Pontresina Engadin Trail Runners’ Paradise

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Morning glory in Rosegtal

Last summer was a nightmare for seasonal allergies in Norway. During indian summer, I dreamt of fresh air and mountains, and apparently there is no better place to breathe than in St. Moritz. I came across some cheap tickets to Zürich and started planning my trip immediately. I had my eyes on Pontresina, a village in the Engadin valley, close to St. Moritz. The overly luxurious vibe of St. Moritz didn’t appeal to me, and I assumed Pontresina would be a better option as it has frequently been used by national XC-skiing teams for training. The main purpose of my trip was to run in the Engadin mountains, but I also wanted to use roller skis as alternative training.

When doing my research, I came over the the Swiss trailrunning website alpsinsight, which really is trailrunners’ heaven and a one stop shop for trail running resources when in Switzerland. I also bought their book, Run the Alps Switzerland, which guided me to two of my runs in Pontresina, and has now caused me to book another trip to Switzerland this year. Alpsinsight was also the main trigger for me to start trailspotting.no, hoping to inspire others as alpsinsight has inspired me.

So, let’s run Switzerland!

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Piz Languard view

The Trails

Piz Languard, 20 km

I choose to run the Piz Languard trail on my first day in Pontresina as I was really eager to tick off a 3000+ peak. The trail started practically outside my hotel, from the Santa Maria church in the centre of Pontresina and switchbacking up through the forest I quickly gained elevation and a fantastic view of the Morteratsch glacier on the other side of the valley. I even met an ibex.

I made a quick stop for hydration at the cozy Paradis hut to linger over the glacier view from the sunny terrace, before I continued into the Languard valley. Reaching the lake, I lost track of the trail, as I thought it followed the shore of the lake, which it didn’t, and I had to return to the junction that I missed. After a short steep climb, amazing flowing trails take you towards the last climb towards Georgy’s hut, and then to the peak at 3262 m.a.s.l. The view from the summit is simply amazing, especially in the autumn sun, so make sure you have time to take it all in, before descending to Georgy’s hut to refuel.

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Refueling at Georgy’s hut

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After the first steep descent, the flowing trails take over and you feel like you could run forever. But there is still another hut to visit, the Segatini hut. Make sure you bring cash, so you don’t have to limit yourself, as I did, and can spend some time enjoying the view of the Engadin valley from the terrace before taking on the last descent. If you want to spare your knees, you can skip the last part of the downhill by taking the chairlift back down to Pontresina. Off-season, the fare is commonly included in your hotel travel pass.

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Another pit stop at Segatini hut

Further description  of the Piz Languard run on alpsinsight here.

Strava for details: Piz Languard run

Rosegtal, 37 km

I had huge expectations before embarking on this long run, and I can safely say they were met. Starting off from the train station in Pontresina, you get an easy warm up running almost flat for several kilometers along a beautiful river. As during the Piz Languard run, you have several opportunities to refuel, so take advantage of this and skip carrying too much water. The first hut is at about 7 kilometer. Passing the hut, the trail becomes a little more technical until you reach the stunning glacier lake Lej da Vadret. Take time to linger, because this place is truly magical.

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My favorite spot in Engadin

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Rosegtal view from the climb towards Chamanna Coaz

Leaving the lake it gets steeper. After the climb you may take a short detour to the hut, Chamanna Coaz, to refuel on their cake and get the glacier view up close. You can also book at sleepover at the hut. The next seven kilometer are easy flow, with some technical sections, and after about 22 kilometer you are at the highest point of the run, where you can also stop to refuel at a hut before starting on the descent. This is where the second coolest thing about this run happens, you turn a corner, and then WOW – the view of the Engadin lakes!

 

 

The trail eventually takes you into the forest again, and even a short climb, before a steep downhill to the Pontresina train station. Shortly before you arrive in Pontresina, a short detour of about a kilometer to a nearby peak is possible (and included in the strava link below).

Further description  of the Rosegtal run on alpsinsight here.

Strava for details: Rosegtal run

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Lake Sils and Lake Silvaplana

Diavolezza climb, 9 km

After the long Rosegtal run, I looked for opportunities to explore more of the area without the strain of going downhill and decided to do a hike from the bottom of the Diavolezza gondola to the summits Sass Queder, 3060 m.a.s. and Munt Pers, 3207 m.a.s. Again, this is a treat for the eye with beautiful views towards Lago Bianco and the Bernina pass during the climb, and the Diavolezza glacier from the top. I recommend using poles if you embark on this climb, and if you only have the time to do one summit, do Munt Pers. And obviously, you can take the gondola to the Diavolezza station, leaving you with only 200 meters of elevation to run.

Strava for details: Diavolezza, Sass Queder and Munt Pers

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View of Lago Bianco and the Bernina pass

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View of the Diavolezza glacier from Munt Pers

Other runs

Hey, its Engadin, and the famous lake in St. Moritz, where you can spot world class runners on their easy runs, is a short run or a train ride away from Pontresina. In St. Moritz you can also find a track for speed work, if that’s on your agenda. For more trail runs, check out the Piz Lunghin run featured on alpsinsight.

Bernina Rollerskiing

I tried to find some cycle paths suitable for roller skis towards Samedan, where I had been told one could do rounds around the airport. However, I stumbled upon gravel paths and decided to go towards the Bernina pass instead. I was told that it was not allowed to use roller skis on this main road, but from having cycled there a few years ago, I considered it relatively safe and gave it a go. And it truly was a great option for roller skis. Due to a bike race going up on the other side of the pass, part of the road was closed for traffic, but the police let me pass to go up on roller skis anyway. At the top I turned and returned down for the not so steep downhill the first about 5 kilometer, then I took the train back to Pontresina. The train journey is part of the famous Bernina Express which is on many tourists’ itinerary when visiting Switzerland.

Strava for details: Bernina roller ski

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Ski up, train down

Where to stay

I stayed at Hotel Rosatsch, which at the time of booking seemed to provide most for the money as well as ticking of the boxes of location and comfort. I had a big room with breakfast and four course dinner included for about 530 Swiss francs for five nights, which, as mentioned above, also included a travel pass providing free access to local trains, busses and most lifts and gondolas. On my radar war also Hotel Müller, which you could also check out.

Between runs

Obviously, for luxury brands shopping, you head off to St. Moritz, but if you are more into sports clothing and equipment, there are plenty of sports shops in Pontresina. In Pontresina I also spent a lot of time hanging out at café Gianotti, on the main street in Pontresina, not far away from Hotel Rosatsch.

If you have a travel pass, I recommend to do an afternoon excursion to Piz Nair, at 3057 m.a.s., it is a short walk from the Piz Nair gondola station, where you can also grab refreshments or something to eat while enjoying the view.

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View of the St. Moritz lake and Pontresina from Piz Nair

How to get there

Not only can you easily reach Pontresina by train, but it is also a train ride you will enjoy from the beginning to the end. While traveling by train in Switzerland is quite expensive there are often deals/discounts to be had if you book early.

Stortinden – Tysfjord

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Stortinden (in the middle) seen from west, with Kjerna to the right (“prekestolen”).

This summer I finally made it to Stortinden, the highest point on my favorite mountain ridge in Tysfjord, which was also my summer breakfast view during childhood. From my breakfast table it seemed impossible to get to Stortinden (and so said my grandmother), but as with Kjerna, the amazing views from the summit at 847 m.a.s. come surprisingly cheap. The trail head, which is across the road from the parking at E6, about eight kilometer north of Skarberget, is at about 250 m.a.s,, leaving you with only 600 meters of ascent.

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Views from the ascent (Kuhornet 981 m.a.s.)
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After the pond, looking south towards Skrovkjosen.

The trail is well marked with orange paint and splits into two after about one kilometer, where you can ascend to the left to go to Kjerna, and continue straight forward towards a small pond to continue to Stortinden. Having passed the pond, the trail gets much steeper and some climbing is necessary in some parts, however never exposed. When you think you have reached the summit, you can see a spectacular ridge running northeast, while you continue west on the marked trail to get to the summit.

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View from the trail: Kuhornet, Stetinden and the trail head parking (bottom right corner).

From the summit you have 360 degrees panorama of the Lofoten islands in the west, Efjorden in the north, Stetinden southeast, and Tysfjord in the south.

An alternative route towards Stortinden runs from Kjerna, where you continue on the trail continuing north after having passed Kjerna. I have not tried this route myself, and for now I recommend descending to the trail junction at around 500 m.a.s. if you want to tick of Kjerna, which has a lot of cool photo spots, after Stortinden.

Strava for details:  Stortinden & Kjerna

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Would love to run this ridge next time!
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Always with Stetinden in sight.

Trailrunning in Lofoten

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Ryten

In light of the raising fame of the archipelago of Lofoten, and its toll on the nature, I have been in doubt as to whether I wanted to add to that by inspiring you to go to this incredibly beautiful part of Norway. However, I can’t not share some of the beauty Lofoten has to offer to those of you who prefer active vacations. What I can do, is to encourage responsible travel, to leave Lofoten the way you found it, because, believe me, you will want to go back! If in doubt as to what this means in practice, read Lofoten Code of Conduct.

For general information on Lofoten, go to lofoten.info. Another site that I found very useful is 68north.com. For Norwegian readers I recommend getting Kristin Folsland Olsen’s book, “Lofoten, 68 flotte turer i verdens vakreste øyrike”.

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Gramming break on our way to Himmeltinden

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Enjoying the midnight sun from Røren
  • The hippie vibe at Haukland beach
  • Evening chill outdoors at the “rorbu”
  • Sunbathing at the Helvetestinden summit
  • Chilling at Kvalvika beach after running up to Ryten
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Bunes beach

Trailrunning/hiking

My travel buddy, Kaja, and I both prepared well in advance and made individual lists of summits we wanted to include in our itinerary. Luckily, we had made the same picks. In addition to the runs we were able to tick off, we had Værøy and Reinebringen on our list. Værøy we had to leave out due to logistics and the limited time we had available. Reinebringen was closed for trail construction (to reopen during July 2019).

None of the summits below will let you down, however, no hike/run in Lofoten probably will.

Himmeltinden and Haukland beach

Arriving at Haukland beach, your first thought may be to skip the summit and stay at the beach. I promise you, chilling at the beach after your run, will feel even better.

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Himmeltinden

Himmeltinden was the highest summit of our Lofoten trip with its 964 m.a.s. The trailhead is across the Haukland beach parking, just before driving into the Uttakleiv tunnel. The four kilometer trail to the summit has runable sections as well as steeper parts and amazing views already from the beginning. Enjoy the exceptional views at around 700 m.a.s. before taking on the last part of the climb. Bring a dry shirt and some warm clothes to make yourself comfortable at the summit. And, if you can, go for the sunset/midnight sun experience!

Gravel in some of the steeper parts may cause you to slip, so take it easy downhill. And don’t forget bringing a towel for a dip in the ocean after the run!

Strava for details: Himmeltinden

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Haukland beach post run chill

Helvetestinden and Bunes beach

Another great summit/beach combination is Helvetestinden and Bunes beach. To reach the trailhead, you need to take a 20 minutes boat ride from Reine to Vindstad. Go here for the schedule.

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Kjerkfjorden view

Once you reach Vindstad, the initial two kilometers are practically flat before you have to tackle almost 600 meters of elevation gain divided on the last two kilometers. Don’t miss the gramable spot and a peek into Kjerkfjorden at around 500 m.a.s. before the last climb. Again, bring what you need to stay comfortable at the top of Helvetestinden, 602 m.a.s. and take time to enjoy the beautiful view of Bunes beach. As Himmeltinden, this hike is also great for sunset/midnight sun, provided you have the logistics settled. Also, bring enough water, as the climb does not provide any drinking sources.

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All smiles at Helvetestinden

If you have the time before the boat return, don’t miss the Bunes beach, which has some funny gras bumps providing some shelter if the wind is too strong.

Strava for details: Helvetestinden

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Bunes beach

Ryten and Kvalvika beach

The final summit/beach combination to tick off in Lofoten is the insta-famous Ryten and my favorite beach, Kvalvika. We starten our run from Torsfjord, but you can also start from Bergland, Medvold or Marka. Ryten, with its 543 m.a.s. is more runable than Himmeltinden and Helvetestinden. Most of the initial two hundred meters of elevation gain, you loose before the ascent really starts just before you reach Kvalvika beach. Stay on the wooden paths provided and enjoy the amazing views as you climb toward the instagram spot at 500 m.a.s. Although this spot is the purpose of the hike for many, don’t miss the peak and the enormous plateau of Ryten. This is where I want to return with a tent next year!

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Ryten classic
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Lofoten euphoria
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Kvalvika beach
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Returning to Torsfjord

Again, if you have the chance, go to Ryten to enjoy sunset/midnight sun. In any event, bring a towel and take some time to chill at the peaceful Kvalvika beach after the run.

Strava for details: Ryten

 

Bonus: Røren Midnight sun hike

Unless you choose any of the above hikes for your midnight sun experience, Røren is a shorter alternative, as well as a beautiful soft ground hike with surrounding hills you just want to explore running. This hike is also graced with beach views, this time it is Yttersand which provides the perfect backdrop.

Strava for details: Røren

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Yttersand beach
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Midnight sun from Røren

Getting to Lofoten

You need a car to explore Lofoten. If you drive your own from the south, I recommend taking the ferry from Bodø to Værøy or Moskenes, and return by taking the ferry from Svolvær to Skutvik (only in the summer). Continuing from Skutvik towards Trondheim or Oslo, you may include another favorite spot of mine, Manshausen, which makes for a perfect roundtrip, if you ask me. Another option would be to explore Tysfjord. If you have a lot of time available, I would suggest continuing from Lofoten via Vesterålen and Andøya to Senja.

If you arrive by plane, the most convenient airports are Leknes and Svolvær, however, flights here tend to be quite beautiful. Since you in any event need to rent a car, your best option is to fly into Bodø, take the ferry to Moskenes and rent a car there. Another great alternative is to fly to Evenes, from where it will take you about 2:30 to drive to Svolvær.

Where to stay

There are so may great accommodation alternatives in Lofoten. Although not being a camper, I would definitely love to go camping in Lofoten. We stayed at Sakrisøy Rorbuer, which we really enjoyed, in particular due to its quiet location near Reine, but not in Reine and for the deli/restaurant across the street. Sakrisøy was also a bit cheaper than other “rorbuer” we considered. I suggest you choose accommodation near your hiking targets in order to avoid much driving (roads are narrow and with heavy traffic during high season).

I recommend to go in June before the summer vacation starts, or in September. The fall is supposed to be the best time to go, even if there is no midnight sun. And of course, if you like mountain skiing, go in the winter as well!

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Sakrisøy rorbuer
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Burger & chill

Aurland, Sognefjellet & Beitostølen Training Road Trip

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In these days xc-skiers are flocking to Sognefjellet for summer skiing. I really can’t think of any better place to be this time of the year when the sun is shining. It is not just about the skiing, the surroundings are out of this world beautiful, and if you are lucky with the conditions you can even skate on the morning crust all the way up to Fanaråken (2068 m.a.s.) or to other surrounding peaks. Staying at Sognefjellet for multiple days skiing twice a day is not for everyone, and I like to combine 2-3 days at Sognefjellet with a few days in Aurland on my way up, and a couple of days at Beitostølen on my way back to Oslo. Beginning of June is the perfect timing for this road trip, as the roads over Aurlandsfjellet and Valdresflye are open and there is usually sufficient snow for skiing at Sognefjellet.

If you have a week to spend in June, this is what I would do:

Friday

Drive to Aurland

Saturday-Monday

Take inspiration from Training Camp in Aurland and make sure to include a bicycle ride over Aurlandsfjellet to Lærdal and back and a run up Aurlandsdalen. Drive to Sognefjellshytta in the evening catching the sunset, via Øvre Årdal and the beautiful Tindevegen or via Sogndal and the equally beautiful Lustrafjorden.

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Nærøyfjorden, Aurland

Tuesday-Friday

Stay at Sognefjellshytta for easy access to the track, which starts right outside the cabin. The track is usually prepared for classic and skate twice a day, in the morning and the afternoon, and, depending on the amount of snow, is about 5-7 km long. Consider bringing your mountain/randonee skis if you want to explore more of the area, or take advantage of the morning crust for some off-track skating.

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Strava for details: Sognefjellet XC-skiing

Strava for details: Fanaråken crust skating

Drive to Beitostølen Friday afternoon, just in time to make a stop at Bakeriet i Lom for some carbo loading before they close for the day. If it’s your lucky day you catch a spectacular sunset when driving over Valdresflye to Beitostølen.

Saturday-Sunday

One of my most beautiful roller ski workouts I had at Beitostølen, starting from the village and rolling up to Valdresflye. The surroundings are hard to beat and the traffic not too bad if you start in the morning.

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Valdresflye

Strava for details: Beitostølen – Valdresflya roller ski

Finish off your training road trip with a run over Besseggen. Go for an early start from Gjendesheim in order to make the return by boat from Memurubu (if you are too slow, you just have to run back as well). This is the most legendary hike in the Norwegian mountains with a spectacular ridge section providing an amazing view of Gjendevatnet and Jotunheimen. Starting from Gjendesheim in stead of following the pack with boat to start from Memurubu, you get the ridge and most of the trail for yourself.

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Besseggen

Strava for details: Besseggen run

If a shorter run is more to your liking, go for Bitihorn, which is closer to Beitostølen and can be done in an hour. There are several trails to Bitihorn, the link below takes you to the peak from the south.

Strava for details: Bitihorn

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Running down from Bitihorn

Training Camp in Aurland

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Roller ski sightseeing in nearby Flåm.

Have you ever been to Aurland? This tiny little village in the UNESCO world heritage area around Nærøyfjorden, not far away from much more overcrowded and famous Flåm, makes the perfect site for a multisport endurance training camp with a view. Aurland is also hosting one of the world’s toughest competitions, Aurlandsfjellet Extreme Triathlon, AXTRI, which takes places in August every year.

The best time to visit Aurland is between the opening of the road over Aurlandsfjellet, usually end of May/beginning of June, and the start of the summer vacation at the end of June. During this time you may get the chance to experience the “freezer” effect of the snow banks along the scenic mountain road without the crowds. Here you will find suggestions for different workouts (roller skis, bike and running), in addition you may want to explore the fjord by kayak or swimming.

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Aurlandsfjellet in June

Highlights

  • Lunch break at the terrace of Marianne Bakery & Café
  • The fjord view
  • The mountain road, especially when the snow banks are high
  • The Aurlandsdalen run

Aurland – Lærdal on road bike

This mountain road from Aurland to Lærdal is one of the 18 Norwegian Scenic Routes and the bike leg of AXTRI. When you take on the Aurland mountain by bike you will start to understand why AXTRI is considered one of the toughest competitions in the world with more than 3000 meters of elevation gain divided on 98 kilometers, and the highest point on the course at 1320 meters above sea level. However, this ride is as beautiful as it is tough, with spectacular views of the fjord and often tall snow banks along the road on the mountain plateau and should be on any rider’s bucket list.

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Stegastein view point

Remember to stop at the Stegastein view point (at about 600 m.a.s.l.) about half way up the first climb. If you are not up for the full distance, you can of course make the turn at any point of the course, and, unless you are checking it out for the race, skip the last flat 10 kilometers from Aurland to Vassbygdi.

Strava for details: AXTRI bike course

Uphill roller ski

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Maren approaching the top.

Another favorite workout when in Aurland is of course to take on the mountain climb on roller skis. If you don’t have a second car or a support car, you can bring a bike and drive up, leave the car at the top, and ride down to start you roller ski workout. A second option is to roll up only to the Stegastein view point and ask any of the tourists or the tourist busses for a ride down. You should not by any chance roll down the narrow hairpin turns as the traffic can be quit heavy between Aurland and Stegastein.

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Give it to the Vasaloppet-junkies!

The roller ski workout follows the same road as the bike workout, thus the views are as amazing, and is great for long intervals.

Strava for details: Roller ski uphill intervals

Fjord roller ski

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Checking the poses.

If you prefer a flat roller ski workout, make it a sightseeing to Flåm. From Flåm you can continue into Flåmsdalen and the starting point of “Rallarvegen” a gravel road popular for mountain biking taking you all the way to Haugastøl on Hardangervidda.

Strava for details: Flåm roller ski sightseeing

Aurlandsdalen trail run

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Gramable trail run

One of the highlights when visiting Aurland is to run up the Aurland valley. This almost 20 kilometer long trail is very popular to do as a one or two-day hike in the opposite direction (downhill) and is also the running leg of AXTRI. This is a truly amazing run taking you through a steep, narrow and wild valley with a lot of history, giant waterfalls and with about 1100 meters of elevation. Please note that due to a recent rockslide the trail should not be used until it has been secured. Please contact local tourist information before you plan to run/hike this trail.

You will find the  trailhead is in Vassbygdi, about 10 km from Aurlandsvangen. You can leave your car at the trailhead and return by bus from Østerbø, the end point of the trail (plan your run according to the bus schedule). At Østerbø you can buy refreshments after your run.

Strava for details: Aurlandsdalen uphill run

Prest trail run

The run to the peak, Prest (1478 m.a.s.), is a great 4.6 km (return) trail run for a short afternoon or evening workout. The well marked trail is soft with great views. The most spectacular view of the fjord is actually from below the peak, at about 1360 meters above the fjord. The trailhead can be found at the parking on the left side further up the road from Stegastein viewpoint.

Strava for details: Prest peak run

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The view from Prest.

How to get there

Driving to Aurland from Oslo takes between 4.5 and 5 hours depending on the route you choose. I prefer to make it a roundtrip driving up via Ål and Sudndalen (where you can stretch your legs running up to the beautiful Hivju waterfall) and return via Hemsedal. From Bergen the drive takes about 2 hours and 40 minutes. A road trip including Aurland on its itinerary will soon be added to trailspotting.no.

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Approaching Aurland from Sudndalen.

Where to stay

There are not that many accommodation options in Aurland. We have always stayed at Vangsgården, which provides rooms and apartments on the fjord just in the middle of the village. Location is excellent and the standard ok. The fjord side apartments are small, but sleeps four and the facilities for you to make your own food. There are also a few camping sites and tourist cabins to be rented in Aurland, and another hotel, Aurland Fjordhotel (not tested).

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At Vangsgården

Scenic Ascents in Geiranger & Trollstigen

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Dalsnibba

The annual girls’ road trip goes to Geiranger and Trollstigen to collect meters of climbing by roller skiing and running in these crazy beautiful surroundings. This includes one of my favorite places in Norway, Dalsnibba, a mountain top 1500 meters above Geiranger. If you like elevation gains, you may want to tag along!

Highlights of the trip

  • Cinnamon buns at the Bakery in Lom
  • Hairpin turns of Dalsnibba
  • Sunset at Ørnesvingen
  • Breakfast at Valldal Fjordhotell
  • Hairpin turns of Trollstigen
  • The view of any mountain peak in Romsdalen
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Barbro and Maren taking on the final hairpin turns above Djupvatnet.

Driving from Øyer to Dalsnibba

You can of course start this road trip from anywhere, but I like to get a head start by driving up to Øyer/Lillehammer the night before. If you are traveling with only one car and want to go roller skiing up Dalsnibba, you should plan your departure according to the bus schedule, (unless you, like we usually do, plan on asking tourists for a lift down to Geiranger). If you have two cars (and can fit everyone in one), the easiest logistic is to leave one car at the top (with warm clothes) and drive one car down to Geiranger.

First stop of the trip is Bakeriet in Lom, about two hours from Øyer. This is probably the most famous bakery in Norway and worth the trip to Lom alone. Here you grab a coffee and what your heart desires of baked goods. I usually grab a cinnamon bun to stay and a sandwich, muffin and another cinnamon bun to go. You will need carbs for this road trip, so don’t be shy! If you wish to spend more time in Lom, there will soon be more information on Lom at trailspotting.no.

After another 90 minutes drive from Lom you will arrive at Dalsnibba (there is a 150 NOK toll road fee per car to drive up to Dalsnibba). Dalsnibba is also the finishing point for this first day’s challenge, which is rollerskiing from Geiranger going up the 1500 meters of ascent to Dalsnibba.

Rolling Up Dalsnibba

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Barbro finishing her Dalsnibba climb in 2017.

Of course you can take on this climb cycling or running as well. In June every year (in 2019 on the 8th of June) there is a race event from Geiranger to Dalsnibba, called “From Fjord to Mountain“, where you can choose between running or biking, or do both.

We have a thing for roller skiing mountain passes and with 1500 meters of elevation gain divided on about 21 km, the Dalsnibba climb is one of the toughest ones out there, and the equivalent of for example the Stelvio pass in Italy (which due to the higher altitude may feel tougher). You will be driving down from Dalsnibba the same route as you will roll up, giving you the chance to prepare for what to come. Arriving at your starting point, you will find Geiranger buzzing with tourists, some of which have never seen roller skis before.

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Kicks allowed.

The first part of the climb quickly takes you through hairpin turns to amazing views of the fjord and Geiranger. You may want to stop at Flydalsjuvet, about 4 km from Geiranger to do some gramming. The mid part of the climb has less curves and after about 7 km the landscape opens up and you will see the climb ahead of you as well as beautiful old farmhouses, waterfalls and mountains. After about 16 km you reach Djupvatnet which is at its most scenic when covered with cracks of ice. In the morning and late evening it is possible to go roller skiing on the road along Djupvatnet and towards Grotli, but it is not advisable with the daytime traffic. From Djupvatnet there is another 6 km of nice hairpin turns and fantastic views before you reach Dalsnibba, and probably enjoy the applause from the tourists.

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Strava for details: Dalsnibba rollerski

Driving from Dalsnibba to Valldal

Driving down to Geiranger from Dalsnibba allow time for a refreshing dip in one of the streams just after Djupvatnet and some photographing in the kind afternoon light. If you haven’t already, make a reservation at Brasserie Posten in Geiranger, and enjoy one of their pizzas before a short stroll in Geiranger, which is now much calmer after the departure of all the cruise ship tourists.

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We always stay at Valldal Fjordhotell, which has a great breakfast buffet, good beds and a calm and nice atmosphere. There are also other options in Valldal, which is conveniently located between Geiranger and Trollstigen. The drive from Geiranger to Trollstigen is one of the 18 Norwegian Scenic Routes and you will do the first part of this route on your way to Valldal, which takes about one hour including a short ferry between Eidsdal and Linge. Make sure you allow time for a quick stop at Ørnesvingen, a cool view point above Geiranger on the toad to Valldal, providing you with a view of the fjord, Geiranger and the “Seven Sisters” waterfall.

Driving from Valldal to Trollstigen

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Trollstigen view point.

Next day you should have an early start. The hotel usually start putting out the breakfast before the scheduled opening, and you may want to ask to come early, depending on your choice of activity this day. You will be provided with two options here. If you want to do the Romsdalseggen hike, you need to be in Åndalsnes for the bus at 9:30 (or 10:30 Saturdays peak season). The drive to Åndalsnes is about 1:30. If you are not doing the express version of this road trip and have some more time, I would suggest adding one night in Åndalsnes after Valldal, and take the Romsdalseggen hike the next day. This will allow for a stop at Gudbrandsjuvet view point and more time to truly appreciate the scenic drive from Valldal to Trollstigen. Of course Trollstigen is more famous, but the drive up to the Trollstigen pass from the south side is also worth taking in (and I of course dream rollerskiing up also from this side one day).

Store Trolltind

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Barbro, Maren and me at the ridge where we had made the wrong turn.

One of the mountain runs we have explored is the peak, “Store Trolltind”. With 1788 m.a.s.l. this is one of the highest peaks in Romsdalen and with steep climbs and a lot of stone and exposed areas, a hike which may be characterized as pretty hard. The views from the top and from Bruraskaret will be worth it though.

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At Store Trolltind, 1788 m.a.s.
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Maren at the top!

You will find the trailhead at Trollstigen. Already from the start the climb is steep and you will have great views of the Trollstigen plateau and its surrounding peaks behind you. After about two km there is some sort of a junction where you should keep left (you will see from the strava link provided that we went right on our way up, which turned out to be wrong). After about 4.7 km (if you made the right left choice at 2 km) it is easy to go wrong and take too much height. Everyone we met did the same mistake, which, if you do not go all the way down again, easily make you traverse through a very difficult terrain to get back to the trail. Have a look at the strava link and make sure to take the right path to your left, which is the one we returned on. Additional guidance may be found here (Norwegian). The most fun, and also the most challenging part, comes after Bruraskaret, where you have the view of the famous Trollveggen. A helping hand may be useful at some difficult passages. This turned out to be a hike/run very different from our expectations, although a very rewarding one in terms of the spectacular views at the top.

Strava for details: Store Trolltind

Romsdalseggen

Romsdalseggen in the obvious choice of run/hike when in the Åndalsnes/Trollstigen area and has become very popular over the last years thanks to successful promotion from the local tourist agency. This is a one-way hike, where you should take advantage of the bus from Åndalsnes to the trailhead. Booking in advance is recommended.

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Surrounded by mountains on Romsdalseggen.

Once at the trailhead try to get ahead of the pack to avoid being slowed down by queues on the narrow trail. It get pretty steep immediately and continues up, up, up for about 3.5 km, where you can enjoy great views of Romsdalen and the surrounding mountains. If you are lucky, there may even be some snow left on the plateau. Before continuing on the Romsdalseggen trail towards your right, you may choose to explore Blånebba to your left. Continuing on the Romsdalseggen trail you are more or less done with the ascents with the exception of a few exposed climbs along the ridge. If you skip Blånebba the 1200 meters of descent over about 6 km starts after about 5 km on the trail from your starting point. Since the trail passes the famous viewpoint Rampestreken (at 537 m.a.s.) the trail gets pretty crowded the last few kilometers down to Åndalsnes.

Strava for details: Romsdalseggen

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Barbro at the ridge.

Trollstigen

The second challenge of the day is the Trollstigen climb on roller skis. You may of course choose to tackle the climb by bike or try out the trails that take you to the Trollstigen plateau. Compared to the Dalsnibba climb, the Trollstigen climb is like a sweet dessert, and, if done after the traffic has slowed down in the evening, feels like the perfect way to finish off a day of great climbs. We usually start from Trollstigen Camping, about 9.5 km from the Trollstigen plateau. Again, if you have two cars, take one down to the starting point and leave one at the top. If not, ask someone for a lift or plan it by the bus schedule.

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Instagramming at a random waterfall in Trollstigen.

The first couple of kilometers provide a nice and easy warm-up for the climb, where the hairpin turns make out the last 4-5 kilometers and takes you through a beautiful scenery close to spectacular waterfalls on your way to the top. The view points designed and restaurant at the top designed by Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter are worth a visit as well, and the waterfall in front of the restaurant provides great relief for tired legs.

Strava for details: Trollstigen roller ski

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Trollstigen hairpins.

Completing the Road Trip

Congratulations, you have completed 3500 meters of climb in less than two days! This provides for a nice dinner in Åndalsnes before loading up on snacks for your way home. A fast and convenient place is Spiret Spiseri at Tindesenteret.

The fastest way back to Øyer/Lillehammer or Oslo is via Dombås and E6, which is about 3 hours and 20 minutes from Åndalsnes to Øyer and takes you past Trollveggen, where you can visit Trollveggen visiting center (if open). If you have an extra day or two, it is worthwhile staying in Åndalsnes for additional adventures!

Seiser Alm & Livigno training camp

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Me and Barbro climbing Stelvio.

Seiser Alm and Livigno are both beloved destinations for cross country skiing athletes of all levels. These two Italian alp villages complement each other in terms of character and facilities and make a great combination for a training vacation/camp. While Seiser Alm is quiet (and out of this world beautiful) and has amazing trails and scenery for running, Livigno is more of a happening place with (tax free) shops, cafés/restaurants and the best roller ski and biking opportunities.

Here you will get the details of the training we did during a 9-day September training camp as well as some alternatives tried out over the years. The purpose is to guide you to the best locations for performing various sessions, such as interval training and long low intensity sessions. Non of us being top level athletes, our choice of activities has been guided by a desire to explore the beautiful surroundings as well as obtaining great workouts. You may (and should) of course use the information provided to tailor your activities to your own level of fitness and purpose of the trip.

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Seiser Alm meadow.

Please note that both Seiser Alm and Livigno are high altitude destinations and your performance will be affected. In short this means you should go slower than you normally do on low-intensity activities and avoid doing much high intensity training, especially the first 3-4 days, and when introduced, preferably low threshold. More on high altitude training here (Norwegian). It is not uncommon to feel dizziness after a high altitude workout if you go too hard and you may not get full benefit of the rest of your training camp. 

Day 1 – Seiser Alm (arrival day)

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We started our camp in Seiser Alm. You can read more about Seiser Alm, including accommodation recommendations, here. Traveling to Seiser Alm from Norway (or any other place requiring you to fly) usually takes almost a day and you are lucky if you arrive by sunset. We arrived just in time to stretch our legs by doing a short and easy jog on the meadow which was covered with a thin layer of wet snow. That’s the thing about Seiser Alm. Its location more than 1800 meters above sea level means weather and temperatures change quickly and you can experience snow even during summer months.

Strava for details: Snowjogging on Seiser Alm

Day 2 – Seiser Alm

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Waking up on our first full day in Seiser Alm, the meadow was still covered in snow, but the sun was shining and we chose to go for the planned long run taking us over the Denti Rossi to Rifugio Alpe di Tires and the Schiliar/Schlern plateau. This is a beautiful long run which is always on my itinerary when in Seiser Alm. We started out running in snow, but by the time we were back on the meadow a few hours later summer temperatures had arrived. Take time for an espresso at Rifugio Alpe di Tires and lunch at Rifugio Bolzano

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Strava for details: Seiser Alm classic long run

In the afternoon we took the bus down to Kastelruth and did an easy uphill roller ski session. You can also do the same hill workout by taking the cable car from Seiser Alm to Seis, which adds about 140 meters of ascent. The climb has been used for tempo stages during Giro d’Italia and has a profile great for interval training on roller skis and beautiful views. 

Strava for details: Uphill roller ski session

Day 3 – Seiser Alm

 

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Roller skiing with a view.

On our third day we put on the roller skis again and took the cable car to Seis for an interval session. After warming up from Seis to Hotel Valentinerhof we did 7×6 minutes low threshold classic technique.

Strava for details: Rollerski interval: 7×6 min

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Bulaccia with a view of Sasso Lungo and Sasso Piatto

Our second session of the day we explored Bulaccia, the northern meadow of Seiser Alm, running with poles in the soft afternoon light. Some of us took the cable car going down to save the legs.

 

Strava for details: Bulaccia run

Day 4 – Seiser Alm

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Girls’ trip

The highlight of our stay in Seiser Alm was the long run around Sasso Piatto and Sasso Lungo. I would say this is the running equivalent to Sella Ronda on bike, providing you with amazing views of the Dolomites from so many angles. We took the bus to Saltria (about 5-10 minutes from Compatsch) and the Florian chair lift to Williams Hütte, from where we started our run 2100 m.a.s.l. and clockwise around Sasso Piatto/Sasso Lungo. We stopped for lunch at Rifugio Sasso Piatto and continued to Rifugio Alpe di Tires and returned to Compatsch through the Denti Rossi pass. This is truly an amazing run, which of course may be divided in several parts if you are not up for the full length of it. You can also extend the run by either adding the climb to the peak of Sasso Piatto or/and continue over the Schiliar plateau after Rifugio Alpe di Tires.IMG_0373

 

 

Strava for details: Sasso Piatto/Lungo and Denti Rossi

Day 5 – Transport via Stelvio to Livigno

The obligatory part of the transfer from Seiser Alm to Livigno is the mother of all roller ski workouts, the Stelvio climb. If you don’t have a support car, the practical way to do this session is to drive to the top of the Stelvio pass and take a bus down to your preferred side of the pass, either the Prato side or the Bormio side, leaving the car with warm clothes etc at the top. Each climb is great, with spectacular views and, if you can’t go easy on it, exhaustion guarantee. During this camp we did the Prato side, starting from Gomagoi at 1280 m.a.s.l., providing about 1500 meters of ascent and 18.5 km to the top of the Stelvio pass as 2575 m.a.s.l. We chose to tackle the climb by doing an interval session of 5×20 + 10 minutes below lactate threshold. 

Strava for details: Stelvio climb, Prato side

 

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Melina climbing Stelvio from the Prato side.

Strava for details: Stelvio climb from Bormio

 

Please note that the bus service on the Bormio side is only available in July and August. You may contact the bus service Perego for information. For bus down from Stelvio on the Prato side, go here.

If you prefer to conquer Stelvio on bike, you can rent a bike at Mapo Bike in Valdidentro (a few kilometers from Bormio). If you want to stay a few days to explore the area and perhaps tackle Stelvio running, skiing and biking, one of my favorite hotels in the Alps is just next to Mapo Bike, Alpen Hotel. Personally I had my best session in Stelvio running up from Bormio.

Strava for details: Stelvio run  

Day 6 – Livigno

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Livigno roller ski paths.

Livigno is roller ski mecca with an extensive network of cycle paths protected from the traffic as well as mountain passes where you can work on your O2 levels and return safely by bus if you don’t want to ski down or have a support car. On our first day in Livigno we chose to do an easy flat roller ski session to recover from the Stelvio challenge.

 

Strava for details: Livigno roller ski

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Favorite Livigno trails.

Livigno also has a tremendous network of trails for running as well as mountain biking. There is no limit other than your fitness level as to where you can go, and even if I have visited 5-6 times there are new trails to explore. Our favorite trail for short recovery runs is the trail just above the centre providing you with great views of Livigno. You can enter the trail directly from several places in the village or my preferred entry at the south end of the village, where you can also find parking. 

Strava for details: Livigno trail 

Day 7 – Livigno

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On our way to Corna di Capra.

After a “rest” day it was time to do a longer session again and we decided on a run that would take us to a +3000 meter peak, Corna di Capra. We chose to drive to the trailhead just south of the village (you can also run directly from the village). Although containing a lot of ascent this run also has long runable sections and truly beautiful surroundings as well as the added satisfaction of reaching the peak at 3016 m.a.s.l.

 

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Strava for details: Corna di Capra skyrun

 

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Marthe at the top of Corna di Capra.

For an alternative long run you can take the cable car to Costaccia from the city centre and run south along the ridge following trail 162 and then 157 passing Causello 3000 and Involt dali Resa before descending back to the city centre.

Strava for details: Livigno skyrun

Our second workout of the day was a double poling session, which included the climb up to Passo Eira. From Passo Eira you can take a free bus down to Livigno (check the schedule in advance). As an alternative to the Eira ascent you can also roll up to the Forcola pass.

Strava for details: Livigno & Passo Eira roller ski + Livigno – Forcola

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Afternoon roller ski session to Passo Eira.

Day 8 – Livigno

Towards the end of a training camp like this adjustments to the training plan may be adequate due to energy levels, strain on legs or other reasons. For some, including me, that meant replacing a running session with yet another roll to Passo Eira, this time using kicks and not just double poling. In the afternoon we did a strength session.

Strava for details: Passo Eira roller skiing

Day 9 – Livigno

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Val Federia.

Last full day in Livigno and the training plan said low threshold running in Val Federia. Low on energy and with the rain pouring down, I chose to go easy on the trails instead. However, Val Federia is great for this kind of effort and having done a similar workout in 2016, I still have the appropriate Strava details to guide you. To reach Val Federia you can either drive to the parking provided at the trailhead, or run from the hotel as warm-up. Remember the altitude and go easy!

 

Strava for details: 5x(5x1min/15sec) running with poles

Livigno Accommodation & Restaurants

When in Livigno my choice of hotel is Hotel Larice, which is one of several hotels forming the Bivio Life Livigno group, where you can find Hotel Bivio (often used by the Norwegian national team) and Alpen Village Hotel, which specifically caters towards training groups of all sports. Larice is a small eco boutique hotel with amazing atmosphere, great rooms, personal service, superb breakfast and the best location. I love to hang out in the coffee bar out front in between training sessions.

My three favorite restaurants are all in or close to Hotel Larice: The burger restaurant Why Not, in via Botarel (across the street from Larice), Focolare, the pizzeria next door, and the restaurant at Larice, which serves sushi as well as Italian dishes.

Cycling in Livigno

Livigno has an amazing downhill bike park (never tried) and is often used for training camps by top level athletes of both road cycling and mtb. Bikes can be rented from several bike shops in Livigno. If you are into climbs and mountain passes see the strava link below for a beautiful ride my friend Maren did, going from Livigno over Passo Eira to Bormio and up to Passo Stelvio and via Passo Fuorn back to Livigno. Another alternative is the course of the ICON ironman triathlon taking place in Livigno in August, which takes you up to the Forcola pass, into Switzerland to climb the Bernina Pass before going down to St. Moritz and Zernez and via the Fuorn, Stelvio and Foscagno passes back to Livigno.

Strava for details: Long ride – Foscagno, Stelvio, Fuorn

For a beginners mtb trail, try the circuit we did with Fabrizio at MTB Livigno a few years back.

Strava for details: MTB flow

Getting There

Munich, Zürich and Innsbruck are convenient airports to fly into if you would like to combine Seiser Alm and Livigno. Innsbruck makes for a shorter drive, but often you have to accept transfer flights to get there. You will need to rent a car.

Munich Airport – Seiser Alm: 3:30, Zürich Airport – Seiser Alm: 4:30 and Innsbruck – Seiser Alm 1:45. Munich Airport – Livigno: 4:30, Zürich Airport – Livigno: 3:15, Innsbruck – Livigno: 2:45. The drive from Seiser Alm to Livigno is about 3 hours.