Jostedalsbreen

View of the Nigardsbreen in the Jostedalsbreen

Jostedalsbreen is the largest glacier on the European mainland. It is located in the county of Sogn og Fjordane in Norway, and the many arms of the glacier can be seen from different parts of Sogn og Fjordane. Its size and position makes the glacier a key barrier to travel around the county.

Understand

The main glacier rests on a mountain plateau west of the Jostedalen valley, hence the name. The glacier ice covers a total area of about 500 km2, while the national park is more than 1300 km2. Jostedalsbreen is a temperate glacier such that it is at melting point throughout the year, from its surface to its base. The glacier is not frozen to the bedrock but flows along the slopes and through the valleys like a river, albeit at very low speed from 1 cm/day up to 100 cm/day (3 feet per day). Flow is highest at surface and middle causing the ice to crack and break up. Chunks of ice regularly falls from the edge or front of the glacier, a process known as ice calving. Waves in lakes or the chunks of ice themselves are deadly.

Glaciers are created by snow accumulated and gradually transformed into ice ("blue ice"). Snow melts of at lower parts of the glacier during summer revealing the blue ice (actual glacier), while the higher parts of the glacier has permanent snow cover. Glaciers like Jostedalsbreen are created and maintained by heavy snowfall at high altitudes, rather than by extreme temperatures as in the Antarctic.

Jostedalsbreen is basically a plateau glacier or ice cap, while the arms or branches are valley glaciers. Jostedalsbreen has some 30 named arms into the adjacent valleys, among the well known are:

East of Jostedalen towards road 15 and 55 is the Breheimen ("Glacier park") protected area, and this area has number of smaller glaciers. West and South there are several smaller glacier not fully connected to Jostedalsbreen proper, but often seen as part of Jostedalsbreen system. Together with nextdoor Jotunheimen these form the highest and most alpine mountains in Norway.

Smaller, independent glaciers digging into mountain slopes creating amphitheater shapes are cirque glaciers, "botnbre" in Norwegian, hence the generic name "botn" in Norway's mountains.

History

Lodalskåpa and Brenibba summits are nunataks or glacial islands

The glacier and the mountains surrounding it became a national park in 1991.

Jostedalen and many other secluded valleys in Sogn district were abandoned after the Black Death (1349) and remained uninhabited for the next 200 years. Around 1700, during the "Little Ice Age", glaciers advanced several kilometers down the valleys and destroyed farms.

Landscape

Mountains, some of them scrubbed bare by the ice. Many valleys. And glaciers rising to a height of 2083 m (6833 ft).

Flora and fauna

At lower elevation the flora is quite rich. This is because of the pure meltwater flowing down the valley. Closer to the glacier the flora is of an arctic type. On the glacier there is not much animal life. Red deer, lynx and wolverines could be spotted. In the mountains and valleys around the fauna is richer. Especially the red deer can often be seen. Eagles can also be seen.

Climate

In the valleys and the mountain area around the glacier the climate can be temperate in summertime. On the glacier the temperature is lower. There can be snowfall even in mid-summer.

Stay safe

Reckless visitors ignoring fence and safety warnings

Glaciers are one of the most dangerous places for visitors to the Norwegian outdoor. Never underestimate the power of the glacier. Observe warning signs. Never approach the front of the glacier. A glacier is not a stable piece of ice, it is constantly moving and huge chunks regularly fall of.

Do not enter the glacier without proper equipment and skilled guide. Preferably in an organised group tour with a guide. Sunrays get reflected from the white snow, so it necessary to use sunscreen to protect your skin. Bring warm clothes for tours on the glacier.

Get in

Bøyabreen arm near road 5 in Fjærland
Arial view of the entire glacier in June

Jostedalsbreen largely rests on a mountain plateau with arms stretching in all directions to the valleys beneath. Only the arms of the glaciers are visible to visitors and the main glacier is visible only from airplane. The glacier can be approached from any of the valleys around the glacier, and there are many access points.

Most of Jostedalsbreen is protected as national park which means that there are no roads within the park limits. Motor vehicles are not allowed outside roads. Motor transport is only to the edge of park or to one of the arms of the glacier.

Glaciers are treacherous and extremely dangerous, and visitors must keep a safe distance to the glacier arms. Visitors can hike on the glacier only with a professional guide. Guide services are available at Nigardsbreen (Jostedalen valley) and Olden/Loen/Stryn area.

By car

Public transport is limited with few departures daily, so a car is the only flexible way to get to the edge of the park.

Road 5 Sogndal-Skei runs in a tunnel in the bedrock under the glacier, and the Bøyabreen arm is visible close to the road at the tunnel entrance in Fjærland.

The Stryn summer ski centre operates at the northern end of the glacier along road 258 Stryn-Grotli.

From Oslo
From Bergen
From Trondheim
From Geiranger

By bus or rail

Sign at park limit

As Sogn og Fjordane county barely has railway lines, the best public transport option is by bus. Buses often operate on a limited schedule, but the entire county is well-covered. The map on Ruteinfo.net will show you bus stations, bus stops and accommodation including telephone numbers. As the map is not in English, select one of the municipalities bordering the glacier (Jølster, Luster, Sogndal or Stryn) where it says VEL KOMMUNE. Local bus can be used for the last kilometers to the glacier front.

From Trondheim
From Bergen
From Oslo and Oslo airport

By boat

No branch of the glacier reach sea level, but the glacier is partly visible from some of the surrounding fjords.

Fees/Permits

There is no fee to enter the park.

Get around

See also: Hiking in the Nordic countries

There are no roads in the park, so the only option is by foot. Visitors must in no case hike the glacier on their own, glaciers are extremely dangerous and hikes must always be with a professional, local guide.

See

Glacier information centre at Stryn

The following attractions are related to the glacier and the park. However they are situated outside the boundaries of the park.

If you only would like to see the glacier, without walking on it, this are the best options:

Do

The glacier above Olden lake

Trekking and glacier walking can only be done with a professional, local guide. Here is a list of organised glacier tours:

Individual tours could be arranged with the tour-guide upon request.

Buy

A ticket to the Norwegian Glacier Museum in Fjærland.

Eat

Traditional Sogn og Fjordane cuisine. Raspeballar, pinnekjøt or spekekjøt.

Drink

Olden, which is a bottled water from the Jostedalsbreen glacier. Its source lies in the Oldedalen valley south of Olden in Stryn municipality.

Sleep

Lodging

Camping

There are no designated camping ground in the park.

Go next

The rest of Sogn og Fjordane county is scenic. Also, nearby counties have a lot of splendid scenery too. There is a vast variety of things to do and see on your way to e.g. Oslo or Bergen.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, March 14, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.