This post - June 27th to July 1st
~82 km, 1000 m elevation - biked with the whole family
Follows: Norway part V: Mosquito pass Mjolkevegen
See also: Our European Bike tour - people and gear
Upon arrival in Haugastøl by train we set out immediately on the Rallarvegen - a beautiful 82 kilometres of closed gravel road, initially built to service the train line we'd just exited. It is immensely popular with cyclists (for good reason), but since it was still early in the season the throngs of cyclists were replaced by rumours that the road was still impassible due to snow coverage.
It seems that we'd saved the best for last. The terrain was breathtaking - the sort of stuff I'm only used to accessing by ski touring. And with the spring snow coverage still present and ice still floating in the lakes it almost seemed like we might have skied there... but here I was with the whole family on bicycles. Our first camp was by Finsevatnet, just past the first snow patch covering the road and across from the massive Hardanger-jøkulen, which sent long glaciated fingers down towards the lake. A german tourist came by camp the other direction and reported that there were many more snow patches, but that we should have no problems. From camp I ran up the nearby Store Finsenuten, which had only 4 entries in the summit register since it was started in 2014 (but was located on top of the summit boulder). There were also words spelled out in dirt with rocks, but I couldn't make them out. The run back down was amazing, with soft mosses that made it feel almost like skiing. It made me think maybe I could get into this running thing...
The next morning F and Line went up Nordrenut while I took down camp with N. The snow patches became bigger and ever more frequent. There was a lot of pushing loaded bicycles, leaving F lots of time to play on the snow patches while we laboriously dragged ourselves along. Sometimes my bike would sink down as far as F's footrests and kind of ride along the snow on them. For difficult sections we took to dragging the chariot backwards, which N thought was hilarious, and F commented that we should have just brought skis. According to her there was enough snow for them, and it would be way easier to carry the skis across the road than carry the bikes over the snow. She's probably right, although lighter bicycles would have helped too. I have to admit there was a moment of jealousy when a pair of bikepackers approached a snow patch we were wallowing in, hopped off their bikes, and basically danced lightfootedly across the snow without even leaving footprints.
Despite being on the move most of the day we only covered 11 km, and my dragging/gripping muscles were sore from manhandling the bike all day. Still, Line and I agreed that this was our favourite day on the whole trip... but I guess we like that kind of stuff. We camped just before the pass beyond Tågavatni, and were able to peak out over the other side to verify that yes, we'd probably be able to make it out that way and wouldn't need to retrace our steps and take the train. I popped up Austra Låghellerhøgdene for a bit better view and confirmed; since we were exhausted and had stopped a bit early it was the first time I'd summited anything near camp before sunset in a long time (not that it got dark, even after sunset).
The next day we made great progress with fewer snowpatches and the route generally downhill. We camped on the North shore of Nedre Grøndalsvatnet, with lots of stone skipping and Line and F running off together up various shoulders near camp in the evening and the next morning, and me running off up Store Broksfjellet... I had a good look at the route from camp, but had to really pay attention as I didn't know of an established route, the terrain was quite complex, and there were a few challenging scrambling sections.
Everybody was a little bit sad on the final day of the Rallarvegen, as we knew it would be our last wild-camp of the trip, but it was hard being too glum as the route picked its way carefully down an amazing waterfall canyon. We picked up some ice cream at the hotel by the finish, where F also found a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest. It was difficult to explain that it would probably die, but that the best thing we could do for it was to leave it alone and hope its parent came back for it. We camped just at the top of these very intimidating switchbacks, and Line ran up Urdshovd for our last peak bagged in Norway.
The next day we walked our bikes down the steep switchbacks and enjoyed a leisurely ride down the valley to Flåm. We were happy to find the grocery store open despite it being Sunday. We got on the ferry in the afternoon and were back in Bergen in the evening.
The next morning we walked down the steep switchbacks. There was no way we could have biked them with all our stuff, and we were happy to do most of the braking with our legs. Then a long mostly-descending road to Flåm, which F bike almost completely herself, and finally the ferry back to Bergen. We arrived quite late in Bergen, biked to the airport hotel where we'd stashed our bike boxes, and ate so much at the breakfast buffet that we almost couldn't manage to make the checkout time the next morning. Leaving the hotel for the airport we discovered that we can actually carry the bike boxes on the bikes in addition to all our stuff. After disassembling and boxing our bicycles in the courtyard just outside the airport we noticed that the airport actually has a bicycle stand and some tools inside explicitly for this purpose. Something to keep in mind for next time, and after this trip I think it's pretty likely there will be a next time.
11/20/2022 11:07:40 pm
Last summer, I joined a group of other tourists who were taking part in the longest, and most demanding bicycle tour of Norway. We rode a historic route called the Rallarvegen (The track of road-builders) between the cities of Oslo and Bergen. My training rides in South Florida weren't nearly as exhausting as this trip but still proved to be quite exhilarating.
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