16 Epic Photos of Exploring Norway's Fjords & Mountains in Fall
Reflecting on a culture deeply steeped in outdoor traditions while exploring fjords and traversing mountainsides in Western Norway
Joel Hyppönen, Samuel Taipale
Growing up in the Nordics has not only provided me a strong general foundation for life but a deep love and appreciation for nature. As a youth in Finland, the natural environment was considered everyone’s property and respected accordingly. From a young age I was equipped with the basic knowledge of how to survive in the wilderness. Both my father, and later in life, mandatory military service, taught me what to eat when no protein bars or s’mores are around, how to make a fire, and to make camp with or without a tent. Even reading the stars in the sky was something commonly taught to kids in the Nordics when I was young.
Having lived in several Nordic countries by now, I have always been fascinated by how the neighboring Scandinavian countries differ from one another, both culturally and geographically. Multiple international moves meant maps of all kinds acted as entertainment in place of cartoons as a kid. But it wasn’t until after my teens that I started seeing those hours spent pouring over topo lines pay off.
Now as an adult living in Norway, being able to navigate through any terrain without technology has become a source of pride for me. It’s also brought a sense of responsibility to pass along this knowledge to younger people and my own kids one day, too.
A part of the Nordic mentality is wearing clothing that both looks good and function well in different environments. Practicality is a constant challenge when navigating between cities and mountains, as many do on a daily basis—Norway, Finland, and Sweden represent the second, third, and fourth nations with the lowest population density in all of Europe, behind only Iceland. Minimalism is a solution embraced by many in this region of the world. And I have learned to carry only what is necessary when venturing into the wilderness—any more will be a burden the further I move—and to dress in versatile, natural materials that can provide warmth and protection whether wet or dry.
With fall taking hold in Norway, my lifelong friend, Samual Taipale, and I began to sketch a trip somewhere neither of us had ever been before, while still trying to stay relatively local. After a couple of long nights of research, we found some incredible peaks on the west coast of Norway, and set about packing. It being late in the season, the mission would no doubt be a coin flip in terms of whether we would encounter nothing but snow waiting for us, or still some trails to roam. With such variability in mind, I trusted a pared-down kit of merino-focused basics, plus mid and outer layers from Icebreaker to function in whatever weather we’d end up with.
From Oslo we headed towards the west coast, spending countless hours crossing snowy mountain passes, dodging elk who freely roam wherever they please, before reaching our initial destination in the dark of night. There we checked the forecast, grimaced, then crawled into our sleeping bags to get ready for what was ahead.
The following morning, instead of a storm as the forecast showed, we were greeted with a beautiful sunrise by Lovatnet Lake. And as Finns, it’s a pride and joy to dive into freezing water whenever possible, so we greeted the day with a plunge in Lovatnet’s glacial waters. For me, cold water is a necessity. The benefits go way beyond physical effects—when you overcome something that uncomfortable first thing in the morning, it’s the best way to kick-off the day.
After a quick breakfast, we made our way towards the hike we had originally scouted in the Sunnmøre Alps, passing countless traditional grass roof cabins en route. Like the wool coats of New Zealand’s renowned mountain-dwelling Merino sheep, these modest Norwegian huts use natural grass and native plants for insulation and sun absorption year-round. For centuries Scandinavians have built using this same tried and true technique of sod grown atop layers of birch bark. It’s beautiful, functional, and a reminder that more often than not, nature knows best.
For a total of 15km we made our way through freezing degrees and variable weather. We experienced sun, rain, fog, hail, and snow, all in four days, all while wearing just one outfit—when temperatures shifted from T-shirt weather to below zero, it became more apparent than ever just how well merino wool functions in different temperatures.
Setting up a tent in freezing degrees is no joke, for even seasoned hikers, and having a solid merino layering setup in such situations is non-negotiable. My personal ecosystem of merino—Persist Pants, Elemental Long Sleeve Zip, Collingwood Vest, and Helix Hooded Jacket—not only kept me warm, dry, and comfortable throughout the trip, but the anti-microbial properties of the fabric eliminated any risk of the traditional musky odors one might expect to be flowing around either.
"Standing on top of the mountain as the storm hit, I felt a mixture of accomplishment, gratitude, and pure stoke. No measure of bad weather could change that."
The benefits of wearing merino wool don’t stop at the trailhead. Wearing natural fibers for extended periods and washing less also means fewer resources used, and most importantly less micro-plastic pollution washed into waterways—a single synthetic clothing item can release up to 700,000 plastic microfibers in just one wash cycle, contributing to the mass of micro-fibers that already make up 85% of human-made debris found on shorelines around the world. Count that as one more reason to move to natural fibers both in daily life and when adventuring.
Back in Sunnmøre Alps, on our final day, we made the push to a nearby peak. October being already off-season for these mountains, we challenged ourselves by paving our own path to the top, where we were greeted with an amazing 360 view over Hjørundfjord. And a hail storm. Standing on top of the mountain as the storm hit, I felt a mixture of accomplishment, gratitude, and pure stoke. No measure of bad weather could change that. Though Mother Nature tried her best, turning the hail to rain as we cruised back to the basecamp, and eventually our way home.
Spending time in Norwegian nature has taught me a variety of lessons, one of them being always be prepared for any conditions. And more importantly, that the experience is never the same twice, so it’s always worth getting yourself out there.