|William Cecil Slingsby & Norway's 2000m Peaks
Above, the southern ridge of Uranostinden from Raudehaugen. Slingsby made the first ascent in July 1876 via Uranosbreen (to the right) and the north ridge with Emanuel Mohn.
|This page gives information about the mountains in Norway that rise above 2000m and about William Cecil Slingsby's adventures in Jotunheimen. Many visits to
Norway have inspired me to create a list of the major 2000m mountains in the country and make the list available here. This list is not unique and several
Norwegians have websites dedicated to this subject too. My list includes 130 mountains in Norway with a prominence of at least 100m, this means to say that
there is at least a drop of 100m on all sides of the summit. 96 of these mountains are in the Jotunheimen massif. Of great significance is the fact that many of the
mountains and their ascents require very good alpine mountain skills, a high level of fitness due to the distances and ascents involved, and solid glacier skills.
Get the pdf file with a list of Norway's 2000m Peaks by clicking here.
Activities in 1874
In the Hurrungane, which quickly became Slingsby's favourite area. He set off with his friend and travelling companion Dewhurst from Vetti Gard in Utledalen at
360m above sea level, above the town of Øvre Aardal, and proceeded through Stølsmaradalen to Stølsmaradalsbreen and made the first crossing of Ringsskar
(Rings pass or col) at 1750m with a descent by Ringselvi to Ringsseter. The local people at Ringsseter thought they were elves emerging from the hills. Their
route involved 4km of glacier work and in total was 24km, taking about 10 hours. Today one would choose to arrive at Turtagrø close to Ringsseter and there is
also a self service DNT hut in Stølsmaradalen, 3 hours above Vetti Gard and most would choose a stop over here when mountaineering on this side of the range.
From the magnificent Røisheim in Bøverdalen, Slingsby, Dewhurst, Eilif and another Norwegian ascended Galdhøpiggen (2469m) which is the highest mountain
in Scandinavia. Galdhøpiggen was first climbed in 1854. From Røisheim at an elevation of 500m they walked up over open mountainside, probably passing
Raudbergstulen and the future site of Juvasshytta (built in 1884) to the glacier Styggebrean at an altitude of 2000m. They crossed the glacier to the rocky ridge and
gained the summit after 7 hours. They descended via the modern day route to Galdhøpiggen directly to Spiterstulen - at that time only a two-room seter (or
sheiling) at an altitude of 1100m in Visdalen. They met a couple here with their small daughter who were tending to their animals during their two month stay.
Next Slingsby describes a day of two ascents of the highest peaks of the Uradalstindene - now known as Semelholstind and Visbretind. However, there is much
evidence to suggest that this day has been misplaced in the book from the 30th of August 1881 - the day Slingsby and Johannes Vigdal are credited with the first
ascents of these two peaks. Firstly, the day mentioned concludes with a descent to Gjendin - compliant with a departure from Gjendin the next day of the 1st of
September 1881 with Vigdal. Secondly, they descended from the aforementioned ascent of Galdhøpiggen to Spiterstulen, where Ole Røisheim met them as
arranged that evening, with Rolf Alfsen (and not at Gjendin). Thirdly, they departed from Spiterstulen the next day on the ascent of Memurutinden.
Memurutindan 2280m (1st ascent)
From Spiterstulen they walked along Visdalen for almost 4 km before turning towards Hellstugubrean. They ascended the first 2 or so kilometers of this glacier
before ascending the steep "steilebræ" (steep glacier) by grid reference 711250 to the rocky ridge. From here there is a short distance to the summit. On return
they descended by rocks close to the steilebræ to Vestre Memurubrean, which they followed to Memurudalen. From here they still had quite a walk via
Memurutunga and Storådalen back to Gjendebu. Slingsby writes "This was our first maiden peak, and, to say the least, we felt mightily proud". This sentence
cements the fact that the ascents of Semelholstind and Visbretind must be misplaced - and thus belongs to 1881, see below.
Gjendebu to Eidsbugarden & Skinneggen
Following two big mountain days, Slingsby, Dewhurst and Rolf Alfsen walked to Eidsbugarden at the head of Lake Bygdin. This valley walk took them 5 hours, the
same time as the footpath between these two huts takes today. That evening Slingsby walked up to Skinneggi with three Norwegians who were also staying at
Eidsbugarden. The probably walked up to Utsikten (The View) at 1518m or point 1607m, just over 3km from the Tourist Club hut, and enjoyed the sunset.
From Eidsbugarden, Slingsby, Dewhurst and Alfsen departed for a traverse of the remote and wild Morka-Koldedal valley - a seldom used route but short cut back
to Vetti Gard. They likely passed the northern shore of Lake Tyin and then followed the Koldedøla river for a distance before crossing a snow bridge (luckily
affording them a possible crossing) and ascending the Koldedalsbreen. It appears that they crossed the rocky rib onto the upper reaches of the left hand branch of
the glacier before turning back as Alfsen would go no further. In my opinion they were attempting the unnamed point 1822m marked on modern maps. They
descended the glacier to Koldedalsvatnet and followed the south western shore into Morka-Koldedalen. Slingsby actually walked on the ice on the lake to avoid the
danger of falling ice. They all crossed the upper two ice covered lakes as they judged the shorelines to be impassable. After crossing the ice of the upper lake of
Andrevatnet (1227m) Slingsby admired the view back towards "the sugar-loaf" of Gjeldedalstind. This characteristic peak is called Hjelledalstinden (1989m) and
Slingsby referred to the summits on the south side of Morka-Koldedal collectively as Gjeldedalstindene. They descended from the pass and through forest to
above Vettisfossen before continuing to Vetti Gard. A trip of 29km which took them close to 11 hours.
On the final couple of days of this visit, the three walked into the upper Stølsmaradalen and pitched a tent below the glacier. They were beaten back the following
day by bad weather and descended all the way to Aardal via the high path on the north western side of Utledalen and Avdalen.
Activities in 1875
Again in July, Slingsby visited Røisheim. When departing for the mountains he left with his sister Edith and Rolf Alfsen, who he again had hired to help with
carrying supplies. They walked into Visdalen and upon reaching the Glitre, the stream coming off the western slopes of Glittertind, they turned up the hillside and
followed the waters for a while before traversing towards Steindalen and ascending Glitterrundhøe. From this minor rounded summit at 2089m, they could see the
snow dome of Glittertind (2465m). Alfsen waited on the snows not far from the actual summit of Glittertind as Slingsby and his sister roped up for the final meters
on the Glitterbrean glacier. The ascent took them eight hours and forty minutes and Edith was the first lady to reach the summit. The descent to Spiterstulen was
straight forward taking a further four hours and twenty minutes. A day of 28km.
From Spiterstulen, the three walked along Visdalen and past the impressive Kyrkja (2032m) to Leirvatnet. Slyngsby had wanted to climb Kyrkja or 'The Church' but
time did not allow and they pressed on into Gravdalen - a great shame as this is one of the most impressive and accessible mountains in Norway. Beyond
Gravdalen and into Storutledalen, they overnighted at the primitive Muradn Seter, not far from the watershed, after a day of 27km. Incidentally, the mountain hut of
Leirassbu by the shores of Leirvatnet was first built in this year. However, the building work must have begun after Slingsby's visit as he makes no mention of it
and I am sure he would have stayed in order to make an ascent of Kyrkja possible.
From Muradn seter they had trouble crossing the Utla river, but with the assistance of a boy and a horse they made it. They then followed the course of the modern
day route to Skogadalsbøen and afterwards traversed the eastern side of Utledalen below Friken. They toiled for seven hours to reach the top of Vettisfossen
before descending further to Vetti Gard. A day of 19km.
Activites in 1876
In the July of 1876, Slingsby and Emanuel Mohn arrived in Jotunheimen from the south, close to the eastern end of Lake Bygdin. They stayed in a small hut owned
by Knut Lykken by Raufjorden and their first day invovled an ascent of Austre Kalvåhøgda (2178m) on the northern shores of Bygdin. In poor weather they rowed
across Bygdin to Hestevollen and as the weather improved, ascended the easy mountainside to the summit. They returned by the same route giving a short day of
10km from the shores of Bygdin.
Slingsby ascended the prominent summit of Bitihorn by the southern entrance to Jotunheimen. Bitihorn (1607m) is easily reached in 2km from Raufjorden.
Øystre (Austre) Torfinnstinden (1st ascent)
After walking along the north shore of Bygdin to Nybue (Nybod), Slingsby, Mohn and Lykken made the first ascent of Torfinnstinden (2120m) by its southern flank.
The ascent took three hours from Nybue and involved scrambling over steep scree and though difficult and loose gullies. The descent via the same route took a
further two and a half hours.
Galdeberget (1st ascent)
The three followed their ascent of Torfinnstinden by another first ascent. This time they ascended Galdeberget (2075m) from Nybue via the open moorland north of
Bygdin and south of Langedalstjernet lake. They crossed the Galdeberget glacier to the open ridge which they followed to the summit. They descended the
western flank of Galdeberget to Bygdin and on to Eidsbugarden. A day of 20km.
Uranostinden & Slingsbytinden (1st ascents)
From Eidsbugarden the three continued their expedition by making further new ascents. They left the hut and followed the long undulating ridge of Langeskavlen
before dropping onto the Uranosbreen. It appears they avoided the summit of Langeskavltinden (2014m) which is one of the easiest 2000m summits. The group
ascended to the wide pass between the Uranosbreen and the Skogadalsbreen. From here they ascended to the col on the ridge north of Uranostinden before
Slingsby and Mohn followed the narrowing rocky ridge to make the first ascent of this summit (2157m). They then descended to the col and Slingsby continued
alone to make the first ascent of the summit north of the col. Slingsbytinden or Nørdre Uranostinden (2026m). The three descended Skogadalsbreen and followed
Skogadalen to Skogadalsboen. A day of 24km and approximately 1200m of ascent and 1400m of descent.
Gjertvasstind (1st ascent)
Another day of good weather afforded the three another first ascent, this time on Gjertvasstind (2351m), the eastern most summit in the central Hurrungane. From
Skogadalsbøen they descended, crossed the bridge over the Utla and waded the river Gjertvasselvi before continuing to the site of Gjertvassbøen. From here they
followed the slowly narrowing mountainside, over snow fields and a small glacier to the impressive summit ridge and dramatic summit that towers above
Maradalsbreen and Gjertvassbreen. They spent 90 minutes on the summit before following their footsteps down to Utledalen where they turned south to Vormeli
(Vormelid) at a height of 600m. They covered 16km and had 1700m of ascent and 1900m of descent over their eleven hour day.
Store Skagatølstind (1st ascent)
Even after several big mountain days, the three men were still capable of making this ascent and putting Slingsby on the summit - one of the more difficult
mountains in Northern Europe. From Vormeli they ascended into Maradalen by the river Maradøla before traversing over Rolandsnosi and crossing the ridge
between Maradalen and Midtmaradalen at 1600m leaving cairns as they went to find their way on the return. They descended into Midtmaradalen and met the
snout of Midtmaradalensbreen at an altitude of 1100m. Today the snout has receded to an altitude of 1250m (a little over 2km up the valley floor). They crossed the
lower fan of the glacier before deciding on a route up the glacier to the right of Store Skagatølstind and not the route to Bandet (to the left or west). Eleven hours
after leaving Vormeli, Slingsby reaches the col between Storen and Vesle Skagatølstind ahead of Mohn and Lykken. Slingsby had a look around before the others
joined him at the now named Mohns Skard. Mohn and Lykken stayed at the col while Slyngsby scrambled to the summit. He admired the cloudless view before
building a small cairn and leaving a handkerchief under some stones. The rocky descent to the col was difficult but without event and the three then descended the
later named Slingsbybreen and the route through Maradal. After 18 hours they arrived back at Vormeli.
On the final day of this mountaineering trip, they walked from Vormeli through Gjertvassdalen or Jervvassdalen and over Keisarpasset at 1500m. From above
Helgedalen they could see Slingsby's handkerchief on the top of Store Skagatølstind through Mohn's telescope. They continued to the town of Fortun that day.
Activites in 1877
Stølsnaastind (1st ascent)
Again in July, Slingsby was at Vetti Gard from where he made the first ascent of Stølsnaastind (2074m) with Anfind and Reusch. From Vetti Gard they followed the
zig-zags to above Vettisfossen and continued through the forest past the site of Ingjerdbu and onto open mountainside. The three most likely passed to the south
of Raudnibba (point 1553m) and arrived on the flat glaciated area of Stølsnosi at 1930m. They descended some 100m or so onto the glacier above
Morka-Koldedal and ascended Stølsnostinden by the south east ridge. Upon descent they followed their line back down the rocks to the pass on the south east
side before descending the glacier to the north into Fleskedal. They reached the seter in Fleskedal that afternoon, probably Selsbøen.
Activities in 1880
In the year 1800, Slingsby visited Norway in October. He arrived in Skolden by ferry as he had done many times before and visited Sulheim's house in Eide. With a
horse to bear they supplies they struggled up the icy road to Fotun and on to Turtagrø. The deep snow slowed their progress and after turning back below the
slopes of Fannaråki on the approach to the Keisarpass, they overnighted in the seter in Helgedal. Next day Halvar, Sulheim and Slingsby continued over
Keisarpasset and into Jervvassdalen. They left their bagage and skiis in Guridalen and continued the 4km to Vormeli in Utladalen. The following day Slingsby and
Sulheim went looking for bears and wandered downstream and visited the top of Kyrkjestigen (890m) before returning. During the subsequent days, the three
scoured the area looking for signs of bears and they bivouacked in Utladalen before scrambling their way down river to Vettisfossen and finally Vetti Gard.
Activities in 1881
On the 14th of August 1881, Slingsby met Johannes Vigdal in Skjolden at the head of Lustrafjorden to the west of the Hurrungane mountains and southeast of the
great Jostedalsbreen. The two made their way by boat to Röneid (Gaupne) and continued by road and by foot into Leirdal. They were rowed over the lake and again
continued by foot into Tverradalen and the seter there. Next morning they ascended the Tunsbergdalsbreen for some 10km onto the vast plateau of the
Josterdalsbreen. They traversed the Høgste Breakulen (highest point then 6495 feet or 1980m) and continued northwards and descended the complex glacier
arm of Kjenndalsbreen. This traverse must be one of the earliest ever made over the Jostedalsbreen. Following this, the two continued to Jotunheimen.
Semelholstinden & Visbretinden (1st ascents)
This is the day that I am certain has been misplaced. Slingsby and Johannes Vigdal departed from Spiterstulen on the morning of the 30th of August and walked
up Visdalen. Their attention was caught by the Visbrean glacier and they headed this way and ascended the glacier to its highest point - a flat snowy pass between
the two summits. From here they scrambled to the summit of Smelholstinden, or central Uradalstind as he calls it, and built a cairn. In a single sentence he
continues "We then climbed the highest Uladalstind" referring to Visbretind (2234m). They descend via good glissades to Langvatnet and continued to Gjendebu.
Although not noted by their modern day names, it is clear from the information, map and sketch of The Eastern Uladalstind and Heilstuguhö in The Northern
Playground that Slingsby and Vigdal ascended these two prominent summits.
Store Hellstugutinden (1st ascent)
From Gjendebu on the first of the month, Slingsby and Johannes Vigdal walk up Storådalen and to the cirque east of Semeltinden. They cross Semelholet and
descend slightly into Urdadalen before turning rightwards up snow fields and rocks to the col on the south ridge of Store Hellstugutinden. From here they follow the
narrowing rocky ridge to the small summit at 2346m. They descend via easy snow slopes on the Vestre Memurubrean glacier which they follow back to the cirque
by Semeltinden and via Semelåe and Storådalen to Gjendebu. A day of 26km and 1500m of ascent.
Mjølkedalstinden (1st ascent)
From Gjendebu, Vigdal and Slingsby walked up onto Gjendetunga and into Rauddalen which they followed over the watershed to a round tarn, a kilometer short of
the sight of the modern DNT hut at Olavsbu. They ascended the east side of Mjølkedalstinden over a small glacier to the col on the ENE ridge. From here the steep
rocks provided some decent scrambling and they soon reached the summit at 2138m. They descended the same way to the col then descended the easy glacier
northwards and into Rauddalen and later Storutledalen. They reached the seter in Guridalen by late evening after covering 28km and 1200m of ascent.
Gjertvassbreen & Styggedalsbreen
Aiming for Sulheim's house in Eide, Slingsby and Vigdal crossed the northern side of the Hurrungane and made a reconnaissance of Styggedalstind on the way.
They ascended the Gjertvassbreen almost to the summit of Styggedalstind, most likely to within a few hundred feet of the col between Styggedalstind and
Gjertvasstind before turning back and descending the Styggedalsbreen to Helgedalen and Turtagrø. Slingsby intended to claim the first ascent of Styggedalstind
with Sulheim who he had arranged to meet, but this never happened and Slingsby regretted turning back with the summit in reach. This was the first traverse of
this glacier crossing which is parallel to the Keisarpasset.
Activities in 1889
Mjølkedalspiggen (1st ascent)
Slingsby made the first ascent of Mjølkedalspiggen (2040m) with Hastings, Garmo and Aukrust in 1889. Although this ascent is not included in The Northern
Playground, he does describe his visit and exploration of Austerdalsbreen.
Activities in 1900
Again in 1900, Slingsby was in the Hurrungane and he based himself at Turtegrø in the company of Therese Bertheau, Howard Priestman, G. P. Baker and Elias
Hogrenning. Via Dyrhaugsryggen, they ascended Store Dyrhaugstindane (2147m) and possibly Søre Dyrhaugstinden (2072m), although this is not clear.
Store, Vesle & Midtre Skagatølstindane
At 5 am the group set off joined by their host at Turtegrø, Ole Berge. After two hours they reached the Skarstølsbreen and efficiently they ascended the glacier to
reach Bandet, the broad col between Store Skagatølstind and Søre Dyrhaugstinden. After a short break at the hut on the col they headed up the south west face of
Store Skagatølstind and via 'Heftyes renne' they climbed to the summit in two roped teams. This route involves a few moves of Scandinavian grade 4 otherwise
scrambling in a quite exposed situation. By 11am they were all on the summit and following a longer pause, they descended via Slingsby's route of first ascent 24
years earlier to reach Mohns Skard. From here they made light work of the scramble to the summit of Vesle Skagatølstind (2340m) before following the ridge to
Halls Hammer, a 10m high wall that is abseiled. The ridge becomes very narrow before reaching the minor top of Midtre Skagatølstind (2284m) that has a
prominence of about 30m. Leaving the others to rest in sunshine on the summit, Slingsby and Berge descend the north ridge to have a look at 'V-skard' from
above. This prominent feature is an uncrossed and striking V in the ridge between Nørdre and Midtre Skagatølstindane. After deciding that the rock wall must be
approached from the north, they return to the others and descend the western flank of the mountain in order to return to Turtagrø at 9.30 in the evening.
Following a late start, Slingsby, Berge, Priestman, Baker, Hogrenning and Eilert Sundt ascended Nørdre Skagatølstind (2167m) in 3 hours. They descended into
V-skard from the north and assessed the rock climb of approximately 75m on the other side before returning to the low point between næbbet (the beak, which is
the rocky high point before V-skard) and Nørdre Skagatølstind. From here they descended the western flank of the mountain via a hanging glacier, awkward rocks
and screes before reaching the valley and an easier path to Turtagrø. Two of the group though, chose to walk down the way they had ascended earlier!
This is the final day that Slingsby describes and another first as they cross the V shaped gap on the ridge between Nordre and Midtre Skarstølstindane. With Ole
Berge, Hogrenning and Sundt the four reach the bottom of the V gap just before mid day. With 25m of rope, Ole and Slingsby alternated leads and the four climbed
the 75m high rock wall in an hour. They continued to Midtre Skarstølstind before descending Hall's route bringing them back to Turtagrø by late afternoon.
|For anyone who is thinking about visiting Norway's mountains and especially the magnificent Jotunheimen mountain region, then they should first have read
Slingsby's book "NORWAY The Northern Playground" to get an affectionate description of the places he visited. I have been lucky enough to get hold of a copy of a
very early edition of this book, with help of my friend Bob Hampson at Triple B Books. The copy is from 1941 and is signed by Slingsby's youngest daughter
Eleanor who edited this edition after her fathers earlier passing in 1928. This particular copy is dedicated by her to a J. H. Preston of Gargrave, Yorkshire, England.
Once you have walked or climbed the routes, you will certainly be astounded at the achievements of his day and be able to smile at the elegance in which he
describes longs days over very hard and tiring terrain. He visited the country over twenty times in the period 1872 to 1921. His first visit at the age of 23. At a time
when few mountains had been climbed, he proved to be a mountaineering pioneer and opened new passages through the mountains and made many first
ascents. As his reputation as a skilled mountaineer became known pioneering Norwegian mountaineers joined forces with him. Slingsby's first ascent of Store
Skagatølstind or Storen in 1876 is probably his finest achievement. Today the route, which Slingsby, Mohn and Knut Lykken made from Vetti Gard, is very
challenging because of its length and glacial approach to Mohns Skar as the glacier "Slingsbybreen" has receded from the upper reaches of the skar (col). The
final section is an exposed final grade 2 scramble to the summit of Norway's third highest summit - a section which Slingsby made alone.
|The information below is my interpretation of Slingsby's mountain days in the Jotunheimen in chronological order. However, besides these routes, he also spent
many days in the mountains stalking reindeer. I have used modern map names found on 1:50000 scale Norwegian maps in the descriptions. Should you wish to
follow in some of Slingsby's footsteps in Jotunheimen, then I guide a holiday to do just this.
Above, Snøuld or Cotton Sedge in the Visdalen valley with the characteristic Store Urdadalstinden behind.
A chronological list of Slingsby's first ascents of major 2000m summits
1. Austre Torfinnstinden
5. Store Skagatölstind
9. Store Hellstugutind
First ascents of 2000m summits with a prominence of less than 100m
16th July 1876
17th July 1876
19th July 1876
20th July 1876
21st July 1876
28th July 1877
30th August 1881
30th August 1881
1st September 1881
2nd September 1881
21st August 1889
Above, looking west through Rauddalen with the snow covered summits of Mjølkedalstinden (left) and Rauddalstind (right). Slingsby made the first ascent of Mjølkedalstinden in 1881.
2280m (prominence 80m)
2026m (prominence 90m)
27th July 1874
19th July 1876
|"All who are worthy of being termed mountaineers, in contra-distinction to climbing acrobats, find that year by year their love of mountains increases,
and so to does their respect and veneration. They feel more and more, as they gain experience, that the sport of mountaineering
- the finest sport in the world - is to be treated seriously." William Cecil Slingsby, 1903.