How hiking to Bøyabreen glacier nearly killed us

This article is also available in: Dutch

In Jostedalsbreen Nasjonalpark lies the biggest glacier of continental Europe: Jostedalsbreen. This ice giant is 100 kilometers long, 16 kilometers wide and at some places up to 500 meters thick. The nature reserve around the Jostedalsbreen is located in the province Sogn og Fjordane in western Norway. The Jostedalsbreen glacier takes up half of the national park!

Bron: Google Maps

The glacier has probably been formed in 1750 during what’s called a ‘short ice age’. It consists out of several glacier arms. The best known arms are the Nigardsbreen, Brikdalsbreen, Kjenndalsbreen and Austerdalsbreen. But one of the most acccessible is the Bøyabreen. This part of the glacier is super steep and has to deal with a lot of iceslides. The highest point of the Bøyabreen is 1700 meters and the lowest point is approximately 300 meters high. The nearby glacier museum, Norsk Bremuseum, is a good base and information centre for a visit to the glacier.

How do you get there?

With the Sognefjord behind you drive in the direction of Fjærland. Starting from the famous Stave Church in Kaupanger it takes you about 45 minutes to get to the Bøyabreen glacier. If you start at the other side of Norway, for example Sandane, it takes you about an hour. You can use Fylkesveg 152 (fv152) met straatnummer 120, 6848 Fjærland, Norway for you navigation system. The route from Kaupanger to the Bøyabreen crosses breathtaking mountain landscapes with mountain tops covered in snow. The route consists of some serious eyecandy!

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Advice

  • It’s a short and easy hike, but you might get some wet feet along the way! Make sure you wear water proof shoes or be prepared to get cold feet;
  • You can have quite a good meal at the nearby Brevasshytta restaurant with a view on the glacier. I can really recommend this;
  • Be careful! Glaciers can be very dangerous and treacherous and in spring you can find some ice falling down from the top.

Our experience

Earlier that day we visited the Norsk Bremuseum, otherwise known as the Norwegian Glacier Museum in Fjærland. The day was beginning to come to an end and we were on our way to our hotel when we were taking by surprise by an amazing view at the Bøyabreen. We parked our car to take a couple of photographs and suddenly noticed that there was a restaurant hiding behind the bushes!

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To enjoy the amazig view some more and soak up some sun while it lasted, we decided to go grab some dinner at Brevasshytta restaurant. They had a terrace thatgave us a first class view at the glacier while having diner. Winning!

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That cigarette package is quite embarrassing, but I just love this picture. Also: I quit smoking half a year ago.

While we were having dinner we were discussing the distance from our table to the glacier. I thought it was about one kilometer, but Bart-Jan disagreed. He said “I think it can be a little deceiving..”. So we decided to finish our delicious meal of salmon and potatoes, put our hiking boots back on and find out who was right.

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It turned out to be the perfect after-dinner-walk. The first bit was a little muddy and got us (or at least me) some wet feet, but within 15-20 minutes we were literally at the foot of the Bøyabreen.

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Overall Bart-Jan is a little more adventurous than I am. He always finds boundries to cross where I like to stay inside of my comfortzone. That’s probably what makes us such a great team, but sometimes it can be a little annoying. Before I knew it, he was on his way to the ice. I was quite surprised to see no warning signs at all like we saw at the Buerbreen.

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All the way at the bottom of the glacier were three big tunnels of ice. Underneath the ice the meltwater was flowing really fast! It looked amazing. And ofcourse Bart-Jan went to see what was up and I followed. We walked along the water line, skipped some stones and picked up some shiney little pebbles.

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You could easily reach the inside of the first tunnel without getting your feet wet (or wetter). And it looked amazing from the inside! The ice was dark grey, almost black on one side and bright blue or even pearly green on the other. And the meltwater made so much noise, we couldn’t even have a conversation!

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We walked a little further up the glacier and saw a part of ice sticking out that was bright, bright blue. Almost brighter than the sky was! It was amazing to see, but also super special to feel the cold air from underneath blowing in your face. Almost as if you were standing in front of a big fan. It looked harmless, because it wasn’t too big and it wasn’t moving at all. Glaciers usually move a couple of centimeters a day or week, but this one wasn’t.

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Until Bart-Jan was underneath the bright blue part of ice. I was about to get on my knees to take a picture, while he was taking the GoPro out to take a selfie, when it seemed like all hell broke loose in the skies and a thunderstorm came down. We were really frightened by it and I was so scared that I tumbled over and fell on the rocks. Bart-Jan started to run and I knew this was serious. That glacier was moving.

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And even though the movement of a glacier seems innocent, it’s such an impressive happening that you can NOT see it coming, nor can you move out of it’s way. Luckily we were underneath a super small piece of the glacier, otherwise it would probably have killed us. Beginners luck? Yes. We will never ever do something like this, ever again! It was only our fourth day in Norway, but we should have known better. At least we do our homework even better when we go out for an adventure nowadays. Because this one might as well have been our last.

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We made sure to get out of the glaciers way to take a last picture and walked back to the car to process what has happened. Ever since this incident, I don’t really come close to glaciers anymore. Everytime we go hiking near one, I just don’t get any closer than 100 meters away from the ice giants. We learned our lesson. And let me be crystal clear: DON’T EVER DO THIS. It’s super dangerous and I’m telling our story to prevent you from getting hurt. We’re not proud of what we did, we’re just trying to protect fellow travellers. If you’re in doubt about a hiking route, just ask the locals. They know what’s up and Norwegian people are always super honest and helpful.

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It turned out that Norway can be so magical, it blocks your mind from thinking straight. We can laugh about it now, but absolutely learned our lesson. What’s your ‘that was close’-experience?

One thought on “How hiking to Bøyabreen glacier nearly killed us

  1. Amazing! Glad you were safe! James and I walked on the Athabaska Glacier in Canada in 2012, but we were with a tour group who knew the area. Glaciers are so interesting and the blue colour amazing to see. Love reading about your adventures and seeing the photos! They’re great!

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