The western fjords of Norway are unparalleled in their beauty. Formed by a series of ancient glacial movements, the fjords are famous for their steep valleys, serene lakes, and dramatic untouched landscapes. I visited western Norway in mid-June 2017, and it quite simply took my breath away.
It is here, nestled in the municipality of Odda, that you can find Trolltunga. Translated to English, this means “The Trolls’ Tongue”, a shard of rock jutting out over the north side of lake Ringedalsvatnet, 700 metres above the jagged ground below. It’s terrifying to think about. It’s mesmerising to look at. It’s something else entirely when you’re stood on the edge looking down.
Trolltunga can only be accessed on foot, the deserving climax of an 11 kilometre uphill hike. It took me ten hours to complete the 22 kilometre round-trip, including over an hour at the summit and numerous photography breaks along the way. Understandably, this hike was not one I could afford to be taking a great deal of equipment on, as my bag could only carry so much before the necessities could no longer fit in alongside it all, so small, lightweight alternatives to typical kit were a must. Goodbye, standard tripod; hello, Joby Gorillapod.
I visited right at the start of the walking season. It is unadvisable to attempt the hike without a guide before the 15th June, as the unpredictable weather means snow cover may still be high and the walk may be treacherous. I actually found this was still the case on June 10th, as I set off early in the morning and soon reached the mountains covered with a blanket of snow.
By midday, however, most of this had melted away, creating fresh obstacles in the form of running water and slippery, muddy ground. At times along the return journey, the snow had melted so extensively that the route was unrecognisable, and I found myself questioning whether I was on the right path at all. The hike itself is long and gruelling, but aside from two uphill stretches each one kilometre in length, it is not a physically challenging one, and is well worth the effort for the spectacular views it offers.
Along the hike, I was surprised to see very little wildlife. In hindsight, the deep snow and altitude make this environment uninhabitable to most mammals; even in the stretches without any snow, there are no trees beyond the first kilometre, and the land seems barren for the most part. Aside from one beetle and one earthworm, I didn’t spot any invertebrates either, so it is unsurprising that birds also made for rare sightings. Thus, regrettably, I returned from this hike without any shots of the wildlife I had hoped to see on the day, but instead with an SD card packed with images of the stunning landscapes I witnessed.
At the pinnacle of the hike is Trolltunga itself – a slick outcrop of the surrounding cliffs, carved from the rocks when glaciers still moved through the Hardanger Fjord below. Climbing across to the viewpoint is terrifying enough in itself, as you scramble down makeshift ladder runs that have been bolted to the rock face, with a clear view of your long, long fall to the left should you slip in the rain. Stepping out on to the platform and taking in all the area has to offer, including the sheer drop below, is simply surreal.
I was unfortunate that low cloud cover that day meant my views of the moneyshot were fleeting, and as such I have few decent photos of this place. Despite this, standing out on the tongue is a phenomenal experience made even more worthwhile by the hardship of reaching this point; it was easily one of the best things I’ve ever seen, and I would go back again in a heartbeat.
To read more about my experiences hiking this route, head over to my other blog.