At 2,067 meters above sea level, Fannaråken lies higher than any other mountain cabins belonging to the Norwegian Mountain Touring Association (DNT).
It was a long-standing dream, which had been ruined by countless bad weather forecasts or lack of a walking companion. But last July, that dream was going to come true.
After finishing work early one Friday, I had time for coffee and a bar of chocolate at Turtagrø Hotel, before setting off at nine o’clock in the evening. This was my first visit to the area, and I had almost no idea of what was in store for me – other than that I was heading for a high-rise cabin and that I would be walking through the wild Hurrungane mountains.
Heading down the gravel path along the Helgedalen valley, the temperature dictated shorts and a t-shirt. After about three kilometers the path starts to climb, and I get a foretaste of the view that will be with me for the rest of the trip.
On the other side of Fannaråken I could see the peaks of Skagastølstindane and Styggedalsmassivet. The hanging glaciers cling to the mountainside at up to 2,300 meters above sea level, and I felt very small as I wound my way up the steep pathway. There was no sound to be heard. The wind had dropped, and the only sound breaking the silence was the crunch of my own boots on the gravel.
It was almost bedtime, and at one exposed point the path balanced on the cliff edge, giving me a better view of Jotunheimen. It almost made me jump to see the huge moon suspended over the distant peaks. It was almost full, and cast an enchanted glow over the patches of snow dotted all around me, which in the light summer night made the landscape look like the hide of a Friesian cow.
The only occupants of the cabin were two photographers. They were trying to capture the moon with the help of long exposure times and a tripod they have brought with them. It was an incredible summer night on Norway’s roof. The panorama view stretched from Sognefjorden at Skjolden to Galdhøpiggen and the classic climbing peak “Store Skagastølstind”, the third highest in Norway.
Even for a night owl, it was not hard to motivate one’s self to get up in time for the dawn, which was just few hours away. It might be a long time until the next opportunity came along.
I slept like a log, but I was saved by the hinges of the cabin door, which squeaked infernally every time anyone went out for the same reason I did. Experiencing the first rays of the sun from up here was something that will stay with me forever and is impossible to put in words.
After a few hours sorely needed sleep in the cabin’s only available bed, it was time to enjoy the sunshine from the shelter of the cabin wall and watch the arrival of the day trippers. Some arrived roped together from the Sognefjell cabin, while others came up from Turtagrø.
The destination for my day’s hike was Skogadalsbøen in Utladalen. It was almost two o’clock before I sat off. I left the barren, stony desert of the flat Fannaråken, and fond some snowfields to slide down in the direction of Keisarpasset (Emperor’s Passage).
I was back to green summer which I had almost forgotten after a day at altitude. To begin with it was just grass and heather that colored the landscape. The hanging glaciers were still close by and provided a huge contrast to the warm afternoon light sown here.
The streams beside the path were in full flow, and the mountain birch got steadily taller as I moved down towards Utladalen. I arrived at Skogadalsbøen just in time for dinner, and enjoyed a rather good three-course meal. After a day of hard physical effort, a beer went down vert nicely.
Day three saw me heading for the Sognefjell cabin. It was high summer and again it was the contrast between the spectacularly lush environment around Skogadalsbøen and the snow-covered mountain, rising up to 2,000 meters, that made an impression.
I felt like I was strolling about in a postcard that I wouldn’t mind sending to everyone I know.
When I arrived at the Sognefjell cabin I didn’t even have time to take off my backpack before some Germans in a camper van offered me a lift back to my car at Turtagrø.
DNT’s Fannaråk cabin is situated just five meters below the Fannaråken peak at 2,069 meters above sea level. It is Norway’s highest altitude accommodation by a good margin. The view to Hurringane and the rest of Jotunheimen is fantastic. The cabin is a popular destination for one-day walking tours, but during the high season the 34 beds are often full, in which case it is a matter of putting mattresses on the floor.
The easiest summer walk to the Fannaråk cabin starts at the Turtagrø Hotel (884 m) and takes just four hours. From the Sognefjell cabin you have to traverse a glacier with guide, a service provided in July and August. The cabin is open from the end of June until the beginning of September.
Skogaladlsbøen (883 m) lies in the lush Utladalen valley, and can be reached in around four hours from Fannaråken. There are 87 beds available during the summer season.
The walking opportunities from here are plentiful. From both Øvre Årdal (Hjelle) and the Sognefjell cabin (both 5-6 hours) a bus goes to Turtagrø, if you have left your car there. Otherwise, you can walk to Tyinholmen for transport from there (7 hours).
Norwegian Mountain Sunrise, written by Hans Helmersen
All images DNT, except Turtagro hotel (hotel’s own photo)