Trollheim Triangle - four days of wild camping in glacial mountain loveliness.
In the last couple of years we've had to travel a lot between adventure destinations. This bothers me, it feels like we are passing up opportunities rushing to and from, to say nothing of the carbon involved. This year we planned in a little more time between contracts and turned our dash through Norway into a more interesting road trip. At the start of August I drove the van up to Norway, while Viv was still working in Nepal, then she flew out to meet me. The plan was to spend the month trekking in Trondelag and Nordland. The result was a couple of self-contained adventures that would equally well make short haul and short time breaks from the UK.
"Trollheim" is the home of trolls in Norwegian
Trollheim – a mountain area easily reached from Trondheim with beautiful rounded peaks and deep glacial valleys. To the west the peaks ( such as Snota) are more alpine and angular, while in the east the peaks (Trollhetta and Blåhøa) are more rounded with glacial troughs. The valley floors are forested and the moorland above rocky. The triangular route between three mountain huts is a famous walk in Norway (Trollheim Trekanten), but being Norway it’s not a walk in the park, then neither is it always thronged. You can drive to two of the huts, Jødalshytte and Gjevilvasshytte, but Trollheimshytte is more central and reached only by trails from the two other huts in the triangle or from Bårdsgarden and Kårvatn huts.
The access roads both charge tolls and have signs about caravans not being allowed, which is odd, given the Scandinavian Right to Roam, Allesmannsratten. Because of this (we were in our camper and didn’t want to upset anyone) we parked to the north of the triangle and added an extra half day trek each way into Jødalshytte. Doing it this way also meant that we would be breaking each day’s walk mid-way between the huts and wildcamping, so far less likely to fall into a group moving along the trail. That said – just before we left the van a coach turned up with a whole load of college age students aboard, we let them steam off ahead of us and they were soon lost to view.
Heather covered rock moorlands, with streams for drinking water and a thin trail leading past the lakes
We set off at 11:00 from the van. Which we left in a lonely gravel car park designed for use by cross country skiers in the winter. The area had a long-drop loo and was only a couple of hours drive from Trondheim. The trail followed a track for a while past holiday cabins, then dipped to a river valley before starting uphill onto the moorlands. That was the theme for the rest of day 1 – heather covered rock moorlands, with streams for drinking water and a thin trail leading past the lakes to Jødalshytte. We stopped for lunch on a rock ridge overlooking the big lake Raudfjellvatnet, enjoying the sun and the silence. When we carried on we found the students had wild camped at the last big lake before the hut (Langtjønna) at a spot that I would have liked to use, but for us, the afternoon was too early in the day as we had a triangle leg to aim for. We carried on and then bypassed the hut at about 16:00 and headed off uphill on the first leg of the triangle. The angle was easy and we topped out after 300m on moorland used by Sami reindeer herders as a gathering point.
The poles of their tipi-like Laavu’s were still set up, along with the stoves. This was 8 hours and 21km into our day, but we wanted a bit more shelter, so carried on for another hour and dropped down to a good camp site alongside the bridge over the river Minnilla.
The head of the valley West of us was a ridge of peaks that led north to Svarthøtta summit at 1548m. The triangle circumnavigates this mountain massif at the heart of Trollheim, and cold katabatic winds swept down from the cirque in the night, which made us
glad of the raised and sheltered position we camped in. There is clear evidence of firepits and other camp spots here, but in the spirit of leaving no trace we opted for the jetboil and a bit of a clear up. This site feels like it’s way out in the wilds, but actually could be used as an alternative access point for the triangle, as there is a road at Nerskogen less than 7km away and only 80m below this spot.
In the morning we struck on towards the southernmost point of the triangle at Gjevilvasshytte. The first there hours were walking downhill in birch woods alongside a river gorge tumbling down to the lake Gjavilvatnett. Once again we missed out the hut, cutting west towards the next triangle leg. There is a gravel car park here too where the trail leads off away from the road, once again a possible access point. The trail winds upwards as the gorge deepens and steepens on the left, coming after about an hour and 250m height gain to a fine lookout viewpoint and possible wild camp (no access to water – it’s in the gorge!). The route levels off and for the next couple of hours winds across rocky moorland, heading for the dark bulk of Blåhøa. We crossed the river walking north west for the pass over an outlying peak, towards Trollheimshytte, and three hours from the road came to the first of the two Kamptjønnin lakes.
It's always cheering to see a small child in a rather fetching pink tutu when you are feeling absolutely shattered...
The landscape here at 1150 metres in August was bleak, with dark rock, steel grey water, old off-white snowpatches and a rather fetching pink tutu worn by four-year old Mina. She was camping with her mum and dad, and baby sister next to the lake. While Mina practised her twirls we had a chat with her father, Alex. The family were in the middle of a month long stay in the park, and this relatively sedentary approach was due to the baby, and Mina’s slower walking pace. Alex explained that he and Mina are already veterans of a multi-month pulk pulling trip (he pulled, she rode) through the winter when she was too small for pre-school, and that now she was walking for herself they were moving at her pace through the hills. They have an inspiring instagram feed about their adventures @minaogmeg. Here is Mina sporting her fabulous adventuring outfit
We wanted to carry on over the pass before the end of the afternoon, so we kept hiking for another hour and a half climbing over old snow patches and finally setting up camp at 18:00 on a small grassy ledge 60 metres above the lake of Fossådalsvatnet.
We had a fine view of Snøta to the west, though the glacer resting below the peak looked disturbingly like a skull (Viv disagrees – have a look at the picture!).
Day three began with a level cloud ceiling but fine weather. The trail led us down to the lakeside and gently up and over Mellomfjell with gentle walking over rocky moor, scree and snowpatches to a higher lake , Mellomfjelljønnin. We reached the day’s highpoint of 1280m only two hours after setting out, and stopped for a cup of tea with a terrific view north and west over the valley containing Trollheimshytte, set in the Svartåmoen nature reserve at the confluence of five glacial valleys. Outside the nature reserve the hills are recognised as a protected landscape – this is an ancient area and the Norwegians are determined it won’t be damaged by poor planning decisions.
The Trollheimshytte is completely invisible in the trees, though close up it reveals itself as a classic log built design with wide roofs and a solid homely feel inside. There are wildcamping areas close by between the hut and the river, so it caters for all levels of accommodation. Norwegian huts are expensive, but the quality of both food and accommodation is very high, and while we had fairly light packs, we could have done the whole triangle with nothing more on our backs than a light daypack.
Our route was back towards Jødalshytte through the Svartådalen valley, but there is also a trail that heads towards the lake, then doubles back and crosses the river below the gorge then heads steeply uphill to cross Trollhøtte – a climb of over 1000m. The signposts on the trails give predicted times for each route and we found them pretty accurate, although we were carrying camping packs – the Trollhøtte to Jødalshytte route was posted at 10 hours, and we didn’t fancy that given that we passed the hut at midday.
If you wanted another alternative day trip from Trollheimshytte it is possible to summit Snøta as a day walk.
After Trollheimshytte we were back in forest, with deep moss and sedges underfoot. We climbed a little to access the valley of Svartådalen, and began the Eastward leg of the triangle. To our left the river poured westwards out of the valley through a deep gorge, and a light misty rain started to fall, enhancing the rainforest nature of the lush vegetation in the woodland. The trail climbed gently into the valley, soon levelling out as we walked past river bars and beaches. This valley has a classic glacial trough cross-section, steep sides and a flat valley bottom, but also has the interesting quirk that this is a glacial outflow – there is no head to the valley. Like the Lairig Ghru in the Cairngorms, the Svartådalen was carved by a glacier flowing out from an icecap, the impetus to do that was from the weight of ice, rather than gravity on a headwall. That means there is no headwall to the valley, and the result today is that the river, fed by waterfalls on both sides, flows in two directions – west and east from the marshy headwaters area about 8km on from the hut.
At this point we were looking for a campsite for the night and given the rain weren’t too inclined to carry on a long way. We found a raised patch of open ground just short of the point where the trail crosses to the north side of the river, and set up the tent 8 1/2 hours into the day.
The last day was an easy walk out, following the river now flowing downhill the other way towards Jødalshytte. The rain cleared after a couple of hours and the day became progressively finer. As we walked we passed more huts and weekend cabins, and then eventually some more people – some that we had seen earlier in the trip, walking the triangle the other way, and some venturing out fresh on a Saturday morning. Meeting our outward track we got back to the van in 21km, taking 7 hours.
The takeaways from this trip were as follows:
- There are many other ways to do this trip – other access points and routes between points. You can walk out to other access points from Trollheimshytte heading west.
- We would certainly consider doing the triangle hut to hut with lighter packs, but the lightweight camping packs we had did not impact our times that adversely – there was a fair bit of sitting down and admiring the view.
- The Jetboil once again proved its worth – we don’t carry a flask any more when we can spark up a brew inside a few minutes.On this trip we also had a pot stand for the Jetboil, meaning we could also use the trusty Alpkit MyTiMug on it as well.
- Neither did we carry a lot of water – there are streams throughout the route. These have glacial dust in them, so we did use a lightweight water filter, (the MSR trailshot) but we didn’t bother with chemical treatment, though we had aquaprove in the van.
- In restrospect I think we might go for doing the triangle the other way round – there would be a steep climb up to Mellomfjell from Trollheimshytte, but that would be most of the climb in one morning’s push.
- I would also like to go over Trollhøte, climb Snøta, and possibly access Jodalshytte from Nerskogen. Many thoughts, many possibilities –but that’s one of the things I like about this compact chunk of glacial loveliness.