Scandinavian Mountains over 2000 metres - James Baxter
The Sjødalen area is in the gentler east of Jotunheimen where the mountains are less alpine and the drier climate means much smaller glaciers. The area is characterized by large open valleys and plateaus of undulating tundra. There are only 3 mountains over 2000 metres in this area and a further 3 secondary peaks. To the south of this area is the deep green Gjende lake. To the east are the lakes and lush forests of Sjødalen valley. In the north the area demarked by the wide open Veodalen valley and to the west are the steep ramparts which rise above glaciers on the edge of the Memuru-Veo massif.
In the south of this area is one of the most famous walks in Scandinavia; the infamous Besseggen. This is a simply stunning walk from Gjendesheim to Memurubu lodges along the crest of a ridge on the north side of Gjende lake. One section of this broad ridge narrows into a wide and lofty arete which feels much more airy than it is. The walk has become part of Norwegian folklore after Henrik Ibsen wrote a poem about Peer Gynt riding along the ridge on the back of a reindeer!
Historically the area has seen more human activity than most other areas in Jotunheimen. The drier climes and undulating hills have provided good reindeer hunting and the lakes and rivers good fishing. Sjødalen valley itself is very clement and the meadows and lakes here have been used for summer pastures for centuries, while the forests here have provided timber. The area was visited regularly in the second half of the 19 century by John Blackwell, who later settled nearby and his brother, General Blackwell, who tried to buy Russvatnet lake.
Access to the area is relatively simple in the winter/spring from the main road, the Riksveg 51, which is open from Otta/Vågå to Gjendesheim for most of the winter. The late winter/spring season is a good time to visit the northern half of the area. In the summertime there is also access up the gravel track in Veodalen towards Glittertind lodge which gives even better access to the northern half. There is also a boat along Gjende lake in the summer between Glittertind and Memurubu lodges for good access to Besshø and the end of the classic Besseggen traverse.