Looking back at our 6-day trekking adventure along the borders of South Tyrol, day two was certainly my favorite. Not because the entire hike was uphill, but because of the variation in the terrain, the glacier crossing and the absurdly beautiful location of our destination, the Müllerhütte. Another great thing about this hike, is that is also an amazing venture to do as an overnight hike without doing the whole 6-day trek. Please have in mind though, that you will need appropriate equipment to cross the glacier in order to reach the Müllerhütte, and, in the event you are not a group qualified to cross the glacier on your own, you will need a mountain guide (for which I can highly recommend Egon Resch).
The first part of the hike is zig-zagging through the forest, most of the time accompanied by a beautiful river and some waterfalls calling for your camera.
Video by Andrea Capello/@dolomistici
And what a day this should be! A short lunch at the Teplitzerhütte turned long as we tried to wait out the rainstorm. In the end we covered up and faced the challenge head on, equipped to connect to the fixed ropes provided at the most exposed sections of the hike. I enjoyed this wet part, moving confidently in the equipment and for the first time with poles, when not using the ropes to pull myself up. Suddenly the rain stopped and the fog lifted just in time for us to enjoy the most amazing view of the turquoise Lago di Malavalle. Fuelled by these amazing views we made it to the glacier and our last leg before reaching the Müller hut. Müller hut was my definite favorite, surrounded by glacier and mountains on 3145 meters, and with a welcoming Danish hostess securing a steady flow of biers and kaiserschmarren in the afternoon sun.
If you are not doing a hut-to-hut-hike, return the same way as you came up, with all the amazing views you turned your back to the day before. And don’t sleep in in the morning. The sunrise from the Müller hütte is not to be missed!
Distance: 15K Elevation gain: 2045m (highest point 3145 m.a.s.)
In August last year I was invited by the Italian mountaineering brand, Salewa, to participate in a 6-day trekking experience in the Dolomites. This was the third event of their project, Grande Circolo, an ode to the region of South Tyrol in the form of an alpine tour along the borders of the region.
I had just returned from a week in the Dolomites, determined to spend more time at the high altitude rifugios (mountain huts), and was already planing to return next summer, when I received the invitation, and could not believe my luck!
While I spend most of my time in the mountains with a super-light backpack and running shoes, this event would expose me to a much heavier backpack, glacier equipment, mountain shoes, and adapting my speed to the group. I am sure our guide would say I was not always successful at the latter, yet I enjoyed every second of it.
Day 1: Gossensass – Maiern
We started out adventure from the village of Gossensass (Colle Isarco in Italian), which is accessible by train. According to our guide, Egon, the first day was just a kind warm up for what to come on day two and three. This warm up still included 1692 meters of elevation and 19.7 kilometers on foot, and the introduction to the region’s apfelstrudel and speck, which should turn out to be our favorite go-to-fuels this week, as well as a wide variety of “schorle” (juice and sparkling water blends).
The first part of the hike took us uphill through the forest, before the landscape opened up just as we reached our first mountain refueling hut. I can still remember the taste and texture of the apfel strudel, which eventually turned out to be my lunch this day. Breaking up from the hut, we still had to overcome some uphill before reaching the first pass of the day at 2147 meter a.s.l. after 7.5 km. Looking to our left from the pass a velvet green ridge showed off and made our cameras click. After a short descent we more or less kept the height for 5-6 km turning corners with stunning views, including view of the glacier, which was to be our destination for the second day. After about 14.5 km we finally reached a refueling opportunity and loaded up on speck and bread before our knee-killing steep descent to Maiern.
The transport system in South Tyrol allows you to plan your own multi-day destination to destination hike. The starting point for our trekking experience, Gossensass (Colle Isarco), is just off the Brenner highway, about one hour by train from Innsbruck.
The Tre Cime di Lavaredo is maybe the most iconic landmark of the Dolomites and draws tons of tourists due to its easy (although fairly expensive) access by road. However, it is surprisingly easy to skip the crowds for one of the most memorable runs ever if you start early in the morning or in the late afternoon. Having done the circuit around the three peaks twice, I always think of it as fairly flat, but looking at the data from my run, it is certainly not. Still, it is one of the easiest runs you can do in the Dolomites, and with views second to none.
To get the most out of it, I suggest you stay overnight at one of the huts along the path. If you plan to run with a light backpack with easy logistics, stay at Rifugio Auronzo, which is right on the trailhead about 40 minutes drive from Cortina. You can park outside the hut, but it is advisable to arrive very early in the morning or in the late afternoon. Although it feels a bit like being on interrail or a backpacking trip, the hut is large, with clean rooms, most with amazing views. All rooms come with shared bathrooms, but you can book a private room. You can book your stay with breakfast or half board, but if you plan on going for a sunrise hike/run, depending on the season, you should bring some snacks, as breakfast opens at 7am.
Photographers flock to the Tre Cime area for shots of the famous peaks and the surrounding mountains, in particular the Cadini di Misurina, which are just in front of the Rifugion Auronzo. If you want to join the pack, plan for a sunset hike/run in the afternoon and a sunrise mission. You wont regret!
The Tre Cime trail run
I prefer to do the Tre Cime run anti-clockwise. Starting from Rifugio Auronzo at about 2350 m.a.s. the first part is fairly flat on a wide easy path. After about 1.5 km you reach the first hut, Rifugio Lavaredo, where you can take a detour off track to take in the Cadini peaks before you start the ascent towards the run’s highest point. This is also where you get the first sight of the north wall of Tre Cime. From here you can also see the two paths continuing towards the Dreizinnenhütte/Rifugio Antonio Locatelli. Choose the upper path.
After 4 km and numerous photo stops you reach the Dreizinnenhütte. This is a great spot for a coffee break in the sun, but first I suggest you make a detour to the cave and the lakes behind the hut. Since the run is not very long, you want to linger as long as possible to take in the surroundings. If you have the time, and manage to get a reservation, do consider staying at the Dreizinnenhütte for a night.
Leaving the hut takes you downhill for about 1.5 km until you reach the run’s lowest point, all the time with the peaks in front of you. After a short, but steep, climb, you will probably meet more and more people as you approach your starting point, the Rifugio Auronzo.
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!
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.
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.
Further description of the Piz Languard run on alpsinsight here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Skrovkjosen, Skarberget and Tysfjord
Lofoten wall in the far distance
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.
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”.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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:
Drive to Aurland
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.