Tvitjonnan tarn

Eystein and Henning above the tarn of Tvitjonnan

Date completed: 31st August 2013. With my friend and colleague Eystein Gullbekk and his son Henning (who is 12 years old and the same height as me).

Weather conditions: Excellent: the sun shone throughout and the air was crystal clear, allowing for impressive visibility. This has been a very good summer all round. However, it was cold on the top and we needed coats, scarves and gloves even though a few hundred metres down it remained around 20ºC.

Gøysen above Seljordsvatn

Gøysen rises above the lake of Seljordsvatn

Summit: Skorve is the name of a mountain region rather than a summit. The peak we actually attained was called Gøysen, at 1370m or just under 4,500 feet. Which would make it the highest peak in Britain, if it were in Britain.

Distance: Cannot be 100% precise but around 14km (9 miles) seems a reasonable estimate.

Total ascent: The starting point is at around 500m, the main summit 1370m, and there was not a great deal of height lost at any stage so let’s say around 900m or around 2950 feet of ascent.

Lifjell

View towards Lifjell, from the ascent

Start and end points: I admit this walk was not completed by public transport, though it could  potentially have been. To reach the nearby town of Seljord one could take a train from Oslo to the town of Bø and then a bus. To start the walk from Seljord is possible but would require another 350m or so of ascent (1,150 feet approx) and about another 3.5km (2 miles) of walking. However, we actually started and finished the walk at the car park marked on the map to the north west of the town, reached by driving up the road called Gullnesvegen then doubling back along Kivledalsvegen. You are asked to pay 20kr (about £2.20) into the honesty box at this car park.

Pub at end: There are a couple of restaurants/cafés in Seljord but bear in mind Norway doesn’t really do ‘pubs’ as such. And even when it does, alcohol is eye-wateringly expensive (the equivalent of around £10 for a pint of beer is by no means uncommon). Buy some duty free wine in the airport instead, that’s my advice.

Route card: We were taken round using the Seljord 1:40,000 scale map produced by Kart Føssoy (www.kartfossoy.no); not quite as finely detailed as the maps I use in the Lake District, but quite sufficient for the walk.

Summit of Gøysen

Eystein and Henning on the summit

Route: The walk is never difficult, but it does have some steep sections and you get up pretty high, so take warm clothing, regardless of what the conditions are like in the valley. The weather in Norway is just as unpredictable as it is in Northern England so be prepared, not just with clothing but with map (or a knowledgable companion), compass and food and drink. There are streams along the way with potable water.

The way is mostly marked with spots of red paint on rocks, and is never that hard to follow except for a section after the plane wreckage (see below). However, these spots of paint are sometimes mere flecks, and at the beginning there are a couple of junctions where one could easily miss the mark. The map should be consulted as well, for insurance.

I can’t give specific advice for anyone starting the walk down in Seljord but it looks from the map as if you can take a road that zigzags up the lower part of the mountain and starts in the north-eastern part of the town, round the back of the small hill of Bringsås. This will reach the car park where we started our walk.

Path junction

Eystein contemplates the Flyvrak/Gøysen path junction

From this car park head up the gravel lane but then immediately turn left, following the footpath sign to Skorve. There is a right turn off this path which is easy to miss (but I don’t think it would matter in the long run as the lane doubles back); either way you go up quite steep tracks through the woods before coming out at the cabin of Karlstaul. Here it would be easy to miss the path, which makes a right-angle turn before plunging back into the woods again. Look for giant anthills during this section.

As you ascend the trees get more stunted until eventually you break through the treeline and the views open up. The lake of Seljordsvatn can be seen virtually full-length behind you, with the plateau of Lifjell to its left.

View north west

View north west, over the mountains of Telemark

After a while you come to a sign (see picture above), pointing to Gøysen one way, and Flyvrak to the other. ‘Flyvrak’ isn’t the name of a mountain or summit: it actually means ‘plane wreck’ in Norwegian. Follow this path, which will lead you, as it says, to the wreckage of a USAF plane that crashed in September 1944 while flying supplies to the Norwegian resistance, killing all nine airmen on board. You start to come across bits and pieces of the plane, which has never been removed: pieces of fuselage, engine blocks and eventually the majority of the remains which lie in a rocky ditch beneath a small memorial affixed to the rock (all very similar to the one near the summit of Great Carrs in the Lake District — and indeed, these two accidents happened within a month of each other).

Plane crash memorial

Having lunch at the plane crash memorial

Past the wreck there are points at which the path becomes indistinct, but as long as you don’t lose any height I doubt you will get into any difficulty. Bear gradually right, heading up to the ridge, which you reach at the mountain tarn of Tvitjonnan, and then keep going round to the right. There is another, larger tarn up here, which keep to your left. Look out for the amazingly remote cabin stuck on a peninsula in this tarn. The path will take you up to the summit of Gøysen, from which it feels, on a clear day like we had, that you can see the majority of southern Norway. Certainly the view extends as far as the summit of Gaustadtoppen, which is quite a popular climb, about 30km away. The summit rocks are quite obviously pink in colour, and look also north east, to the summit of Mælefjell, which is blatantly light green.

The peak of Gaustadtoppen

Looking toward the peak of Gaustadtoppen

The path back down lies generally to the left of where you came onto the summit. It’s got steep sections but is never difficult, and will return you to the signpost past which you walked a couple of hours ago. From this point just retrace your steps to the car park.

Commentary: If Norway isn’t the most beautiful country in the whole world I don’t know where is – or, I haven’t been there yet. And yes, I include New Zealand in this assessment. Norway is just completely stunning, whether you’re on the coast, by the fjords, or inland, where this same mix of water and mountain remains, only with more of the latter.

The downsides? It’s achingly expensive, particularly for alcohol; if you’re coming here it a) helps to have friends who can put you up and b) to understand why Norwegian airports tend to have huge duty free shops in the arrivals hall, more so than in departures. Make use of them (each person can bring four bottles of wine through customs).

Mountain tarn

Crystal clear mountain tarn, near the summit

Also the weather is, at best, much the same as in Britain; and on the west coast it’s even wetter. The walking season here is very short, only really getting going in mid-June when the snow finally melts, and probably it won’t be lasting much longer than now, that is, early September.

But all in all, I don’t care. I never came here until being invited for a conference in September 2010, but since then I seem to have made it several times a year, mainly to Bergen but I’ve also visited Trondheim, Stavanger, Oslo and Kristiansand (a small town on virtually the southern tip of the country). All are beautiful.

What I want to do more of, however, is explore the stunning landscape. I certainly haven’t seen enough fjords, and one day I will take the Hurtigrute, the famous ferry service that runs up and down the whole coast (and that’s a long way – southern Norway is as far from the north of the country as it is from Rome).

Seljordsvatn

View of Seljordsvatn

I have a week’s work coming up in Oslo and Bergen and could have just arrived on Sunday night and done my stuff, but it’s the end of the summer, the weather remains good, I don’t have anything much else to do this weekend and — most usefully of all — my colleague Eystein has invited me to spend some time at his family’s cabin in Telemark, which is the district to the west of Oslo (if you’ve heard the name before it’s probably from the movie The Heroes of Telemark, about the military operation here in WW2 that destroyed the German heavy water plant hereabouts, something which arguably put the Nazi atom bomb project back a couple of years and may therefore have averted a major disaster in Europe).

Walkers and Hattefjell

Other walkers near the plane crash site, with Hattefjell behind

Arriving here on Friday evening, the views all around are amazing. Eystein and his family (wife Liv and sons Henning and Jørgen) built this cabin about three years ago on a bluff above the lake of Seljordsvatn. There is electricity but not much else in the way of services. I sleep well in the guest room and in the morning, the mist is dripping off the hills around but there’s the promise of a great day’s weather to come, and so it proves.

Coming down off Gøysen

Coming down off Gøysen

The walk is described above, and I’ve just about detained you enough, but let me just add that I feel lucky we had such clear air and sunshine for the walk: even then it was bloody cold on the top (unsurprisingly for an altitude of 4,500 feet at about 60ºN). The views were stunning however, and what also struck me about the landscape was how amazingly colourful it was, much more so than the Lake District. The ground was festooned with plants, particularly bilberries (an entire year’s supply of these could have been picked in a couple of hours at almost any point), and the rocks had incredibly colourful sheens to them, and were coated in light green lichen (which I assume gave the summit of Mælefjell, a few kilometres away, its colour: unless the rocks themselves are somehow green, I can find no other explanation for it). The photos hopefully capture the experience.

One Response to “Skorve, Telemark, Norway”

  1. […] worth doing – particularly on a great sunny day like Saturday was. Read all about it on the Skorve page. Back to the Lake District in a couple of weekend’s time, I […]

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