In an old Christian hymn, there are these lines:
Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom;
Lead thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead thou me on!
The source of the light is not mentioned, but the sense of seeing light in the cold darkness, as the lines infer, often inspires hope for comfort and sanctuary. Such a feeling must also be engendered with hikers and skiers, mostly in winter but sometimes in summer also, upon seeing Norwegian mountain cabins, with kindly lights in windows. There are 480 cabins, all part of the DNT (Norwegian Trekking Association) lodging facilities throughout Norway. All are in different areas of Norway, most on high altitude, difficult mountain terrain, inaccessible by roads. If you want to get to any of them, you must ski or hike.
The latest addition to this chain of cabins is the Rabot Mountain Cabin, or in Norwegian, Rabothytta. It just opened in August of this year, and has an unusual architectural look and feel, very like many others that are part of the DNT group. It should be remembered that to our knowledge in the United States, there are no mountain cabins that are part of a larger, nationally funded cabin system, offering hikers and skiers a more comfortable alternative to cold weather camping. Many Norwegian, and non-Norwegian hikers and skiers spend weeks hiking or skiing from DNT cabin to cabin, all spectacular refuges and welcome retreats for those trekking across difficult terrain, often in fierce winter cold.
The Rabot Mountain Cabin is so well architected that it has an organic look, as if it were deposited like a seed in the snow, and emerged looking like what gardeners call a volunteer – a plant that springs up, uncultivated and hybridized, yet still looking as if it belonged in that special, often hardscrabble place. Its organicity is also enhanced by its materials that create its austere, yet somehow comfortable design. It is located in northern Norway, at 3937 feet above sea level. The cabin is close to the Okstindbreen glacier, in the Okstindan mountain range, located within the municipality of Hemnes.
The Rabot Mountain Cabin is designed by the well-known Oslo architectural firm, Jarmund/Vigsnæs Arkitekter, who incorporated local materials that meet the demands of the often harsh winter landscape. Surrounded by some of the highest mountains in Norway, and with large windows providing spectacular views, this cabin is named after the French glaciologist and geographer Charles Rabot, who explored these mountain areas thoroughly in the early part of the 20th century.
The cabin, 753 square feet, has a diagonal spatial concept. The shapes of the two chimneys emulate the topography of the mountaintops and act as protection against the wind and snow. Rabothytta has 30 beds divided into seven bedrooms. It also contains two restrooms, a kitchen area, dining room, a mezzanine, two common areas, and storage rooms containing food and firewood.
The two entrances, placed on two opposite sides, have practical functions with restroom, firewood- and food storage. In the center of the cabin, a spacious mezzanine above the ground floor makes a gathering space for the kitchen underneath. Diagonally placed in relation to the kitchen, there are two common areas with double ceiling height, creating spacious rooms with large windows. The cabin windows open out in two directions, toward the mountain range and the glacier, and toward the mountain plateau and valley.
The exterior is clad in locally cut, thick timber with a coarse finish. The wood is treated with ferris sulphate for a grey, rustic feel. The same panels are used indoors in the common areas for an outdoor-indoor balance. The bedrooms and secondary functions have white-varnished panels, and the interiors and kitchen furniture are locally made of Birch plywood.
Rabothytta has no cabled electricity: solar panel energy provides power for indoor lighting. The heating is provided by woodfire stoves, one in each common area. The interior plan is also strategically devised with the possibility of closing one half of the cabin with sliding doors, for more efficient heating when fewer people visit the cabin.
The Rabot Cabin is just one of many unusually architected cabins in this Norwegian Trekking Association’s group. Other are the Mount Skala Tower, a 20 bed tower built in 1891, the Breidablik Cabins, open only in the Spring and Summer, due to landslide issues in Winter, the Preikestolen Tree and the Preikestolen Mountain Camp, the Vasstindbu Cabins, just to name a very few. All are on or near mountaintops, allowing a variety of accommodation options for high altitude active travelers or, for weary hikers and skiers. There they will find welcome sanctuaries, and happy alternatives to damp sleeping bags and cold food.
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