23 February 2005 // By Anton Greiffenberg
A long time destination for my family-in-law the Norwegian alpine- and cross-country area of Beitostølen is loved by the entire family for it’s beautiful trails and mountain views. Overlooking the whole area and guarding the southern entrance of Jotunheimen is the majestic mountain of Bitihorn reaching 1607 meters into the clear, blue sky. This year both Mathias, Fred and I was in Beitostølen along with our families and the three of us decided to get a better view of the valley from the top. Being experienced mountaineers Mathias and Fred were naturally in charge of the whole affair and they decided, that we should cross-country ski the north side of the mountain and from there traverse to the top.
But before we got started our trio became a quartet. Martin, son of legendary fighter pilot and cousin Olav Guldbrandsen, agreed to join the trip. We all bought skins for our skis and at 10 o'clock Ole dropped us off at the closed road leading to the Båtskardet pass on the east side of Bitihorn. The sky was blue, wind down to almost nothing and with temperatures just around 0 we could not have hoped for more perfect conditions.
After 1½ hour we were side by side with the northern ridge stretching all the way from top. It is not a fairly long ridge – about 2 km – but since we were to go all the way around it, we started looking for a short cut. And it did not take long to find one – half way we spotted some old trails heading straight up towards the ridge.
As soon as we left the cross-country trails, we started the ascent after having equipped our skis with skin. The short cut was not very steep, but it turned to get us the most trouble of the day. Crossing the ridge we came upon an icy spot and even though a warning was sent out, Martin slipped and dropped a few metres. No problem, really, but when he took off his skis, he accidentally dropped one. I have never heard Fred curse before, but I soon realized his English vocabulary is pretty much complete. Luckily the ski had not gone very far, Mathias went to get it, Martin climbed back up and soon we were all back on track.
The north face of Bitihorn turned out to be in perfect shape; lots of untouched snow and in mint condition. Mathias immediately regretted not bringing his snowboard as we started traversing up the side. The skins turned out be a good investment and within an hour we were standing 200 meters from the top on the north-western ridge. This ridge is the official hiking route and therefore marked all the way to the top – a nice thing to know if the weather suddenly turns bad. The last part was too steep for our skis, so we continued on foot.
Almost racing the last couple of metres we reached the top after approximately 3 hours. My first mountain climbing experience and even though Bitihorn is no Everest, it was a great feeling when I planted Betses Danish flag on top of Beitostølen. Looking north we could see the endless widths of Jotunheimen and south the valley and surroundings of Beito. Maybe, just maybe, we could even see our hut and the rest family cheering at us.
The descent was just a blast! It took a while before Martin dared to take of the skins of his skis, but soon we were all staggering down in the best telemark way as possible. Trust me, regular cross-country skis are not very fit for this purpose if you are not born Norwegian. But is was fun – a lot of fun. Since it was pretty much all down hill from here, we were back at the hut in Beito after only 5 hours.