Hey folks! Rita & André here! Alas, we are about to tell you the story of when we hiked to Trolltunga, one of the most impressive cliffs in Norway. It is located 1100 meters above sea level and it hovers 700 meters above the lake Ringedalsvatnet. If you read the previous posts about our Scandinavian Holidays (Bergen & Odda), you already got the idea that this hike was the main reason why we wanted to visit Norway. We are not professional hikers whatsoever and we don't want you to get the wrong idea. The hike to Trolltunga is long and hard, but totally doable if you are fit and maintain an active, healthy lifestyle. This post will actually be more of a "Trolltunga Hiking Guide" than just a story-telling one, in case it is on your bucket list and you need some help checking that off. Bear in mind that we booked our trip 6 months ahead, so we had loads of time to read about it, evaluate it, prepare for it, and shop for essentials. We read numerous testimonials from people who'd already been there, and we've summed it all up in this post to make it easier for whoever is looking for this sort of information.
It is only possible to do this hike from mid-June to mid-September, which is when the snow has melted away and the hiking trail is safer. We did the hike on the 30th of June but from what we were told, the winter of 2014-2015 had been particularly tough. As you can see from our photographs, more than 80% of the trail was still covered in snow, which is so not typical in this time of the year. We realised this in advance and we prepared ourselves as best as we could. Our hiking boots weren't waterproof and we were not about to buy us brand new pairs, so we had to make it work with whatever we had. If we could go back in time, there is one thing we did not get and could really have made a big difference. Sunglasses! We were halfway up the mountain and our eyes were burning from all the sunlight reflecting in the snow.
Naturally, our advice to any potential Trolltunga hikers and suggestions on what they should take with them are in accordance with these weather conditions. But if get the chance of hiking to Trolltunga during a more summer-like summer, your trekking poles, for example, will obviously not need snow baskets. Before we tell you all about how it actually went down, here goes:
- Good quality hiking boots, preferrably waterproof (with all the snow and water streams, your feet are bound to get soaking wet)
- High quality hiking socks, plus an extra pair of socks in your backpack (real high quality ones can truly make your day. Ours were +10€ a pair and trust me: SO WORTH IT.)
- Layered clothing for hiking (one comfortable and fitting base layer, one insulating layer and one windproof and waterproof top layer)
- Trekking poles with snow baskets, at least 1 per person (these truly do help up you go up and down the mountain and relieve the pressure on your knees)
- Sunglasses (Seriously. Don't be foolish [like we were] and take these along)
- SPF+30 sunscreen (well, duh.)
- 1 toilet paper roll or paper tissues
- Plastic bag (for collecting your garbage)
- Enough food and water for the day (you'll be up there approximately 8 hours, keep your body well nourished and hydrated!)
- 1 practical and comfortable backpack (pretty self-explanatory)
- Swiss army knife
- Camera (you wouldn't not want to record this day!)
- Basic first aid kit (nothing too fancy, we only had antiseptic wipes and a few bandages on us)
- Camping gear (in case you'd want to spend the night up there)
This is it for hiking gear. Add a generous dose of will power, a good night's sleep and a nourishing breakfast to it all and you should be ready to do this! Without further ado, here's what it was like for us.
Preparations started a day earlier when we went to the supermarket in Odda and bought snacks, fruit and bread for the big day. Since we were planning to start hiking really early in the morning, there was absolutely no time for late shopping. We were staying in a hotel in Vasstun (15 minutes away from Odda), but the hike to Trolltunga actually starts in Skjeggedal (9 km away and further into the mountain). There are a few ways of getting there, but what most people do (and what we had planned to do also) was take the bus from Vasstun (stops right at the hotel's doorstep) to Odda's bus station, where we'd get on another bus to Tyssedal (a village up in the mountain, located about 6 kms north of Odda) and then grab a taxi to Skjeggedal.
That's not actually what happened though. We woke up super early that day and had breakfast at the hotel with a large group of people from the USA who were also getting ready for the hike. They had booked a mini-bus that would take them directly to Skjeggedal. We kindly asked if there was room for two more people, and the answer was yes. So we swapped our plans of 2 buses + a taxi for a much simpler plan: one ride only, directly to Skjeggedal. Since we were so many in that mini-bus, we each had to pay a much smaller amount than what we'd planned to originally. Win-win! We arrived in Skjeggedal a few minutes before 8 am and immediately jumped to task ahead of us. We had the whole day to hike 22 km in the snow, there and back, and we did not want to waste one single minute.
If you've read testimonials or seen photographs of this hike before, you already know what the beginning is like. The first kilometer (and therefore the last one as well) of the way is definitely the hardest part of it all. Not too long ago, the hike started with a 1.7 km climb up the tracks of an old abandoned funicular. These tracks were partially destroyed and completely out of bounds when we got there. The alternative is to climb a 1 km trail up the mountain, step by step, rock by rock. Don't be fooled by the fact that this trail is a much shorter climb than the 1.7 km funicular track. It is an extremely challenging, strenuous way up. It took us about 45 minutes to get to the top and our legs were already sore and trembling. We have absolutely no photographs of this whole portion of the hike, because AIN'T NOBODY GOT TIME! We just focused on climbing those steps and pacing our breaths. You can however, catch a glimpse of what this climb looks like in our video for the whole trip, from 1:28 to 1:38.
Oh boy, this post is already mighty long and we just got to the top of the mountain — Stay with us, guys! When the horrible 1 km climb up the mountain was behind us, we finally stopped to catch our breath and look around. Snow was peeking through everywhere and we still had a long way up the mountains. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking and we were constantly taking a quick break to look back, see how far we'd already hiked and take gazillions of photographs of every angle imaginable. The snow factor was both a pro and a con. It obviously made the hike tens of times harder than what we had originally expected it to be, but it also made it that much more beautiful and special. The biggest problem posed by the snow (besides it being extremely exhausting to walk on) was that most of the trail markers were buried deep and there was no way of knowing how far along we were or if we were even on the actual trail. Thankfully, we crossed paths with probably 30-40 people along the whole way, so there was almost always someone in sight and we could follow the trail of footsteps in the snow.
The way up to Trolltunga tooks us about 4 and a half hours, much longer than the way back. We stopped 3-4 times to rest and eat and we took more photos than we could keep track of. Hiking in the snow takes some getting used to, so the first kilometers in deep snow also slowed us down a bit. But we were happy, the sun was shining, and we were finally making this huge dream come true. There were people from all over the world, young people, old people, little kids with their parents, people with dogs, couples like us and groups of friends. Everyone we met had a big smile on their faces and were so thrilled to be there.
After 11km on mostly snow, we finally got to Trolltunga. There weren't a lot of people waiting in line to step on it (but yes, there is a line) and I (Rita) wen't first, while André stayed atop the rocks to take the first few photographs. As I waited in line for my turn, I tried to hold back the tears and control the many emotions that were assaulting me. All I could think of was my parents and how I wish they'd could've been there with us. When my turn came up, I calmly stepped onto the tongue. I slowly sat on the rock and scooched over to the very edge. I took a deep breath and peeked over at the bottom of the cliff. Check, that is high, I thought. I only sat for about 30 seconds, after which I turned to André and smiled for a few frames. I slowly scooched again from the edge and stood up, turned around and hoped onto the mountain again. I swapped places with André and he went on his own as well.
We sat for a good half an hour and watched as everyone around stepped onto the tongue and posed for their pictures. We had taken our socks off (which were SOAKING wet) and put them on a rock so they could dry a bit (they didn't). Ate a few snacks, drank some water and started thinking about those 11kms we still had to hike back.
As we were preparing to head back, I turned to André and said "There's no way we're leaving without a picture of us both up there!". We thought about it for a few seconds, dropped our backpacks and went to the back of the line again. The nicest girl offered to hold on to our camera and photograph us when our turn came up.
So after being on the Troll's Tongue not once but twice, it was finally time to head back. We would only consider our goal of hiking to Trolltunga to be achieved after we stepped down from the last step of that diabolical 1km climb. It was half past 1pm, we were starting to show some signs of exhaustion and could think of nothing else besides a hot shower and a bed. The way back was much quicker, as we only stopped once for a little snack and some rest and were now totally used to walking on the snow. We kept on going as if we were in auto pilot and not even the pain in our knees could slow us down, although they did make us pull a few fugly pain-tired faces (like this one). It took us 3 hours to hike the whole 11kms back.
It was as soon as we stepped on solid ground and off the mountain that we realized how tired we were and how weak our legs felt like. We could hardly believe that we had actually just finished the hike. But we still managed to summon one last drop of energy and give each other one hell of a high five. We had done it!
We called a taxi to have us picked up in Skjeggedal and we shared the ride with two other hikers from England. We went directly to our hotel after dropping them off in the center of Odda. It goes without saying that our legs would resemble numb jellos for the next few days.
But our adventures in Scandinavian lands weren't over just yet! The following day we headed back to Bergen and jumped on the train to Oslo, where we spent two nights. Read all about it in our next post, Oslo (Norway & Sweden 2015, Part IV).