Meabh Ritchie, The Daily Telegraph, October 9, 2015
A new bus and ferry route through Norway's most famous fjords means you can climb Preikestolen and Trolltunga in a matter of days. If you're up to the challenge...
Norway’s iconic fjords are renowned for their myths and legends, and when you arrive, you can see why. This is troll country after all, and there are plenty of waterfalls, caves and coves for magical beings to hide from the real world, making mischief.
Trolltunga, a dramatic cliff jutting out from a 1,100 metre mountain deep in the heartland of the fjords, west of Bergen, is no different. In English, the name means “troll tongue”: legend has it that a cocky troll didn’t believe he would turn to stone when the sun came out and stuck his tongue out, making fun of the rising sun, when he was suddenly turned to stone.
Halfway into my hike to reach the famous cliff, legs aching and gasping for breath, I couldn’t help but feel that Trolltunga itself was sticking its tongue out at me for ever thinking I could conquer it.
Having been to this part of the world before, I was tempted back by the prospect of hiking two of the country’s most scenic mountains in just three days thanks to a new public bus and ferry route set up during the peak summer hiking season. It takes travellers from Stavanger, in the south west, to the nearby mountain of Preikestolen and then further north to Odda for the Trolltunga trek. For the keenest ramblers, a small detour on another bus further north from Preikestolen could also take in Kjerag, for a climb to the famous boulder stuck between two mountains. At first, I thought this would be manageable - but I didn't quite know what was in store along the way.
An hour’s drive and ferry from Stavanger, we reached the base of Preikestolen, or Pulpit Rock, where our group joined hundreds of others trekking a path recently laid by Nepalese sherpas jetted in for the job.
After a steady two hours going uphill in the sunshine, with stops to pick wild blueberries - and for some brave souls, a quick dip in the freezing cold lake - we came round a bend and finally scrambled the last few metres to the top.
Awaiting us was the whole spectacular span of the Lysefjord. Even better was getting away from the sea of selfie-taking and photo posing, by climbing to a ledge just behind the hallowed pulpit rock to smugly look down on the crowds of tourists below.
Travelling further north by bus was an experience in itself, as we wound our way around mountains so reassuringly vast that they leave you in no doubt of your meagre, human insignificance.
A brief detour off the express route between the two mountain hikes took us to a salmon safari on the Suldalslågen River, run by the fjord legend Mo Laksegard. After donning inflatable waterproof suits and scuba masks, we waded into the river nearby and face first - superman style - let the river carry us downstream, almost as if we were flying.
We had been well-schooled in the poetry of salmon farming beforehand by Mo, who warned; “some salmon are calm, some are energetic”. Unfortunately we didn’t meet any fish to find out, but the unique experience was worth it nonetheless.
Finally, it was time for Trolltunga, which we arrived at in the early morning drizzle. We were faced with two options: a four-hour trek by foot, or a lakeside route invoving mountain bikes, climbing and the negotiation of a via ferrata, led by a guide. I chose the latter and was paired with a group of strapping Scandinavians, several of whom towered over me in all their Viking glory.
After an 8km bike ride, we ditched the wheels and started our climb. This was steep stuff, over many boulders, and regular breaks were essential - so others could take in the waterfalls, flowers and breathtaking views while I tried to catch my breath.
With aching knees and legs, it was time for the final via ferrata stretch: a vertical cliff-face climb with harness and helmet. With our stoical guide Mats leading the way, we were just getting into a rhythm when I did the worst thing imaginable: I looked down. Near the top of the 1,100-metre tall mountain, as I was trying to climb up a cliff face, it was not the best timing.
But just as my fear almost got the better of me, and I realised I was muttering to myself in panic, out of nowhere came the jaunty tones of a mouth organ - the last thing you’d expect to hear in the middle of the Norwegian nowhere. Looking up, there was Mats, who had sensed a potential crisis unfolding, and managed to bring me back to my senses until I got over the literal - and metaphorical - ledge.
The rest of the climb seemed manageable after that, and the experience only added to my euphoria on reaching the top.
Along with other tourists, including a pair of Americans utterly incredulous at how difficult their walk was, we queued for the legendary photo to prove what we’d just been through. As some tourists complained that they didn’t have any internet access to post to Facebook, our formidable guide, who had barely broken a sweat, kindly abseiled down the cliff to take a photo of each of his merry band of climbers.
And despite the subsequent days of pain and aching knees, I realised I had been won over by the mountains - and the masses - when I caught myself thinking: "It was worth it for the photo".
How to get there
Flights from London to Stravanger via Norwegian Air
Preikestolen to Trolltunga Express Bus : from £47, from July 1 to August 31
Where to stay
What to do
This article was written by Meabh Ritchie from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.