My first real night in this tent is… eventful. The breeze that appeared while I was pitching the tent continued to strengthen and eventually brought along some rain. At some point in the night I’m woken by what I can only assume is the sound of a distant rockfall. Poking my head outside the tent, I’m surprised that I can see anything, and can make out the shapes of clouds ominously swirling above the mountains (where the light is coming from, I have no idea). The sight is a bit unsettling, but luckily doesn’t prevent me getting back to sleep.
When the morning comes, it is bright – the night’s dark masses replaced by white puffy cumulus. I have a quick breakfast of instant porridge, and get going. Today’s destination is Litlos – a staffed cabin, where I’ll get a bed and a hot meal. Even after only one night of camping, I’m looking forward to spending a night in a room that doesn’t move in the wind. As I pass the cabin at Middalsbu, I see lights stirring behind the windows; evidently sleeping in a tent is good for motivating early starts.
My route initially takes my round a shoulder of the mountain at the head of Valldalsvatnet. I glimpse the radio tower back at Risldal, and send a quick message home. My GPS tracker claims its batteries last over a week, but is already complaining that it’s low on charge. I hope it’s just cold, but turn it off, just in case.
As I ascend, I enter some light cloud, which doesn’t do much more than obscure the view. I also start to encounter Hardangervidda’s locals, who are very polite about sharing the path (and you can always tell when they’re nearby from the bells around their necks).
The path takes me up a shallow U-shaped valley, at whose far end, I see someone coming down towards me, but well off the trail. After a few minutes, I notice their three colleagues spread across the width of the valley, along with their sheepdogs – this must explain why I’ve seen so many sheep this morning. I try to avoid countershepherding as I pass them to reach the top of the valley, which is marked by another impressive waterfall.
For the next couple of hours, the trail follows the Northern edge of a series of lakes. The terrain varies from flat gravel beds, to gently swelling meadows, to fairly steep lakeshore, and finally scrambling around 45-degree piles of rock and talus at the water’s edge. Luckily these sections are fairly short, and I’m back on (relatively) flat ground before long.
One thing that there are quite a lot of in Hardangervidda is streams – streams that you have to cross. Most could be jumped over, but there are usually helpful stepping stones if you want to take the boring route. The wider ones sometimes take a bit of thought, as they have multiple apparent routes networking between islands of shallow gravel beds. On one of these wider crossings, I misplace my trust in a rock that looks like it won’t roll over, and receive a pair of quite wet legs in return. A change of socks doesn’t really do much for soaked shoes, so my movement for the rest of the afternoon is a bit squelchier than the morning.
Luckily for some streams and rivers, somebody has done the hard work for you and installed a wobbly bridge. This keeps crossings interesting while substantially lowering the odds of getting wet (and increasing the penalty for doing so).
Coming down from the lakes, I catch my first glimpse of Litlos and, spurred on by the thought of drying out my shoes, make good time toward it. I’m still over half an hour away when I catch the scent of diesel – apparently the air is so clean up here that the exhaust from the generator there can be smelled over a kilometre away.
Before long, I’m standing in a lovely warm reception, being told where my room is and when dinner will be served. It’s only about 16:00, so in the few hours before dinner, I read in the lounge, gaze out the windows, and make an amazing discovery: the tørkerom (drying room).
By the time dinner comes around, there are five guests at the cabin: a Norwegian couple who had come up from Hellevassbu, and a Norwegian couple who followed me from Middalsbu. The Norwegians tell us that they are hiking the length of the country in sections, and that the section they’re on now is over 40 miles long. This prompts a brief puzzled look between the Germans and myself; 40 miles is a decent distance, but won’t get you anywhere from here. The Norwegians then elaborate that in Norway (and Sweden, I think), a mil means ten kilometres; I find this a bit strange, but also kind of unsurprising.
Dinner is mushroom soup, followed by roast pork with potatoes and vegetables, with a strawberry mousse and coffee to finish – all in generous portions. Warm and well-fed, I head to my only-slightly-too-short bed.