Turtagrø — High Camp Party & Norwegian Alpine History


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | June 2, 2015      
High Camp Turtagro

High Camp Turtagro, party night. Norway has odd customs, such as large groups of backcountry skiers dancing to a Michael Jackson video at 3:00 am, outside, in their puffy coats.

While a longer stay at Phillpshaugen is seductive — and we’re invited, Erlend Sande of Fri Flyt magazine for ski touring. has gone the extra kilometer keeping us moving through Norway. His end goal: for WildSnow.com to witness a unique event known as High Camp at roadside hotel and camp area known at Turtagrø. So we say a reluctant adios to the Oksendal Valley and do a seven hour scenic extravaganza drive to the new venue with our SLR hanging out the window the whole way like a low budget google-cam (oh, the photo editing to follow!)

We’ve done somewhat of a roundabout here, as we’re now back on the western side of the Jotunheimen (see beginnings of my Norway ski touring trip reports and maps below) in a region the guidebook calls the Hurrungane, or what I get the impression is also called the Sognefjellet mountains. This is another area of Norway where elevations climb high enough to make spring skiing reliable, with your start points and endings most often above timberline thus avoiding bushwhacks and dirt walks.

Turtagro Hotel and the High Camp tents.

Turtagro Hotel and the High Camp tents.

In previous posts, you’ve heard about the propensity of Norwegians to tent camp no matter what snow or weather might discourage those of us with lesser nerve. High Camp is the ultimate expression of this. Once a year, more than 500 campers (and a few hundred hotel goers as well) descend on Norway’s historic Turtagro Hotel (see map below) creating a tent city that resembles a thriving peasant market surrounding a feudal castle, only everyone here is dressed in the latest technical clothing and sporting shiny new ski touring kits. Days are spent skiing, with an all-night dance party closing things out.

“High Camp is our way of doing a ski resort scene without ski lifts” said Fri Flyt magazine’s Erland Sande, “it’s an expression of everything Norwegian about skiing…the touring, the fun as a group, the apre’ ski… High Camp is put on by the hotel and our magazine. It’s been going for 15 years… The Turtagro event is limited to 600 tickets but we have a camp at Lyngen as well, and others are being created.”

Turtagro Hotel: modern design with deep historical roots in alpine ski touring and climbing.

Turtagro Hotel: modern design with deep historical roots in alpine ski touring and climbing.

Just to give you an idea of the tent city, we'll publish a few takes.

Just to give you an idea of the High Camp tent city, we’ll publish a few takes.

Everyone was hanging out in the snow like they were on a  beach in Hawaii.

Everyone was hanging out in the snow like they were on a beach in Hawaii.

Tenting regulations, you are free to camp just about anywhere in Norway, public or private land, but you have to keep your distance.

Tenting regulations,you are free to camp just about anywhere in Norway, public or private land, but you have to keep your distance from dwellings and such.

We couldn't resist taking lots of photos. Who knows? Perhaps Colorado will have a festival like this someday.

We couldn’t resist taking lots of photos. Who knows? Perhaps Colorado will have a festival like this someday.

South facing terrain at this altitude had begun a melt-off, but everything else is covered in white.

South facing terrain at this altitude had begun a melt-off, but everything else is covered in white.

High Camp includes a mini gear expo. I got a laugh out of this mattress booth, one of only a half dozen companies present.

High Camp includes a mini gear expo. I got a laugh out of this mattress booth, one of only a half dozen companies present. In a region where it’s night nearly all “day” for several months, perhaps mattresses have a more serious connotation than I’m used to?

Let me emphasize that the Norwegian style of enjoying outdoor activities is one of complete comfort in less than ideal conditions. A good example: up here at Turtagro they’ve got a stone slab picnic table out in front. Several times I observed complete families plop down their whole cooking rig and whip up a complete meal, dressed in parkas with their hoods up, as clouds scudded overhead and snow fell. Sure, you see this elsewhere to some degree — and we’ve all done such things at times — but these picnickers appeared beyond comfortable, as if they were sitting in their kitchen by a hot stove having a coffee or tea.

Turn and look away from the hotel. This is just a small slide of the pie. Peak to left is where alpine climbing began in Norway.

Turn and look away from the hotel. This is just a small slide of the pie. Skagastølstind peak to left is where alpine climbing began in Norway.

Turtagro has an interesting history involving both backcountry skiing and climbing. A jagged peak rising to the south, Store Skagastølstind, was first climbed in 1876 by pioneer alpinist William Cecil Slingsby. Coming from England, Slingsby fell in love with Norway and is widely considered to be the “father of Norwegian mountain climbing.” More, his ski traverse of Keiser Pass Pass in 1880 was foundational to ski mountaineering in Norway.

Turtagro honors the pioneers with a full library including historical as well as modern texts along with displays of early memorabilia, some from Slingsby.

Turtagro honors the pioneers with a full library including historical as well as modern texts along with displays of early memorabilia, some from Slingsby. I always wonder at the future of paper-ink libraries, but there’s no denying how pleasingly tactile it is to page through classic alpine literature in a cozy mountain lodge. Makes me want to start smoking a pipe and wearing an alpi’ hat.

Much of the library is indexed. You'll find just about every guidebook ever written for the area, including some in English, as well as collections of old club journals and publications, also some in English.

Much of the library is indexed. You’ll find just about every guidebook ever written for the area, including some in English, as well as collections of old club journals and publications, also some in English.

The original hotel was built in 1888, and burnt down in 2001. The new modern looking hotel pictured here began operations in 2002. While locals told us the original century-old hotel was an irreplaceable classic, we found the modern version to be quite attractive, with a friendly athletic spirit that honored its roots.

I'm not sure how Erlend swung us an upstairs corner room with amazing views. We were definitely humbled by being so taken care of.

I’m not sure how Erlend swung us an upstairs corner room with amazing views. We were definitely humbled by being so taken care of. Or, we realized later that perhaps the Fri Flyt folks had another agenda entirely. Knowing we were probably not going to join the millennials at their all-night rage, our room was strategically located so the sound system literally vibrated our wall and bed like we were floating in an unimaginably powerful jacuzzi spa. More, one of the windows overlooked the event so Lisa caught a bunch of art shots with her SLR (as sleeping was somewhat out of the question).

Just a staircase, but shows how the hotel interior is design themed with clear wood finishes and white walls.

Just a staircase, but shows how the hotel interior is design themed with clear wood finishes and white walls.

As with other lodges we've visited, Turtagro is big on local history. Dozens of wonderful photographs adorn.

As with other lodges we’ve visited, Turtagro is big on local history. Dozens of wonderful photographs adorn.

Historic photos everywhere, and a peaceful library.

Historic photos everywhere, and a peaceful library.

Hotel dining room seats about 70 people, two seatings when hotel is full.

Hotel dining room seats about 70 people, two seatings when hotel is full. We were impressed by the quality of the food even with a full house and event happening.

Nice dinner, expertly served to about 150 people.

Nice dinner, expertly served to about 150 people.

A clothing and boot drying room is located at the end of the room hall.

A clothing and boot drying room is located at the end of the room hall. We’re used to huts that require removal of ski boots before entering the living spaces. Turtagro doesn’t seem to have much concern with that but perhaps the rules for footwear got lost in the High Camp crowds.

Tent city as viewed from room.

Tent city as viewed from room.

Erlend and his crew at Fri Flyt published an excellent overview guidebook a while back, in Norwegian. They recently published an English edition that with my limited experience of Norway appeared wonderfully useful. Expensive, but if you plan a Norway ski touring trip I think this would be money well spent, especially if you’re self guiding. They sell a number of other guidebooks as well, some in English.

During spring snow seasons this place is about location, location, location. Key here is Sognefjellsvegen Mountain Road (#55, see video above), which climbs quickly out of sea-level regions to the hotel at 950 meters elevation, then up and over a vast area of higher ground. Literally thousands of backcountry ski touring options begin from the hotel and road. From what we could tell the ski touring season lasts quite nicely, with a spring touring sweet spot from perhaps late March to the middle of May. I’m guessing for planning a ski trip here you’d want to consider a block of days around the end of April on into early May. You can reach the hotel by bus, but be sure to arrange transportation to various trailheads if you’re self guided (ask the hotel about rides).

(Also, unless you want to experience massive group ski touring and party culture, avoid High Camp. But what would be the fun in avoidance? Perhaps attend High Camp but know that tickets are limited; do your homework on this during trip planning well in advance as the hotel will be totally booked during the three days of High Camp.)

Turtagro Hotel and the High Camp tents.

Turtagro Hotel and the High Camp tents.

This guy was obviously getting his Viking on.

This guy was obviously getting his Viking on. They kept breakfast running a bit later the next morning, but I was amazed at how despite the all-night party, quite a few were toting overloaded breakfast plates and making sandwiches at 8:00 am, already wearing their ski boots. Yes, we know all Norwegians are born with skis on, but it’s new to me that they eat all their meals with their ski boots on. Learn something new every day.



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Comments

9 Responses to “Turtagrø — High Camp Party & Norwegian Alpine History”

  1. Dave Field June 2nd, 2015 10:10 am

    Hey Lou, You mention the Norwegian passion for tenting on snow and their apparent skills in comfortable camping on snow. I see quite a few pyramid style single pole tents in the overview photos. Did you get a look at some of the tents and other unique camping gear and accessories the locals used to make themselves confortable?

  2. Lou Dawson 2 June 2nd, 2015 2:05 pm

    Hi Dave, it indeed looked like some of the groups had built things like wooden tables for use in their tents and outside. More importantly, I notices quite a few were sporting small wood burning heater stoves with a vent stack exiting the tent. We’ve had a few companies in the US try to innovate those, but the Norge ones looks pretty refined. Other than that, just folks sitting around outside like they were in their living room back home. Cool.

  3. Greg Louie June 2nd, 2015 7:15 pm

    Looks like my kind of people. I’ve been known to dance to Michael Jackson in my puffy at home.

  4. Dave - Tahoe Mtn June 2nd, 2015 11:16 pm

    Awesome post! Keep the trip reports from Norway coming, they are great.

  5. etto June 3rd, 2015 3:16 am

    And here I thought this was a ski blog 😉

    Jus to clear things up, Sognefjellet and Hurrungane are not interchangeable names for the same area. Two different areas, but very close to each other.

    We just had some of the mountain pass roads close due to heavy snow fall. Season is not over yet! (although Lou’s advice about prime season is spot on)

    Happy to see so much content from Norway!

    Next time Lou you have to head up north! Skiing literally from the beach, and later in the season in the midnight sun 🙂

  6. Alex Hunt June 3rd, 2015 10:03 am

    Lou and Lisa,

    I was looking for you the night of the aforementioned down jacket disco at Turtagrø – guess I should’ve checked the King’s suite!

    Hope we didn’t keep you up too late 😉

    Skol!

  7. Lou Dawson 2 June 3rd, 2015 9:06 pm

    Hi Alex, yeah, we were exhausted from all the traveling around, loved being there even though we didn’t get crazy with all of you. Lou

  8. john June 4th, 2015 5:12 am

    turtagro has a great breakfast! stayed there last forth of july. Drink enough aquavit and you will be dancing to MJ also 🙂

  9. Wookie June 15th, 2015 6:31 am

    those single pole nordic-style tents can be really good. I’ve used one a couple of times:
    + They are very big
    – not all of that space is stand-up height
    + they are cheaper than comparable sized domes
    ++ you can throw them on the ground, climb in and set it up from the inside (easily – this never works as well in dome-type tents)
    – or + they don’t come with a floor standard. I bought one, but never use it anymore, as I think its better that way
    + Only one pole! (but it is long – so get a collapsible one)
    + most of them pack down pretty small for a tent of that size
    + do better at shedding snow than any other design I’ve used, if set up properly
    – mostly so large as to only really be suitable for car-camping type stuff. I wouldn’t want to pack one in – (but I’ve heard of small ones)





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