With Edinburgh behind us, we were anxious to move on to our next wild card of a destination. We said goodbye to the pubs, friendly characters, and plentiful rich meals of Scotland and hello to the stunning scenery, beautiful people, and exceedingly expensive food of Norway. We arrived in Bergen ready to tackle the crowning jewel of our trip: Trolltunga. Months prior Rachel had sent me images of hikers dangling on the edge of a cliff hundreds of meters above the sea. The scene was spectacular, and I was sold. It was the reason we were heading to Norway.
As excited as we were to reach our destination, we were every bit as nervous. We weren’t staying in Bergen; we had nine hours of navigating unfamiliar roads using nothing but an old fashioned paper map ahead of us. That’s right we were driving. I can barely maneuver the mean streets of Scottsdale so this one was all on Rachie. After cramming six bags into our Toyota Yaris, marginally making it out of the parking garage, nearly getting run down at the first roundabout (of many), and looping right back around to the rental lot to remedy a pesky warning chime that had gone off (turns out we had left our parking brake on), we – along with the Hertz attendant – had serious concerns about our abilities.
Despite it all, our anxiety began to dissipate the moment we caught our first glimpse of the Norwegian landscape. The endless rows of colorful clapboard homes tucked into the lush green fjords and cold blue waters took our breath away. The scenery lasted the whole of the drive, which in my mind now reigns near the top of the most beautiful places I’ve been in my life. The roads being narrow and windy, Rachie fully ignored my pleads to stop for photos, so all I have to show for myself are a bunch of blurry snaps taken from the moving car and this one lone image from a much-needed reststop:
Hours later we made it to the tiny yet picturesque town of Eidfjord where we’d be staying for two nights. When I say tiny, I mean – those few buildings are pretty much it. We had a sneaking suspicion the shops there would close early, which was worrisome considering we had to get food for our ten hour trek the next morning. Sure enough we pulled up to the grocery store at 8:02, just in time for the clerk to shut and lock the door in our faces. He did spare a moment to let us know our only options for food at that point were The Mix (which looked like a version of Dairy Queen) and the gas station, which had just extended its hours to 10 pm (woo!). Off we went to The Mix, where we shelled out $40 for the equivalent of two McDs snack wraps and three vanilla soft serves. Unimpressed, we decided to make the gas station our vendor of choice for (essentially all) our meals for the next day. Nothing like a Wasa cracker with processed cheese and an old salami sandwich to nourish.
We knew the trek would not a small endeavor: the hike to Trolltunga spans 22 kilometers over vastly varying terrain in the highly unpredictable Norwegian weather. In the little research we had done prior to stepping foot on the trail, previous hikers had suggested spending hours climbing the stairmaster and pulling off a few longer hikes in preparation for this one. Having disregarded this advice and spent the time leading up to this long expedition drinking pints and stumbling around Edinburgh, the first kilometer had us a little winded. By far the most difficult part of the entire hike (and infinitely worse on the way down), the vertical steps put us at the base of a stream where we’d get our first taste of pure spring water:
All smiles after we passed our first kilometer marker and the trail gave way to a little flatter terrain.
The Queen of Paranoia when it comes to weather, I had dug through multiple forecasts for Trolltunga as we were planning. I was a little shocked to find that our odds of getting a sunny day were something like 16%. So I had prayed for the best and braced myself for the worst, but was still disappointed when we woke up to cloudy skies that morning. We were hopeful when we briefly saw patches of blue near the start of the hike, but those quickly disappeared. Four harrowing hours in, with rain on our faces and a dense fog hiding any trace of views, we sat down and had a little cry. Okay, I had a little cry. But all three of us echoed the same thoughts: we couldn’t believe we had come halfway around the world and put forth so much effort only to be disappointed.
And that’s when our small miracle began to take shape. The closer we got to Trolltunga, the brighter the skies became until finally, we reached our glorious destination. And it was every bit as awesome as we had hoped:
The ledge isn’t as scary as it looks since it slightly inclines and you can’t see directly down into the water. Despite there being a fair amount of people on the nearby cliffs and in line for a photo opp at the base of the tongue, there was a sense of calm and respect as we all took in the view and silently acknowledged our shared accomplishment. By the time we reluctantly decided it was time to end our brief break and put our legs back to work, the skies had cleared even more and we were rewarded with amazing views on the trek back out.
So that’s what the fog had been hiding. Notice our shoes? Even in the drier season, parts of the ground were like mud pits. By the time we reached our car, we were exhausted, caked in goop, and starving. But oh so happy
We toasted to our success with a truly gourmet meal (this time from the local grocer instead of the gas station) in our little kitchen – PB&Js, brie cheese, and hard cider.
I will forever remember this day, and who I shared it with
A few recommendation based on our experience:
Where to stay: There are a handful of smaller towns closer to Trolltunga that make the morning drive there shorter than from say, Bergen. We stayed in Eidfjord at a really charming bed & breakfast called Vik Pensjonat og Hytter. Because there were three of us, we sprung for the family room which has two bedrooms, a private bathroom and a little kitchen. It was perfect. We happily gorged on breakfast the day after our hike – our first real meal in Norway – and it was delish!! We never ventured into Odda, but it’s supposed to be a beautiful and somewhat larger town also near the hike.
What to wear: Layers. I wore long athletic leggings and a loose fitting dry fit t-shirt, topped by a long sleeve zip up, a vest, and my North Face. I wore the vest for all of 5 minutes at the start of the hike. Wasn’t necessary and it just ended up taking space in my backpack.
What we packed: We hiked in July, so I can’t speak to any other time of year, but we felt we did a good job filling our backpacks:
– Sunglasses, chapstick, wallet – the usual.
– A hat, thin gloves, handwarmers, clean socks, a poncho – we ran hot and cold so these little things helped.
– One water bottle. You don’t need more since you can refill as often as needed from the springs, which are plentiful throughout the hike.
– SNACKS! Thank goodness I had packed five pounds of raw nuts and raisins in my suitcase to supplement the junk we got at the gas station.
When to arrive: Early of course. We left our B&B around 6 am, since we had an hour drive to reach the trailhead. We had no problem getting parking (for which you have to pay). The hike itself took us about 4.5 hours each way and we spent a good hour at the top taking photos and having lunch, so all in all, the trek took ten hours. In the summer, it stays light until after 11 pm (yes!), so you absolutely can start a little later, but I always prefer to get an early start. We saw some fools just starting out as we were coming down around 5 pm – now that is not recommended!