With heavy rain forecast for the afternoon, we made an early start, not wanting to be caught above the treeline when the bad weather set in.
We lingered at Trolltunga, and only had to queue behind two other campers before we could take our photos, and make a short video.
After standing on Trolltunga, and enjoying one of the world’s most scenic breakfasts, it was time for the five hour descent back to civilisation, via the tourist track.
A couple of hours in, we started meeting the first set of day walkers. The were looking Norwegian, super fit, and well-equipped. They likely started the tramp at 5am. They probably would be fine doing the walk in a day. A little cold and tired perhaps, but otherwise fine.
We pushed on.
As the day progressed we started meeting more and more day walkers, all adamant they were heading up into the dark, grey, foreboding clouds.
Each group was looking increasingly more poorly equipped than the previous.
There was the Polish family who spoke neither Norwegian or English, and whose nine year old daughter had to translate for us. They were dressed in cotton and jeans, wearing light-weight sneakers, and looking rather unfit. But their day packs looked full, hopefully with thermice of hot soup, and rain coats. We explained to the girl that they were nearly there, they had done the ‘hard bit’ and only had another three or so hours to go. They nodded in an exhausted-like fashion, too tired to show any emotion, and continued on.
Shortly after, we met another group, and also assured them they were on the right track, would get there ‘soon’, and that they would easily find it, that it would be obvious (‘read there will be a huge clump of people standing on the edge of a cliff’).
And then, we met two Japanese girls.
They were wearing white sneakers with thin ankle socks, white knee-length denim shorts, and cotton jackets. They were both carrying heavy SLR cameras, and both had a fashionable tan leather handbag slung over their shoulder. (This is important when climbing Norwegian mountains). That they had made it this far amazed us, but they were not even half way, and then once there, they still needed to walk all the way back again. In about five minutes the rain would hit, and on the plateau they would have no shelter. Their handbags would be ruined, and their cameras, unlikely to fit into the handbag, wouldn’t fare much better. Their feet would be soaked in the snowy river crossing up ahead, and remain frozen for the rest of their walk.
Maybe they had the foresight to carry one of those emergency disposable rain coats in their bags, which could offer them some protection, otherwise hypothermia was inevitable. Maybe we should tell them to turn around? But they had just walked up 1000m on to the plateau, and would likely not listen when being told to turn around and go back. We didn’t say anything, and watched them continue on. At least there would be plenty of other people on the track.
Maybe they had a banana or a chocolate bar in their handbags, to give them some extra energy.
In the distance in front of us, we saw our next POI, the track intersection, where the main Trolltunga track forks into two.
The path to the right takes you to Trolltunga, eventually (although the sign doesn’t state this).
The path to the left takes you deep into the Hardangervida, with no huts or shelter anywhere near. We saw two walkers, carrying small day packs take the track to the left, and continue in a determined fashion. We considered running after them, but, once we got to the intersection, they were already too far ahead.
They would need to work it out themselves.
They should see the string of tourists walking the other track. It should be obvious soon enough. Or so we hoped.
We continued on.
We greeted more walkers, and firmly directed them to take the track to the right.
Signposting seemed poor, and it was clear most of the walkers had no map. But that was the least of their problems. Most seemed hopelessly ill-quipped to undertake such a trek.
I was dressed in three layers, full length polypro underwear, polar fleece and layered hiking pants, and finally rain over pants and a goretex rain coat, together with gloves, hat, two pairs of socks, and sturdy water-proof boots. I felt warm and comfortable. My feet were dry, and my hands toasty. But even after stopping for a brief snack, I felt the cold creep in. I cannot imagine the miserable state the Polish family or the Japnese girls would be in. (Well maybe I can – probably something like this.). I kept wondering what tourist advertising had convinced them that they should attempt such a walk.* There are many incredibly scenic short walks in this area, which don’t require subjecting yourself to exhaustion, pain, cold and misery.
We watched the queue of walkers head up the gloomy path. We had another square of Freya chocolate, and resumed our tramp.
We reached the end of the plateau. It was midday. Now we faced the 1000m descent back to civilisation. It wasn’t any easier, and the rain was here to stay.
The downward path was relentless, and a complete assault on my knees. Legs shaking, we pushed on. I thought it would never end. The houses far down below at Skjeggedal were not getting any bigger.
The jagged, muddy track kept going further down. Further and further.
But finally, joints aching, toes battered and bruised from repeatedly hitting the front-end of my boots, we reached Skjeggedal some five hours after we left Trolltunga. We were exhausted. And this was just the downwards return track of what is supposed to be a day walk.
We hungrily devoured 1/2 kg of nuts, and then began the last section of our tramp down the mountain road, to the bus stop.
We arrived 2.52pm. The bus was at 3.05pm. We had just enough time to remove our muddy outer layer, fossick for bus money, and for Brian to devour a packet of cookies – all in that order.
We had made it.
Conclusion: Hardanger is an awersome area to go tramping, and as an added bonus we even took in the infamous Trolltunga, and to be honest, it was pretty amazing. However, my advice to trampers wanting to check out Trolltunga: Unless you are supremely fit, and the weather is guarnateed blue skies, it’s not worth the 10+ hour walk, just for a photo. Even if you do make it, you will still have to queue in exposed terrain for an hour or longer to get your shot. You could consider staying in the tiny hut overnight, but it will likely be full, and at 300 NOK per person the hut is very basic indeed. My suggestion is take a tent, and make it into a multiday tramp. There is a lot of awesomeness around, and much more on offer than just a slab of rock sticking out over a lake.
*A google search back home revealed the local tourism industry has decided to push the Hardanger in the last couple of years, and put a photo of Trolltunga on the front of their main tourist brochure. Since then, the number of visitors has increased tenfold.