Innerdalen looks exactly how a romantic painter might depict the perfect Scandinavian valley: Two crystal-clear lakes surrounded by forested slopes, against a backdrop of magnificent mountains.
The wooden cabins of the Renndolsetra mountain lodge at the water’s edge are covered in grass, a waterfall tumbles nearby, and glaciers glint in the distance.
The Norwegian valley has been a protected area since 1967, though it is not designated as a national park.
That’s fortunate for the guests, since it means cows and sheep can still graze here and visitors can get local sour cream with their waffles. And homemade redcurrant jam.
Around 300 of these waffles are served on busy days at the Renndolsetra lodge.
“In the past four years, the number of visitors has increased by 30%,” says Eystein Opdal, whose family bought the valley 280 years ago from the bankrupt king following a war, adding that people are coming from as far away as China, Dubai and the United States.
Another lodge is only a few minutes further up the mountain slope.
“In my childhood, the glaciers almost reached the lake,” says 68-year-old Iver Innerdal, who owns the Gammelhytta lodge.
Innerdal climbed the Innerdalstarnet, one of the valley’s majestic mountains, for the first time when he was five or six years old.
Back then, it was mostly climbers who came to the valley.
Nowadays, most visitors are hikers who come for a day or a weekend.
And many want to climb to the top of the rocky heights that they’ve seen in pictures on the Internet.
“The weather here is very changeable,” says Rosrud.
Today, dark clouds hang low in the valley. “It’s not a problem,” he says, tramping through the ferns and rowanberry trees that line the muddy path around the lake.
Visitors balance on a path made of planks across the bog and through a birch forest. After an hour of uphill walking, the path leads out of the woods.
There’s a cairn on a rocky outcrop. “Lots of families get to here and then turn around,” says Rosrud.
Which is understandable, since the view of both lakes is quite beautiful enough, and from now on the climb gets more difficult.
The wind blasts through the valley here, and it has now begun to rain. But the Flatvaddalen is stunning: A long lake flanked by steep rocky cliffs on either side.
The path winds its way in a zig-zag up the mountain through a carpet of ferns. The mountain sides above look like basalt, and increasingly you have to use your hands as walking turns into scrambling.
There are no markers to guide climbers to the peak. “The mountain is supposed to stay raw, as nature intended,” says Rosrud. “And we don’t want to attract more people.”
All well and good, although the result is sometimes that visitors get lost and have to turn around, meaning they miss out on a fantastic all-round view of the valley, the lakes, the glaciers and the mountains.
Behind the cairn at the top of the peak, it’s incredibly still, allowing visitors to enjoy the view despite a gentle shower of snowflakes. – dpa
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