Nigardsbreen is a glacier arm of the large Jostedalsbreen glacier. Nigardsbreen lies about 30 kilometres (19 mi) north of the village of Gaupne in the Jostedalen valley, Luster, Sogn og Fjordane county, Norway. It is located just west of the Jostedøla river.
The largest Ice-shield in mainland Europe
Jostedalsbreen is a glacial ice-sheet with many valley glaciers, rising from 300 m to 2000 m. Practically half the National Park is covered by ice. It is one of the largest remaining areas of un-disturbed landscape in S. Norway and therefore important for both nature conservancy and recreation. Glaciers are formed when the annual snowfall exceeds the amount which melts in summer. It can be cold, cloudy and windy on the glacier, while in the surrounding Valleys the weather is warm, sunny and calm. It may snow even in summer on the glacier.
Recent research has shown that 8,000-5,000 years ago the Jostedal glacier had completely melted, but it formed again, reaching a new peak in the „little ice-age“ around 1750. Many valley farms were destroyed by advancing ice, as at Nigard, or when huge blocks of ice broke away, as at Tungoyane in Oldedalen when the Brenndal glacier calved.
From fertile valleys to ice and mountains
The enormous range of environ- mental types over short distances is due to variations in local climate and altitude. Elm, lime and warm- loving plants like Broad Helleborine and Spring Pea thrive on the wooded Iower slopes, while directly above at 1500m there are arctic-alpine plants such as Glacier Crowfoot and Loiseleuria. At the front of the valley g!acier Purple Saxifrage and Starwort Mouse-ear Chickweed are among the first to appear, adding colour to the grey landscape.
The cultural landscape with its farms, shielings, and copses of birch show that man has long subsisted „under the glacier“ and land is still farmed in the settlements around the national park. However, the tradition of moving with the cattle up to the mountain pastures in the summer has only survived in one or two places.
Gushing streams, rivers and waterfaIls high up on the mountain sides or down in the Valleys are the hallmark of the area, especially the Stryn and Loen river systems.
An important highway in bygone days
In the past, tracks and drove- roads crossed the great Jostedal ice-sheet, linking the western Valleys and fjords with the inland districts of Sogn and south-east Norway. Cattle and horses were driven across the glacier to be sold in the markets in the east. This would be difficult today as the ice- sheet has shrunk and is therefore steeper and has more crevasses.
This has long been regarded as an attractive area for walkers and hikers. Skiing the length of the glacier has become populär in recent years, often taking in the highest point of Lodalskapa. Without specialist knowledge and proper equipement, however, walking or skiing on the glacier is highly dangerous.
The old routes in the Valleys around the glacier such as Oldeskardet and Supphelleskardet, offer exciting walking tours. The valley glaciers of Briksdal, Fjaerland and Nigardsbreen are well-known and paths lead right to the glacier in many places, including Kjenndalen and Austerdalen.
Source: Information board on site