also a pleasure to work with Lisa. And when it all come around, I think we also learned a lot more from the trip as it was, compared with an easy trip in good visibility.
Tack för turen and until next time!