It’s been a week since I’ve attempted, and successfully completed, the hardest hike I have ever been on. It was my girlfriend’s idea and I didn’t know better – and there wasn’t anything written about hiking in the winter, only the summer. The easy-peasy one. So I’ve decided to do a quick write-up, to help out others who don’t know what they are getting into when you attempt to scale the Norwegian mountains to see Trolltunga!
NB: Distances/elevation is from my iPhone‘s accelerometer, so give or take 10% for accuracy.
Start at the beginning
First tricky part was getting up to Skjeggedal. There is a bus that runs from the nearby town of Tyssedal, but only during the summer season… so your options:
- Rent a car when coming to Norway – something I really regret not doing
- Get a cab – incredibly expensive
- Go to Tyseddal Hotel and ask for transport – the two of us paid 200NOK one-way, got a lift from a fellow hiker back down
Once you are there in time, one of Trolltunga Active’s helpful guide will walk you through the route, what to expect and make you sign a paper that you might die along the way. Cheerful! They will also check your gear and make sure you have enough food and water. Protein bars are strongly recommended.
At this point I’d like to answer a question I’ve heard many times and thought about myself: YES, you definitely need to book a tour/get a guide if you want to hike! It’s treacherous, tiring, cold, and you could get stuck up there waiting for mountain rescue like a dumbass. Each winter season 50+ people need rescuing who try to go up without proper precautions. Do yourself (and Red Cross people who have to go up to get you down) a favour and don’t skimp on the 1100NOK.
And away we go
All righty, let’s get walking! The first stretch of the road is, not gonna lie, pretty terrible. It’s 4.5km (2.5mi) of steep uphill climb (300m/320yd) elevation on some gravel road a long forgotten power company started but never finished because of bankruptcy. In the process of building it they also tore down a lovely funicular set to be renovated. There is little to see on this way, you’ll mainly look ahead and sweat. Okay, some cool waterfalls and incredible Norwegian mountain scenery… but that’s everywhere!
Once finally up it’s time to put on your best pair of snowshoes, included in price, and after a brief walk along some winter houses it’s time to get into hardcore nature mode. And it begins with the hardest part, a very sharp cliff, covered with snow. I forgot to log the distance up but it seemed like ages. Good trick our guide told us: form a chain, let one person carve a path for the others then rest. It worked but it wasn’t easy. After all the ups and a bit of blissfully even walking, we’ve arrived to our midway point, a hut without wind and snow to grab lunch – good timing for we were famished. Sandwiches, nuts and berries were the staple. Distance 9.7km, elevation climbed 550m (6mi, 600yd).
Quick sidenote, there is a deadline in which you’ll have to make it to the hut. If you do not, they will turn you back for your safety and the team’s.
After a 20 minute break we faced the cold once again, strapped our snowshoes back and trudged on. Weather is very fickle in the mountains, one second there is sunshine, warmth and happiness, next it’s stinging snowy wind and total whiteout. I was very thankful for those extra layers I’ve had on. Even though I was quite happy with my jacket, something lightweight like this would’ve been awesome, but a very lucky thrift shop find got me some Salomon boots, keeping at least my feet warm and dry. My other body parts weren’t so lucky. Or my face.
Walk and walk and walk we did, and after a couple more sudden hills… we have finally arrived!!! Well… at least we think we did for we couldn’t see anything at the time, but our guide seemed certain enough, so we waited a bit and true enough, the fog cleared and Trolltunga appeared!
While it wasn’t the postcard sight everyone sees when they google it, but for us it was a sight like nothing else… not just for its sheer beauty but the personal achievement everyone accomplished for themselves. Distance 15.4km, elevation climbed 738m (9.6mi, 807yd).
Moment of triumph
After checking the Tongue for ice conditions, everyone was allowed to go up for their victory pictures. Lucky for me and my girlfriend the weather cleared out just as soon as we stepped on, giving us a glimpse at the lakes down below. All of us savoured the moment a while longer, had a quick bite but the icy wind was even more brutal near the top so we hightailed it out of there, heading back to warmth. Relatively speaking.
The way back was uneventful and very silent. Everyone kinda switched to auto-pilot to get themselves home. The road was mostly downwards, with a couple of valleys thrown in not to make it too easy. We had another pit stop in the hut, ate our last morsels and went in for the last push. Lots of falls, lots of laughter and kind weather.
Eventually snow gave way to gravel again on the way down, and down came our snowshoes. Every step felt like a leap… and after 10.5 hours we have returned to the starting point, bruised, in pain but incredibly proud of ourselves. So was our guide, we were in the faster bracket, yay. We celebrated with hot coffee, tea, and chairs. Total distance 29.7km, 930m elevation (18mi, 1017yd).
Ughhh… worth it
An awesome, epic adventure – I have to thank my lovely girlfriend for dragging me along! No need for leg days for a good while… 😅 If you like hiking, love climbing mountains and looking for a big challenge: look no further!
Date of hike: 2017 April 10th.
- Dress in layers (base layer, fleece mid and jacket)
- Have some good wind- and waterproof pants
- Stock up on fruits and nuts (sharing is caring)
- Have a badass protective case for your phone
- Wear waterproof hiking boots with good soles that you have broken in
- Keep a change pair of everything in your bag
- A mug to keep something warm with you