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!