adidas INFINITE TRAILS 2021 Summary

Three runners. Three loops. One Team. The concept of the adidas Infinite Trails is a bold one. Take three run routes of varying distance, take three runners, each running their own loop varying in distance from 15km to 40km. Quite simply, add the three individual finishing times together to see who the fastest team can be.

Now in its third edition, 2018 being the first followed by a hugely successful 2019 edition that elevated the event to a whole new level. As such, 2020 was hugely anticipated edition rolling on from the growth of 2019, unfortunately, a certain pandemic changed those plans.

Working within very specific parameters, the 2021 edition had less runners, new loops for the relay race of 20, 30 and 40km, a new solo 65km/15km race and a smaller athlete village. It would be easy to think that the 2021 version would be disappointing… Not at all! Mike and Sonja of Planet Talk, with the help of a truly dedicated team, once again managed to pull off an event that sets the benchmark for all running events.

Incredible organization and planning are at the hub of adidas Infinite Trails and it’s why the event is a success. No stone is left unturned, every eventuality is looked at and planned for. It’s a dream event to run and work on. 

The weekend started with a very controlled registration process meeting COVID guidelines. Race briefing was done digitally, and one has to wonder if race briefings in the future will always be done this way? It’s time efficient and arguably more thorough.

The ‘Market Run’ started in the afternoon and with it, racers of all ages tackled shorter distances around Bad Hofgastein. Of course, the highlight was the children. It’s so special to see kids run and run fast with no thought of pace. 

Saturday was race day and this is where the format changed to previous editions. In 2019, runners ran the first loop only first and then passed the timing chip to their teammate on completion at the finish. The second runner would then go on their own loop of a new distance to repeat the process once again. The third loop would follow the same process and the conclusion at the start/finish area would provide a total accumulative time. 

For 2021, all loops started at the same time with the three team members lining up and then departing on their respective loops at 0700.  The 65km solo loop started 30 minutes earlier, the solo 15km starting at 0900. The format worked extremely well and provided a plethora of finishes starting firstly with the 15km loop and lastly with solo runners arriving at darkness for the 65km loop. 

Austria and Gastein is a playground for trail runners, the three loops providing a perfect showcase for the highlights of the area. Only the 65km loop provided a full 360 journey including the highlights of Gamskarkogel, Graukogel and Tischkogel.

Races within a race bring an exciting element to adidas Infinite Trails. There is individual accolade as each runner passes their own finish line, but it’s only at the end that three runners will know if they have won the event; the three individual times added together to bring one finish time. 

The adidas Terrex Team fielded a star-studded line up, even more impressive coming so soon after hard efforts at UTMB. As always, the #oneteam ethos was paramount and for those who would not race, they would crew and support the others. 

Importantly though, the 2021 edition was all about inclusion and participation, of course, there were individual and team winners, but importantly, there were no losers. The adidas Infinite Trails was full of achievement, happiness, and pride. It was good to all come together again, enjoy the trails, a great atmosphere, and all glory in a combined stunning weekend of running joy, very much the #oneteam ethos working for a whole community of likeminded people who wanted to celebrate the sport!

Bad Hofgastein provided a perfect hub for a weekend like this and the after party achieved a whole new level of awesomeness as it moved to the Alpentherme for water, music, drinks, and food. 

2021 may well have been a transition year for the adidas Infinite Trails, one thing is for sure though, we all received a resounding confirmation that the race is here to stay. Something this good should be a must for all. 

I said this in 2019, but I’d love to see other brands field teams to go head-to-head to see who the best with three runners over three loops can be. And you? Plan now, find two friends, create a team name and join us in Bad Hofgastein next year for the adidas Infinite Trails. Or if you fancy the full and immersive 360 journey, why not contemplate the 65km solo run, it’s a toughie, but very rewarding. 

Race website HERE

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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Ultra Trail Snowdonia 2021 Summary #UTS

Josh Bakker-Dyos

Persistent rain, low cloud, poor visibility, mud, bogs, wet rocks, climbs and descents that made even the most adapted legs scream in pain, yes, that was Ultra Trail Snowdonia 2021.

Missing in 2020 due to the dreaded ‘C’ word, the UTS returned in 2021 to Capel Curig as part of the Ultra Trail World Tour and supported by Hoka One One to confirm the dream of Michael Jones of Apex Running – A big UTMB style weekend of racing in the heart of Wales.

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With distances of 50km, 100km and the whopping 165km, one word was touted pretty much everywhere all weekend, brutal! And it was… A savage weekend of racing but as Michael says, ‘beautifully beyond belief, savage beyond reason.’

Despite the rain, despite the lack of views, Wales was a stunning playground for trail running. Let’s be clear here, there is no ‘easy’ running at UTS. The 50km is a wonderfully challenging route that may well have surprised many with some of its technical challenges, particularly the climb from Ogwen up to Carnedd Dafydd, compensated for what could be then considered a ‘relatively’ easy run in to the finish via Lyn Cowlyd and Blaen-Y-Nant.

The 100km route followed the early miles of the UTS50 all the way to Pen-Y-Pass but then headed along the Miners’ Track for an extended loop to return via the Pyg Track heading off to Y Garn, a loop around Tryfan and then head up to Carnedd Dafydd via a different route to the 50km and then follow the same run in to the finish.

The 165km is well, just a monster! As expected, it created carnage amongst the competitors. It’s a relentless beasting of mind and body that passes through the whole of Snowdonia. The 100km and 50km routes all utilizing sections of this all-encompassing journey but only the 165km giving the full perspective of how beautiful and hard the Welsh mountains are. As with all races at UTS, it started and concluded in Capel Curig. Heading off to Blaenau Ffestiniog, Croesor it then picked up the 50km and 100km routes to Pen-Y-Pass. Nantmoor, Moel Hebdog, Llyn-y-Gadair and then after Yr Wyddfa it followed the Snowdon Ranger Path for an extended loop before returning via the Snowdon Massif and Pyg Track to Pen-y-Pass. From here, the 100km and 165km routes were identical all the way back to Capel Curig.

Tremayne Dill Cowdry summed it up:
“45 hours to do just over 100 miles and every minute of that was a hard slog.
Mountains, bog, wet rock, tough nav on a marked course, sleep deprivation, mist, rain and the terrain!! Very little was even runnable. I can’t imagine a 100 miler more difficult than that. Easily the hardest I’ve done and definitely the hardest in the UK. I was going ok although I would have happily dropped given the chance but my feet succumb to the permanent wet and I had to hobble the last 20-ish miles…

Stunning landscape

As with all races, someone has to cross the line first, and of course there was stunning performances all weekend. However, the real sense of achievement came firstly from toeing the line and being in with a chance of completing a journey. The second came from completing the journey. Every medal was hard earned.

Josh Bakker-Dyos

In the 165km event, Josh Bakker-Dyos lead from the start and while many expected him to blow up, so fast was his pace, he never did. He was relentless and consistent crossing the line in 28:51:43. It was easy to say, ‘he made it look easy!’ But for every other runner who crossed the 165km line, it was very clear, there was nothing easy on this route! Toby Hazelwood was less than 60-minutes behind in second, 29:45:17, another stunning run! Adam Jeffs rounded the podium with 34:09:54. Alice Sheldon and Becky Wightman were the only female finishers, 45:09:55 and 47:41:06 their hard-earned efforts stopping the clock – a brutal two nights and days out in the Welsh mountains. Only 32 completed the race.

Mark Darbyshire

The 100km route was won, but not dominated by Lakeland 100 champ, Mark Darbyshire ahead of Josh Wade and Jack Scott. Mark crossed in 14:25:47 with 14:33:36 going to second. It was 16:02:05 elapsed before the third crossed the line. Sarah Stavely (21:41:03) won the women’s race with Kajsa Holgersson and Julie Finn in second and third, 22:28:49 and 22:44:53.

Lauren Woodwiss

Harry Jones flew around the UTS 50 route and looked as strong at the finish as when he started, his 6:13:33 a stunning time. It was 6:56:54 elapsed before second place Will Simmons crossed ahead of Spencer Shaw in 7:14:53. Lauren Woodwiss, like Jones, lead from the start dictating an excellent pace over the 50km route and completed her journey in an excellent 7:54:18. Celia Waring placed second in 8:36:18 and Abelone Lyng from Norway, moved up from outside the top-10 women to eventually finish third in 8:43:16 after sprinting for the line ahead of Jenna Shail who was just 13-seconds behind.

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Abelone Lyng

As Capel Curig slowly returned to some normality on Sunday, it was easy to see that the UTS will become one of the ultimate trail running events not only in the UK but the world. It may not have all the glamour and glitz of Chamonix and the UTMB. It’s a much more grass roots event, some would say a ‘true’ trail running event. Ultimately though, Wales was the hero of the weekend offering stunning routes. This landscape combined with the vision of Michael Jones of Apex Running and a team of dedicated volunteers and supporters will make UTS a ‘one to do!’ However, if you are thinking about the 165 event? Think long hard and without doubt, train hard, it’s a beautifully brutal beast.

‘beautifully beyond belief, savage beyond reason.’

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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Pyrenees Stage Run 2021 – Stage 6

It was the penultimate day of the 2021 Pyrenees Stage Run, 26.6km with 1820m+ starting in Tavascan and concluding in Esterri d’Àneu.

Crossing the last part of the Pallars Sobirà region to face Vall d’Aran, past participants had enthusiastically proclaimed that this was a spectacular day, and they were correct.

The early 6km of climbing to La Pleta del Prat (1720m) were mostly on forest trails, however, from the ski station, the landscape opened up offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The highlights of the day were the lakes of Estany de Mascarida and Collada dels Tres Estanys.

The highpoint of the day coming at 2646m and with it scree slopes, rope sections and after Collada dels Tres Estanys some small chained sections.

It was a wow day, the landscape truly spectacular.

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Pont de Graus and Unarre broke up the long 16km downhill to the finish that would sap tired legs.

Parc Naturel de L’Ailt Pirineu gave way to Parc Nacional d”Aigüestortes I Estany de Sant Maurici and the finish in Esterri d’Àneu was a welcome conclusion to a beautiful day.

Tomorrow, stage 7 will conclude the PSR and while the runners bodies will welcome the conclusion of a tough 240km journey, there is already a hint of sadness that this experience is coming to close.

The PSR is most definitely a run experience that gives an all encompassing run journey through a remarkable part of the world. Of course, there are those who will finish first, but this 7-day journey feels much more like a run than a race.

The PSR can be followed live through the website of the race, https://psr.run, and every day a video and photographs of the stages will be published on their social networks.

The Pyrenees Stage Run would not be possible without the main sponsorship of Turga Active Wear, Garmin, Puigcerdà, Encamp (And) Vall del Madriu-Perafita-Claror and bifree sports.

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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Pyrenees Stage Run 2021 – Stage 5

Stage 5 of the 2021 Pyrenees Stage Run may well just be the ‘best’ one. Of course, it’s all subjective and when all stage have their highlights, it’s hard to choose. However, if you love tough mountain days, stage 5 is a doozy!

The predicted bad weather came early with persistent rain and at times, strong winds. However, it didn’t deter from the type 2 fun, actually, it added to it!

Leaving Arinsal, it was straight climb all the way to the Refugi Compadreose (2260m) and the first aid station. It was here the rain came and the temperature dropped with just 5km covered.

A short flat section and then the climb to Portella de Baiau at 2756m and the highest point of the PSR. The terrain was challenging, slippery and difficult – just perfect! The lakes providing some visual splendour in the great wet mist.

The scree descent was a highlight of the day, however, for some, it would be terrifying… It’s like skiing on rocks!

Rolling terrain, technical single-track and finally the next aid station at La Molinassa (1806m) with 16km covered. The elapsed time on watches reflecting how difficult the run so far had been.

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Now easy running all the way to Àreu aid station and 24.7km.

From here, the Coll de Tudela beckoned at 2240m, a straight VK (vertical kilometre) in 5km. Just perfect at 25kmm in a 40km day.

From the summit the run down to Boldís Sobirà at 1488m was non-technical and arguably some of the easiest running of the day. Over the next 4km, there was some small rollercoaster terrain before the sharp, steep and technical drop to the line at Tavascan (1140m) – what a day!

The PSR can be followed live through the website of the race, https://psr.run, and every day a video and photographs of the stages will be published on their social networks.

Tomorrow, stage 6 is 26.34km with 1635m+ crossing the Natural Park of Alt Pirineu in the middle of magnificent forests, and ending up to Esterri d’Aneu, close to the National Park of Aigüestortes i Sant Maurici.

The Pyrenees Stage Run would not be possible without the main sponsorship of Turga Active Wear, Garmin, Puigcerdà, Encamp (And) Vall del Madriu-Perafita-Claror and bifree sports.

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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Pyrenees Stage Run 2021 – Stage 3

The longest day of the race travelling from Puigcerdà to Encamp in Andorra. A tough and challenging 47.5km with 2600m+ over some stunning and remarkable terrain that would leave the runners weary from the effort but rejuvenated by the views.

The early km’s were easy but soon the trail pointed to the sky and by 18km’s Guils-Fontanera had been passed and Refugi de Malniu opened up the gateway to the try challenges of this stage.

The climb to Portella D’Engorgs at 2696m sapping the energy of all only to be followed by a descent to Cabana D’Esparvers at 2060m and then another climb to 2543m and Coll de L’Illa. Looking at the profile, one may think that the final 15km is all downhill… Think again, it’s a challenging run with many false flats and technical terrain only to sap the legs and energy before the arrival in Andorra.

The day was always going to be feared and rightly so, 47km is never an easy run, even when fresh, let alone after already a couple of challenging days. The weather forecast also was less than favorable with storms and rain forecast for the afternoon, gladly it only arrived at 4pm and lasted for 30-minutes.

Relentless in beauty, the stage had it all with wide open valleys, technical single-track, tough and hard climbs and leg busting descents. It was a day to survive for many, the promise of an easier 20km stage the day after.

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As in the previous days, the results were the same, “Tuga Canarias” team of Gilberto Molina and Carmelo Gonzalez once again won. However, second place went to “The Ultrazzz” team of Wim Debbaut, Thomas Swankaert and Kurt Dhont with Jesús and Mario Delgado of the “The Sigobros Century” placing 3rd.

In the female category, Marcela Mikulecka and Petra Buresova of “Runsport Team” dominated followed by mother and daughter, Jeanette Rogers and Kerrianne Rogers of “Running Holidays France.”  

Jaroslaw and Natalia Haczyk of “BeerRunners” lead the mixed category ahead of “B-Running” team Bastian Mathijssen and Birgit Van Bockxmeer are followed by Steffen Rothe i Kathrin Litterst of “Black Forest.” 

The Pyrenees Stage Run would not be possible without the main sponsorship of Turga Active Wear, Garmin, Puigcerdà, Encamp (And) Vall del Madriu-Perafita-Claror and bifree sports.

Stage 4 is just 20k but with 1900m+.

The PSR can be followed live through the website of the race, https://psr.run, and every day a video and photographs of the stages will be published on their social networks.

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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Pyrenees Stage Run 2021 – Stages 1 and 2

The Pyrenees Stage Run 2021 got underway yesterday, Sunday August 29th from Ribes de Freser. The challenge? 240km over 7-days allowing participants to fully appreciate the beauty of the Pyrenees. 

A linear route, the journey concludes in Salardú with a 32.8km distance and 2300m+ 

Running in teams of 2 or 3 participants, the Pyrenees Stage Run arguably is a running holiday, with tough and challenging days and then relaxing post-race with a shower, bed, fresh clothes and excellent dinner each evening.

Stage 1 concluding in Queralbs after 34.3km and 2180m+ with highlights of Emprius de Pardines, Balandrau at 2585m (the highest point peak of the day), Col de Tres Pics, Coma de Vaca and finally Santuari de Núria before the drop to Queralbs. It was a successful day with all runners achieving the cut-off times. However, as always happens in any run,, injury hit forcing one runner not to make the start for day 2.

The ‘Tuna Canarias’ team of Gilberto Molina and Carmel Gonzales dictated the pace over the challenging terrain in Capçaleres del Ter I Freser Natural Park. A highlight of the day was the panoramic views from Balandrau Peak. Passing Refugio de Montaña the temptation to stop, take a cold drink and snack may well be tempting distraction but the Santuari dr Núria was waiting and then the finish.

Stage 2 started with the Cremella train journey back to the finish line of day 1 and a relatively late start of 0815. The 37,4km that lay ahead with 1700m+ was in comparison to stage 1, ‘easy’ running!

Concluding in Puigcerdà the route was almost 100% GR11 track with little technicality but some stunning views. 

Starting with a climb over the first 7km to Collet De Les Barraques, the route then dropped down to Can Fosses at 10km and the second lowest elevation point of the day. The following 12km was all about gently climbing  to Coll de la Creu de Meians at 1992m via the pretty town of Dòrria. Coll Marcer followed and then the route dropped to Vilallobent before 5km of road to the stage 2 conclusion in the capital of Cerdanya, Puigercerdà.

The race is so far it is dominated by “Tuga Canarias” team of Gilberto Molina and Carmelo Gonzalez. Jesús and Mario Delgado of the “The Sigobros Century” follow and the “The Ultrazzz” team of Wim Debbaut, Thomas Swankaert and Kurt Dhont are 3rd in the in the men’s category. 

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In the female category, Marcela Mikulecka and Petra Buresova of “Runsport Team” have a strong lead after another excellent day, followed by mother and daughter, Jeanette Rogers and Kerrianne Rogers of “Running Holidays France.” 

Finally, in the mixed category Jaroslaw and Natalia Haczyk of “BeerRunners” lead “B-Running” team Bastian Mathijssen and Birgit Van Bockxmeer are followed by Steffen Rothe i Kathrin Litterst of “Black Forest.” 

The Pyrenees Stage Run would not be possible without the main sponsorship of Turga Active WearGarminPuigcerdàEncamp (And), Vall del Madriu-Perafita-Claror and the organisation of bifree sports.

The event enters Andorra on Tuesday for stage 3, the longest of the race at 47km and 2600m+ The runners have 12 hours to finish the route.

The PSR can be followed live through the website of the race, https://psr.run, and every day a video and photographs of the stages will be published on their social networks.

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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Stranda Fjord Trail Race 2021 Race Summary

Kristian Aalerud arriving at the first summit at 0500 hours.

The words epic, beautiful and brutal get used a great deal in ultra-running and I get it. For many of us, any journey can entail all those things on a personal level and that is why you toe the line…

However, here in Stranda Fjord, Møre go Romsdal, Norway, one of the most truly spectacular experiences is waiting for you to toe the line.

Missing in 2020 due the Coronavirus pandemic, the Stranda Fjord Trail Race returned with three races, 25km, 48km and the new 100km distance. The latter offering a full and immersive 360 experience of what this magical area of Norway has to offer.

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Let’s be honest, Norway as a location is arguably one of the most beautiful places in the world, and as a runner or outdoor enthusiast, the options and possibilities are endless, be that in the south or north.

Stranda, part of the Sunnmøre region, is a small place located on one of the west Norwegian fjords. Often accessed via ferry from Liabygda, it can also be accessed by road from Grodås. In proximity to Alesund, Åndalsnes, Loen and others, it’s a wonderful and magical area to explore.

No better place for sunrise!

The 25km and 48km races use much of the opening miles of the 100km route, however, after reaching the summit of Fremste Blåhornet at 1478m they return to Stranda via Heimste BlåhornetLøfonnfjellet and Rødesthornet. The 25km then concludes in Stranda and the 48km continues for another loop summiting at Roaldshornet at 1230m and then following on to Blåfjellet and Skurdahornet before descending all the way down to the finish line. Both races are tough, challenging, and demanding and should not be underestimated. There is little easy running here, the climbing is hard, the descents can be tricky, and the terrain varies in technicality, at times harsh on the body and mind, the only easy running is in the final sections of road to the finish line. This is reflected in the winning times, Jack Kosky 6:16:21 and Sara-Rebekka Færø Linde 7:14:34 taking top honours in the 48km and Anders Haga and Anita Iversen Lilleskare winning the 25km in 2:31:01 and 3:12:17 respectively.

Øystein Røen

The main event of the weekend, the 100km race. Is for many only a dream. To say it’s tough would not do the course justice, it’s mind blowing in the challenge. Beautifully brutal as one runner said. Offering a 360 clockwise experience of this stunning area of Norway, the Stranda Fjord Trail Race 100km route is quite simply, one of the most stunning routes I have experienced.

Relentless is the only way to describe. The course does contain some areas where you can switch off and just run, but they are few and far between.  The opening miles maybe offering many a false illusion of the severity to come. The hard work starts to really kick in with approximately 20km covered at Liavarden. What follows are walls of grass, rock, scree, stone slabs, technical ridges, vertical climbing and challenging descending.

The race is truly a hands on experience.
Linda Hovde had lead the race early on, probably starting to hard.

Reaching the summit of Fremste Blåhornet at 1478m, 23km covered, and every runner was under no illusion of the challenge ahead. The terrain rocky, slow and hard, the panoramic views at sunrise quite simple stunning. Following on to Lissje Blåhornet and a technical ridge section offered exposure and scrambling before dropping down to the valley and easier running to the aid station on the road of Dalevegen and 28km distance.

Descending Slogen

A short section of road was followed with more climbing, an out-and-back to another peak and then the Liasætra aid station.

Easy running before Slogen.

Valley running to Patchellhytta DNT cabin and then the relentless out-and-back climb to the iconic Slogen at 1564m. This climb being one of the highlights of the route offers a challenge, especially near the top when hands-on-knee climbing turns to scrambling and easy climbing.

The final push to Slogen summit.
The view from Slogen.

The summit offering a stunning panorama but there is little time to enjoy the view. Descending via the way you came, eventually you turn left in the valley and make your way to Velleseter, Brunstadsætra, Storevatnet, and then the road section that leads to the final section of the course, 80km covered.

Felix Weber approaching Roaldshornet.

The climb to summit Roaldshornet at 1230m is long, the summit at 86km and it would be easy to think it’s all downhill from here. Considering what has gone before, it’s fair to say that it is. Eventually the 100km joins with the final section of the 48km track and the run in to the finish is welcome and hard earned.

Rocks and more rocks.

Be warned, this route is tough!

Kristian Aalerud set a hard pace at the start of the race and while nobody really knew how long this 100km would take, best estimations were 17-hours for the winning time. Kristian crossed in 15:49:31. A spectacular time.

Øystein Røen for much of the day had run in 2nd place, however, Felix Weber moved ahead to take the 2nd podium spot, Øystein settling for 3rd, 17:03:12 and 17:25:38 respectively.

Ida Jahren Herud ran a smart race

Ida Jahren Herud ran a smart race, easing in to the day and eventually taking over the lead to finish in 22:25:12. Linda Hovde had lead the race early on, probably starting too hard she slipped down the field and eventually finishing in 28:29:34 in 2nd place. They were the only two women to complete the course!

In total, 20 completed the distance reflecting the severity of the challenge. It’s also important to note that the start list was drastically reduced to ongoing restrictions from the Covid pandemic.

One thing is for sure, running 25km, 48km or 100km in this area of Norway is not easy, ask anyone who toed the line of the respective distances.

There is something truly magical here, I can only encourage and emphasise that you ‘need’ to add Strand Fjord Trail Race to your bucket list.

Beautiful and Brutal!

You will not be disappointed with the experience of racing here, BUT come prepared, you are going to earn that finish medal.

RACE WEBSITE HERE

Slogen

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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Winter Running and Adventure Essentials – What Goes In The Pack?

All running, particularly in the mountains, remote areas and particularly if going ‘solo’ brings an element of danger that must be managed. Winter and extreme conditions do increase risks and I discussed this in an in-depth article on Winter Running HERE

Following on from the article, I have had many questions to elaborate on the pack and the equipment I would use for day-to-day adventures and then how I would expand that equipment list for more adventurous and specific trips.

Firstly, understand yourself and your level of experience. I write about this in the article above, but it is worth emphasizing that no two people are the same. The ethos of ‘fast and light’ is great if you can go fast… BUT and this is a big BUT, what happens if you can’t go fast? What happens if you fall, are immobilized, waiting for help or a rescue?

Imagine a scene, stuck on a mountain side, you have broken your leg. You were moving fast and so were warm. But now you are still, the temperature is dropping well below zero and you are unable to move or generate heat. It’s a disaster waiting to happen, and THIS is the scenario you MUST think off when packing for an adventure.

I have a simple attitude of it’s better to carry it and not needed it.

Weather can change in minutes at any time of the year, especially in a mountain environment. However, in winter the changes are often far more extreme, Hypothermia can hit in minutes and it is deadly.

Preparation is key and assessing what ‘may’ happen on any adventure or run is crucially important to make sure that a day or multiple day’s activity remains safe.

The equipment list below are my personal choices, and I must stress here that I have tested many variables and brands to come up with the list below. Importantly, there is most definitely multiple ways and solutions to any problem, so, while my list below could be seen a perfect shopping list, it’s also fun to find out what works for you.

YOU AND WHAT YOU WEAR

What you wear for a run/ adventure should come as second nature, but it can often be a real dilemma understanding how to balance the layers so that you don’t overheat or equally, get too cold.

Read about GETTING LAYERED HERE

Personally, I find the most difficult temperatures around 0 to +5 degrees C (32-49 Fahrenheit.) It’s cold enough to make you feel chilled (often will feel damp too) but within 15-minutes of running you feel warm.

inov-8 ambassador, Abelone Lyng

The starting point for me is a merino wool base layer, it naturally helps regulate body temperature, remains warm when wet, transports sweat away from the body, and is very good in regard to odors. Icebreaker is my product of choice and they have a simple system of 150/175/200 and 260 products, the higher the number, the thicker and warmer the product. I personally find 150 ideal, especially for running and active sports.

My jacket will balance warmth, breathability and protection from the wind, Haglöfs L.I.M Hybrid Hood manages to balance all these elements in a really lightweight package. It can even be worn directly against the skin. The inov-8 Technical Mid Hoodie is also a good choice.

Leg wear will depend on the weather and arguably I would potentially look at 3 scenarios. On milder winter days hovering around 0C I would use my standard inov-8 run tights. 0 to -10C I would use a thicker winter tight, potentially with wind block panels on the front by Swix. Below -10 and I would use Icebreaker 150 merino underneath the thicker Swix tights.

Keeping feet warm is essential in winter and again, based on weather, temperature and conditions. I will go with one of three scenarios: Merino woolneoprene socks or Sealskinz. My default is neoprene as it works well in most conditions. It’s not unusual to wear two pairs of socks in winter, say a merino liner and thicker over sock or a merino liner inside Sealskinz, keep this in mind when getting winter run shoes, you may need a half-size larger shoe?

Hands, like feet, need to be warm. I use Icebreaker liners, with either inov-8 Extreme Thermo Mitt which is incredibly warm.

I wear a Buff or similar product around my neck, and I use a Haglöfs Fanatic hat which manages to be always warm, but not too warm!

Vj Sport Xero 5 here

Shoes will depend on conditions but for me, once winter arrives, I usually require a winter shoe with studs to provide grip, particularly in ice. The VJ Xero 5 works exceptionally well. Of course, in most scenarios you could use your favourite trail shoes and carry micro crampons which you can add and remove as required. However, if you know you will be in snow/ ice all day, a specific winter shoe provides a much more enjoyable experience.

Finally glasses with a specific winter lens are often essential to protect from cold air, snow and reflected brightness from snow. I use Oakley Radar.

THE PACK

Black Diamond Distance 15 is a somewhat unique pack that manages to appeal to trail runners and alpinist/ climbers who have discovered that all important link-up of sports coming together for unique adventures and/or fastpacking. These adventures tend to entail a bit of easy climbing, some scrambling, some fell running and some walking – or just about whatever you can string together.

Black Diamond Distance 15 balances running and alpinism perfectly.

A hybrid between running and climbing pack, the Distance 15 fits snug to your body and is stable with minimal bounce. The main compartment of the pack includes a quick draw-string main opening which Black Diamond say is waterproof – it is not! Please use a waterproof bag inside like those provided by Sea to Summit. A zippered security pocket inside is ideal for a wallet and there is a stretch mesh divider that will hold a bladder, or it can be used for storing nylon or dyneema.

Elasticated compression straps either side of the main bag are ideal for reducing the volume of the pack and keeping everything tight together and they can be used to secure a pair of ice axes that also have specific storage at the bottom of the back and security buckles that pass through the ice axe head. Integrated into the main compartment (on each side) are ‘Quiver Sleeves’ for Black Diamond Z-folding walking poles. The front of the pack has a vest fit with two adjustable straps and two 4-way stretch zippered pockets and four front stretch pockets that will hold soft flasks, snacks or any other essential ‘on-the-go’ items.

IN THE PACK

Icebreaker 150 top and bottom

Spare base layer, top and bottom – These would be duplicates of the Icebreaker 150 as worn.

Spare socks – Merino run sock.

Jacket

Mid layer/ insulation – In winter, I will already be wearing a mid-layer, either the Haglöfs or inov-8 as mentioned above. My additional insulation would be down and the Haglöfs Essens is an incredible all season product. It has warmth, very low weight and first-class goose down with 800 CUIN filling that it is DWR treated – the filling stays dry for up to 10,000 minutes with exposure to wet conditions.

Barrier shorts

*Barrier Shorts – Haglöfs make an excellent, light and packable barrier short for the extreme cold.

Haglöfs Gore-Tex Paclite

Waterproof jacket – The inov-8 Ultrashell Pro is an excellent very lightweight waterproof jacket but in winter I will usually take a heavier duty Gore-Tex Paclite L.I.M jacket by Haglöfs.

inov-8 Trailpant

Waterproof pants – inov-8 Trailpant waterproof and breathable designed for really cold, wet conditions.

Icebreaker liner gloves

Liner gloves – I would carry an additional pair of Icebreaker merino as mention above.

Sentinel by Mountain Equipment
Black Diamond waterproof over mitt

Outer gloves – I would typically carry two outer gloves as I suffer with cold hands, a warm Sentinel mitt by Mountain Equipment and a waterproof over mitt by Black Diamond.

Hat – Spare hat as above.

Buff – Spare as above.

Food and hydration – In winter, a main issue can be frozen bottles, so I carry one or two small Thermos flasks with coffee, sweet tea or hot chocolate. It can make a big difference to have this option. For snacks I will use energy bars, Kvikk Lunsj or similar. Always a good idea to plan a cafe stop on longer runs too!

Phone – I use an iPhone and I make sure I have mapping software such as Footpath and what3words for emergency use.

Petzl e-lite
Silva Trail Runner Free

Headtorch – A simple Petzl e-lite as a ‘just-in-case’ for all runs but if running at night I use a Silva.

Small knife

Knife – Victorinox.

Mountain wipes

Wipes – Wipes.

Waterproof liner bag

Waterproof liner bag – (maybe 2 depending on needs) – Sea to Summit make excellent lightweight bags to make sure all spare clothes etc remain dry.

Survival bivi

Bivvi – Terra Nova Survival bivi that is fully waterproof, breathable and has a simple drawcord closure. It packs away into a small stuff sack.

Hand and feet heat pads

Heat pads – An essential back-up for hands and feet by Nevercold or similar.

First aid – Lifesystems small emergency kit in waterproof protection.

Additional power.

Batteries/ Battery pack – Modern tech doesn’t last long in extreme cold so carrying a back-up battery can be a good idea, Goal Zero make good products.

Map and Compass – As applicable.

Garmin inReach

*InReach tracker – Garmin.

Folding Z Poles

*Poles – Black Diamond Z-Pole Carbon.

Micro crampons

*Crampons – You need to be very specific with crampons and the shoes you use them with, however, a pair of Snowline are a good back-up.

Camp Corsa

*Ice Axe – Camp Corsa – lightest ice axe out there for low angle glacier travel, ski mountaineering and adventure racing.

Atlas Race 22

*Snowshoes – Atlas Race 22.

*Hand Ice Studs – Isvidda Isdubb If you are running on the ice, it is important that you use ice hand studs both for your own and others’ safety. (These are often sold for those ice fishing.)

All items with * are only applicable based on the adventure, the type of terrain, weather conditions and personal experience. The inReach is a wonderful security blanket that is arguably ideal for any run/ adventure but if you have a phone (with power) at least you have one emergency back-up. However, phones don’t always have reception.

Running across a frozen lake, Norway.

LIGHTERPACK is a great online tool that helps you manage equipment and keep track of pack weight and contents, HERE is an example of what is listed above.

SUMMARY

Winter adventures are incredible and exhilarating. On a personal level, I find them more challenging and exciting than many Spring/ Summer trips due to the added complexity. However, that complexity can prove to be fatal.

Don’t compromise in winter. Be prepared.

The above list of equipment is designed to show you what is possible and how to make weight as minimal as possible without losing efficacy of the items. You could go away and purchase this list of items and you’d have all you need for winter running.

However, if you are like me, looking around, testing items and comparing is part of the fun… It’s actually what I have been doing for years, that is how this list came about.

So, do the research, make sure you not only have what you need for an adventure but make sure you have all the extras needed should a situation arise leaving you vulnerable.

Further Reading:

Ice Running HERE

Winter Running HERE

Embrace Winter HERE

Winter Camping & Fastpacking HERE

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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A step-by-step video guide to items for FASTPACKING

Fastpacking is all the rage at the moment. Runners and hikers all over the world are heading off for mini or extended multi-day adventures in a semi of fully self-sufficient manner.

I wrote an intro to Fastpacking HERE and then followed up with a more in-depth approach to Fastpacking Light HERE.

Due to requests, I have now put a video together talking through my pack and the items I use. I did forget to mention take a map and compass, so, add that to the list!

Hope you find the information useful and I know you will have your own tricks and weight saving secrets, so, let me know what they are….

Need help with packing? Lighterpack is great tool for collating information and monitoring weight. HERE is mine based on contents in the video article.

You can view them below.

In summary, pack with food for 1-day and night inc 600ml water with tent, summer sleeping bag, sleeping mat and additional warm layers 4362g.

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

Follow on:

Instagram – @iancorlessphotography

Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

Web – www.iancorless.com

Web – www.iancorlessphotography.com

Image sales –www.iancorless.photoshelter.com

Exploring Norway – JOTUNHEIMEN

Norway has long been a desirable location for the mountain enthusiast. One only need to add the word ‘Norway’ to a Google search engine, and you will be rewarded with photos that make the jaw drop.

At roughly 33% bigger than the UK and 1/3rd the size of USA, one begins to understand the scale of this Scandinavian country and its 5.3 million inhabitants.

Just think about it, Norway is 33% bigger than the UK, but the UK has 66.6 million inhabitants…

Needless to say, outside of Oslo (681,000), Bergen (271,000) and other key locations such as Trondheim and Stavanger, open space and amazing landscape is available for all to explore.

In a series of articles and posts, we intend to introduce you to the magic of Norway.

Norway is the longest country in Europe and therefore, travelling anywhere is not a quick process. It has 60.000 miles of coastline, towering mountains and dramatic fjords. Remarkably it has 2-300 peaks over 2000m+, Galdhøpiggen the highest at 2469m closely followed by Glittertind at 2464m. There are over 1000 peaks over 1650m, so, if you love mountains, Norway should be at the top of the ‘to-do’ list!

We started our articles with HARDANGER which you can read HERE.

The list will grow as we progress through Norway, but expect posts on:

  • Stavanger
  • Senja
  • Tromso
  • Lofoten Islands
  • Romsdal
  • Lyngen
  • Svalbard
  • And more…

JOTUNHEIMEN

The ‘home of the giants’ contains the 29 highest mountains in Norway, and as such, it is a playground waiting to be explored. It has 250 peaks over 1900m! Established in 1980, Jotunheimen National Park covers more than 1,000 square kilometers of Sogn og Fjordane and Oppland counties. Reinder, elk, mink and wolverines live in the park and most certainly, in the more remote and quiet areas, it is possible to have a sighting.

In terms of distance and travel, the entry to the Jotunheimen region is roughly 4-hours of driving from Oslo or Bergen.

The area is vast with a multitude of possibilities and therefore, this article will be very much be a ‘part one’ to be followed up with additional posts as we explore more of the area.

It is a popular area and in the months of June, July, August and September, you can fully expect routes to be popular with hikers, climbers and tourists. July and August being the key months due to more stable weather. However, June is a wonderful month as snow can linger on many routes.

Any visitor to Jotunheimen, particularly on a first visit, will have the iconic Besseggen top of the list along with the highest peak in Norway, Galdhøpiggen at 2469m. We will include both of these here in this article and introduce you to other options: Knutshøe, Surtningssue and Besshø.

PRACTICALITIES

First and foremost, this is an introduction to Jotunheimen, and we hope that you will read this article, digest the information and then plan your own adventure.

Jotunheimen is expansive and in all honesty, best travelled on foot.

DNT – CABINS

Jotunheimen has a plethora of cabins (DNT) which link all the major trails and routes and certainly, the DNT option provides the easiest and most logical way to link routes for an amazing multi-day experience. There are 550 cabins in Norway looked after by The Norwegian Trekking Association. There are different cabins: staffed, self-service and no service.

  • Staffed – Staffed lodges serve breakfast and dinner. Many have showers and electricity, either from the power grid or from a local generator.
  • Self-Service – The self-service cabins are equipped with all that trekkers need for cooking and sleeping. Firewood, gas, kitchen utensils, table linen and bunks with blanks or duvets and pillows (hut sacks, also known as hut sleepers, are required!)
  • No service – No service cabins usually have the same equipment as self-service cabins, but they have no provisions. There also are a few simpler no-service cabins where you’ll need a sleeping bag and perhaps more equipment.

Use ut.no here for what is available, there is also a very good phone app.

If you plan to use DNT it makes sense to become a member as you will save money, join here.

In nearly all cases, particularly in high-season and for popular routes, booking ahead (here) is a good idea. But rest assured, DNT will never turn you away, ‘…but everyone who comes to a cabin will have a place to sleep, either in a bunk or on a mattress on the floor.’ A 2020 price list is available here. A full board option is a great idea as you get a bed, 3-course dinner (always excellent), breakfast and a packed lunch. So, if moving from DNT to DNT you can really travel fast and light and make the most of the days. NOTE: You do not need a sleeping bag, just a sleeping bag liner – great for weight saving!

WILD CAMP

Jotunheimen is a paradise for wild camping, so, if you are on a budget, looking for a raw experience or want to fastpack, this is the place for you. In most cases, you can camp close to or at a DNT cabin. So, it can be possible to save on lodging and still eat at a DNT. Especially useful if venturing out for multi-days, that way you can really save on food weight.

Screenshot of DNT meal prices:

HOTEL

Hotels are in abundance in Jotunheimen and they provide an option to be used as a base or as stops as one travels around. They are great as a start and end to a holiday in this area, but not the best option if you really want to explore.

OVERVIEW

Bygdin is perfect entranceway to Jotunheimen and you could start the journey with a little luxury at the Bygdin Fjellhotell. It is also possible to wild camp in this area, even close to the hotel. Located at the end of Bygdin lake, it’s a perfect start point.

This fjord has a ferry which you can use to access Torfinnsbu or Eidsbugarden – both of these provide great start points for a fastpacking journey.

Fastpacking Journey:

Although not discussed in-depth this article, you could leave your car at Bygdin, take the ferry to Torfinnsbu then take the trail to Gjendebu. From here you could then head north via Storådalen, Urdadalen and then to Spiterstulen which is the gateway to Galdhøpiggen. You could then climb Galdhøpiggen and return to Spiterstulen. From here, proceed to Glittertinden, on to Glitterheim and then follow the trail down to Gjendesheim via Tjørnholtjørna and Russa. From Gjendesheim take the trail via Vargebakken and Valdrersflya to arrive back at Bygdin Fjord. GPX here.

Fastpacking Hints ‘n’ Tips HERE

Route Extension:

From Gjendesheim you could take the ferry to Gjendebu (you were here on day 1 or 2 of the fastpack) and now follow the trail to Memurubu. At Memurubu you have several options? A great day out is to take the trail to Surtningssue summit heading out on the lower trail that passes Memurudalen. At the summit, return via the way you came and then the trail splits and you can return to Memurubu via different route (full details listed below). From Memurubu you can now take the Besseggen route (details below) to Gjendesheim.

Proposed Trip:

As mentioned, Jotunheimen has many options and while the above fastpacking route and option is probably the ‘ideal’ way to explore the area, we wanted to break options down into manageable junks.

Areas to explore:

  • Knutshøe
  • Galdhøpiggen
  • Surtningssue
  • Besseggen
  • Besshø

Schedule:

  • Day 1 – Travel and overnight at Bygdin area.
  • Day 2Knutshøe route and then drive to Spiterstulen (2 hours) to either wild camp or stay at the DNT hut.
  • Day 3 – Climb Galdhøpiggen and then drive to Gjendesheim to stay in the DNT or wild camp.
  • Day 4 – Take the first ferry from Gjendesheim to Memurubu. Pitch tent or check-in at DNT and then do the Surtningssue route. Overnight at Memurubu.
  • Day 5Besseggen ridge to Gjendesheim – You can send luggage/ tent on the ferry so that it will be at Gjendesheim when you arrive from the trek. Overnight in either DNT or wild camp.
  • Day 6 – You can either travel home OR add an extra day with the climb to Besshø and return to Gjendesheim for an additional overnight wild camp or DNT.
  • Day 7 – Travel

Please note:

Make sure you book the ferries in advance here. They get very busy, particularly the first one from Gjendesheim. If you have a car, you need to stay at the Reinsvangen ‘Long Stay’ car park (here,) make sure you pay for parking to cover the duration of your stay. A shuttle takes you to the ferry or you can walk, approximately 1.5 miles. When possible, book the DNT’s you require in advance.

THE ROUTES

Knutshøe

A short drive from Bygdin, Knutshøe is a great introduction to Jotunheimen. Many consider Knutshøe a more challenging route than Besseggen? However, it is very much considered the younger brother or sister.

The total route is approximately 12km taking an anti-clockwise loop. You reach a high point of 1517m and in total you will accumulate 700m +/- while covering the distance. It is rated as ‘difficult’ and without doubt, it does have some exposure. Depending on experience and speed, the route could take up to 6-hours. However, moving fast and light and combining running and hiking, it is easy to complete in well under 3-hours. All the difficulty is in the first half of the route when you climb up and then descend. Once down, you have a flat 6/7km valley to cross back to where you started. GPX here.

Access to the route is from the main road and there is a small parking area that can accommodate approximately 20 cars. It is possible to wild camp here too. Either way, arrive early and start the route as soon as possible.

Note! If raining, this is NOT a good route to take. There is a considerable amount of rock both up and down and it can become very slippery.

Leaving the car park, follow the trail and when at a fork, go right and head up the climb. The route requires scrambling, some climbing and at several points you will encounter steep drop-offs.

Depending on experience, you may find some areas of the route really rewarding or terrifying. It is not a very difficult route; however, it does demand respect and patience.

At all times, the views are spectacular and ahead of you, on the other side of the lake, you have Besseggen completely in view pulling you in.

At the summit, you have a wonderful 360 view and if timed correctly, you will be able to see the ferry boats going back and forth on the lake below.

The descent is rocky, challenging and requires patience. Make sure hand and foot holds are secure and take your time.

Rock eventually becomes trail and before you know it, you will be at the bottom and next to the Gjende river. It is now possible to get water if needed?

You now go left and follow the trail back. At times, it’s easy to lose the trail so be attentive, as a recommendation, stick with the tree line and not the river. Your feet will get wet, guaranteed!

Once back at the car, take time to rest, change clothes and then make the 2-hour journey to Spiterstulen. En-route, there are possibilities to stop and buy food/ supplies.

Galdhøpiggen

The drive to Spiterstulen brings you straight to the start point for Galdhøpiggen. Having the journey out of the way allows for good recovery in the evening and an early start the next day. As mentioned, you can stay at the DNT or wild camp in this area.

The highest peak in Norway (2469m) and Northern Europe is understandably a huge draw. For many, they take a guided trip leaving from Juvasshytta mountain lodge (1841m.) Guides take groups across the glacier. The glacier of course sounds appealing… However, it is an easy route with far too many people.

The route from Spiterstulen mountain lodge may not contain a glacier, but the 1400m vertical climb offers far more challenges. Especially if one travels in June as snow will still be present. The route is up and down is via a well-marked trail, GPX here.

Considered demanding, the route can take 8-hours plus, again, we completed the route in half the time.

During the adventure, you will scale two peaks, totaling over 2,000 meters in height, Svellnose 2272m and Keilhaustopp 2355m! The terrain is tough and requires concentration at all times. Made up of rocks and boulders, for much of the time you are constantly piecing together a jigsaw puzzle to find the best route through. In wet weather, the route is very dangerous. Remember to follow the red “T”s that indicate the trail.

At times, you will cross snowfields and of course, stick to well used routes. Take no risks on the snow!

Several points can take you very close to the edge of the ridge. At all times be attentive, not too much of a problem in good weather, but in poor visibility you need to make sure of the route.

As you go up you feel several times that the summit is ahead only to reach a peak and then see several more in the distance. The final push becomes obvious as a hut is at the final summit and you will probably see a stream of people coming in from the right who have crossed the glacier.

At the summit the views are magnificent and well worth all the effort. An early start may well guarantee you some quiet time and space.

You descend via the way you came and in all honesty; due to the amount of rocks, it may well be more difficult to go down? Certainly, if you have tired or sore knees, you will feel every meter of the 1400m.

The route out and back is approximately 14km.

If you had an early start, you will be back by midday/ early afternoon and then you can take the 2-hour drive to Gjendesheim.

At Gjendesheim you can stay at the DNT or wild camp. This allows you a good night so that you can get the first ferry the next day.

Surtningssue

Make sure you have a place booked on the first ferry from Gjendesheim to Memurubu. This is typically 0745 arriving at 0805.

On arrival at Memurubu you can pitch your tent (got to cabin and pay) or go to the cabin and check-in for your booking. Note, the cabin here is not a DNT and we recommend you book here.

Once ready, you can then start the Surtningssue route. This, in our opinion, is a hidden gem and is often neglected as Besseggen takes all the glory.

At 24km long, it’s a great day out that offers many challenges and importantly, you will see hardly any other people. On our trip, we saw nobody.

Leaving Memurubu the route is clearly marked. Make sure that you branch left when the opportunity arises. This will provide you with a clockwise route to the summit at 2368m and then back to Memurubu via a different route.

The first 8km’s are single-track trail that is very runnable. The views are stunning and only get better as you move up the trail. One advantage of experiencing the trail in June is lingering snow.

Once through the valley you start to head east. It is definitely worth having the GPX route (here) available either on a phone or watch so that you can stick with the route. Although marked, it has considerably less markings than other routes and often you are following stone cairns.

From 8/9km the route now winds up to the summit through rocks and boulders. Care is needed! At approximately 11km the trail will split with a very clear red sign showing a left and right option. This is where you go left to the summit. On your return, this is the place where you split and take the ‘other’ route back to Memurubu and therefore creating a loop.

The trail up is now steep with several false summits. You will finally see a stone hut that is open and available for shelter if required. The final push to the summit is approximately another 200m. For those in the know, they say the summit provides the greatest view and panorama of Jotunheimen.

It’s exposed at the top, airy, with plenty of potential hazards, so, take care.

The descent is via the same route until you reach the red marker. Now you veer left. Once again, the terrain is challenging as there are countless rocks and boulders.

For most of the way, the route is well marked until the final km’s. We lost the trail but could see Memurubu ahead and therefore self-navigated back to the cabin.

This route is a stunner. We felt alone and isolated. We saw nobody and encountered wild reindeer with their young.

Besseggen

Besseggen is a classic ridge that ‘must’ be done. Some Norwegian’s say that you cannot be Norwegian until you have done the route. It’s a point-to-point route, so, plan ahead and send any luggage/ tent with the ferry boat. They will have your luggage waiting for you after the trek at the ferry port in Gjendesheim.

At 14km long, with approximately 1100m of vertical gain it may not appear to be a too demanding route? However, many consider it is! Many take 8-hours to do the route and 10/12-hours is not unusual. GPX here.

For perspective, there is a mountain race that takes on the exact route and the course record is an unbelievable 1hr 15min 40sec by Thomas Bereket. Trust me, if you experience this 14km point-to-point, you will wonder (continuously) how is it possible to run this so quick? Kilian Jornet ran the race in 2016, along with Thorbjørn T. Ludvigsen, Kilian won in 1.17.54.

We completed the route in 3-hours 30-minutes and that was with many photo/ video stops.

The route is very, very popular and we therefore recommend you start early. One advantage of running and fast hiking is you soon catch anyone ahead and trust me, you want to be alone as much as possible to experience the trail and views.

All this who stay at the cabin or camp will start (usually) before 0800 and then the first boat arrives at 0805 releasing another wave of people.

Characterized by the colourful emerald Gjende and deep blue Bessvatnet lakes, Besseggen ridge splits the landscape. It’s dramatic and bold and in wet weather, treacherous, so be careful!

Leaving Memurubu the trail immediately rises up and twists, mixing rock and single-track. It’s a fun trail and the first plateau already provides great views. You will pass Bjønbøltjønne lake, a good opportunity to get water if needed? Continuing up, eventually another plateau arrives and now you have a stunning view of the Besseggen ridge. It’s quite intimidating. To the right the Gjende lake and you will clearly see Knutshøe which looks fantastic.

The trail now drops, it is steep in places. Bessvatnet lake (1374m) is to your left and you walk along its edges with Besseggen looking down on you.

Bandet ridge is a significant point with approximately halfway covered and Besseggen the next challenge.

Rising 300m, Besseggen (in my opinion) is less intimidating when climbing, however, there is plenty of opportunity for exposure. It’s relatively steep but there are plenty of foot and hand holds. It’s worth stopping many times for photos. The views are remarkable.

The steepest section comes towards the end but does not last long and then you are on a plateau that gently and continually rises to Veslfjellet (1743m) which is the highest point.

The trail is now very flat and after about 1 kilometer you reach a trail junction. Follow that trail to the right down towards Gjendesheim. The route now twists and bends. Follow the markers and in here the trail is steepest with many rocks. Take care, they can be slippery, even in dry weather.

Gjendesheim ferry finally comes to view and then the final 1 or 2km is easy to the finish.

If you sent luggage with the boat, it will be available under the wooden shelter at the port. A shuttle bust will take you to the car park for the journey home.

Or, you may wish to wild camp or sleep at the cabin and the following day tackle Besshø.

Besshø

At 2258m, Besshø is 500m higher than Besseggen and it is a trail that sees little foot fall. In many respects, it is like Surtningssue and as such, it has a huge attraction.

From Gjendesheim it is an out-and-back route of 22km with 1300m +/-. It’s a route that could take 12-hours but if moving fast and light, sub 6-hours is perfectly achievable.

The route starts with the end of the Besseggen route but instead of turning left for Besseggen, you veer right in the direction of Russa/ Glitterheim.

Bessvatnet lake will appear on the left and eventually you will cross a small bridge in the eastern corner. Cross the river you will see two small cabins on the left, now follow the trailer 2 to 3 miles north on flat/ boggy trail. Besseggen will be on your left and at the far end of the lake is Bandet which you crossed just before climbing Besseggen.

Look out for the right turn that leads to Besshø summit. The climb is at times demanding and marked with stone cairns which often disappear. It’s easy to lose the route so it’s advisable to have a GPX available (route here). Depending on the time of year, you may need to cross snow fields – care needed. The route is very rocky and strewn with boulders of different sizes. Many are loose, so, caution is required. It’s a challenging route but visually stunning.

The return route is via the way you came.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Never underestimate the mountains and the environment in which you are exploring. June in particular is the start of the hiking season and as such, snow can be a factor on all of the above routes. This adds an additional potential for injury and problems. Particularly as the snow is melting and this can create snow holes, snow bridges and crevices. Do not take any risks and follow established routes and existing footprints.

It is definitely worth carry Micro-Crampons as a safety measure, particularly in June and September. Also, trekking poles are a great addition but not essential.

Make sure you check in with DNT cabins for all the routes and check conditions to make sure that you have no surprises.

Weather is crucial and many of the above routes would become very dangerous in wet weather. Rocks and boulders in Jotunheimen are everywhere, when wet, they can be treacherous. Boots are always recommended for hikers but if moving fast and light, top quality mountain running shoes are perfectly acceptable on experienced feet. I cannot emphasize enough that grip is essential! You need an outsole that works on wet and dry rock. Running shoes are very personal but recommendations are VJ Sport MAXx and XTRM, Scott Supertrac RC2 and inov-8 Roclite.

It may be 30deg next to the fjord and glorious sunshine, but at the summit, it can be below zero, blowing a gale and torrential rain. You must take personal responsibility and be prepared for all conditions. At a minimum please take:

  • Suitable pack
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Warm insulated layer
  • Warm trousers
  • Waterproof jacket/ pants
  • Food for the duration of the hike and some contingency
  • 1,5 ltrs of water (which can be replenished on all the routes via streams/ waterfalls)
  • Take water purification tablets as a just in case and consider a water purifier such as MSR Trailshot (here)
  • Map/ Compass
  • Charged mobile phone with a suitable App such as ‘Footpath’ (here)
  • Cash/ Card
  • Garmin InReach or similar
  • Bivvy bag
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun cream

Plan your routes, be realistic on timings and always start early. One of the huge advantages of outdoor activity in Norway is daylight. In June, July, August it is light at 0300 and goes dark after 2200 hrs.

CONCLUSION

Jotunheimen is to mountain lovers, what Disney is to fair ride lovers.

It’s a playground of trails, routes, summits, views, experiences and wildlife all wonderfully interconnected with marked trails and DNT cabins.

This article is created as a gateway to the area knowing only too well that it will whet your appetite for other adventures.

As mentioned at the beginning, the best way to explore this area is by foot and we are sure that once you have followed our weeklong adventure above, you will already be planning to return and explore.

In comparison to our first Exploring Norway article on Hardanger, I would consider Jotunheimen a more challenging environment, so please consider experience and fitness when contemplating any of the above routes.

We cannot emphasize enough the role of weather and the impact it has on all of the above recommendations. The mountains will always be there, cancelling a planned route or turning back is acceptable and wise.

PERSONAL NOTE

Special thanks to Abelone Lyng who has extensive knowledge of Jotunheimen. Her experience was invaluable in planning routes and making a workable itinerary.

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