Senja på langs is a hiking trail that crosses the island of Senja from south west to north east. I hiked most of it from south to north in August 2015, missing only the final day past Svartholvatnet to the northern coast road for logistical (transport related) reasons.
Day 1 Å to Lutvatnet (~15 km)
Transport logistics made this quite a long day: I began by taking the boat from Tromsø to Finnsnes, then waiting 4 hours for the bus to Å. It was a lovely sunny day but Finnsnes is a pretty dull place to spend 4 hours so I was glad to be on the bus. Deposited in Å, I then hiked 4km up a dirt road to Olaheimen, where the trail proper begins. The start of the trail is very deceptive, a wide dry track leading through beautiful woodland, to the shore of Storbunkevatnet, where perfectly still water reflects the mountains around.
Of course this is not continued for long! At the lake shore a short stretch along the beach leads to a narrow muddy trail which disappears into a hopeless bog. Knowing there was likely to be a lot of knee-deep bog & river crossings I deliberately wore super-lightweight super-breathable running shoes for this trek so at least the water ran out again a fast as it ran in, much better than marinading my feet in gore-tex hiking boots full of water!
After floundering through the bog for a while I knew I was too low & should have started climbing the hillside by now, so I headed straight uphill and soon picked out some red paint on trees, indicating the trail, which climbs gently over the shoulder into Finnskarddalen. Emerging above the treeline the track turns north west for a short distance, crossing an area of linear features in the rock perpendicular to these features, necessitating a lot of up and down and care watching for the cairns that lead the way. Turning north east again the trail starts a slow descent, passing between the two parts of Reinlivatnet, and descending alongside the stream for 2 km to Lutvatnet. It was during this descent that I encountered the first mosquitos of the trip and then I wished I had stopped at Reinlivatnet, but such is life! I set up camp at Lutvatnet and cooked supper as fast as possible then dived into the tent to get away from them. I was really glad at this point that I brought the tent and not just a bivvy bag!
Day 2 Lutvatnet to Tverrfjellet (~18 km)
The second day dawned bright and clear, not a cloud in the sky at Lutvatnet. However, coming around into view of Indreselfjorden I could see that there was some fog in the fjords. I was ambling along minding my own business when I was hailed by a frenchman who was eating breakfast in his tent 50m to the right of the path. He was travelling in the opposite direction to me and wanted to enquire about the trail conditions. This was the first person I encountered since leaving the bus.
The marked trail skirts high on the wooded hillside above Selfjordvatnet, then climbs up to 500m, passing several small lakes on the lower slopes of Blåfjellet before descending again, 400m to Åndervatnet. At Åndervatnet I stopped for long lunch at a picnic table outside Ånderbu, and dried my socks in the sunshine. I saw two other people here, but not to talk to. Departing from Ånderbu the trail stays dry for a while, passing along the lake shore and then up through birch trees alongside Kaperelver to Kapervatnet. Alas the path along the shore of Kapervatnet is hopelessly wet and eventually impossible to find! I found myself climbing a small ridge through willow scrub and looking down into the river in Tverrdalen. Here I had a choice. The map I had with me indicated that the official trail went left (south west) for a while to make an easy climb out of the valley before doubling back, while there was also a path marked that followed a stream steeply up from between the two lakes in Tverrdalen. I opted for the latter, since I could see no sign of any marked path leading to where the official trail was marked on my map. I crossed the river in a likely looking place and was making my way along the north bank when lo and behold! a sudden explosion of red paint on trees. It seems the official trail has been remarked to take the route I was taking, and had cut the corner off above where I got lost along the boggy lakeshore. Ascending alongside the stream and watching it dwindle in size I started to wonder about the availability of water on the high plateau this side of Istind, in the end opting to call it a day and pitch camp next to a small lake in a glacial cwm on the side of Tverrfjellet. It was only about 16:00, quite early to call it a day, but on the other hand nice to pitch camp in full sunlight and enjoy a dip in the lake before the sun went behind the mountain, casting chilly shadows over my campsite.
Day 3 Tverrfjellet to Senjabu (~15 km)
Another bright sunny day up in the mountains with fog hanging around in the fjords. I began by climbing Istind, deviating from the path to reach the summit, where I was rewarded by some lovely views.
Descending the north slope towards Bumannsvatnet I found quite some snow, but it was all softened in the sunshine, so nothing to cause any concern. From Bumannsvatnet the path then follows the west shore of Langdalsvatnet, when I saw a couple of fishermen, the only humans (almost) encountered on this day. This walk was becoming a really good exercise in solitude. I ate lunch in the col between Landalsvatnet and Leirdalen, with a truly spectacular view spread out before me. The next few km were a real treat, high on the shelves on the south side of Leirdalen, passing a tarn and waterfall that would have been a perfect camping spot had it not been so early in the day.
Crossing another col into Tromsdalen I began the descent towards the forest, passing an area with a lot of bent trees – signs of avalanche activity, and then an ancient signboard indicating that the route used to remain quite high on the valley sides. There was no obvious sign of recent foot traffic in that direction and lots of new looking red paint on trees following the river, so I followed these, only to be surprised to be led across the river and up the right hand bank, definitely not where the line was drawn on my map. I quickly guessed that the path had been rerouted to pass directly by Senjabu instead of meeting the road a couple of km further north of the hut. Sure enough after wandering a little through the woods and past a couple of other huts I found myself approaching Senjabu from above. I’d not planned to use the hut but since it was right there it seemed rude not to, so in I went. I was surprised to be the only person there because the last time I went there it was quite busy, but this just proves that one can never predict the usage level of any DNT hut on any given day!
Day 4 Senjabu to Lysvatnet (~20km)
I made an early start, knowing that I had a lot of ground to cover. My camera ran out of batteries so I wouldn’t be spending any more time on photography! There was still a lot of dew on the grass by the river, and signs (a square flat patch in some lush grass) that someone had camped there recently. I wondered if it was someone going my way and if I would catch them, or whether it was someone heading south on the older trail, missing out Senjabu… Sør heggdalen is pretty enough, open woodland, lots of wet places, interesting flowers, but quite long. I was glad to emerge into the more open country around Heggtuva, where I had some lunch and took my wet socks off to dry them out a bit. Descending into Nordheggdalen you first have to cross a couple of substantial streams, and then comes a very muddy section of trail, so much for trying to dry my feet out. The muddy trail leads steeply down to an open hut, when I paused to read the hut book (I love looking through hut books and seeing other people impressions of a place or finding out what adventures have been had there) and eat some chocolate. From the hut the trail leads past Heggvatnet, where I saw plenty of evidence that this is a popular camping part spot (fire rings and beer cans and so on), and down to Lysvatnet. When I passed under a power line I knew I had nearly reached the road, so I veered off onto a small bluff with a good view of the lake where I pitched the tent under a couple of conifers. I had a very pleasant evening, no midges or other biting things, listening to the sounds of civilisation drifting up from the huts along the lake shore.
Day 5 Lysvatnet to Lysnes (~11km)
This day I deviated from the marked ‘Senja på langs’ trail because I wanted to catch the boat back from Lysnes and spend the weekend with Richard (it was Friday). So where the trail turns left at the power station below Helvetesfoss I turned right and followed the dirt road down to the bridge, then left past a campground with a few motorhomes and along the western shore of Lysvatnet to the woods above Lyselva. Here I met a very chatty fisherman, who was keen to tell me how lucky I was to be hiking in shorts because he was much too hot in waders, and who also reassured me that it was possible to hike along the shore of Lysbotnvatnet and out to the road. Sure enough it turned out to be very easy hiking along the lake shore as the water level was low so it was possible to walk on the sand, and tire tracks show that this is how people reach their huts here. This was proving so easy that I now knew I was going to be very early for the boat, so I took a long break here and enjoyed watching some ducks on the lake. Eventually moving on I got to the road and turned north towards the boat dock at Lysnes. I got to the dock at 13:55. The good news this was in time to buy some extra snacks from the small shop there which was closing at 14:00. The bad news is the boat did not go until 17:00. So I had quite a long time to relax in the sunshine!
I was really lucky with the weather on this trip. I had good visibility always which made it really easy to find the path; which makes such a difference to the experience. I think some parts could prove very difficult to navigate in poor visibility (going up & coming down from Istind for example). It is a very very wet hike! I was glad I took lightweight shoes rather than heavy boots but I think 5 days is on the limit of how long my feet can stand to be wet all day before they start to disintegrate! Senja is totally beautiful, next summer I intend to take the ferry to Lysnes, retrace my steps to the power station below Helvetesfoss and then go up to take in the part that I missed to Svartholvatnet and also climb Breidtinden from there.