Austerdalsberget is not a peak, but the highest rock point on a rocky ridge that runs from Austerdalen valley and up to Jostedalsbreen glacier, cutting in-between the glaciers Lokebreen and Odinsbreen. From Austerdalsberget, you only descend slightly before the ascent up to point 1874m on Jostedalsbreen, begins.
On older maps, this point was refered to as Kvitesteinsvarden. On newer maps, this point is only listed as 1657m. The name Austerdalsberget was found in the (fantastic) book Opptur by Anne Rudsengen, and based on a description of the Kvitesteinsvarden cairn (source: the internet), Kvitesteinsvarden is (most likely) the cairn found at approx. 1410m. William C. Slingsby - a British pioneer in the Norwegian mountains - and also the first ascender of Store Skagastølstind thought he was the first (along with his party) to explore this area, as they headed out from Veitastrond. According to Slingsby, the view from Austerdalen towards the glaciers/icefalls Loke, Odin and Tor (names from old Norse mythology) was, quote: "the finest ice scenery in Europe". Little did Slingsby know that Kristian Bing and Kristian Sygnesand had traveled from Lunde and built the cairn that is known as Kvitesteinsvarden.
Arguable as it may be, these icefalls are most likely the most spectacular view that you will find around the Jostedalsbreen glacier - Norway's largest glacier.
Kvitesteinsvarden (the white stone cairn) is located at approx. 1410m, and yes, there is a white stone on top of the cairn. A "T" marked route runs from the point where you leave the Austerdalsbreen glacier and step onto Austerdalsberget, and up to Kvitesteinsvarden. The "T" route does not imply that anyone can just walk up here. In order to get onto Austerdalsberget, you have to cross Austerdalsbreen and the bottom of the Odinsbreen icefall. Furthermore, the route involves several points where scrambling is necessary, and (at least) one point where a fall is fatal. These points may or not be secured be wire, and thus, the red T's painted on rock are only useful for parties equipped for glacier crossing and rock belay.
Once on Kvitesteinsvarden or Austerdalsberget, there are not many options for descent. One alternative is (of course) to descend the same route, or to a completely different trailhead. Crossing the glacier and descend into Briksdalen via the Kattanakken ridge, may be the shorest route to a different trailhead.
If you want to return to Tungestølen on a roundtrip hike, you can cross point 1874m, Bings Gryte and Grensevarden and descend either via Opptaksnovi or Nystølsnovi. Both these routes are described on the Opptakshaugane page.
Two other alternatives are descents from (or near) Skyttarpiggen. These routes bring you back to Tungestølen, which is the Austerdalen entry point. Both routes are mentally and physically demanding, although not necessarily techincally difficult. A descent just west of Skyttarpiggen is described on this page, but is absolutely not recommended in fog. Given that the best route is found, the descent does not require a rope. Time and positive thinking are the key factors.
Both Austerdalsberget and Kvitesteinsvarden are just local points below point 1874m on Jostedalsbreen. The primary factors are modest, approx. 10m.
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The trails described below are not necessarily the *easiest* trails to this mountain.
Tungestølen - Austerdalsbreen - Kvitesteinsvarden - Lokebreen roundtrip (autumn)
From Sogndal, follow highway RV77 ("Lom") approx. 13,9Km. At Hafslo, turn left towards "Veitastrond" and follow this road 36,8Km to a self-served toll booth (NOK 20,- for passenger cars per Oct 2005). The road now turns to gravel. Proceed 3,5Km to the Nystølen/Tungestølen junction. Turn right towards Tungestølen and find parking by the Austerdalselvi river (1,2Km).
This route description is targeted towards experienced groups, familiar with glaciers and icefalls as well as rock-belay techiniques. The route description is only valid for the time it was written (Sep 2006) as the route characteristics and the glacier conditions will change over time.
Autumn, before snowfall, is the recommended season for this roundtrip hike. After snowfall, at least Lokebreen can be a dangerous glacier to cross.
As the groups are expected to be experienced, they already carry all the important and necessary stuff. This section only adds a few comments:
Two ice-axes (opposed to one) will ease the crossing of the icefall. If you plan to descend the same route, or one of the routes near Skyttarpiggen, leather boots are the recommended footwear. Plastic boots should be considered if you plan to travel on the Jostedalsbreen glacier.
You need equipment for belay on rock and ice-screws for belay in the icefall or on the glacier. Plan for camping on the glacier (or on Kvitesteinsvarden) as a day-hike may give you time constraints, unless you hike from sunrise to sunset. Besides this, travel as "light" as you can.
From the parking by the Austerdalselvi river, cross the river on a bridge and follow a well-worn path into Austerdalen. Deep inside the valley, you cross one of the smaller rivers on bridge before you ascend the Austerdalsnovi toe and get the Austerdalsbreen glacier in view. You will pass a cairn with a plaque holding Slingsby's famous words about this area.
Enter Austerdalsbreen glacier, which is (without snow) a straightfoward glacier to walk. Crampons and ice-axe are of course necessary. Follow this glacier approx. 2Km until you reach the lower part of the Odinsbreen icefall. You need to cross parts of the icefall in order to get onto Austerdalsberget - a distinct mountain ridge rising south of Odinsbreen.
You should try to find a icefall route that leads you directly towards the entry point for the "T" route. Don't leave the glacier too soon, which will lead you into slab and bergschrund terrain. And don't climb too high on the glacier, as it will get difficult to get off. Try to find a good ice route along the mountain ridge, and hopefully, you should be able to find a good route off the glacier. A roped party without belay will not necessarily provide additional security, as it is easy to be put off-balance if one falls (cascade effect). Belaying in the icefall can be a time-consuming task, so make sure you allocate sufficient time for this section. The need for belay will depend on your choice of route. Two ice-axes will be much more helpful than just one.
Enter the mountain ridge, ascend a short section of slab, then look left (in the direction of Austerdalen) for a "T" painted in red. Cross a slab section before you get to the "crux" (the hardest point) on the rock route. The crux is a 10m horizontal ledge, where a fall is fatal. Handholds are few. Use a rope here.
Proceed upwards and try to follow the marked route. A couple of sections must be scrambled, but you may find wires to hold on to. Old bolts can also be used for handholds, provided that you think they are safe. Expect high grass. If the grass is wet, you'll be wet. Next, you head into a basin with a small waterfall coming down the mountain. Cross this waterfall (easy) and round a distinct corner. There are a couple of additional scrambling sections until you gain the ridge. Once on the ridge, the rest of the route up to Kvitesteinsvarden is straightforward. Fog will turn this ascent into a time-consuming task.
If your plan involves camping, then consider point 32 V 391149 6831466 (UTM), 70m southwest of the Kvitesteinsvarden cairn. This campsite was prepared by our group and fits a 3-person tent. Water (may not be running, but still fine) is within meters from the campsite.
The top of Austerdalsberget is recommended as a evening hike (30 minutes to the top). The top is 1,1Km northwest of Kvitesteinsvarden and has a couple of cairns marking the rock plateau. You should be able to hike from Kvitesteinsvarden to the top without crossing ice, providing the glacier doesn't suddenly begin to expand.
From Kvitesteinsvarden, head for Lokebreen. The further to the right (north) you stay, the fewer crevasses you have to deal with. Things doesn't really get complicated until you ascend up to the saddle between points 1670m and 1665m. Some crevasses may extremely wide and nasty. Caution!
This is a ROUGH route down the mountain, and is only meant as an alternative for those who want a direct, non-technical descent from the Skyttarpiggen area. Note that if you don't find the correct route, everything becomes difficult. And while no ropes are required on the best route, the route is still demanding and dangerous in the event of a unexpected fall.
Pass point 1665m on the west side and proceed south-east towards rocky terrain west of point 1593m. Note that this descent should not be done in fog. The task is to get into a wide couloir, where point 1593's west face forms the eastern side of the couloir. More precisely, the upper couloir is a series of small gullies with ridges in-between. A traverse across these gullies is needed in order to find a practical route into the main couloir. Expect to cross snowfields between 1500 and 1400m elevation. Crampons are necessary.
At approx. 1000m elevation, the couloir splits into two deep gullies with waterfalls. Proceed on the ridge between these gullies. The ridge becomes much steeper than the terrain you've descended up to now. An ice-axe is an invaluable tool here, and hold on to bush! The first crux (slabs/cliffs) on this ridge is bypassed on the left-hand side. Then stay left until the terrain forces you towards the right. Eventually, the ridge drops sudden. Turn right here, cross a stream and descend along the stream on the far side.
This route will take you to the top of a cliff and a distinct waterfall. Seek left and descend through dense bush and forest. Bypass ugly slabs by seeking left, but expect to descend some of these by holding onto bush. You end up on a "terrace" below the waterfall. Cross the river again and continue descent on the far side. Once down by Langedøla river, follow a visible path back to Tungestølen.
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