Norway | Lyngen Alps

Intro: "Be Water"

When running long distances, it's important to have a mantra, a phrase to repeat and focus on when the going get rough. "Be water" sounds appealing. Cooperating with the terrain and finding the path of least resistance, smoothly downhill, never-ending, never tired. The contrast with today's hike can hardly be bigger. One boulder-field after another, only interrupted by sections of bushwhacking. I make my way over car-sized and fridge-sized rocks, all of them covered with a thin layer of moss. When I leave the boulder-field, I try to make my way through ferns, which grow high enough to keep the fallen trees and roots hidden from sight. It is my sixth day into this hike, and it's one of those moment where I ask myself what I am doing here. Becoming one with nature? I freely admit I'd prefer becoming one with my couch, pizza and beer now. I started out at 8am this morning, and in six hours, I managed a measly 9k. Steady pace, keep it going Merv! Good thing there's an abundance of camping spots here, so I shouldn't worry if I get behind on schedule. Although... I have to get to the other side of this peninsula sooner or later.

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After a long and tiring day, I finally reach Jægervatnet and I follow the shore to Jægervasshytta, where I plan to stay the night. After a tumble down a stream, I wouldn't mind staying in the hut for a change so I can let my clothes dry. But of course, this is the first DNT-hut I encounter which is actually closed. And it goes without saying I still haven't organised a key. As the place is deserted, I pitch my tent close to the hut, and I start realising just how pretty the area is. Although it's raining, the lake looks too inviting to stay on the shore, so I go for a swim (there's no one to be seen so no need for swimming gear). The lake is surprisingly warm, and while it starts raining harder I let my body relax in the water while soaking in the views. Believe it or not, I'm having the time of my life. 

Day 1 (other walkers met: 1) | Tromsø - Gurgela

As it's ok to spend the night in the lounge at Tromsø airport (sleeping bag in hand luggage), it's no real problem my backpack arrives only the next day from Oslo. In the morning, I head to Tromsø campsite to leave some of my gear I will use for the next part of my trip (Tromsø Skyrace and Reinheimen & Sunnmøre) and head into town to get some last minute supplies. At 4pm, I take the buss to Nordksjosbotn, where I arrive an hour later in heavy rain. I walk the first few miles along the road with a Belgian girl who is walking along the road to Kilpisjärvi before saying goodbye and heading into the forest. There's no clear path, and where I should cross the stream (which looks like a mountain river) according to the map I start making my own route. Two hours later, I get on the plateau, wet and tired. "Velkommen til Norge!", sounds about right!

On the plateau, there's a myriad of animal paths, so I keep a close eye on my compass. The clouds have lifted a bit, so navigation isn't too difficult. As I got a bit wet on the way up, I decide to spend the night in the open hut at the little lake Gurgela. The interior is a bit minimalistic, there's no wood to light the stove (and seeing the state of the chimney, that might be a bad idea anyway), but the view and locations more than makes up for it. When the clouds part, I get a clear view on Storvastinden, 1366m high and 900m higher than where I am. Mighty impressive!

Day 2 (other walkers met: 0)

Today there are four river crossings on the menu. Because of the rain the last few days, the water is a bit higher than normal, so I lose a lot of time taking off my shoes and trousers every time.  But you can always count on the mosquitos to keep you going. I'm happy I took my walking poles with me, even if only for these crossings. Because of the continuous rain, it's hard enough to stay dry, but changing clothes at river crossings surely doesn't help. To avoid the mosquitos, I pitch my tent a bit higher up and enjoy the view on a small glacier and open moors. During the evening, there's a herd of a dozen reindeer passing by. 

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Day 3 (other walkers met: 2)

Because of the rain, I decide to make a detour to Elvevoll, where there is a bridge to cross Storelva. Reaching the bridge, I'm happy I made this decision. I'm not sure if it would have been a good idea to cross this one. After another rainy climb to the plateau, I descend to the town of Furuflaten, where Marcus the dog is on the run, followed by an angry Norwegian and a not so angry Norwegianette. Leaving the town, I pitch my tent along the river, treating myself again with a room with a view. The weather turned better, and with 10 degrees, a drizzle and clouds at 1000m I'm enjoying a Norwegian summer.

 

 

Day 4 (other walkers met: 0)

Today's section starts with a steep climb on a slippery path along a tributary of Lyngdalselva. Once I reach the timberline (which is only at 300-400m this far north), I get an impressive view on  Jiehkkevárri, which is the highest mountain in Troms with 1834m. Looking east, the view to Lyngdaslelva and Furuflaten is different but no less impressive. I keep climbing until a pass at ±1000m, which feels very arctic. There's no vegetation, and when the fog sets in I make a hazardous and unnecessary descent to Myrvatnet. Even with map, compass and back-up GPS  it's clear I need to pay proper attention to navigation.

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Day 4 (other walkers met: 0)

Today starts with a long descent to Lyngseidet, where there should be a supermarket. Unfortunately, the whole community is going to church today and seems unaware of the concept of "high season" for tourists. A bit further, there is a gas station, where I can buy bread and cheese, and after lunch I make my way out of the valley again. 

 

Day 6 (other walkers met: 0)

A long and difficult walk to Jægervasshytta, as described in the intro.

Day 7 (other walkers met: 0) 

According to the route description, today's walk should be a bit easier. "Easier" doesn't mean much of course, being this far out of my comfort zone, so for me this is another though day. After 12h, I arrive at my planned bivouac and have no difficulties falling asleep, although it doesn't get dark. That night, I dream of well maintained Alpine paths.

Day 8 (other walkers met: 0) 

I try to stay high above Storvoll to avoid the (bushwacking!) forest, and after a few hours I reach Andersnes, a hamlet where there should be a supermarket and public transport back to Tromsø. The supermarket is on the other side of the fjord, and the locals are not aware of any boats to Tromsø today, so it's time to take some risks and approach the locals in my best Norwegian. Turns out they are properly impressed by my language skills (or want to get rid of me as soon as possible), and a few hours later Arne drops me off in Svensby, where I can take the boat to Breivikeidet. During the drive with Arne, the reality sinks in these people live here year-round. And when the locals say it can get pretty rough, you know that's an understatement. From Breivikeidet I take the bus back to Tromsø and head for the showers the rest of the day. The next day is a very welcome laundry day. I also try to give my feet, which show the first signs of trench feet, a proper rest. I'm not sure what else I could have done to avoid this, but my boots have been wet the whole trip since day 2. With the combination of bushwacking and wild camping in the rain, it seems impossible to keep them dry or get them dry again. And in two days I need to be ready for Tromsø Skyrace, a technical mountain run of ±30k with 2000m elevation to Tromdalstinden. Looking forward to it!

 
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Practicalities

Lyngen Halvøya is a peninsula  (øya = island, halvøya = peninsula) just north of the northern pole circle.

Getting there

Easiest way to get there is by bus from Tromsø. To be located this remote, I found Lyngen really easy to get to (plane from Brussels to Tromsø with a transfer in Oslo, followed by a 1-hour busride from Tromsø to Nordkjosbotn). It's perfectly possible to get to Lyngen by noon when leaving only the night before from Belgium.

The return trip from Nordlenangen was a bit more troublesome. From Svensby there's no problem, and there should be a ferry twice a week between Tromsø and Nordlenangen.

The route

There are not many paths on Lyngen (plenty of sheep- and reindeerpaths which make the going a bit easier), rivers have to be crossed without bridges, but there are a few open cabins which can be used. The route I followed is described in detail in "The Lyngen Alps - Skiing / Climbing / Trekking". Although eight days are suggested, I could have easily spent ten days. And although the elevation and distances seem fairly easy on paper, the lack of tracks and frequent fordings made for a tough trek.

Provisions

Lyngseidet has the only supermarket on the route, but is closed on Sunday. The gas station was open on Sunday. It should be possible to arrange a drop-off in Lyngseidet at the tourist information.

Conclusion

An outstanding trek, on the border between trekking and adventuring. As there are no markings, proper navigation skills are essential. There's plenty of finding your own route, and boulder-fields and bushwhacking lower the pace.

The views (weather permitting) are superb, walking from glacier to fjord. Because of the absence of paths etc., it's easy to get a real wilderness-feeling. I would highly recommend this route, but not to a first-timer to Scandinavia (or let me know how it worked out).