Isolated mountainside farms are a distinctive feature of the fjord landscape, and the farms exemplify how families in farming managed to make a livelihood based on their peripheral surroundings.
In the steep, fjord landscape, ground that is sufficiently flat to be cultivated or built on is extremely scarce almost everywhere. Houses and groups of buildings are therefore constructed so that as little as possible of the area is taken up. The houses are generally built extremely close together, and dwellings and livestock barns often share a common roof (e.g. Blomberg and Me-Åkerneset in Geiranger).
Where the farm is located on steeply sloping ground, the buildings, except perhaps the smallest ones, are placed on the upper part of the cultivated area, with their longest dimension and gables aligned along the terrain. This is favourable with respect to both the local climate and removing the manure from the livestock.
On mountainsides that are prone to rock falls and avalanches,
the exploitation of outfield resources in the old days resulted in some spectacularly sited farms high in precipitous terrain between the fjord and the summits. These farms, referred to as mountainside farms, are a characteristic feature of the West Norwegian Fjords. Their only access is generally a very steep path that winds up the mountainside from the fjord, sometimes having to resort to ladders to tackle the very steepest sections.
The great risk of avalanches in winter was a decisive factor for the precise location of the buildings. In some cases, the decisions were marginal. At Me-Åkerneset, the buildings were placed under an overhanging cliff so that avalanches could pour over their roofs. In other places, avalanches that took place every year passed just a few metres from the buildings, which were conspicuously sited on knolls on the hillside which were safe from avalanches .
Several of the mountainside farms were abandoned as early as the 19th century, while others were farmed until shortly before 1970. Some farms have been preserved (Table 20) and stand out as valuable monuments with great aesthetic value in the fjord landscape. The photograph shows Me-Åkerneset in the Geiranger area, where two farmers had their dwellings, storehouses, hay barns, cattle sheds, goat sheds and stalls combined in a single
building on the only site where it was absolutely certain not to be swept away by an avalanche – beneath the overhanging cliff.