Senja – Segla, Hesten and (almost) Breidtinden

ned fra Segla
Downhill from Segla

From one paradise to another, Senja is my magic place, the place I always dream of returning to. The island is said to be a miniature of Norway, and with its spectacular fjords and mountains it very much lives up to this tale, and is as perfect for road trips as it is for trail running. If you have not visited the region before, I recommend to fly to Tromsø (more about Tromsø in a post later) and spend a night or two there before or after visiting Senja.

There are a number of peaks and runs to explore in Senja, and I love that most of them are fairly short, which enables you to reach several summits in a day. In this post I will take you to the legendary peak Segla, which is featured over and over again on several instagram accounts promoting Norwegian nature, its neighbor peak, Hesten (“the Horse”), and Senja´s highest mountain, Breidtinden. In the next post we will explore Sukkertoppen, Husfjellet, Grytetippen and Keipen.

Segla

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Segla

The climb to Segla starts from the school in the village of Fjordgård. Go in the early morning or in the evening if you can. During the summer, you will have 24 hours of daylight.

The path is well marked and easy to find. The distance to the top is only 2 km, but with a total elevation gain of almost 600 meter, it will get your heart pumping. The start is pretty easy, with about 15% incline during the first kilometer, before the tough last kilometer with an average of 40% incline. For safety keep to your right when climbing the ridge, but do look for the gramable spots close to the edge on your left, without taking any chances. The paths will show you where it is safe. Once you have reached the summit, do allow for some time to enjoy the panoramic view. Although Segla is already a social media hero, most photos are taken from the other side, from Hesten or the area between the two peaks. For this reason, Hesten is your next run.

Strava for details: Segla

Hesten

Segla fra Hesten
Segla from Hesten

After Segla, the easiest way to reach Hesten is to run all the way down to the parking and a few hundred meters through the village to the bottom of the ski slopes (see Strava link for guidance). The path starts next to the wooden shelter and is easy to follow all the way to the peak. The last part of the climb is a bit technical, but no equipment is needed. From Hesten you have the iconic view of Segla to the south and the multiple Kongen peaks to the north. More about these mountains here.

The Hesten run is not as steep as Segla, but a little longer. It took me around 2:30h to complete both (with additional time for photographing, of course).

Strava for details: Hesten (together with Segla)

Breidtinden

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Downhill from Breidtinden

I have seen people run down the ridge of Breidtinden and was caught by surprise when fear prevented me from reaching the summit. It was with great disappointment I had to give up Senja´s highest mountain. Maybe it would be easier had I not been on my own, thus  I am determined to give it a second chance. In the meantime, why don´t you give it a try? The run is beautiful whether you reach the peak or not. In any case, leave a comment on the blog if you give it a go.

To reach the trail, park on the right side of the road after the tunnel “Svartholla” if driving south.

Strava for details: Breidtinden attempt

Races to join

Sans Senja Skyrace takes place in the early summer every year, in 2019 on 22 June. Its 25 kilometer and 2800 meters of elevation gain will take you over some of the most spectacular mountains in Senja.

How to get to Senja

You need a car to explore Senja. Unless you bring your own, I would suggest flying in to Tromsø. In the summer, the ferry will take you from Brensholmen, about 50 minutes from Tromsø Airport, to Botnhamn. From Botnhamn I highly recommend to follow the Norwegian Scenic Route driving south. You can return the same way, or make it a round trip via Ånderdalen National Park and Finnsnes back to Tromsø, or, if you have even more time, take the ferry (only in the summer) to Andøya and explore Vesterålen islands before returning to Tromsø.

Another option is to go on a cruise with Arctic Haute Route.

The Norwegian Scenic Route

One of the 18 Norwegian Scenic Routes goes through Senja and makes it almost as much a pleasure to stay on the road as on the trails. However, the roads are narrow and bumpy, so pay attention, and make sure to take a break or two at one of the many attractions along the road. For sure, Ersfjordstanda, with its amazing beach and mountain backdrop as well as a toilet made in gold, should be on your radar. Other spots are the “Devil´s teeth” (Tungeneset) and the viewpoint Bergsbotn.

tungeneset
Tungeneset

Where to stay

Unfortunately, there are not that many options for accommodation in Senja. My preferred option is renting an apartment at Hamn. The location is great and the apartments are fairly new and with great views. If you don´t mind sleeping in a tent, Ersfjordstranda provides an amazing spot to do that, but you will probably not be alone. For other options, check out Visit Senja.

Suggested itinerary

Day 1: Morning ferry from Brensholmen to Botnhamn. Hike/run to Keipen and Grytetippen (next blog post). Drive to Ersfjordstranda. Make sure you bring a cooler and some food, or pick up some food at the store in Mefjordvær (check opening hours). Stay at Mefjordvær or Hamn.

Day 2: Early morning run to Segla and Hesten. Pick up some food in Fjordgård after the run and have a break at Tungeneset or the beach in Bøvær.

Day 3: Breidtinden in the morning and Husfjellet (next blog post) in the evening (try to catch the midnight sun).

Day 4: Morning run to Sukkertoppen (next blog post) before departure.

Bergsbotn
Bergsbotn

Seiser Alm

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Seiser Alm is Europe’s largest high-altitude pasture, located in the heart of the Dolomites in the Italian Alps. For a long time it has been a training destination for endurance athletes, such as Scandinavian cross country skiers, aiming for improved performance, but, stunningly beautiful as it is, it is also attracting outdoor-loving tourists in general. 

What Makes It So Special?

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is surrounded by dramatic mountain peaks and its trademark mountain, the Schiliar (or Schlern in German). Any direction you turn would qualify for a postcard and there are multiple trails ranging from easy to moderate in terms of technical difficulty, including a running park with signposted routes of different length and effort. The area is very peaceful thanks to driving restrictions.

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The Trails

Let´s skip straight to the important stuff, the best trails! Here are my suggestions for three long trail runs.

The Classic – Denti Rossi & Schiliar

 

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This run will take you over the pointy red teeth to the Rifugio Alpe di Tires. Grab an espresso “al banco” and maybe a piece of apple strudel, fill up your bottles and enjoy the easy flow trails behind the Denti Rossi before some more uphill running take you to the plateau of Schiliar. Take a short detour to Forcella di Terrarossa, if you are collecting peaks, before cruising over to Rifugio Bolzano for some kaiserschmarrn for lunch, before or after collecting your second peak for the day, Monte Pez. Returning downhill to your starting point you will enjoy a fabulous view of Seiser Alm and the Sasso Lungo/Langkofel and Sasso Piatto/Plattkofel.

Strava for details: Denti di Terrarossa & Schiliar 

More information here.

Sasso Piatto

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To reach this almost 3000 meter above sea level high peak you can cheat by taking the chair lift from Saltria (a ten minutes bus ride from Compatsch), or you can choose the longer and more scenic route crossing the pastures and multiple bottle holes on your way to Rifugio Sasso Piatto, where the steep, but fairly easy, climb to the top starts. Watch your steps once on the top, enjoy the view and make sure to do your instagramming before returning to the rifugio for lunch. To add some variety to the run, choose the “backside” of the ridge on the return to your starting point.

Strava for details: Sasso Piatto

More information here

The Long Run – around Sasso Piatto and Sasso Lungo

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I tried this run for the first time last year and it immediately became my favorite in Seiser Alm as it is more “runable” than the other routes and provides stunning views of the Dolomites from a variety of angels. You can add the climb to Sasso Piatto (see previous run) if you wish. I like to start this run with the chair lift from Saltria, then I run clockwise around the peaks and take the “backside” from the Rifugio Sasso Piatto back to Compatsch. You may choose the slightly shorter Dialer trail or run via Rifugio Alpe di Tires.  

Strava for details: Around Sasso Piatto/Sasso Lungo (Dialer return), Around Sasso Piatto/Sasso Lungo (Alpe di Tires return)

More information here.

Races To Join

Rosengarten Skymarathon is a long distance skyrace consisting of 44 kilometer and 2980 meter elevation gain (main race), with starting point in Tiers – Saint Cyprian. The track passes by Rifugio Alpe di Tires and Rifugio Bolzano. In 2019 the race will take place 13 July. I will be on the starting line. Will you? 

Seiser Alm Half Marathon runs on non-technical paths across the pastures of Seiser Alm. Its 21 kilometer consist of 601 meters of elevation gain. Start and finish are in Compatsch. In 2019 the race will take place on 7 July.

What Else?

The road from Seis and Kastelruth to Seiser Alm provides a great climb for roller ski. Take the bus from Compatsch to Kastelruth or the cable car from Compatsch to Seis and roll up. 

Strava for details: Seis – Seiser Alm roller ski

And why not rent a road bike and do the legendary Sella Ronda round? We did! The best rental bikes are in Corvara.

Strava for details: Sella Ronda

Your Carbo-fix

Most hotels offer half-board accommodation, thus, except for your meal on the run, usually had at the nearest rifugio, restaurant advice is not much needed. However, should you find the time, make sure you have kaiserschmarrn, or a full meal, at Gostner Schwaige.

Hotel Recommendations

There are several nice hotels on Seiser Alm ranging from basic to luxury. What most of them have in common is that they need to be booked early, especially during high season. I have personally tried all hotels listed below, except for Alpenhotel Panorama, and have enjoyed each one of them. If you are looking for cheap, basic accommodation, try the conveniently located Piccolo Hotel Schiliar or some of the nearby rifugios.

Hotel Goldknopf – for the view and nicely designed rooms.

Hotel Steger Dellai – for the traditional Tyrolean experience.

Sporthotel Sonne, – for their deluxe suites.

Hotel Icaro, – for nice atmosphere.

Alpenhotel Panorama – for suberb location and reasonably priced rooms.

Make It a Tour

Although Seiser Alm is the most beautiful place, after a few days you have covered the area. If you fancy more mountains and maybe some great roller ski or bicycling opportunities, combine Seiser Alm with Livigno (will be covered in a later post). Fancy the beach? Go to Lago Garda or Lago Como.