This year winter has been soft on the fjords. We have missed cold temperatures and convincing snowfalls while we’ve had plenty of days of fog and drizzle. Even worst, each time it finally snowed properly, right after we had wind, fog, temperature rising or rain, destroying all my plans of exploring new regions and mountain areas. However, on the fjords we have one valley where it seems it’s always winter, and this year I feel like I have been the most local of that valley: welcome to Jordalen.
Jordalen is a valley high in the mountain of the fjords known as the place where though farmers used to hold eight months of rough winter for profiting of the best mountain pastures in the whole west Norway. Jordalen also happens to hang right above one of the only two fjords in Norway that belongs to the Unesco’s world heritage, and arguably the most spectacular fjord in Norway: the Nærøyfjorden.
Until a few years ago, this valley was pretty much, inaccessible, except of an sketchy mountain pass carved on the cliff of a canyon, that pretty much only the farmers dare to drive on their tractors and some occasional excursionist in their four wheel drivers for the few months of a year that the road was open. A few years ago, an impressive spiral tunnel that climbs the mountain up to the valley, got built, making the winter drive accessible. However, you will still need a good 4×4 with spike tyres in winter for cruising the valley.
From the summits of Jordalen you can pick neighboring valleys with similar characteristics, but the lack of similar infrastructure makes the logistics just too hard for day excursions. Nevertheless, they should be considered as an incredible opportunity for basecamping plans or several days round trips.
Jordalen is a really good valley for ski touring for several reasons: J
To ski tour in winter in Norway ambitioning a distinguished high summit is complicated. Few hours of daylight, rough and variable weather, mountain sides that take very long to become stable… The avalanche risk is hard to manage and statistically you just don’t have all those prime days for challenging ascents and descents during the winter. Hence, for a big part of the winter, we just have to discard terrain over 30 degrees.
The mountains of Jordalen, just as most mountains in Norway, tend to converge towards summit mountain plateaux called vidde in Norwegian. Sometimes these vidde can be too soft for ski touring but at the same time optimal for the norwegian excursioning ski called fjellski. Jordalen has a great mix of distinguished summits and wide sommital plateaux. There are summits with easy terrain to manage with unstable conditions but at the same time playfull for the descent, such as Øyastolsfjellet and Fyresnipa.
On the other side of the valley, Solbjørganipa and Nipa offer bigger terrain and a few sectors that work really well as a small ski alpinism laboratory. With a bit of local knowledge it is also possible to find forest sectors incredibly playfull for freeride rounds on stormy days.
The terrain can trick us: at first, it may seems to be be a valley of soft shapes; however, with a closer look you will soon discover that there is a lot of terrain, with very different characteristics.
As i mentioned at the beginning of the article, in Jordalen winter seems to vibrate in a higher pitch than in the rest of the valleys of Voss and the fjord region. When it snow, it just snows harder. When the wind blows, it just blows harder. When it’s cold, it’s just colder. Well, i think you get it. This makes Jordalen a fantastic option for weak winters with scarce snow, just as this winter, but as well for spring skiing.
At first sight, the vidde, or mountain plateaux, can seem easy to manage on the map, nevertheless, they can give some unpleasant surprises. Even though they are fairly flat, they always have dune formations. These formations, can be very big, but very often they are not superior to 40-60m high, so they won’t show clearly on the map. This can make navigation difficult, especially with flat light or fog. Moreover, I’ve even seen slabs been remotely triggered from those formations on days with risk 2, as they are so exposed to shifting winds. You also should keep in mind that somewhere in that plateaux there is a free drop of 1400m straight to the Nærøyfjord.
When wind blows on the vidde conditions can turn incredibly inhospitable. Climate literally can turn arctic. This week for example, the temperature feeling on the fjord was around ten degrees, in Jordalen it was around 3 degrees and on the top of the vidde it was around eight degrees below zero. This was on a spring sunny day with moderate winds on top.
What I probably enjoy the most about Jordalen is it’s landscapes. If you still are not convinced, you have to save a day for hiking to Bakkanosi: Jordalen’s balcony. It will take you through the old mountain farms route on a journey back to the old days. Once you will reach the viewpoint, you will not only enjoy the view of the mountains, valleys and vidde, but as well of the Nærøyfjorden. A drop of 1400m over a Unesco’s world heritage site, and arguably one of the most spectacular fjords in the world.