Nigardsbreen: A Blue Dream in Norway
By Marina Bukhtiyarova
My decision to go to Norway was sudden. The crazy idea came to me in February, one of the coldest months of the year. Norway is known to be a cold country, even in the summer.
My friends told me traveling to a cold country like Norway for a summer getaway was not for them. However, I am originally from Russia so cold weather does not scare me.
After picking mid-July for the trip, I had to choose where to go and what places to visit. Because I missed the snow of Russia while living in Germany, I knew that I wanted to see glaciers.
Where to Go
There two options in Norway: Nigardsbreen and Briksdalsbreen, the two branches of Jostedalsbreen Glacier.
After much research, I found out that Briksdalsbreen was out of the question-- the glaciers melt slowly, preventing tourists from walking on them, you are only able to look at them from the side.
So, I decided on Nigardsbreen. The official website for Nigardsbreen stated that in order to walk on the glaciers, you had to travel with a guide, as well as obtain special equipment from a station located close to the glaciers. I booked the tour and was ready for my adventure.
For the first two and a half days of my trip Norway was cloudy, rainy, and quite cold. But, once the sun came out from behind the mountains at the end of my third day there, I finally expected the weather was nice enough to hike the glaciers. But this was only a dream.
I would like to mention that Nigardsbreen tour was not on the first day of my stay in Norway but on the fourth day.
Waking up and looking out the window, I could not believe my eyes, the sun was gone, the clouds were low and it was misty and drizzling outside. My first thought was: “Why?” But I collected my things and drove from the camp site to my destination.
When I approached the parking place, the left back wheel on my car began to utter a strange gritting sound; even other people began to look at my car.
Once I arrived, finding a parking spot for my car, other people started to stare at me and my car. One person suggested going to the service station.
But, coming to adventure, I did not have time for this, as the hike was to start in half an hour. I quickly decided that I would deal with the car troubles after the glacier hike.
Even though I had to drive to the start of the hike for five more minutes, I did not let the strange sound get in the way of my trip. The drizzling rain did not stop, and it was terribly cold, temperature of 10C above zero.
Time To Hike
In order to hike on glaciers people usually come equipped with crampons and ice axe, while hikers in the group tie each other together with a rope.
All the equipment required for the trek was given to us at the meeting point. I saw a group of people, thinking they would be my hiking buddies, it turned out they were a special group and ordered a separate hike.
I was then alone at that moment, worried because organizers have been known to cancel hikes because of weather or not enough people.
After some time a couple of Belgians and a couple of Norwegians arrived.
The guide said a smaller group of five people is much better than a larger group with about thirty two people, because many stop to take photos, forcing the entire group to halt, and that it is usually difficult to tell stories because not all people will hear.
The Belgians said that they tried to visit the glacier the day before, but were unable to hike because all the trips were booked due to the nice weather.
In order to reach the glacier, we had to travel by boat across a small river, formed by the melting of the glacier. The seats on the boat were wet.
Since I was hoping for good weather, I did not even wear tights under my hiking trousers, and was very cold. Nobody wanted to sit on those wet benches. Then we had to hike 50 minutes before reaching the glacier.
Getting finally to the glacier, the rain stopped, even though it was cold, we were happy not to be wet! Once on the glacier, the rain was forgotten. It was incredible, extremely beautiful, huge and impressive!
The guide told a very interesting story, though I do not know how true is it, of a small village near the glacier that during the winter used to lose connection to Guapne. In order to survive the village exchanged goods across the glacier, cows and sheep trekking on the slippery ice. I am sure they do not have any ice-skates for animals.
The glacier changes during the summer, and we were lucky enough to travel through a tunnel with blue ice around us that did not exist two weeks prior.
The ice constantly melts and shrinks, changing its’ topography. The glacier can be visited every year, but will never be exactly the same the next. If I had the opportunity to visit it again I would.
And finally, why is the ice blue? Blue ice occurs when snow falls on a glacier, is compressed, and becomes part of the glacier. Air bubbles are squeezed out, and ice crystals enlarge. The dense ice of the glacier absorbs every other color of the spectrum except blue.
Where to stay: Pluscamp Sandvik
When to go: Middle of June – Middle of August
What to wear: warm clothes (cap, gloves, pullover, hiking shoes, warm trousers)
What to do: family hike, long hike for 5 hours, short hike for 3.5 hours
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Carson McGrath is a journalist who loves to write about adventure, politics, and feminism. You can find her on top of a mountain or riding her bike around Amherst.