My hometown, Bergen in Norway, is known as the city between the seven mountains. It is also known for its bad weather. We currently hold the national records for the most days in a row with rain and the most amount of rain in a year. It might come as no surprise that the people of Bergen are happy to spend their holidays in warmer, drier places. Except for this year, due to the pandemic, many people decided to spend the vacation in Norway instead.
When me and my girlfriend Ine decided on a vacation in Norway, we set some specific requirements for the vacation location. It should be far from Bergen, but not too far away from Bergen (we don’t want to get homesick either). We wanted fjords and mountains. And we want high mountains, preferably with spectacular views and opportunities to get away from any large tourist groups. Although there are a lot of places in Norway that match that criteria, Ine fell in love with the steep Sunnmøre Alps right away. The decision was made.
For once, we wanted to stay in a hotel and have a safe and nice place to come back to after long day’s trip in the mountains. We found Sagafjord Hotel in Sæbø, in the middle of the Sunnmøre Alps.
Arriving in Sæbø, we were stunned by the peaks rising from the fjord, ending in a beautiful and pointy pattern towards the sky. The hotel had panoramic views of famous mountains such as Slogen and Saksa across the beautiful fjord Hjørundfjorden. If you visit, be ready to make your adventure planning with a live preview of the peaks and climbs.
The spirited hotel director, Sigmund, welcomed us while jokingly cursing us for bringing the rain from Bergen. We ensured that we would get rid of it within a couple days and set about proving that we could find some nice views in the rain and fog too. The peak of that day was Sæbøtua, just a small one-hour hike from the hotel. The views from the top showed us small glimpses of what was awaiting in the upcoming days.
Our first big hike was up Dalegubben (1344m).
And just as we had promised Sigmund, the rain was all gone! The hike starts from the ocean. The way to the top of the mountain is just one steep hill from there. The brutal start was heavy on our legs, but we soon found our rhythm and made good progress. We would soon get to know many hills like that.
Anytime we needed a break from the steep ascent, just stopping to take a second and enjoy the view was enough. The top of Dalegubben is a scramble. You must be careful with your steps, as the consequence is high.
On our return down to Sæbø, we took a swing at Gunnar-Råsa to celebrate our achievement of the day. While looking out of the window during the dinner, we were presented with the peak for the next day. Saksa (1073 MASL) – “The Scissor”.
Saksa is a big tourist attraction. There are always a lot of people on bluebird days. Despite wanting to avoid big tourist destinations, we had to tick it off our list too. So, we were prepared to traverse over toward Elsandtindane in order to get away from the crowds and feel like we were alone up there. The traverse is long, and took a bit more time than we expected. But it was totally worth it to get some peace out in the wild. We were returning the same way we came up and realised we were a bit behind schedule. The ferry back would leave without us if we didn’t make it back on time. So we ended up running back down the traverse, cutting the three-hour hike down to 50 mins! We made it.
Over the following days we visited the following peaks: Slogen (1564m), Breifonnhornet (1084m), Skårasalen (1542m) and Langenestinden (1207m).
That gave us about 8000 meters of elevation over the 7 days we spent out there. And that is what you can expect – the taller peaks are mostly accessed from sea level, so you’re facing a lot of elevation to reach the summit.
When returning to the hotel in the evenings, the news about what was going on in the rest of the world was concerning. While we enjoyed ourselves in the beautiful mountain paradise in Sunnmøre, many people were affected by the pandemic. It was surreal. We wanted to make the most of the chance we had to visit somewhere new, but near. Supporting the local communities within the national borders seemed like the right thing to do – and it turned out to be just the paradise we were looking for.
One of the most memorable moments from the Sunnmøre trip was not on a mountain peak. Actually, it was at Sea Level, sitting in a small boat with Ine, looking up at the beautiful views with the best woman I know. My smile stretched from ear to ear. The beautiful mountains around us all offered adventures to come, and the very sense of the opportunities ahead was encouraging. In the time of this pandemic, I believe we must all do the same, dream of a time ahead where we can achieve great things, even if things are hard right now.
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Words by | Tor Berge
Images by | Tor Berge and Ine Kjosås
Lachlan Gardiner has quickly established himself as one of Australia's leading adventure photographers with an eye, not just for action, but the human relationships and divergent cultures that make climbing and mountaineering expeditions such unique, rewarding experiences.
Read more about Tor Berge here