Sunday, July 5, 2015

Review: A (Sweaty) Hike to Gaustatoppen, Norway

Posted by Amanda Villaruel | | |
Why bother flying to another destination when you can simply drive to attractions nearby your hometown? :-)
View of Gaustatoppen from the road to Stavsro - the starting point of the trip
View of Gaustatoppen from the road to Stavsro - the starting point of the trip

Me and my boyfriend just came home from a trip to Rjukan and Gaustatoppen. The Gaustatoppen (mountain) is known as Norway's most beautiful mountain, and ranges 1,883 meters above the sea level.

Starting point: Stavsro, 13 km from Rjukan
Length of trip from Stavsro (ascent): 3 hours in normal pace
Descent: 2 hours in normal pace

So, how do you get there?

From Oslo downtown, it takes about 2,5 hours (without stops) to drive to Rjukan, the closest town to Gaustatoppen.

Follow E18 (the main highway) towards Drammen, which takes about 40 minutes from Oslo. Then follow the signs towards Kongsberg on E134 which takes another 20 minutes. When you arrive in Kongsberg, follow the signs towards Geilo until you see the signs to Rjukan. To check if you're on the right way; you should have passed the Esso gas station on your right hand and The Norwegian Mining Museum on your left as you're exiting Kongsberg.

Follow the signs to Rjukan and Rv 37, and you'll pass Jondalen, Gransherad and Tinnoset on the way. After Tinnoset you'll have the beautiful lake Tinnsjoen on your right hand.
Mandatory waffel at  Stavsro Cafeteria in Norway
Mandatory waffel at
Stavsro Cafeteria

Have in mind that the road around Gransherad and along the lake to Rjukan is bendy, and at certain places a bit narrow. If there are passengers in the back seat that suffer from motion sickness, I would recommend to pop a pill before driving or take it slower around the bend ;-)

At 'the end' of the lake you'll come to a crossroad. Follow the Rjukan-sign and turn left. If you're driving straight to Stavsro, the starting point of the trip, look for a sign to Gaustatoppen.

When you see a large (electrical) substation, there should be a sign to Gaustatoppen. Turn left (or right if you're driving from Rjukan downtown) and follow Rv 651 for about 15 minutes, or until you see a large parking lot and Stavsro Cafeteria on your left hand.

At the parking lot, you'll see a marked path to the mountain across the cafeteria. How is a path marked? Follow the red T's painted on the rocks, along the path.

Where to spend the night

Hiking the Gaustatoppen can be done in one day. You can leave Oslo at 07.00 am and start the trip at 12. If you complete the trip in normal pace (5 hours in total + 1/2 hour break at the top), you can be back before 18.00 and drive back to Oslo.

But if you want to stay a night or two in Rjukan, there are maybe a dozen hotels/motels to choose from.

We chose to stay at the hostel Rjukan Gjestegaard (address: Birkelandsgate 2). The hostel offers rooms with and without bathrooms. We went for a double room with bathroom at NOK 990 per night (included breakfast, bed clothes and towels).

Last time I spent the night in Rjukan (which was last year), was at Gaustablikk Hoyfjellshotell. There was better bedding at Rjukan Gjestegaard than at Gaustablikk Hoyfjellshotell - more comfortable beds, pillows and duvets. For me this is an extremely important factor, especially after a long trip to the mountain.

What to bring for the trip?

For your feet and safety sake, wear hiking shoes that protects your ankles - even in the summer. You'll be walking on heaps of large and small rocks, and probably snow. It's early July now, but there was still some snow on our way to the top.

It's much easier to balance on the rocks if you wear ankle boots, and you won't need to worry that much about spraining your ankles. I saw some youngsters that wore Converse shoes, and I seriously wonder how they managed to pull the trip through.

Hiking boots with ankle support is the best. 
Superb, clear view from Gaustatoppen, Norway
Superb, clear view from Gaustatoppen, Norway

What you should bring depends highly on the weather that day, and how you sensitive you are to cold. Check out or to check the weather beforehand.

Yesterday was a sunny and hot day (around 27 degrees in Rjukan).

I easily get cold, and I wore a white top almost all the way, my favorite pair of hiking pants from the Swedish brand Fjellreven and hiking boots with ankle support (Crispi Besseggen).

It was too hot to wear hiking pants, but my boyfriend convinced me to wear them (instead of some Nike stretch shorts), to avoid getting scratches from rocks and twigs. He was right :-) Once we reached the top, it got colder and I put on a long-sleeve in wool and a thin windproof jacket, which was perfect.

My man wore a dry-fit shirt, and on the top he put on a thin fleece jacket. He handles the cold better than me.

If it's a sunny and warm day, two layers under the jacket should be more than fine (one layer should be in thin wool if you're sensitive to cold). You can always put on/take off a layer or two during the trip. 

Review of the trip itself

The trip starts with a gentle, but rocky upward slope and on the way you'll pass small streams.

It gets steeper, and you have to walk/slightly crawl on heaps of large rocks. Whether you have to walk or crawl depends on which route you take. Sometimes we didn't walk the marked path because we didn't pay attention to the T's and were focused on what was right in front of us.
On the way to Gaustatoppen Norway
On the way to Gaustatoppen

I walked in front of my boyfriend even if he's more experienced in hiking than me. He walks too fast, so I had to set the rhythm :-)

There were patches of snow along the way, which can be tricky to walk on in uphill - especially if a lot of people have walked the snow path before you. We sometimes walked alongside the trodden path where fewer people had walked.
Snow on the way to Gaustatoppen Norway
Snow on the way to Gaustatoppen

Once in a while you should turn around to look at the view of Norway. It is said that you can see 1/6 of Norway from Gaustatoppen. The view was spectacular! And we were so lucky with the weather. 

The last part before the top is rocky and at the time we hiked - snowy. I started to feel the lactic acid in my thighs the last bit, but all I could think of was to reach the top :-) We paused for a minute and resumed the walking. 

FINALLY, we saw the stairs that Sherpa from Nepal built two years ago. We were on the top! The sweat was running, my thighs burning and I longed for water and waffles :-) What a feeling! 

Lots of people were relaxing in the sun and taking countless selfies. We just had to take a selfie too ;-) We reached the top after 2 hours and 10 minutes. 
At the top of Gaustatoppen in Norway
At the top of Gaustatoppen

The descend went faster (we were down after 1 hour and 37 minutes), but it was a bit painful for the knees. On the larger snow patches, I decided to slide down on my hiking pants which surprised my boyfriend. Fortunately we were wearing hiking pants that dry fast :-) LOL. 

How tough is the trip?

The trip to Gaustatoppen is doable for almost everybody. We saw hikers in almost all ages, from 7-year old children to people in their 60s.

Me and my boyfriend are not athletes. We don't have a 6-pack (but a large 2-pack), but we do work out regularly in the gym. Mostly weights, but the last couple of months I've been working on my endurance. Frankly, I dislike any activity that involves running. I avoid it if I can. My boyfriend was surprised that I was in better shape (than him). LOL.

During previous mountain trips, I've always been the one who complained and asked "How much time is left?" every 10 minutes. But not yesterday ;-)
Yippee, we're back on the ground!

Thanks to circle training, intervals on the tread mill, burpees and other exercises for the legs the last four months we've reached the average shape. As I mentioned earlier, we managed to walk up to Gaustatoppen in 2 hours and 10 minutes which is faster than normal pace. And 1 hour and 37 minutes on the way down, which is also faster than normal pace.

I've hiked the highest mountain in Norway, the Galdhopiggen in a more demanding route (from Spiterstulen), and I must say that Gaustatoppen is a piece of cake compared to that route to the tallest giant in the country.

The trip to Gaustatoppen can be tough, but should be manageable for most people :-)

Continue to read:
17 tips on how to travel sustainably and ethically

22 signs that you may have an eco-conscious lifestyle

Have your say about what you just read :)

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