If you are planning a visit to Norway and want to do some hiking, this is one should be at the top of your list. This trek has become very well-known among hikers visiting Norway with over 30,000 people completing the trail each season. This popularity is well-deserved as the views from the Ridge offer incredible vistas that will make you feel like you’ve stepped right into a postcard.
Distance: 13-14 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: 900 meters
Time: 6-9 hours
You need to be fairly fit – or at least have a lot of perseverance – for this hike. With 6-7 hrs of actually walking time and a net elevation gain/loss of 900 meters, this is not a casual hike and will take the entire day. The trail is well maintained but is very stony throughout. Hiking boots with solid soles are a must on this hike, or your feet will be killing you – especially near the end of the hike – when you are walking on nothing but baseball to melon-sized rocks for a few kilometers.
The hike can be started from one of two trailheads: Memurubu or Gjendesheim. No matter which departure point you choose, you will park your car in a well-marked lot at the end of the road into Gjendesheim (don’t forget to pay for your parking spot – this can be done inside a convenience store next to the dock).
Memurubu: If you choose this route, you will take a beautiful, one-way ferry ride down Gjende Lake to the trailhead. This option can lead to a busy start to the hike as you, and a ferry full of other hikers, all take off at the same time. To make matters worse, the early part of the trail out of Memurubu is quite steep for the first 2 km, which can lead to back-ups on the steeper, narrow parts of the trek. The major ‘pro’ to choosing this option is that you are independent of the boat times and do not have to worry about hitching a ferry ride back to Gjendesheim (and your car) from Memurubu.
The other advantage of taking the boat to Memurubu and walking back to Gjendesheim is that most people consider the ridge easier to climb rather than descend. Besseggen itself is just a short part (about one kilometer) of this 14 km long track, and is situated right in the middle of the tour. Unfortunately, this also means that if you start from Memurubu you will be walking away from the famous view and always have to turn around to enjoy it.
Gjendesheim: Starting from here, you will have a lot fewer people with you at the beginning of the hike, but you will need to be aware of the time if you want to complete the trail and still catch the ferry back. Otherwise you will be camping out in Memurubu until the next morning when the ferry is back-in-action. If you’re in doubt whether you’re capable of the whole tour you should start from Gjendesheim. In this case you don’t have to reach a boat and you can turn around on the top of the ridge without actually having to walk it down and you still get the best view.
This midway ridge can be difficult for some. It is often describe as climbing grade 1 or scambling. One thing is sure: you will need your hands when climbing up the ridge and you will need to pay attention! It’s a long way down on both sides: The Gjende Lake is 700 meters and the Bessvatnet Lake 300 meters below (from the highest point). So if you are afraid of heights, be warned. There were more than a few people having panic-attacks when they were climbing the ridge on my trip there.
No matter which route you take, be sure to make it to Besseggen Ridge for the epic view of Gjende Lake. Trust me, the hike is tough but well worth it. If you enjoy hiking and want to feel like you’ve stepped out of real life and into Google Images of Norway, this is the trek for you.