Norway: Hiking in Winter!
A 21 km hike from Myrdal to Flåm in the Fjordlands
By Autumn Melody T homas
Reckless abandon: freedom from inhibition that is best achieved through spur of the moment escapes to the unfamiliar.
I have always stood firmly by the belief that impulsive adventures are exhilarating and therapeutic, but was forced to rethink this self made creed on a five hour, blizzard covered train ride from the city of Oslo into the vastness of Norway’s Aurlandfjord.
Equipped with only the knowledge of a brief Google search, I set out eagerly in pursuit of an 867m tall, 21km long hike from Myrdal to Flåm, a small town at the opening of a stunning fjord.
As I got off the train in Myrdal, a group of friendly locals warned me, despite the challenging language barrier, that they’d never heard of anyone attempting this challenging hike, especially in the winter climate.
Just as I began to question my prior lack of preparation, I was presented with an alternate option; experience the magnificence of Norway’s 1400m cascading mountains from the “world’s steepest railway line”, the Flåmsbana for a pricey 360 NOK ($64 USD). But for me, a comfy seat and an aerial view couldn’t trump a front row experience of the Eden-like scenery on foot.
The good news for those who’d also choose the latter: you can’t get lost if you tried! There is one large path that follows the river from Myrdal’s train station to the FlåmFjord opening.
Of course, you must first traverse a dauntingly steep slope that is damp from an awe-inspiring waterfall, just inches from the path. Though the journey will test your physicality, the dynamic sites ranging from colorful forests to rolling meadows will distract you from the majority of your fatigue. You’ll wind in and out of dark tunnels through the mountainous peaks and trample over weather beaten bridges that tremble with your weight. To enhance the already whimsical scenery, there is not a single point of the journey that doesn’t include a colossal waterfall ora beaming rainbow directly in your line of vision.
In and out of Dark Tunnels
Be prepared for several hours of trekking and several days of muscle aches as the entire trail is on an incline. There is no place to stop for a sheltered break (save for a single room train station about half way there, in Berekvam) and no place to get a bite to eat until Flåm.
Pack lightly, unless you feel compelled to replicate my mistake and travel in winter, in which case you will be wearing everything in your backpack to keep from freezing.
On a positive note, if you do decide to take on the challenges of winter, you will be afforded the chance to witness the majesty of the mountains glittering with bright snow, a picture that a camera could never do justice, especially one littered with freezing water spots on the lens like mine.
As you pass through the few small country farms, don’t be surprised if a fjord horse comes charging up the steep hills that line the sides of the path to say hello. They mean no harm but their sheer size and free roam of the open land can be quite alarming.
Allow Plenty of Daylight
If you embark on the trip as unprepared as I was, and have no clue how long the journey will take you, be sure to allot plenty of daylight to arrive at your destination.
On my departure day, I left my hostel at 5:30 am to make an afternoon train and was forced to slowly slide my feet along the ground of the path to prevent tripping on the rocky terrain. Most of the trail includes no artificial light and a moon that is overtaken by dominant gray clouds, leaving only pitch black ahead of you and the sound of the rushing river beside you.
Most importantly, gear up to discover new meaning of the words “serenity” and “ruggedness”. Wearing three jackets, two pairs of gloves, and two snow hats, I veered through mossy towering trees alongside the silvery blue river, then seconds laterpassed by traces of former avalanches and forceful waterfalls like the Kjosfossen.
Arriving in Flåm will not only provide an exhaustive sigh of relief but will also open up an even wider range of hiking possibilities alongside the water of the remarkable fjord. But don’t forget to book your stay in one of the cozy hostels or cabins, as you will undoubtedly need recuperation time.
The comfort food of the nearby train station restaurant and the warm bed of the hostel I was lucky enough to stumble upon, might as well have been heaven itself after hours of not knowing when civilization would pop up.
Perhaps most enjoyable was the skepticism I was met with from several townspeople that I had actually made the journey from Myrdal on foot.
However it was the fleeting moments of sunlight on the water between colossal mountain walls the next morning that has awarded Flåm a spot in my memory as the most beautiful sight I’ve ever laid eyes on.
Abandoning your laptop and cellphone is one achievement, but travelling through a place without telephone wires or streetlights is significantly better. The thought of impending fatigue, freezing, and desolation momentarily deterred me from future escapes to the unknown with so little preparation.
Yet I now find myself preaching more fervently that spontaneous adventures can provide a refreshing sense of perspective on the world, and a powerful sense of accomplishment on one’s self.
It is imperative to balance adventure with preparation, but with locations as remarkable as the Norwegian fjords within reach…why not charge fearlessly into the adventure of your dreams.
Autumn Melody Thomas is a professional performing artist in Southern California who has found passion and inspiration through her travels to exotic locales in search of exploration and adventure.
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