Jotunheimen Bessegen Ridge Hike: A Legendary Day

When I signed up to do the Jotunheimen, Besseggen hike way back in May, I had no idea that this hike would be a grueling test of my physical and mental capacity.

When I read the description of this excursion on the University of Oslo’s website it stated, “Please be aware that we will be hiking through a wild and rugged area with steep and stony terrain (…) The hike is estimated to take 6-8 hours, with a total climb of 700 meters, and the participants must be in good physical condition.”

Being my regular, very optimistic, self I thought, “Well, I am in ‘good’ physical condition… and 6-8 hours must be including lots of group breaks right?” These optimistic thoughts accompanied by amazing video and photographic evidence of the fantastic views on the UIO website, convinced me that this experience was not to be missed.

Thus, on the morning of July 19th I awoke at 7 a.m. and prepared to hike! I “geared up” the best that I could; three sweaters, a rain jacket, fleece lined leggings, spandex exercise pants, wool socks, leather gloves, a fleece headband, and a scarf. Not to mention the three liters of water and lunch in my backpack…

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The first great view of the fjord. Photo credit: Alexandra Olsen

8 a.m.- 9:30 a.m.

The first hour and a half was the worst part of this trip. We were all in a state of shock within the first twenty minutes. Our thoughts collectively went from “here we go!” and “I am so ready…” to “but… how is it THIS steep?” and “I am not ready…” Luckily I formed an alliance with two of my good friends from campus, Ingrid and Laina. During that first steep incline we took many breaks and tried to keep each other motivated… even though we all felt the urge to turn back.

 9:45 a.m.- 12:00 p.m.

The views become more and more breathtaking as we moved along. We were so impressed that we almost forgot about the inclines and the rugged terrain. We could see for miles… and we watched the fjords and the vibrant green lake called Gjende light up as the sun came out from its hiding place behind the clouds. These same clouds seemed roll over the mountain tops, like ocean waves in slow motion. The altitude made it impossible not to notice the vastness of our surroundings. My knees were aching and my mouth was dry but I wanted to see more… When we break for lunch, I am reminded of how cold the wind is. My body cools down and this pushes me to want to keep moving.

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Photo credit: Alexandra Olsen

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Photo credit: Alexandra Olsen

12:30 p.m.- 2:30 p.m.

After lunch we reached the climbing portion of our program. Yes really. I think I will let the photos speak for themselves. Nothing can describe the feeling of scrambling up a mountain on hands and knees as the fresh mountain wind “lovingly” whips your face…

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Photo credit: Alexandra Olsen

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Photo credit: Alexandra Olsen

After this portion of our test we climbed a few more inclines, with only our feet this time.

2:30 p.m.

We finally reached the peak of Besseggen. After six and a half hours of working our thighs in a way that they had never worked before, we reached our ultimate goal! It was an indescribable feeling to make it there. Overlooking the mountains, I felt a great sense of pride in both my physical and mental stength. I know that my partners felt this too! I can’t thank them enough for keeping me motivated. Guys, it was SO worth it!
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2:30 p.m.- 4:30 p.m.

We began to make our descent after spending some time documenting our accomplishment. Who knew that coming down would be just as difficult as going up? At this point, my knees were exhausted, my water supply was depleting, and the trail never seemed to end. Our group grew to include several other motivating souls that helped us get through yet another difficult experience (thank you Georgianna, Andrew, and Liza.) The descent almost seemed longer than the ascent. Of course it did not help that we were all dreaming of showers, large dinners, and our beds.
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Finally arriving at the Gjendesheim, where we could have our much needed dinner! Photo credit: Alexandra Olsen

We finally arrived, two hours after seeing the peak and being fooled into thinking that we were nearly finished. We were greeted with a warm meal, actual bathrooms, and a warm bus to nap in.
The bus was silent on the way back to Blindern dormitories. When we arrived we all made our ways into our beds and drifted into sleep with dreams of rolling clouds and magically blue waters… and the next morning, the very first thought in my head was, “everything hurts.”
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Thank You ISS!

I need to end this post with a thank you. This experience was life-changing for me. After discovering my perseverance on this hike, I feel as though I can accomplish anything if I put my mind to it. Thank you to our amazing guides and the University of Oslo for this breathtaking weekend. I hope future students get the chance to see what I saw and feel what I felt.
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