During the planning of our Norwegian adventure, my friend and I looked a many different hiking options. Originally, we were planning on backpacking and camping overnight somewhere in Norway. But our desire to see mountains and fjords, and the time frame in which we were visiting, pushed us into the unknown and potentially dangerous territory of snow and ice. Many of the hiking options specifically stated “do not attempt before mid-June” (we visited end of April/beginning of May). With limited experience hiking, and no experience camping, in the winter, we decided that a guided day hike may be our best option, y’know, so we actually returned home. During the early stages of research, we found Trolltunga, or Troll’s Tongue, one of the most popular hikes (maybe even THE MOST POPULAR hike) in Norway. We quickly crossed this off of the list due to the time of year we were visiting. However after deciding on a guided hike, we found a tour guide group called Trolltunga Active that conducts guided snowshoe hikes out to Trolltunga, at a very reasonable price! It was decided, we were going to see Trolltunga.
After a not great night of sleep at the hostel (we had a roommate who snored terribly loud), we got up early to get ready for the hike. We ate breakfast at the hostel, filled our water bottles, and hopped in the van pool organized by the hostel that would take us to Trolltunga Active. In the van, we met another woman, who we would end up befriending and adventuring with for the rest of our time in Norway. She had attempted the hike two days earlier, but they had to turn back due to extremely low temperatures and whiteout conditions from a storm. She changed her plans in order to attempt the hike again. Luckily this day it was forecast to be in the 50s (Fahrenheit) with almost no clouds.
We got to Trolltunga Active and had a pre-hike briefing with the guides. You need to sign a waiver and register that you started the hike (so they know to look for you if you don’t come back). We also used this time to double check that we had everything – extra layers, sunglasses, sunscreen, water, food, etc. I dug and dug through my pack, convinced that I had packed my SPF 70 sunscreen. I couldn’t find it anywhere. So I had to buy a tiny thing of sunscreen for $20 (USD). At least it was SPF 50…
The guides handed out snowshoes and poles, described the route we would take, a 22 km (~13.6 miles) trek with 900 m (~2,950 feet) of elevation gain, although my GPS watch clocked well over 3,000 feet elevation gain, closer to 4,000 feet. The guides stated that if you didn’t make it to a certain point within three hours, they would make you turn back because you wouldn’t make it to Trolltunga with enough daylight to make it back. Talk about intense. Once everyone was situated, the hike began.
Right from the very beginning it was steep. You start by ascending 17 switchbacks of a steep, gravel road. It didn’t take me long to reconsider my life decisions. Why did I want to do this again? Why did I PAY for this?? We gained 500 feet in the first mile, and another 500 in the second. Just as I felt like dying, we stopped to take a break. We had already reached the elevation where there was still snow. From here it leveled off just a little while we walked through some cute cabins to an exposed stream. Here we were able to refill water bottles, if needed.
The next part of the route was the hardest. We ascended an extremely steep, snow covered hillside, gaining slightly over 1,000 feet in a mile. This would have been a difficult climb without the snow, but the added slippery factor made it even harder. With the occasional slide backwards on the snow, I felt like I was working twice as hard to cover half the distance. And every time I looked up, the top seemed even farther away. Needless to say, I was SO GLAD once I had reached the top of this climb.
At the top, the group took a quick break while the guides described the plan for the rest of the route, which mainly consisted of rolling hills. After what we had just climbed, it was a breeze. The first downhill on the snow was a little nerve racking (especially with a guy who had no spacial awareness right on my tail), but once I got the hang of it, it was basically smooth sailing for the rest of the hike out to Trolltunga (which took another three hours).
A little ways after our lunch stop at an emergency shelter along the trail (where I found the SPF 70 sunscreen that I had actually packed….$20 wasted), the view opened up to an amazing site. We hiked along the edge of the mountains that bordered Ringedalsvatnet (vatnet is the Norwegian word for lake). It was incredible and only got better as we went along.
After a bit more walking, we finally came to Trolltunga. Words can’t even describe how beautiful this spot is. There’s a reason why this is one of the most popular hikes in Norway. Trolltunga is a rock formation that looks like a tongue sticking straight out from the cliff, 700 meters (~2,300 feet) above Ringedalsvatnet. We spent quite a bit of time here taking pictures and drinking in the amazing landscape, unable to comprehend that this was real life and we were actually not dreaming.
After enjoying ourselves for a little while, it was time to head back so we had enough sunlight. The hike back was a lot easier, and once we got to the steep parts we just slid down on our butts!
The hike to Trolltunga was one of the hardest hikes I’ve ever done, but also the most rewarding. One of the reasons that I love hiking is that you are reminded of just how small you are as a human. This hike was no exception. This natural rock formation was so amazing and I won’t soon forget this experience. Before I wrap up this post, I’d just like to share one more tidbit from the hike. While we were at Trolltunga, I overheard someone asking one of the guides whether Trolltunga would be here forever. I already knew the answer, but the tour guide told this person that because of erosion the rock would eventually fall into the lake below. This was a simple reminder that nothing is permanent and that landscapes we take for granted are constantly changing, even if we can’t see it. I can’t put into words how glad I am to have had the opportunity to stand at the edge of Trolltunga and take in the beauty that is Norway.