MassIV Ruta

The MassIV Ruta was an epic walking journey through four spectacular mountain areas and four National Parks in southern Norway. The journey was 372 kms (231 miles) long and took 22 days to complete. The photos below are all taken at 12 noon, to give a glimpse into the adventure.

Heading to the Mountains
Day 1 – Thursday, JuLy 27th, 2023

And so the adventure begins. Epic scenery and backcountry camping for the next 20 days. Liran is my adventure partner in our little two person expedition team. We have gear, food and a huge bucket of esprit de corps. The rain will not deter us.

We took a morning bus from Oslo to Haukeliseter, arriving around 4pm. We had decided to use the evening sun to start walking, and to get a jump start on the next day, which is a longer than usual day. Also, we just wanted to walk. It was slow, up and hard work with occasional rain, but we punched out 6.5 kms in 4 hours. Being the first day, we had to stop often to tune up ourselves and our gear. Very glad about the decision to start walking, and not stay in Haukeliseter Hut. The hut did look amazing through.

On the bus to Haukeliseter. And a very nice bus it was.
Reality Bites
Day 2 – Friday, july 28th, 2023

Amazing weather and an amazing camp near Hellevassbu Hut. This “self-service” hut was not expected to be staffed, but there was a lovely couple acting as our hosts. We chatted in the glorious sun, and later they invited us into the hut for pancakes. Also meeting those staying in the hut. We carry tents and our preference is to stay in them, away from the noise and hassle of dormitories and bunk beds. After enjoying the pancakes and good company of other walkers, we might need to revisit this tent decision. Just saying.

The walk has harder for us than expected. We took 8 hours 20 minutes to complete the 15 kms. The terrain is what slows us down, and it tires out our little team of two. Liran is also hurting a little, nothing serious, but we are working hard to keep blisters at bay and not strain anything. And we are succeeding. On a more positive note, the tents and other camping gear is working out really well.

Hardangervidda National Park is similar to the southern parts of New Zealand. Alpine grassy vegetation, eroded rounded rocks and lakes everywhere. And it is empty here, apart from the occasional walker. The trail is extremely well marked and easy to follow. We have started to notice that most walkers are females by themselves.

On the trail, enjoying the good weather. Lakes everywhere.
Hurting and Luxury
Day 3 – saturday, july 29th, 2023

17 kms today, which took a very long 9 hours. Fortunately we started at 8am so we’re still able to make the three course dinner at Litlos Hut. In fact we were able to get a hot shower before dinner. These huts are quite luxurious, and I think quite unique to Norway. Nothing like the tramping huts in New Zealand.

We have made some new trail friends, a group of three ladies that have walked together over the years. We call them “the Americans”, but they include a Swede. They are showing us the way of luxury walking in Norway, and the three course meal option. With their guidance , I was able to dine on locally shot Reindeer, potatoes and vegetables. Fish soup to start and desert to finish. And as much as you can eat. After the tough day the food was most welcome, but even more so, the company of “the Americans”. The challenges of the day started to fade and we were soon fast asleep in our tents. Tomorrow will be a tough day indeed.

Note: according to the staff at Litlos Hut, I am the first New Zealander they have seen for 2023 the season.

Another day, another beautiful day and another lake.
Rock, Mud, Climb, Repeat
Day 4 – Sunday, July 30th, 2023

Alarms went off at 05:30am and we set off at 06:45am. Our objective was Sandhaug Hut, some 26 kms away. Our pace averages 2 kms per hour, so it would likely take us 13 hours to complete, and it did. We could stop earlier and camp, but Liran was tenacious, and wanted the comforts of the hut. We steadfastly stuck to our objective. Family followed us on the tracker, and could see that we were chewing, albeit slowly, through the kms and that it would take us all day to complete. The marvels of satellite communications.

Water drains off the side of the hills into creeks, which in turn create a combination of muddy approaches, rock-bolders to cross and banks on the far side that have to be scaled, only to repeat the process at the next creek. Finding a path through the marshy swamp areas can take time, at least if you don’t want to get your boots wet.

Sandhaug Hut was very nice. We were a bit worried that we would not be allowed to camp near the hut, but the friendly staff allowed us to camp nearby. We even had our own stream for cooking water. The self-service hut was closed. We never found out why. Dinner was in our tents and sleep quickly followed.

Expedition team of two, in some light drizzle.
Day 5 – Monday, July 31st, 2023

Our slow pace is making these long distance days into long duration days. Time to switch plans.

We slept in, took breakfast in the hut and basically mucked around for an hour before packing up our tents. We planned to have an relaxing morning, as the objective for the day was to walk 10 kms, camping well before the next hut. This new approach would add an extra day to our planned itinerary, but that was well worth it.

But even the new plan did not work out. At the 10 kms mark, Liran was feeling super strong and wanted to push on. Maybe even to the hut. She had found some renewed energy and we wanted to exploit this energy while it was there. The last 3 kms to the hut was very swampy, and it was raining, but we pulled into Stigstuv Hut just after 7pm. Still averaging 2 kms per hour for the day, but arriving full of energy. Spirits were high that night. Even the grumpy man running the private hut could not dampen our spirits.

We setup our tents, made dinner, looked at our food reserves and decided to take breakfast in the hut in the morning. The extra day meant we would be short a breakfast. Maybe we can repeat the same magic tomorrow.

Typical Hardangervidda scenery. And a consistent pattern of no rain at noon.
Strong Finish and Beer
Day 6 – tuesday, August 1st, 2023

The magic happened again. We almost ran into Krækkja Hut. The Americas passed us on the trail and gave us the most amazing welcome. Or was it surprise to see us? It was probably surprise, as we were meant to be a day behind them. They had taken a different route and boat ride to rejoin the trail. We had shared our plan two days earlier to slow down and take an extra day, so we could enjoy more. We failed to execute on the slow plan. The hugs and congratulations were quick, as they had to make the 6pm dinner seating, and we ultimately pulled in only 10 mins after them.

Their dinner was not at 6pm, but rather at 8pm, so we had a few rounds of beer and exchanged stories. Tomorrow they leave in a different direction, but I committed to catch-up with them in the future, when we travel to the east coast of America.

The trail for the day was 20.5 kms, and we completed it in 8.25 hours, so a much improved pace. 25% better in fact. The trail out of Stigsuv Hut was rumoured to be very muddy for the first 3 kms, but this did not prove to be the case. Which is a good thing.

While walking, we talked about the possibility that Liran would stop her walk at Finse, the end of the first section, and head to Bergen for site seeing. No decisions were made, but new plans were being formulated. She has a few days to think about this, and we still have a huge day tomorrow, 26 kms, to get to Finse.

Wow, that is a terrible photo. At 12 noon we were actually chatting to two ladies from the Czech Republic, so I tried to snap the photo quickly and rejoin the conversation.
Section 1 complete
Day 7 – wednesday, August 2nd, 2023

Another huge day to complete our section 1, the first 6 days of the 18 walking days are now done. Tomorrow is a rest day.

As we set off in the morning, we said good bye (again) to “the Americans”. The trail was calling us and we wanted to get going. The trail ascended constantly for 15 kms, a little up and down, and then descent for the last 6 kms, for a total distance of 22.5 kms. Like previous days, it started to rain around 4pm, but only with light showers. We got some great views of the glacier.

The terrain was very challenging, with rocks underfoot and bolder fields to cross. It was relentless rock. But Liran was equally relentless, and never gave up in the desire to get to the hut, and maybe even a three course meal, should we arrive early enough.

We slogged most of the day, only stopping a few times for food and rest breaks. We played music on trail, and we talked about how nice the dinner would be. But as the hours ticked by, my watch was estimating an 8:45pm arrival, and we would miss any late dinner seating. We picked up the pace over the last 5 kms, but still only arrived at 8:15pm. But great fortune bestowed us, there was a 9pm dinner seating. We feasted like kings and queens. I even had the locally brewed IPA.

Liran made her decision not to continue, but rather will head to Bergen for some site seeing. So, this final evening meal together would be our last. She booked her train ticket, and the superposition wave function of possible outcomes collapsed into a known state and certain future. She now has time to explore Norway further, and I am happy to continue solo, knowing that the trail is sufficiently well served with huts and other walkers.

For the first time on this trip we slept in a hut. We secured beds in a mixed dormitory. The mattress was rather comfortable but the room was a little too warm. I guess we are used to a cold tent.

This is not the noon photo. But a very worthy exception. Liran, me and our dear American trail friends.
Rest day in Finse
Day 8 – thursday, august 3rd, 2023

We had the best breakfast we have had so far. Packing on some calories for the coming days. I said goodbye to Liran at the Finse train station. The station is 1,222 meters above sea level, making it the highest train station in Northern Europe.

The morning weather was gorgeous, but a lightning warning was in effect for this part of Norway, and heading into the hills might not be the best idea. And it is my first scheduled rest day, so that is very good timing.

I washed my walking clothes, and just chilled out. This is very enjoyable style of walking.

Finse Train Station. Liran left west to Bergen. Taken a little before noon.
Norwegian Style
Day 9 – friday, August 4th, 2023

I have made a big decision, I will do the next section in the Norwegian Style. Basically swap the tent for huts, hot showers and home cooked meals. This was not the plan, but seems reasonable, given I am in Norway. This also means I do not need to resupply with food, and will instead rely on the huts.

The next scheduled hut was Geiterygghytta, but given the good weather decided to push on to Kongshelleren Hut. This means the following day will be much shorter, which is good, as the forecast is for rain. And a good choice, as the hut was cosy with the fire going and three Scandinavian ladies to share a cup of tea and conversation with. I found pasta in the pantry and had a good meal. Life is good.

The trail is very well marked with theee cairns. They are cool.
Amazing Day
Day 10 – saturday, August 5th, 2023

The forecast was wrong, and the rain never came. I made good time to Iungdalshytta arriving for a late lunch and formidable sandwich. I even took a private room as part of my plan to walk in the Norwegian Style.

I sat, I read, I chatted and just relaxed. But I also had to plan the next day, as more bad weather is on the way. The choice was either a short day to Bjordalsbu, a mountain hut, or a long day to Skarvheim, a hut in a small township. Like today, the weather forecast for tomorrow is much better than the day following that. So, a longer day tomorrow seems to be the best option.

The mountain weather not only influences when and where you walk, but also requires planning, and to think of different options and contingencies. Fortunately this planning can be done in the luxury of a warm cost hut, on a comfortable sofa and with access to satellite supplied weather forecasts.

With planning out of the way, I had an excellent 3 course dinner with the company of 8 Norwegians and a German. Life is good in the mountains.

The trail awaits. Grey clouds in my future.
Double Hutting
Day 11 – Sunday, August 6th, 2023

Woke up to fine weather forecast. Still is not great for the following day, but great for today. So, when the weather is good, it is good to walk. Also, a good day for a double hut walk. I packed extra lunch from the breakfast table, knowing it would be a long 10 hour day. All the option planning of the previous day made the morning decision easy.

This turned out to be a good idea, because later in the day the Norwegian authorities declared a weather emergency in Southern Norway. Level Red heavy rain with possible flooding and mudslides. This is a 25 year rain event, with more rain is being predicted in some places than those places have had in in the last 25 years. So yes, this is a bit of big deal. So, smart to be off the mountain and in the safety of the valley.

Shirley, who I first met at Finse, also did a double day. It was good to see her arrive at the safety of the hut and not be tenting in the mountains.

It was a day of rocks, kilometers and kilometers of them. But it remained dry throughout the dry and the rocks were good and not slippery, so made good time skipping over them. Ended the day feeling strong, and glad to be strolling into Skarvheim hut. A cosy place, but a little short on of variety of food. Dinner was reindeer balls and a tin of peaches.

A day of rocks. This is alpine mountain scenery.
Shelter in Place
Day 12 – Monday, August 7th, 2023

The alerts continued to roll into our phones, in multiple languages. The trekking association, DNT, issued warnings and advice. News reports started to appear, reporting rain caused damage and flooding. As they say, “this shit is getting real”.

The rain in our little valley was little more than a drizzle for most of the day, turning into proper rain in the evening. So, it was tempting to venture to the next hut, but this was never really a consideration.

I was first up in the morning, to find a new walker had joined our little group of 4. She had heroically walked off the mountain during the night, arriving at 1:40am. And around 4pm a German couple emerged from the fog. We are now 7. The hut has 9 beds.

The day was spent talking, drinking tea and eating food. I enjoyed getting to know people who were complete strangers a few days ago. We are all on the same basic walking trip, with lots of long distance walking experience amoung us, and we are all trying to decide what to do in the coming days. The weather event has been named, and it is called “Hans”. The Level Red warning is in place until tomorrow at 10pm. So realistically, tomorrow will be another day in this cabin.

View from the Cabin.
Day 2 Safe in our Cabin
Day 13 – Tuesday, August 8th, 2023

Yesterday I thought of maybe leaving the trail for a few days and take a bus to Bergen, Oslo or the nearest big town, Tyinkrysset. And returning to complete the MASSIV once the weather returns to normal. These options quickly dissolved away, as it seems the bus and train infrastructure in Norway is shutting down. Liran’s train from Bergen to Oslo was cancelled, so she continues to enjoy the good life in Bergen for a few more days.

The weather forces decision making which in turn forces thinking about criteria for these decisions. Why am I here on this walking trip? Is it better to walk in the rain and see nothing of the landscape, or sit around all day and see nothing until the next day? Is chatting to new friends better than keeping to an artificial schedule?

My original trip objective was to experience my first long distance walk, make sure I enjoy this style of adventure travel, and grow some new skills. I did not expect I would need to ponder different options and reflect as much as I have over the last 24 hours. As I wake this morning and write this blog entry, I feel like I have found some calm. Yesterday was a good day.

Another day, same view.
Back to the Trail
Day 14 – Wednesday, August 9th, 2023

A nice clear morning, and a great day for a walk. Shirley and I decided to walk together, because we do not know the state of the walking trails after the rain. Shirley is fast on the flats and downhill, while I make better time on the uphill. Otherwise we are quite a good match.

Our average pace was a little slower than previous days, due to the rocks and multiple river crossings where we had to take-off our boots to keep them dry. A very enjoyable day however.

Had a really good night in the hut (Sulebu). Two dutch fellows joined our little party of 4. Good to hear the trail to the North is open with no swollen river crossings. While we talked inside the comfort of the hut, it snowed outside. Snow in August, not bad.

A good day after the rains. Trails are open, but the rivers are high.
Life is Good on the Trail
Day 15 – Thursday, August 10th, 2023

We had heard from others, that there is a cafe in the middle of our walk today. And this cafe is rumoured to have waffles and pizza. And the rumours turned out to be true. Shirley and I ended up spending 3 hours in the cafe, just chilling, eating and drinking.

The cafe owner told us of the local history. Apparently a church had been setup in town, but this encouraged whoring and pagan acts, so had to be torn down. Some of the furniture in the cafe is from the old church, and dates back hundreds of years.

In the afternoon I walked solo. The mist had rolled in, and it was an eerie and good feeling to be in the mountains alone.

At the hut (Sletningsbu) we talked and made noise until midnight around our cosy little wood fired stove.

Waffles, Pizza and Coffee.
Finishing Section 2
Day 16 – Friday, August 11th, 2023

Fondsbu is the end of my second section of a total of three sections. Fondsbu is also the second scheduled rest day.

Started the day making pancakes for breakfast. If I could make pancakes in my little stove, then I would purchase a few bags of pancake mix to later of the trail. Turns out it is difficult to make good pancakes without a heavy cast iron pan. So, that idea got nixed.

Due to the slightly marginal weather and the not so great forecast, Shirley and I walked together again. We powered through the 24 kms in a mere 7 hours. We walked at a causal pace but hardly stopped, just pausing for food when hungry.

Fondsbu was overrun with tourists, as our little party of 4 took to the tents again. Which worked out well, as it did not rain overnight. We started to make plans for our ascent up Fannaråkhytta in 2 days.

The trail is marked with fancy cairnes, the letter “T” painted in red on rocks and these wooden signs. There are never distance markers. The trail is very well marked.
Hello Jotunheimen and Mountains
Day 17 – Saturday, August 12th, 2023

Yesterday I technically entered Jotunheimen National Park. The scenery is starting to change, with mountains similar to the alps appearing.

I decided to walk alone again, and in fact saw no one on the mountain the entire day. It was a long day, going up over a high mountain pass and down a long and beautiful valley to Skogadalsbøen hut. These solo days are quite memoriable.

Shirley and the two Germans made it as well, albeit quite a bit later. Fortunately this positions our makeshift team well to ascend Fannaråki tomorrow. We even have a descent weather forecast.

Another night in the tents and conversation in the hut.

Challenging day. A high mountain pass with some rain and slippery rocks.
Heading Up!
Day 18 – Sunday, August 13th, 2023

It is a big up day today, more up than any other day on this trail. I had two options, either take breakfast in the hut and leave a little later meaning that I would arrive later and likely wet or skip breakfast and get on the trail early and attempt to avoid the forecast 4pm rains. I decided for breakfast.

The Norwegian planning maps do not have distances between places, but replace the distances with times. This is because distance is not an accurate predictor of time due to the variability in the terrain. The time for today was indicted at 8 hours. Shirley and I powered up in a mere 5.5 hours and arrived fresh and strong. And we did not get wet. Some days are just good days. Along the way we had dramatic views of the surrounding mountains.

My food supplies are getting low, so did a little planning for the next three days to make sure I would not go hungry. I was down to 2x freeze dried dinners, 3x nut bars, hot chocolate powder, 2 tea bags and some powered milk. More than enough to make the next three days with the help of the huts along the way.

At 9pm the clouds finally lifted and we got views from the top of Fannaråkhytta. We all rushed out and took photographs. Apparently Fannaråkhytta is in clouds 300 days out of 365 days, so we are a little lucky.

Heading up. Lots of vertical meters up today, but it went quickly.
The day we have been waiting for.
Day 19 – Monday, August 14th, 2023

Breakfast in the hut and made myself a packed lunch. Today we crossed the glacier, which was a lot of fun. The hut supplies the guide, harness, crampon like devices for our boots/shoes and the rope to join us all together. All for the low low price of 200 NOK (or ~€20).

Our guide was Ina, which was super nice as she is super nice. It took us 90 minutes to cross the glacier and it did not rain too much, so a good time was had.

The weather for tomorrow is forecast to be really bad, so Shirley and I decided to continue walking past the next scheduled Hut, Sognefjellshytta, and make as many miles as possible to shorten the next day. We did stop at Sognefjellshytta for a very nice waffle and drink. At 4pm we set off to get another 10kms in.

It should be noted that I was very tempted to stay at Sognefjellshytta for two nights. This would mean I would miss the worst of the weather and have a more enjoyable last two days. And the hut was quite beautiful, the best so far on the trip. Ultimately this plan lost its appeal, and decided to continue walking.

We pitched our tents on one of the few mossy hills we could find. This is granite country, and tent spots are a challenge to find. Dinner was an awesome DNT freeze dried beef meal and a few cookies.

Setting up and getting schooled on the glacier crossing. The glacier is in the background.
Wet, Slippery and Long
Day 20 – Tuesday, August 15th, 2023

Brutual day with a a brutal start. We woke around 6am, and as it was not raining, we decided to pack up and get on the trail early, and before the rain arrived. The trail was tough, With us going up and down around granite channels that had been formed from water and wind erosion. And slippery as hell. I slipped twice, both on very innocent rocks. No harm done, except to my pride.

Eventually pulled in wet and tired to the hut at 2pm. And for the first time on the trail I had to use my special key to unlock the hut. First priority was to make pancakes and start to relax. Shirley got the fire going.

Another good night in a hut. I had Reindeer balls and potato mash which I shared with Innis.


The day is almost over, due to the 7am start.
Final Leg?
Day 21 – Wednesday, August 16th, 2023

Woken up at 6am by a walker form the North. He had made an emergency bivvy about 1.5 kms away, and was too tired to make it to the hut. He was soaked and a little distressed. His paper maps were destroyed from the rain. He had only been on the trail for a single day. He hiked with another person, who also spent the night out, but this other person at least had a tent. Both were ready to quit the trail after just one day. We reassured them the trail would get better.

Shirley and I set off late, as we decided to split the last day of the trail into 2 days. This would mean a much more enjoyable two days than a single forced march day. We covered our planned 12 kms, although they were tough kilometers. Parking ourselves on the shores of a high alpine lake. Made a fire out of stray branches someone left years previously, probably for marking trails in winter. Dinner as an excellent vegan rice dish from a bag.

Starting the day on road. There is only about 5 kms of road on the entire 350 kms of trail.
The Final Day
Day 22 – Thursday, August 17th, 2023

The final day was expected to take 5 hours to cover the remaining 13 kms. It actually took 6 hours and we arrived at Sota Sæter feeling very accomplished. Waffles were our reward. Along with a shower.

So, the MASSIV route is complete. It was nice to finish on the same day as Ferdinand, Shirley and Innis, since we had spend the last 10 days sharing evenings in huts. We would have one final meal together and relax in the lounge until they kick us out and we need to go to our tents.

It was a very nice and rewarding walk. Highly recommended.

We camped at the southern end of the lake in the background. There was enough sun, and I even managed to take a dip in the lake. Very cold so the dip was very short.