What is Trolltunga, and where is it?
Trolltunga, or ‘Troll’s tongue’ as it translates, is a large rock that protrudes out over the Ringedalsvatnet lake below. It can be found in Norway’s western fjords, approximately 2.5hours from Bergen. It is easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.
If you’ve ever thought about hiking the Trolltunga trail in Norway’s Fjords, know that it isn’t for the light hearted. Despite the influx of pictures on instagram of people precariously sitting on the ledge jutting out 700m above the water below, this hike it not easy. While we regularly walk 20km+ daily when we are travelling, this hike will test you.
Like many, I had seen a photo of this beautiful fjord and decided I simply had to visit. So, began the planning. After 9 months of research, booking accommodation and some alterations to my usual workout routine, we were ready. Unluckily, Otis had managed to find himself with a heavy cold for the week before our trip, and even on the day of the hike he was certainly still quite unwell. We wouldn’t recommend hiking this trail if you aren’t feeling 100%.
We had originally planned to set off at 6am to begin our hike, however we were tossing up whether to hike with Otis still under the weather. We eventually made the decision at 9am we would still attempt it, and so were on our way up the trail by 10am. We would not at all recommend this under normal circumstances, as we were three carparks from where we needed to begin the hike due to the higher levels being filled hours before, this also meant we had less daylight to work with and more people on the trail.
Recently, a tarred road has been developed that enables you to have the option of walking the first 4km of the trail on a road rather than scaling the first 1.5-2km up slippery rock faces. We chose this option for the way up and back down, as I am potentially one of the least coordinated human beings I know, and it was an accident waiting to happen had we chosen the alternate route. No matter which option you choose, the hike to Trolltunga is long and demanding, both physically and mentally.
Once you exit the road and enter more barren rocky terrain, you will likely be faced with quite a bit of mud. They’ve built a few foot bridges to attempt to combat this, but there was still a lot of sludge we had to evade to continue on the path. The following km is somewhat flat and seems much easier than the ascent over the last 4km up the road. Don’t be fooled, the next 1-2km after this are harder than they look. Upon reaching a crest, we had a beautiful vista of both the trail we’d so far completed, and a series of small lakes for the next stretch ahead of us. Much of the rest of the trail from here to the tongue is a series of small hills, traversing up and down across rock and a few open dirt patches. After one of the larger ascents, you wrap around a corner to see a fjord open in front of you. The blue of the water contrasted against snow covered mountains and grey rock ledges is quite simply, breathtaking.
With Otis ill, we took this ascent slow and steady, stopping whenever he needed some time to recover, occasionally drinking and having a small snack. This would keep our energy levels constant, and we wouldn’t tire as easily. Upon finally reaching the tongue, we found ourselves caught behind hundreds of other tourists with the same idea. And this is exactly when you realise setting off earlier in the morning pays off. Seizing the opportunity to make lunch, we lined up and waited our turn for that photo on the ledge. 3hours of waiting! Much to Otis’ despair, I made a snap decision to sit right on the edge and dangle my feet over. I think the adrenaline took over and I just went for it. I usually have a crippling fear of heights, whenever there’s no safety rail!
After our photos, we took a little more time basking in the beauty of this relatively untouched landscape, before we began to make our way back to the bottom. It’s now that the fatigue began to set in. The first half of the return trail was fine, but as we grew tired the distance between each km seemed to stretch out to become two! It is a helpful motivator, both on the way up and return, that every km of the trail is marked. This gives you a clear indication of how far still lies ahead of you.
Overall, the hike took us 10 hours, including 3 hours at the top waiting in line for photos. So we managed to complete the hike in 7 hours. It’s worth noting that even if your time spent waiting for photos is much shorter, you should take this opportunity to enjoy the views, rest and refuel. We came out fairly unscathed, although turns out my hiking boots are a little too small for such a long hike, so I had some bruised toes as a reminder.
What to wear
Norway, even in the summer isn’t exactly hot. You will need to wear comfortable clothing that will keep you warm. Layers are the best option, as you will likely warm up while walking, but when stopped at the summit I can assure you the temperature drops considerably and we encountered a lot of wind and a smattering of rain while there. Be sure to bring a suitable windproof/waterproof jacket to protect yourself from inclement weather and a sturdy pair of hiking boots with good ankle support are essential. We saw a lot of people ill-equipped for this hike, wearing regular gym sneakers, some even dressed in shorts and a hoodie! If things go south, you want to be sure you aren’t going to freeze.
How fit do I need to be?
You will need a reasonable level of fitness to tackle the hike to Trolltunga. I don’t even consider myself ‘fit’ compared to a lot of people, however I walk a lot, especially when we travel, and I do attend a gym class 3-4 a week. Endurance is something you will need on this hike.
Is it hard?
Put simply, yes. This hike was both physically and mentally demanding, and I am forever thankful we did it together. A steady stream of talking and laughing saw us through most of it, but both our feet and our brains were feeling it as we slowly made our way down the last 4km of road. We decided to use hiking poles for the first time ever, and I attribute my lack of pain the following day to this.
How to get there
We based ourselves in the nearby town of Odda, staying at the lovely Trolltunga Hotel, which has a great breakfast spread might I add. This placed us approximately 10-15 minutes drive from the parking lots where the hike begins. Follow the signs from Odda toward Tyssedal, then follow the signs to Skjeggedal and Trolltunga. There are several parking lots, they will close each off from the top down as they fill. Parking costs NOK500/day, however if you are in the very bottom carpark you will also need to pay to get the bus up to the main starting point as we did.
You don’t need to take extra bottles of water. The water you find in some of the streams along the trail is fresh and perfectly okay to drink, just ensure you aren’t filling your bottle from stagnant pools.
An extra pair of socks. After your ascent, a fresh pair of socks can and will feeling amazing.
Don’t overshoot it. There is a point on the trail that says to turn around if you haven’t made it there by 1pm. Take that advice and don’t risk getting caught in the dark. There’s no lights up here, and it’s very cold overnight.
Take toilet paper. There are no toilets on this trail, be sure to go before you leave, and keep some loo roll on you, along with a bag for any rubbish you have.
Don’t forget your camera! This place has some unreal beauty, so you are going to want to capture it.
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