Kleivafossen was basically my waterfalling excuse to talk about our memorable out-and-back hikes up to the terminus of the Briksdal Glacier (Briksdalsbreen).
The falls flowed on the Briksdalselva, which the glacier itself directly sourced and produced both its power as well as the powder-blue glacial flour so common in glacially-fed drainages.
According to Norgeskart the falls had about a 37m drop with a bit of a wishbone shape as there appeared to be some kind of protruding (dare I say phallic?) rock splitting the lower part of the falls.
My GPS logs suggested that the falls sat at about the one-third of the way along the nearly 3km long hike (each way) to the terminus of the Briksdal Glacier.
Even though it wasn’t necessary to do the whole hike to see the falls, it would have been a mistake not to keep going to the glacier, because the experience was as surreal and atmospheric as they come!
Indeed, there was something special about witnessing a glacier as vertical and as intimate like this.
It kind of made us feel a personal connection with the earth and its systems even though we were thousands of miles away from home.
Hiking to Kleivafossen and the Briksdal Glacier
Right from the get go, the car park at the end of the road (see directions below) provided photo ops as we could see the Volefossen and hints of neighboring glaciers at the head of the Oldedalen Valley.
From there, I hiked up past the Briksdal Fjellstove and then past the Trollbil (Troll car) pickup area before going onto a path that paralleled the graded road leading up to the glacier.
Despite the developed nature of the hike, it was mostly uphill (about 200m in net elevation gain).
So for those not up for doing the nearly 6km round trip hike, the Troll car might be an attractive option.
After all, it reduced the overall elevation gain to only 40m while reducing the walking distance to about 700m or 1km (1.4-2km round trip) depending on how close to the glacier you go.
In any case, I opted to walk the whole way, and the trail continued on by gently climbing alongside the rushing Briksdalselva before reaching a lookout area for Kleivafossen at about 800m from the car park.
From this vantage point, the road bridge fronted the waterfall so it was possible to take a brochure-like photo of hikers or even the Trollbil silhouetted on the bridge in front of the base of the falls.
Right behind this viewing area was a curious big rock with a crack that had a sign saying “Gløvregang” attached to it.
I believe the glacier might have deposited this rock here at one point.
The path continued onto the bridge and then into the spray zone of the Kleivafossen as the road started to make switchbacks to climb alongside the falls.
I recalled having to walk up all of the switchbacks back in 2005, but on my latest visit in 2019, the footpath branched off from the road between the first and second switchbacks.
So after climbing up steps alongside the Kleivafossen (and seeing the “phallic” nature of the rock protruding from its base), the trail then rejoined the road near the footbridge spanning the Briksdalselva.
At this point, most of the elevation gain was behind me, and I started to get my first glimpses of the Briksdal Glacier further up the valley.
The footpath continued eastwards as it approached the imposing glacier, eventually reaching a large cul-de-sac area where the Troll car would drop people off (nearly 2km from the car park).
At this point, the trail narrowed even more and became more of a conventional hiking trail as it continued to follow along the Briksdalselva towards the foot of the Briksdal Glacier.
In the more open stretches of this hike, I could see across towards the north-facing wall of the Briksdal Valley where the Tjøtabreen Glacier clung to the top of this wall while producing a waterfall beneath its terminus (which could be called Tjøtafossen).
Eventually at about 700m from the Trollbil drop-off area, I reached an area by the shores of the lake fronting the Briksdal Glacier.
When Julie and I first came here in 2005, we actually kept walking until we got right up to the terminus of the glacier.
There were neither ropes nor guardrails preventing us from getting right up to the wall of ice itself though in hindsight, we probably played with fate as the ice could haved calved at any minute and collapsed on us.
Sadly, this was no longer possible when I last came here in 2019 due to the terminus rising high enough on the mountain that reaching the ice now would require technical equipment.
It took me about 75 minutes to get to the overlook of the glacier terminus and the lake in front of it.
When Julie and I were first here, it took us 90 minutes since we went a little further to get closer to the glacier.
Finally, as much as we wanted to linger around here, we noticed a lot of annoying black flies that would persistently buzz around us.
I didn’t recall knowing what they were nor whether they would bite, but there were enough of them that it felt like they wanted to get into our noses and mouths.
When I came back in 2019, I happened to get a bite from one of them, which left a bit of an itchy welt, and only then did I realize that these buggers were midges!
So these bugs conspired to make us move on sooner rather than later, and we ultimately returned back down the same trail that we went up.
Given that it was now mostly downhill, it only took Julie and I about 60 minutes to return to the car park.
It took me about 50 minutes when I did this hike solo on my second visit 14 years later.
Kleivafossen, Briksdalsbreen, and Climate Change
While we’ve done glacier hikes before and looked at before-and-after photos of glacier recession in the literature, the Briksdal Glacier was the one instance where I witnessed the before and after states of the glacier firsthand.
Thus, we have firsthand documentation (photos) and experiences to definitely confirm that the Global Warming consequences are real.
When we made our first visit at the very end of June in 2005, Julie and I quite literally walked right up to the terminus of the glacier while well-equipped glacier walkers were higher up the sloping ice sheet.
We also noticed a side glacier called Tjøtabreen producing a light-flowing streaking waterfall on the Tjøtaelva on the north facing wall of the Briksdalen Valley.
And we saw icebergs floating slowly on the glacial lake.
When I returned to Briksdalsbreen in July 2019, the ice had retreated so high up the mountain that it was no longer possible to reach the terminus of the glacier doing just a hike.
Taking the place of the former location of the glacier terminus was a new waterfall.
Meanwhile, the same thing happened to the Tjøtabreen, where its terminus was now at the very top of the mountain while the streaking waterfall had a lot more volume (so much so that it ought to be called Tjøtafossen).
The icebergs that once floated on the lake have also disappeared as the Briksdalselva moved so rapidly that any ice chunk would quickly get destroyed over the Kleivafossen if it even made it that far.
As a result of these changes to the sourcing glacial ice of the Briksdal Glacier, I noticed that Kleivafossen seemed to have more volume and power on my 2019 visit as opposed to my 2005 visit as it blasted a lot more mist onto the trail.
This experience made me wonder if the “better” performance of the falls belied the more ominous implications of what these changes meant in the big picture concerning their consequences overall.
So, like with the Krunefossen experience, I had that strange feeling where the new waterfalls made me appreciate them more as a waterfaller while at the same time quite sad that it shouldn’t be this way.
The trail to both Kleivafossen and the Briksdal Glacier began from the car park beneath the Briksdal Fjellstove.
This was at the very end of the 22km county road Fv724 south of the town of Olden.
This drive would typically take about a half-hour, but you do have to watch for blind corners since a good chunk of the drive was on single-lane road.
That said, there were enough places to compel you to stop and admire the scenery, and that could easily make this drive take longer.
We have a separate write-up of this drive on our Volefossen page.
As of my latest visit in 2019, the car park had a fee of 50 kr.
For some geographical context, Olden was 17km (well under 30 minutes drive) south of Stryn, 92km (over 90 minutes drive) south of Geiranger, 103km (over 90 minutes drive) northeast of Førde, 122km (under 2 hours drive) north of Sogndal, and 277km (under 5 hours drive with a ferry crossing) northeast of Bergen.
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