Trolltunga, Part En

Standing on Trolltunga.

Trolltunga is an iconic sight, and prominently features in google image searches for Norway (along with Preikestolen, and Kjerag).

It is a large horizontal rock slab extending over a lake some 1000 meters below. As scary as it looks, the rock itself is quite safe, and a great picnic spot, marriage spot, handstand spot, or whatever else you would like to do on it.

More recently, it’s also become a popular day walk, with some 10,000s of tourists attempting to mark it off their todo list each year.

However to get there is no easy feat.

First of all, the walk can only be done during a narrow window in the peak of summer – from July to mid August. To get there from Bergen, requires travelling 3 – 4 hours down a windy narrow, and often single-lane fjord-side road, all the way to the end of the mighty Hardanger Fjord.

The track starts at the mountainside settlement of Skjeggedal (that’s assuming you have a car, if not, then you need to walk up the mountain road to Skjeggedal, and add another 1.5 hours to your tramp each way).

From Skjeggedal it’s a steep 1000m ascent to the mountain plateau, either by scrambling directly up the near vertical mountain, or taking the 3500 funicular steps*. This will take you at least three hours.

Once you are on the mountain plateau it doesn’t get much easier.

Out of the treeline with no forest to protect you, you are exposed to the harsh sub-arctic climate, more often than not, there will be rain, wind and near freezing conditions, with nowhere to seek shelter. There are slippery rocks to negotiate, icy rivers to cross (without bridges), and snow to negotiate. From the plateau, it will still take you another 3 – 4 hours before reaching Trolltunga. Once there, you will get to queue with the 100 or so other frozen tourists, waiting to take their photo, before taking the same arduous journey back down.

A 10 – 12 hour return trip.

There is a hut at Trolltunga, Reinaskorsbu, where you could stay if you were too cold and exhausted to make the six hour trek back. But, the hut is tiny, and can sleep only six people.** So, unless you started your walk at 5am, all six bunks will likely be taken.

None of this sounded particularly appealing to us, but I wanted to do some more tramping in the Hardanger region, so we decided to make it a three day round trip from Skjeggedal, taking in some of the more dramatic scenery, and improving our chances of good weather on at least one day.

Approximate hike map – We started from Tyssedal, and walked to Mosdalsbua (4.5 hrs), Reinaskorsbu (8 hrs), and back to Tyssedal (6hrs). Purple is the tourist hike. Thin black line is the mountain road.

We took the 11.30am 930 bus from Bergen to Odda, and then a local bus to Tyssedal, where we began our tramp with the 1.5 hour walk up the mountain road to Skjeggedal.

We arrived at Skjeggedal around 6.30pm, and now were ready for some more rugged tramping.

Our first night would be at the small mountain cabin, Mosdalsbua, around halfway up the mountain, in the opposite direction of Trolltunga. The track was an easy uphill ascent, through forest, offering some lovely views of the lakes and dams in the area, gorgeous snow capped mountains and the Hardanger fjord in the distnace.

Bridge crossing at start of track. There were still bridges at this stage of tramp.

We reached the hut around 8.30pm, to find it empty and to ourselves. Ready-mix pasta, and Solbær toddy (Norwegian tramping drink), tasted delightful.

Lake by the hut, and our water source

 

Mosdalsbua Hytte – tiny hut, but all to ourselves

We made for an early night.

The next day we would walk to Trolltunga, and next hut, via the mountain plateau. We knew it would be a demanding hike, but we were prepared. We were now familiar with the norsk terrain. We had layers of warm clothing and full-on waterproofing head to toe. We also had a tent, and plenty of food, should we not make it to the hut, or should the hut be full. The one thing we didn’t take was crampons.

But this is peak summer. Surely we could manage what little snow there would be?

About that much snow…

We set out at 9am the following morning, and were greeted with wind, rain, and even a brief period of snow showers. Ahead of us was an ascent to 1400m, via several snowy ridges and across two dams. Our visibility was mostly restricted – probably a good thing, as I was unable to see the 1000m drop off, should I slip.

Crossing a dam along the track. Note the ice clumps against the dam wall. Also note the low water level. This means little snow melt, which doesn’t bode well for our electricity prices this winter.

 

Another dam. Also note the worryingly low water level

Around half way in, after a frozen sandwich of bread and hummus for lunch, the mist cleared, and we were greeted with the breathtaking Norwegian mountains. Snow was plentiful, and considerably more than I had expected, but it was soft, and we were ‘easily’ able to negotiate without crampons.

Looking back down to one of the damn lakes. Note the power lines.

Eight and a half hours in, we arrived at Reinaskorsbu hytter around 5.30pm to find two bunks were free, which we immediately claimed.

The hut was empty, so we set about cooking a much anticpiated ready-mix pasta and soup for dinner.

As were eating, more and more people started to pile into the tiny hut, seeking refuge, and a place to sleep for the night. I could imagine maybe two or three more people sleeping on the floor, and maybe some of the couples could share a single bunk…

But more people kept piling in.

The weather outside looked cold and rainy, but we did have a three season MSR tent…

We made a snap decision.

We relinquished our bunks to 3 Norwegian girls who just arrived, and left the warmth and shelter behind.

We proceeded to pitch our tent beside a patch of snow, and a good distance away from the steep 1000m drop to the lake below. Getting tent pegs into solid Scandinavian rock was a challenge. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be too windy on the exposed terrain. And then we remembered the MSR tent also had a tendency to leak. Hopefully, not too much.

The mostly trusty MSR tent

As the tiny hut was bursting with people, with inviting smoke billowing from the chimney, we cosied ourselves in our tent, battered by wind and rain, in near freezing temperature. But we were warm, and slept relatively well, and most likely more comfortably than had we stayed in the hut.

Refreshed, and only a little bit cold, we awoke to the greatest view.

First thing we saw getting up in the morning

Now, we were ready for Trolltunga.

All photos from part one below.  Part two coming soon.

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*In times gone by there used to be a funicular running up the first part of the ascent, but it is no longer in operation. However, I think there are plans to reopen it in future. Not sure.
** Apparently BT has plans to refurbish this into a more comfy 25 person hut. But that is probably still a few years off.

 

 

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