You would think after a half century of ski touring I’d be used to how a trip’s goals evolve in deference to weather. Yet I’ll admit to experiencing mental pain whenever bluebird is desired, but myself and companions instead end up “enjoying” claustrophobic huddles inside an egg of cloud-suffused solar energy.
Here today in the Jotunheimen Mountains, suffusion dominated and I did experience mental pain. We’d already adjusted our goal from doing the whole Jotunheimen Haute Route, skipping the first part due to a lack of snow. Today, Stian’s idea was to reverse a section out of the Spiterstulen Lodge so we could at least check out the terrain — assuming we got a few sucker holes in the clouds.
During what turned out to be a fairly flat but steadily climbing ski tour we did get a few views of cool terrain, then the white mewled over us like we were sitting in the bottom of an oatmeal can. Just a hundred or so feet below the Glittertind summit (second highest peak in Norway, 2,465 meters) we waited a good half hour for that one little bit of light that sometimes occurs for a summit jog. Not to be. Reversing our route, we skittered over a black peppering of rocks that nicely detuned our skis, then dropped out of the clouds.
I got a few laughs on the low-pitch downhill we had to settle for (instead of a nice line we’d spied on the way up). With quite a few weasel toothed rocks lurking under a dusting of hippy pow, and visibility at about 30%, the pro skiers did not exactly produce merchantable art. In fact, I haven’t seen so many wriggle turns since my last trip to Switzerland. We should have been filming; perhaps the results could have enriched a re-edited Warren Miller heli-ski segment from 1984.
Redeeming quality of the tour was views at terrain taken by the Jotunheimen Haute Route. Everywhere are high peaks, glaciers and swooping ridges. As I’ve studied the maps and terrain, it seems one would want to take in this area without rushing, perhaps by staying at one lodge for a few days with even a rest day mixed in. Haute routes are not conducive to such behavior, but itineraries can be adjusted. I’ll be interested to see how alpine ski touring in the Jotunheimen evolves.
As an FYI I GPS tracked the trip from Spiterstulen to Glittertinden. With our not making the exact summit it was about 21 kilometers round trip, 1,300 meters gain. Quite a bit of flatter terrain made the route seem longer than an equivalent elevation gain with more efficient climbing, but quite a nice tour nonetheless.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.