Welcome to Høgruta i Jotunheimen

77 km – 7.208 vertical meters

Jotunheimen Haute Route is a five-day randonée ski tour in the heart of the Jotunheimen National Park. The route goes over eight glaciers and seven 2000-metre summits, including Glittertind and Galdhøpiggen. Overnightings are at staffed lodges. Each stage is about 15 km long, with 1000 – 1500 metre elevation gain.

When Johan Wildhagen and Stian Hagen went to Toubkal, the loftiest mountain in North Africa, they realized that there was a randonée skiing paradise in the Norwegian mountain areas they knew from childhood.

There’s something about going abroad to discover what you have at home. Playwright Henrik Ibsen went to Italy to write his greatest plays about Norway. In 2012, Stian Hagen and Johan Wildhagen had a similar experience in North Africa.

They took their ski gear to another continent. After landing in Marrakesh, they drove a car for several hours and then hiked for hours in a queue of people headed for the same destination. People from round the world had come here. Two Norwegians, Stian Hagen, a randonée-skiing pioneer known for having climbed almost all the way up the Matterhorn to ski down it, and his trekking partner and photographer Johan Wildhagen, known for his works in the world's toughest landscapes, had come to ski down Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa.   

It could be a godsend. It could be the luck one dreams about.

"Why are we here", they wondered. “What are we doing?” It was then that the idea struck.

“Jotunheimen”, said Stian Hagen.

“We should go home to the Jotunheimen.  Norway’s Haute Route is there, waiting for us.”

They had trekked the Jotunheimen mountains as long as they could remember. The peaks had become so familiar as to be inconspicuous. But now a new aspect of them revealed itself. The mighty and much untouched peaks of the Jotunheimen obviously comprised a randonée skiing destination. They viewed the inconspicuous anew. They took their skis and put together the Jotunheimen Haute Route.

Day #1

Gjendesheim > Memurubu

16 Km – 1258 Vertical meters
Open map on ut.no Rutevalg må varieres etter vær og føre

Our suggested route starts from Gjendesheim/Bessheim and goes westward through the heart of the Jotunheimen. It goes over some of Norway's iconic summits on the way to the west side of the National Park. The tour takes six days. It includes five overnight stays at mountain cabins and climbs of six or seven 2000 metre summits, including Glittertind and Galdhøpiggen. A day's skiing covers a distance of about 15 km with an elevation gain of 1000 to 1500 metres. Its day stages are like those of the original Haute Route. But the Jotunheimen is at lower elevation, so altitude acclimatization is not required as it is in the Alps. Moreover, if the weather is bad, you can always follow the staked route to the next cabin. This is an advantage over the original Haute Route, where being weather-bound is usual and you need luck with weather and snow conditions to ski the whole tour.

On Day 1 you can follow the staked route from Gjendesheim or Bessheim to the east end of Bessvatn lake. If you start from Bessheim, you go directly west and the sun isn't strong. That can be an advantage at Easter when the mountain sun is strong. From Bessvatn lake, follow the ridge up to Bukkehø peak and onward to its summit (2258 m.s.l.). It's an easy climb on a gentle uphill. Besshø is an imposing mountain at the boundary between rounded mountain forms of the east and the more jagged alpine forms in the north and west. The view is superb. From here to the south you have a vista of Valdres and Gudbrandsdalen. It's one of the finest views of this part of the range. You're above the Besseggen ridge and look down on Bessevatn and Gjende lakes. And you can see the onward route.

Gjendesheim is at one of the major gateways to the eastern part of the Jotunheimen. It is a staffed lodge with 185 beds, in 1, 2 and 4 bed rooms, with a dormitory in a separate building. The menu features local food made from local produce, local cuisine and food from local suppliers.
More about Gjendeshiem on UT.no

The downhill run is through the west couloir, or the west ridge in case of avalanche hazard. The top of the west couloir is formidably steep. An alternative is to go down the ridge and then into the couloir further down. Then you follow the terrain crest to Memurubu. In bad weather, you can follow the staked route over frozen lake Gjende to Memurubu.

Bessheim lies to the east on Main Road 51 over Valdresflhye in the Jotunheimen. It has 150 beds and is staffed from mid February. In the main Lodge it also has 27 hotel rooms, most with bath.
More about Bessheim on UT.no

Day #2

Memurubu > Glitterheim

18 Km – 1400 Vertical meters
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The route follows the summer trail over Raudhamarn to the summit of Surtnigssue (2368 m.s.l.). The mountain most likely was named Surtingssue ("Black Sow") after its colour and shape. In the past, mountains often were given disrespectful names, because they were regarded to be obstacles. It's Vågå's loftiest summit and offers splendid views farther into the Jotunheimen.

There's an alternative glacier route. Start up the ice fall from Øvre Russglopet. From here the route goes northward over 2000 metre summits to end at Søre Veotinden peak. The elevation differences on the way aren't great, so they are easy summits to collect.

The descent down the Styggehøbrean glacier to Veodalen is not very steep. If weather and snow conditions permit, there are more challenging downhillls. You also can climb Styggehøe peak (1883 m.s.l.) for a longer downhill down to Glitterheim. In bad weather, you need not go over Surtingssue but instead can follow the staked ski route from Memurubu to Glitterheim.

Memurubu is on the shore of Gjende lake in the East Jotunheimen, with Besseggen and Bukkelægret on each side. It has 150 beds and is staffed at Eastertime. Memurubu originally was a summer mountain farm that was in operation for more than 100 years.
More about Memuruby on UT.no

Stian Hagen, who first suggested the HauteRoute Jotunheimen:

- Randonée skiing, called "Backcountry skiing" in North America and "Off-piste skiing" in the UK, is the world's fastest growing snow sport. In Norway it has developed rapidly over the past five years. Norway's geography and sparse population make building large ski resorts in suitable terrain unattractive for investors. And where the population is large enough to justify building lifts, the terrain isn't suitable for freeride skiing. Randonée gear has enabled people to enjoy fantastic skiing at new places in the realm of the Norwegian mountains. It's a trend that has just started. And now we've realized the unbelievable potential for randonée skiing in the Jotunheimen. So in the future, this will further enhance the attraction of the Jotunheimen for snow sports. People just need to be made aware of it.

Day #3

Glitterheim > Spiterstulen

14 Km – 1100 Vertical meters
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The route is the customary one to Glittertind (2465 m.s.l.) Glittertind is a magnificent peak in winter, but in poor weather with a white out and no fixed points to go by, orientation is difficult. So few people go there in winter. It seldom is climbed before Easter, because the ascent route is long and flat. Beware the top snow pack on Glittertind; it can be an overhanging cornice. Think carefully before you go up to the highest point.

But enjoy the fine downhill run to the west, down the ridge to the floor of Steindalen valley. From here you can go over Skautkampen peak down to Spiterstulen lodge. In poor weather you can follow the staked winter route between Glitterheim and Spiterstulen.

The Haute Route is the world's most known multi-day hike in summer and randonée ski tour in winter. It starts in Chamonix, France and is a six-day cabin-to-cabin tour through the Alps to its end below the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland. Each year, it's hiked and skied by thousands of enthusiasts from round the world. It's on the "Things to do before you die" list of many randonée skiers. Now we aim to arrange a "must be done" experience for Norwegian and international skiers. The cabins are already there, and the mountains are ideal for the tour.

Glitterheim is at an elevation of 1400 m.s.l. with some of the finest surroundings in the Jotunheim at its door. Glitterheim has 137 beds in 2 and 4-bed rooms, larger rooms and a dormitory. It's staffed at Eastertime.
More about Glitterheim on UT.no

Spiterstulen is well located to the north in the middle of the Jotunheim, with Galdhøpiggen and Glittertinden to the east and several 2000 metre summits nearby. It has 150 beds and is staffed at Eastertime.
More about Spiterstulen on UT.no

Day #4

Spiterstulen > Leirvassbu

17 Km – 1800 Vertical meters
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Hope you still have some energy. This is the toughest day of the tour. The route is the customary one up to Galdhøpiggen peak. From the summit you ski southward down a gulley to just west of Keilhaus summit, and down onto the Svellnosbrean glacier. Watch out for crevasses! From, here there's an uphill to Middle Tverråtinden peak before a downhill in the south gulley to Tverråbreen glacier. From the glacier there's an uphill to Bukkehollstinden peak. The following downhill is on the southwest side, down to Illåbrean glacier, and then up to Tverrbottinden peak. Then there's a westward downhill tnto Lierholet and onward do Lierdalen valley and then up to Leirvassbu lodge. In poor weather, follow the staked ski route.

Leirvassbu is at an elevation of 1400 m.s.l. under the pyramid-shaped Kryka mountain and is surarounded by several other 2000 metre peaks. Leirvassbu has 195 beds and is staffed at Eastertime. Snowcat transport from Sognefjellsvegen can be booked when Leirvassbu is open.

More about Leirvassbu on UT.no

Day #5

Leirvassbu > Krossbu

12 Km – 1150 Vertical meters
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The ascent of Storebjørn peak follows the customary route from the east. Then the route goes through Bjørnskaret and down to the Leirbrean glacier and onward to Krossbu lodge. In poor weather, the tour can finish at Leirdalen.

The choice of route depends on weather and snow conditions as well as the fitness and ambitions of the skiers. It's not a tour for beginners. Safety should always be uppermost in mind. The weather was so poor when we traversed the route last year that we couldn't finish the final stage of it. We also had poor weather on the fourth day, and chose our route accordingly. We look forward to trying several alternative routes of the Jotunheimen HauteRoute.

Krossbu Is at on Sognefjellsvegen at the foot of the mountain and is a superb starting point for summit tours in the area around Smørstabbrean glacier. There are various routes to Fannaråken and down Utladalen valley to Øvre Årdal. Krossbu has 75 beds and is staffed at Eastertime.
More about Krossbu on UT.no