For over a hundred years, the Austerdalsbreen Glacier along with the three hanging glaciers Loke, Odín and Tor have all been recognized for being the most beautiful ice scenery in Europe.
The hike along the Austerdalen Valley, where the Austerdalsbreen Glacier is located, is easy and runs through flat terrain.
Translation reviewed by Norah Kroken
Veitastrond and Tungestølen
The Austerdalsbreen Glacier is an offshoot of the larger glacier, Jostedalsbreen. The glacier is located in the Austerdalen Valley which is at the innermost part of Veitastrond. To reach this destination you must drive on a 30 kilometer long road from Hafslo, a place a little outside of Sogndal. This road runs alongside the beautiful Lake Veitastrondsvatnet so if you’re not particularly a fan of car rides the scenery will make up for it. From there you will keep driving and take the private toll-road, that is approximately 4-5 kilometers long, that leads to the modern day mountain lodge Tungestølen.
The hike – Austerdalen Valley and Austerdalsbreen Glacier
From the parking lot below Tungestølen you have about a two hour walk to the Austerdalsbreen Glacier.
Now that may seem a little daunting but it’s a very scenic and easy hike. This is due to the fact it is mostly flat terrain. There is an expectation of a few small hills but they are all very doable. You may also come across some moraines, mass of rocks and sediment, that have been created by the glacier due to weathering and erosion but again it’s doable to walk across.
From the viewpoint at the top of the hill, you can see the three glaciers (Loke, Odín, and Tor) hanging down from the plateau glacier Jostedalsbreen. Together they create the beautiful Austerdalsbreen Glacier. During the past few years, the glacier has actually retracted several hundred meters. Because of this, the amount of crevasses or deep cracks have increased. This makes access more difficult and more dangerous than it was just a few years ago.
The hike back from the glacier is on the same scenic trail as you came.
Note it can be highly dangerous to hike right alongside the glacier due to falling rocks and debris. It is encouraged that one admires the beauty of the glacier from the hillside that is located around 200 meters from the glacier (This will vary. In year 2020, this is the approximately distance). It is very important that one NEVER hikes in front of the glacier!
– The finest ice scenery in Europe
The three hanging glaciers, Loke, Odín and Tor, joins in the Austerdalen Valley to form the Austerdalsbreen Glacier, all of which have their origins from the Jostedalsbreen Glacier. Austerdalsbreen has a distinctive medial moraine which is created by the two glaciers Odín and Tor. The glacier also has a distinctive pattern of dark and light areas, which can be seen most clearly at a distance. These patterns across the glacier (the geological term Ogives) actually come from the seasons and show the difference between summer and winter and how ice is accumulated at these times.
The Austerdalsbreen Glacier along with the three hanging glaciers Loke, Odín and Tor have all been recognized for being “The finest ice scenery in Europe”. This was the phrase uttered by the famous climbing pioneer William Cecil Slingsby when he, together with Glacier-guide Mikkel Mundal from Fjærland, visited the valley for the first time and saw the spectacular glacier icefalls.
Walking on the Glacier – Always use Guide
Walking on a glacier is a spectacular experience especially when you get to see the colour variations in the ice. The Austerdalsbreen Glacier is one of the least technically demanding glaciers to walk on but entering the glacier is a whole different story. What might look like gravel could actually be dangerous crevasses disguising themsleves with a thin layer of ice and gravel. The Austerdalsbreen Glacier is a mix of middle moraines, deep crevasses and rivers which disappear deep down into the glacier.
You should always use a guide when walking on glaciers just to be safe. Lucky for you this area offers some of the finest tour guides in Norway. Tungestølen Mountain Lodge together with Norgesguidene provide excellent equipment and guiding specifically for glacier hikes. It is important to remember to book in advance to get the best possible experience.
The Lustrafjord and Luster area is deemed to be one of the most beautiful spots in the country. It is the place where the fjords meet the top of Norway and the place where mountains and glaciers never end. There are many wonderful and exciting things to see and do here. The oldest historical hotel, the Walaker Hotel, is located here.
Urnes Stave Church and Feigumfossen Waterfall are two beautiful places worth checking out. If you are feeling sporty the hike to Mt Molden is perfect for you and the view at the top is a bonus to your workout. If you really enjoyed Austerdalsbreen then Nigardsbreen Glacier is almost just as pretty. It is located in Jostedal and is one of the easiest and most accessible glaciers in Norway. The Lustrafjord which runs through this beautiful area is the innermost part of the 204 kilometer long Sognefjord.