Beautiful Rondane

The mountains of Rondane will always have a special place in my heart. The first time I came to Norway, in 1999, my family traveled to a friend's cabin at Mysusæter and skiied there for several days. Then we skiied hut to hut in Rondane for three days. The open landscapes of the mountains of Norway are so different from my childhood home of woodsy Vermont. I remember less-than-perfect weather, even getting a little lost at one point, but feeling like a brave polar explorer as I traversed through the landscape.

From the tiny town of Mysusæter, you have to cross a long, flat plateau to get to the 2000m peaks of Rondane. The skiing would be boring if it weren't for the view. In mid-February we had perfect weather to enjoy the view for the two hours it took to ski in to Rondvassbu hut.

Audun on the plateau between Mysusæter and Rondvassbu. Here there be mountains!

We stopped to get rid of excess baggage and eat lunch at Rondvassbu hut. It was cold outside, and for once we were glad to have a warm place to sit. On the ski in we had been listening to the women's cross-country relay at the Olympic on the radio, but we had lost signal after dipping down towards Rondvassbu. All the more incentive to climb and find the radio signal again!

Headed towards Veslesmeden, with the ridge to Storsmeden behind me. Photo: Audun

Our objective for the day was Veslesmeden, which translates to 'the little smith'. A long, dramatic ridge line connects the little smith to Storsmeden - the big smith. I eyed the ridge as I skied along, wonder how it would be to traverse in the summer. I've been thinking about going for the Rondane 2k marathon challenge - climbing all of Rondane's 10 peaks of 2000 m in one day - for years now, and that ridge is a part of it. Aside from some recon that was thwarted by bad weather, I haven't really tried properly. Maybe this summer?

Eying the ridgeline from the summit of Veslesmeden. Photo: Audun
The Norwegian women's cross-country won the Olympic relay, overcoming a set back on the second leg. A strong wind had harried the mountains early in the week, leaving less-than-ideal snow conditions: a wind-blown landscape ripe with sastrugi and the occasional exposed rock. We booted the last steep bit to the summit, and were treated to a 360 degree view.

The good section on the descent of Veslesmeden. Photo: Audun

The ski down was challenging to say the least. Due to the long ski in, we had decided to forgo our heavy plastic boots and fat skis for more nimble, skinny mountain skis. Unfortunately these aren't nearly as fun in wind blown conditions.

The landscape was still gorgeous. Here, Audun on the descent.
Still, there were pockets of powder if you look hard enough and we managed to get in a few good turns without falling.

Goggle selfie.
Rondvassbu hut was crowded but not full that evening. I especially remember an Austrian (from Tyrol) guy who was dragging a full sled with tent and everything across the mountains, and a Norwegian-Italian couple who were very gregarious, but mostly interested in talking about themselves. I went to bed early, my heart and legs full of mountains.

{Strava here}

Cold morning, before the sunlight hits the lake, near Rondvassbu.

The next day was the men's cross-country relay at the Olympics, so naturally we had to go high again to find radio signal and figure out what happened. It felt kind of silly to rewind the radio broadcast (there's an app) several hours, without checking who won, to have the suspense of listening to it again.

Headed for Ljosåbelgen, on the left.
Today our objective was Ljosåbelgen, a peak that is often overlooked since it is just below the magical 2000m limit. It was the just as sunny in the mountains as the day before, but the valley below was filled with swaths of clouds that we looked down on.

Audun had some issues with his climbing skins. I thought it was a good photo op.
The men duly won their relay race (two wins for team Norway!). After crossing a long plateau the climb to the top of Ljosåbelgen began in earnest. We decided to climb up the summiting ridge rather than traversing around into the bowl, and it grew steep and wind-blown enough that we decided to bootpack a section. Maybe the bowl is easier to skin up.

Two skiers, carrying their skis. Photo: Audun
Although it was cold, the summit was practically windless and we enjoyed the sun, the view, and our lunch before skiing down.

Lunch on the summit of Ljosåbelgen. Photo: Audun
Once again the conditions on the descent were challenging, and I wondered if this whole extravaganza would have been more enjoyable on heavier equipment. But then there was an hour of fairly flat skiing to get out to the car, which would have been a slog in the heavy tele gear.

Tele turns, above the clouds. Photo: Audun
{Strava here}

Until next time, Rondane - I'll see you this summer!

- The Wild Bazilchuk