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27 Days in the Norwegian Mountains

Geoff Shoults is an all-round outdoor enthusiast and professional photographer. This is his account of an epic 27-day expedition on skis through the harsh, yet breath-taking terrain of the Norwegian mountains and how his Páramo gear allowed him to go further, survive the extreme terrain and do so in comfort.

In winter the mountains of Norway can be as harsh as those of much higher ranges. For the first week of our ski tour this year we had temperatures between -20 and -30 with a stiff northerly wind on top that stripped away any warmth that the sun may have offered and bit into any exposed skin. We were skiing north – into that wind – from Rjukan across the Hardanger plateau, through Skarvheim and into the Jotunheim, a route that would take 26 days.

Norway has mountains and reliable snow but is also blessed with the DNT which provides a network of hundreds of mountain huts across the country allowing the backcountry skier to cobble together any number of tours, as we three friends have done for the past 20 years.

Hut on the Hardangervidda

These trips are essentially backpacking trips – all gear needs to be carried and all eventualities covered. You need gear that will work in extreme conditions and also on warm windless days and you need to carry all the essentials that can keep you alive if it all goes wrong – shovels, stove, sleeping bag etc. Sadly you have to carry it all too which means pairing it down to achieve a rucksack weight that will inevitably become the object of foul curses but won’t actually stop you from moving forward for 7 or 8 hours a day.

Resting up in the huts to recover for the next day!

I’ve found that Páramo gear is perfect for this type of trip. I use an Enduro jacket, an Ostro fleece and a pair of Enduro Tour trousers. Skiing through mountainous terrain with a big pack can be warm work, even in extreme cold conditions and the ideal clothing needs to be comfortable whilst zig-zagging up a seemingly endless slope and then keep you warm in that instant when you emerge onto a col or plateau into the teeth of a gale.

The ideal temperature is -10 to -15; the snow is good, you don’t overheat but you don’t have to worry about losing your extremities to the cold. In these conditions I find that a couple of base layers under the Enduro are perfect. When it gets colder and the wind gets up, the addition of the Ostro fleece under the Enduro extends the comfort limit by another 10 degrees.

The Enduro trousers take care of themselves – I never feel the need to add anything under or over them.

Páramo layers doing the hard work!

The confidence that the Páramo gear gives you allows you to reduce the amount that you need to carry. Layering is the accepted golden rule and Páramo helps make it simple – put it on, keep it on, adjust the venting . Traditional shell clothing is sweaty and invariably results in more layers being added and then removed, a process which wastes time and energy and is uncomfortable when it’s blowing a gale.


The first 9 days of our trip took us across the Hardangervidda, Europe’s largest plateau at 2,500 square miles of treeless, barren, tundra. There are few signs of life in between the DNT cabins and its enormous herds of wild reindeer manage to keep themselves hidden. The landscape is big, with wide valleys and modest mountains and the routes between huts meander through the hills, crossing frozen lakes, following river valleys and crossing low cols.

Looking across the Hardangervidda plateau

After crossing the railway line at Finse we entered Skarvheim and the landscape became more mountainous with deep valleys and craggy hills. Descents were often long and delightful on superb snow, ascents equally as long, slightly less delightful. Not many days into this section, one side of my friend’s cable bindings snapped, requiring some improvisation with cable ties and cord – always useful to have on a trip, as is superglue (I had to glue the sole of my boot back on a few years ago). This held out quite well but four days later another cable snapped on a high, cold and exposed mountain in a gathering gale, rendering the binding useless. Fortunately for us we were close to a road and were able to get out, divert to a ski shop, replace the bindings and resume the trip without losing any days.

Skiing to Bjornhollia from Eldabu

We left the ski village and headed north into the Jotunheimen – the ‘land of the giants’ in Norse mythology and the land of the giants in Scandinavian mountain geography as it contains northern Europe’s two highest peaks, Galdhopiggen and Glitertinden. It is an area of sharp alpine peaks, black cliffs, sweeping glaciers and frozen lakes. The weather for this section alternated between dazzling blue sky days and bleak, snowy days with flat light and poor visibility.

Jotunheimen – the ‘land of the giants’

Fortunately, the last day of the trip saw us at a hut at the bottom of Galdhopiggen with a blue sky day forecast – we needed to be up and down by 3pm to make our transport connections. The ascent to Scandinavia’s highest point of 8,100′ was steep in places but a relatively straightforward skin up rewarded with fine views across sharp ridges, fine summits and glaciers. The ski down was interesting (a euphemism for scary in parts) and would definitely be better on fatter skis but we made it down in time to get to the taxi to take us to a bus to take us to a train and a plane, out of the white world for another year.

Geoff on Galdhopiggen

Geoff Shoults

To view more of Geoff’s beautiful photography, check out his website below.

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