Exploring the King's Road

Facts

Duration
1-1,5 hours
Distance
4,7 km
Difficulty
Medium
Suitable for
Everyone

Description

If you start in the east, Kvamskleiva is the first section of the Kongevegen trail across Filefjell – or the final section if you start in the west.


This is an original stretch and is on grassy track, although the first 300 metres from Søndrol is on gravel.

The 4.7 km long stretch opened in 1808, and replaced the Kongevegen route that until then had been running on the other side of lake Vangsmjøsa – from Høre across Hensåsen and Remmisåsen, and then down to Lerhol where there was a ferry crossing to Hella.

Kvamskleiva was steep, and could be extremely dangerous in winter. It climbs 150 of its 250 metres of height gain in only the first few kilometres.

Englishman John Barrow, who travelled the route in 1833, described what he saw below him at Kvamskleiva as «an abyss», and established that nothing had been done to prevent vehicles from skidding off the road. As we can see today, sturdy retaining walls were later added.

 

DRAMA

There are numerous stories about heavy loads being brought up or down on black ice, or about half-drunken men racing home from the Christmas mass in Vang with wife and children in the sled. Another challenging journey was in 1844 when the painters J. C. Dahl and Peder Balke climbed the steep Galden with a hooded carriage so large and heavy that four horses were needed to pull them up.

Still, there are no reports of fatalities during the period the route across Kvamskleiva was in use. In 1862, it was replaced by a new road along the fjord (the current E16). During its 54 years in use, however, Kvamskleiva was both famous and deeply feared.

It is said that the dynamite used to build a new route along the fjord scared the wolves away from Vang. Wolves have not been seen in the village since the road was built.

In the east your starting point is Neset, not far from Hemsingbrue bus stop. An information display with details of the route has been provided. As you climb the first steep hill, you will see the sign «Tørisgalden». We do not know who Tøris was, or why this spot has been named after him, but a «gald» is a steep mountain track and difficult pass.

You then follow a relatively flat, grassy track until you reach Raudeskreda (debris flows) and start the climb up to Saubekken bridge – a construction built according to instructions issued by the Director-General of Roads, J. C. Hammer, in 1794. From there, continue up across Galden.

 

VIEWS

As you get close to the top, there are spectacular views of the Vang villages, lake Vangsmjøsa and the mountains – the ideal spot for a break. Here the old walls have collapsed, and you can see the current E16 far below – but please be reassured, the road has been strengthened and is safe to use.

Further up, the road levels out and leads through a beautiful area known as Grønolen. You then continue through an idyllic mix of forest and open cultural landscape until you reach Kvam farm, the old seat of the district sheriff. There is a sign showing the way down to the old, restored farm which sometimes is open for food and guided tours.

 

MASTER THIEF

Kvam operated as a prison as well as a thingstead. At one point during the first half of the 1800s, the notorious master thief, Gjest Bårdsen, was held here for one night as he was transported from Bergen to Akershus to serve his sentence of hard labour for life. The kind-hearted district sheriff Wangensteen at Kvam allowed Baardsen to sleep without his 30-kilo irons. It is said that when they were due travel on the following day, the master thief jumped from standstill and up into the wagon with his irons on.

Kongevegen continues in a straight line, but with plenty of uphill and downhill. Along the way is Smørhøla spring farm, which in its time was renowned for its butter production. Shortly after you will be walking down the final hills, with beautiful views of Vangsmjøse and the surrounding mountains – of which Grindadn, Bergsfjellet, and Skudshødn are the most dominating.

You have then reached Søndrol and the E16, and you will see a small parking area.

If this is the starting point for your Kongevegen-walk across Filefjell, and you wish to head west towards Lærdal, you have to read this article in «reverse». You should then walk from Søndrol to Neset, and continue along the next section which is Vennisvegen.

 

FURTHER, IF YOU LIKE

It is also possible to start/end the Kvamskleiva-section at Bøflaten camping or in the centre of Vang, respectively 3.8 km and 2.1 km west of Søndrol. This is a tarmac footpath along the E16, and is ideal for cycling.

You should then stop and take a look at Vangssteinen by the entrance to Vang church. This is a runic stone from the early 1000s. Another point of interest is the barn at Hammerstad, which shows a painting by Sigmund Aarseth of the then Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland milking a cow during the EU referendum in 1994. The beautiful Skeietunet is also a cultural monument well worth a visit.

The next section of Kongevegen across Filefjell is Vennisvegen.