Hogafjellet seen from Flatafjellet
Høgafjellet is the highest mountain on the Osterøy island, and also the highest mountain in Osterøy Kommune. Osterøy and Vaksdal Kommune share border at the Høgafjellet summit, but Vaksdal's highest mountain is Skjerjavasshovden, 1264m.
The mountain dominates the northern part of Osterøy, and the view is superb in all directions. In order to reach this summit, a longer hike is required. Although the mountain can be reached from several directions, the route from the power plant at Tysse is perhaps the most fascinating. A couple of features such as a 652 step stairway from the trailhead and river crossing near lake øvre Botnavatnet are absolutely worth experiencing.
The nature in this mountain area is dramatic, and the terrain leaves you few options about where to go.
Høgafjellet's primary factor is 868m, which is also the height of the mountain. This ranks Høgafjellet as #5 in Hordaland, based on the primary factor.
Note: Class ratings are in reference to YDS (Yosemite Decimal System).
Tysse - Hogafjellet (round-trip, all seasons)
From Bergen, follow E16 towards Oslo. Not too far after the Arnanipa tunnel (approx. 30min from Bergen), exit right towards Osterøy. Cross the Osterøybrua bridge and pay the toll fare (currently NOK 40,-)
From the tool booth, drive towards the Tirsås tunnel (2020m). Follow signs towards Lonevåg and then Fotlandsvåg and Tysse. Approx. 35,7Km from the toll booth, down in Tysse centre, turn sharp right onto an unmarked narrow paved road with a pipeline to the left. Follow this road for approx. 1450m until you reach the end of the road, by a power plant. Note that after approx. 550m, the road "Y" forks. Go right. Find parking at the power plant.
To lake øvre Botnavatnet
The route begins at the power plant by lake Osvatnet (75m) and runs either up a long stairway (652 steps), or through a forest trail further to the right of the power plant. This trail description will only describe going up the stairway.
The stairway is perhaps the most challenging section of the entire route. It is steep in the beginning, and turns steeper, perhaps up to 45 degrees at the steepest. Caution is advised at all times. Special care must be taken when the stairs are slippery. Do not lean on the wooden handrail and watch out for rotten or broken steps. Above the steep section, the stairway continues, but now serve as a wooden path on the ground and as bridge over a short steep section.
When done with the stairway, you reach a pipeline and follow this nearly all the way to lake nedre Botnavatnet. You will have to take a step away from the pipeline from time to time, as water come out from numerous cracks. At the lake, you will soon see a manmade rock bridge that will take you across the lake. This bridge may be partly or completely under water when there is extreme amounts of water in motion down the mountain. An alternative way across may be across the west end of the lake, but this has not been verified. In front of the bridge, to your right you see a different trail. I imagine that this is the alternative trail from the power plant, but I have not verified this.
Follow a nature trail to the Tyssebotnen houses, from where the trail runs in diagonal up the hillside towards a pass below øvre Botnavatnet dam. A bridge will (normally) take you across the river. Then follow a narrow pass (or along the wires further right) up to the dam. The bridge had partly collapsed when we visited the area in March, 2003. If there is a lot of water in motion, then you will not be able to cross the river if there is no functional bridge. If you decide to take the regular trail (north of lake øvre Botnavatnet), then lots of water might also pose a problem when you need to cross the dam further up. The alternative is a vertical ladder to the left. The ladder should be checked thoroughly before you begin climbing. A rope is hanging next to the ladder. The purpose of this rope is still unclear to me. Should you choose to climb up the ladder, then consider seriously if this rope is to be trusted, and if it brings you any additional security.
At the dam, you may choose to go left, cross the dam and locate the standard trail that is marked with yellow paint all the way to Høgafjellshytta. Note that this trail runs to the left, via a tremendous viewpoint before it turns away from the steep drop towards lake nedre Botnavatnet. The rest of this route description explains a round-trip where you will be descending on this route.
Locate a wide and gentle gully south of the dam (to your right) and follow this upwards. After gaining elevation in the gully, you will see a balcony up to your left. Turn left early, and find a safe and easy route up to the balcony. On the balcony, you have a steep mountain face up to your left. Walk along the face until you find a possible route upwards. Assuming you find the same route we took, you will encounter a small class 2+ route before the terrain levels out at around 700m.
When you get to the small lake area, continue eastbound and make sure you stay within the 700m contour line boundary on your way across Litlafjellet. After a while you will join a marked trail (rocks with yellow paint) that takes you all the way to Høgafjellet summit. The summit is marked with a large cairn, with a "Høgafjellet" sign on the cairn. There is also a summit register in a mailbox.
Back to the dam
From the summit, follow a 11 o' clock route northbound down towards Høgafjellshytta. Go left past the cabin and locate a cairn route (yellow paint) that runs near the steep drop down to lake øvre Botnavatnet. Head for a distinct hump near the steep face and stick close to the face until you reach a cabin SW of point 694. Alternatively, you may from Høgafjellshytta hike over point 770m (marked by a large cairn) before you descend down towards the hump described above.
You cannot descend until you are north of the cabin SW of point 694. From the cabin, make sure you find the trail, and follow the yellow marking all the way back to the dam. Parts of the trail, west of the lake and closer to the dam, run in slightly cumbersome terrain. Just before you reach the dam, the trail will take you to a magnificient viewpoint above lake nedre Botnavatnet (mentioned earlier). Enjoy the views before heading down towards the dam.
A while ago, Petter and PJ went after Høgafjellet, in dense fog and a only a print-out of my Høgafjellet web page, to navigate by. They reached a very distinct cairn, but this wasn't the Høgafjellet summit. Petter had several comments to my web page. The rock bridge by lake nedre Botnavatnet was almost under water. Only a narrow slippery path was left above water. And due to a raging river, crossing the dam was a complex undertaking. In any circumstance, it was clear that they had to come back and visit the real summit.
Sunday, March 23 2003 was the day. Petter invited me to come along. And in addition to PJ (Pål Jørgen, Petter's son, age 14), Erik (a swedish business associate of Petter) came along. I had visited Høgafjellet in April 2000, but was happy to go back with good company. Erik had visited Galdhøpiggen twice, and now we wanted to show him Hordaland nature in its wildest form and shape. It was a rainy and misty morning, but we had some hopes that the rain would sease and the fog would lift. And when we arrived Osterøy, the weather was clearly better than in Bergen.
We left the power plant in Tysse at 10:20AM and headed up the intimidating stairway. When Petter had told Erik that the trail begins with a stair, I'm quite sure that this was nothing close to what Erik had imagined. Arriving the lake, I was happy to see that the rock bridge was well above water. After a short break in Tyssebotnen, we headed up the mountain side and arrived below the dam. To our surprise, we found the bridge in a real bad shape. As the bridge had collapsed, we investigated the waterfall and quickly concluded that there was no way across, except via the bridge. The vertical ladder next to the bridge looked far from inviting. Getting across offered no problems, but one clearly respects the raging stream below. Once in these waters, there's no obvious way out.
Petter had uttered a desire of a round-trip hike, and at the dam we checked out a possible route. A trivial gully would clearly take us high on a route towards Litlafjellet. As we moved up the gully, the fog was now dense and routefinding became difficult. We were now hiking on snow, but the snow was excellent to hike on. We advanced up to a balcony, but had to walk along a steep face before we found a route up. The second part of this route was the only time I had to crawl and use the axe active in order to get to safer ground. We were now in easier terrain, and walked about without any particular precision. After a while, I noticed footprints in the snow, and I asked Petter if it would be reasonable to assume these came from the summit. "Not necessarily", he replied and then we considered if it was our track. I pulled out the GPS, and a vicious circle appeared on the display. "Time for some serious navigation", Petter uttered and took a new course towards the summit. And after a short while, we ran into a marked trail that I assume came from Bernessætri. Footprints were following this trail, and it was clear that someone else had reached the summit in recent past. We reached the summit 14:40PM in something close to a total white-out, and found that the footprints belong to a guy who had reached the summit at 10:00AM the same day.
After a short summit stay, we headed down towards Høgafjellshytta. Visibility was still close to zero, and every cornice resembled a potential drop. But down by the hut, the worst fog disappeared, and we had a clear view towards the route ahead. PJ ran up to point 770 and checked out the summit cairn. Back down, he could verify that this was the point where they had ended their earlier hike, mistaking it for Høgafjellet summit. The evil spell was now definitely broken.
The hike back to the stairway was long, but went well. Crossing the broken bridge below the dam required some degree of concentration, but except for this, the mind and soul could relax until we reached the stairway. It started raining when we left Høgafjellshytta, and the stairway steps had turned quite slippery. When you also have the notion that every step is one second from collapsing, it was yet again time to put the brain to work. I was looking down the stairway and couldn't quite believe that during my previous hike to Høgafjellet, I had carried the dog in my hands while climbing this monster. Up and down. Through this, I had earned, what Petter calls "extra credit".
We reached the trailhead approx. 17:30PM, 7 hours + from when we started. A good hike.
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