It started off as a lark and ended as the trip of a lifetime. During a high altitude hike to Nepal and Tibet in 2019, our Norwegian colleague, Reidar Kvam, said mountains in Norway are much lower with no altitude sickness. He proposed a 2-week hike around Bergen in 2020 and recommended that participants add side visits or a cruise before or after the trip. Exploring options I found some scenic viewpoints – Trolltunga, Preikestolen, Kjerag – around Stavanger, that were very tempting. How could I hike in Norway and skip these icons?
This personal side trip rapidly evolved into a group hike and (despite Covid delays) 15 of us from the 1818 Hiking and Yoga clubs, hiked to these iconic locations in 2022. Our trip was organized by Norrøna Hvitserk. Their two guides – Morten and Ida – drove us in two vans, shepherded us up the trails safely, and ensured that we were well housed and well fed.
Trolltunga: We overnighted at the Trolltunga Hotel, Odda, a 3-hour drive from Bergen. Breakfast at 6am, pack your own lunch, departure 6:45am. Parked 400m uphill at Magelitopp, reducing the climb to 840m. Typical Norwegian weather: grey skies, steady drizzle through the day. The first 300m was steps carved by Nepali sherpas. As we crested the ridge, an alpine plateau greeted us with gigantic boulders and snowmelt lakes. We followed a 50:10 routine – 50 minutes hiking, 10 resting – just enough to keep us going. The second stop was an overlook with stunning views of the lake hundreds of meters below. The third was a lunch stop, and then we were there. Trolltunga is a spectacular rock formation 1,100 masl, and 700m above Lake Ringedal. There was quite a crowd. We had to wait for our turn to climb down to the rock for memorable photos. But it was worth the wait. The joy of reaching our destination made the return journey easy. We were back in the van in 9½ hours.
Preikestolen (pulpit rock): Next morning we drove four hours (including a ferry ride) to Preikestolen Mountain Lodge. Celebrated Sonja’s birthday in bright sunshine at our lunch stop enroute. Preikestolen receives 250,000 visitors a year, so we started at 4 pm after the main crowd returned, covering the 8 km round trip, 454m elevation in 4.5 hours. That included a delicious meal of couscous and chili on the top, carried up by Morten (he is strong as an ox). The true magnificence of the rock is fathomed when you view the sheer drop to the fjord 604 meters below AND the rock from the fjord. Roland few his drone to take pictures of the rock from above. Another mission accomplished.
Florlii: The village of Florlii (with a year-round population of two) lies halfway between Preikestolen and Kjerag. Accessible by ferry only it boasts the 4444 steps of the “Stairway to Heaven”. So off we went. The steps were built for workers to walk up to the hydropower plant every morning. What a commute! We started after lunch but the monotony of the steps got to us and we bailed out at 800. A side trail to a stream brought us to a decision point. We could see an enticing waterfall 480 meters above, and the cabin below. Six of us decided to venture up the hike up to the waterfall where we were rewarded with magnificent views of the fjord and a well developed, forested trail downhill. Delicious dinner by the fjord, followed by recuperation in the hot tub. Well worth the stopover.
Kjerag: Our fourth goal was Kjeragbolten – the 5 meter granite rock stuck from the ice age between two cliffs, 984m above Lysefjorden. To get to the trailhead we took the ferry from Florlii to Lysebotn, then drove up 300m through numerous switchbacks including am amazing tunnel winding like a corkscrew. Glorious sunshine enticed us and off we went. An easy trail gave way to enormous, steep boulders, with chains installed on several stretches to help unsure hikers. But the top was not the end. We had to traverse several hills going down, and up again. The 679m elevation gain was actually much more but we made it. We followed our guides’ instructions and did not venture on to Kjeragbolten because of liability insurance. But we got above and below it, and on the ridge overlooking the fjord. The steep descent made the return even more challenging than the ascent and we were glad to reach Kjerag Café in one piece to rehydrate before driving to Stavanger for the night.
Norway has much more to offer than hiking. We had the pleasure of driving overland from Stavanger, which included ferry rides across fjords and views of glaciers and thundering waterfalls to our destination in Bergen. Click here to see the trip album. More on the main 2-week Norway trip later.
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