We almost, almost, so close to almost didn’t hike Trolltunga.
Because even though it’s the most famous hike in all of Norway and probably the universe (not actually true, but it’s the first one that comes up when you type “Trolltunga” into Google, so that counts, right?), it’s crazy long, a crazy big day, a crazy hard for unfit people (*cough* me *cough*).
We also wondered if the hype would be worth it. Only 800 people a year hiked Trolltunga before 2010, and after the wonderful world of Instagram and all the follow-on ducklings that drooled over the #trolltunga hashtag, that number jumped to a juicy 80,000 a year. We’re not huge fans of people. People hiking, flailing about with hiking poles, pointing at things, getting in our photos; so we wondered if we should even bother.
It would be a little underwhelming if I now ended this post with, “so we didn’t”.
But no, we decided to give it a crack.
Trolltunga is a 28km round trip, with a 1.1km ascent, and recommended for expert hikers, which we most certainly aren’t.
We woke up at 5am, drove an hour to the foot, and began hiking at seven-thirty. We had read on every “How Hard is Trolltunga Really?” blog post that we should start before eight.
It is possible to pay a small (by Norwegian standards) fee and catch a shuttle bus from carpark B to carpark A, cutting out about 4km of the trip.
We didn’t do that.
Instead, we pulled ourselves up through bush and rocks, using ropes strung between trees to get to the point where a pile of lovely, sweat-free tourist trounced of a bus and met us with hiking poles at the ready. I won’t make fun of hiking poles in case any of you readers actually use the things, because I’m certain they can be helpful in many situations … (but for the record I think they’re stupid and are the subject of much of my personal inner-monologue-ridicule about others).
At reaching this point, I was feeling pretty good. I had convinced myself that I was over the hard part, the steepest point was done, I was going to nail this.
I was stupid.
7km later, I was cursing myself and everything I stood for. The first portion is a lot of rock steps, and then just rock. A huge, smooth, slippery surface that you can either walk directly up (and ruin your ankles), or walk in wide, carefully-footed zig-zags (like a mountain goat).
Without question, I decided to goat it.
Needless to say, we drank the first litre of water in this 7km, and I was two muesli bars in before I decided I really needed to settle down.
After the devil rock, we had a few blissful kilometres of relatively flat ground, (and by flat I mean riddled with rocks, but blissfully level elevation-wise), past a few big lakes and cairns (those little stacks of rocks that are used as trail makers). Rohan tells me that from one cairn, you should be able to see the next, thus marking out a distinct path. This is probably true, but to be honest I was bleeding from the brain by this point, and all I could see was where to put my foot next.
The first amazing lake view came not long after I was about ready to cry.
I tried to take pictures but it’s very difficult to do with landscapes of this magnitude. Your eyes can’t even take it all in, let alone a camera (What’s that saying? A bad photographer always blames the magnitude of the landscape?).
After stripping off a layer and stopping for an Oreo break (only fools hike without Oreos), we pushed on and found the next few kilometres riddled with hills followed by huge drops, and then hills again. Except for the red arrows spray-painted on rocks here and there, (oh yeah, and the huge, ant like, line of people), there is no hugely distinct trail. There are different ways (within good sense and reason) to walk along these parts, but they all meet at a point where stacked rocks make steps up each rise.
These were some of the hardest miles for me. As soon as there’s elevation, I’m aching, breathless and desperate for a biscuit.
But still, we counted down the signs as they passed us at each few kilomeres, one by one by the time we were close, until we found ourselves at a point where we could see the tongue (Literally troll tongue in Norwegian, you see? Yeah, I only learnt that yesterday.)
The view curved in a big “U” shape, us on one side of the curve and the tongue on the other. From where we stood, easily 800 metres away, our end-point looked fairly underwhelming (as I guess most things do from 800 metres away).
Still, we pushed on, and made it past a “flat” of rock and nothing else, up around the cliffs edge, and to the Tongue of the Troll himself.
The line to get a photo on the tongue (about a half and hour wait, based on our guess, which is actually less than the reviews warned) entertained us for a good hour. We sat to the right of the tongue, a little higher, watching them one by one wander to the edge, strike the same pose (arms outstretched, if you were wondering) have an accomplice take their photo, and scuttle back to relative safety. The view was undoubtedly amazing, even moreso from cliff faces a little higher than the tongue itself.
So, would I go back? Yes, absolutely. Providing I
a) train for three months beforehand, and
b) wait a year and forget the pain my baby feet are currently experiencing as I write this.
Was it worth it? Yes it was. As a sense of achievement, certainly.
In saying that, the photos, the view, the tongue - I have to say it isn’t what we expected, simply because the views along the way are (in my opinion), equally as scenic. I’m not saying don’t finish the hike, definitely finish the hike. Just don’t charge there and charge back (ha, I’d like to see you try. What I really mean is pull yourself there and drag yourself back) without taking in the views in between.
Plus, when you’re used to seeing that same famous photo over and over, you’ll get to the famous place where the photo was taken and forget that there’s actually a lot more to see there. Don’t sell yourself short once you get to the end.
Anyone who is fit and eager will push through Trolltunga in seven or eight hours round trip, (six if you’re an absolute weapon and willing to kick aside small children, the occasional dog and the elderly), allowing an hour at the tongue.
We did it in four up and four back, taking it fairly easy, and while we’re paying for it twenty-four hours later, it was something I would well recommend to anyone who loves a stroll.
A few practical tidbits, if you’d like them:
- Food and water. Bring buckets of it. But that goes without saying.
- Tiny breaks are key. They saved my legs and probably my life.
- There is the original walking track before the entrance of Carpark 2 and up through a forest trail that is 2km shorter, saves you walking up the new bitumen road for the first few kilometres, and is easier on the ankles. It’s easy to lose track of on the way back, try and keep your bearings as best you can.
- Parking was 500NOK (almost 83AUD), for the entire day until midnight the same day.
- There are three car parks, each a little closer than the next, each a little more expensive than the next. Carpark 1 is just above the village and makes it an approximately 40km round hike, although there is a bus that will take you to Carpark 2. Motorhomes and large campervans are not permitted to go to Carpark 2, so plan for catching the shuttle up. Carpark 3 is the furthest but can only be prebooked by parting with a limb of your choice.
- There is a green shuttle bus that goes up and down from Carpark 2 to 3, so if you need to, you can cut portions of the trip out. The bus is 100NOK per person per leg. (If you get a tiny lady driving you, you can trust her. She’s sort of a scary driver, but a good egg.)
- You can probably get all that information on most websites, so if you read it and I’m wrong, please don’t fact check me. I’m still cranky from hiking.