I’m going to start this post off by stating that I was the most unprepared person to ever step foot in the Hardangerfjord region of Norway. I did the exact opposite of everything that someone is supposed to do when they make the 23 kilometer hike of super rad awesomeness. I did no research beforehand, only found the iconic photo of “Troll’s Tongue” on Pinterest and expected it to be an easy two hour hike. Consequently, it ended up being a very rushed and dangerous journey that could have potentially ended with hypothermia or death. Here I will elaborate on all the ways I went wrong, and how you can do it right- it really is worth it!
It is essential that you dress for the weather. At the start of the hike it may be sunny and warm, but we didn’t think about how much the climate would change after the initial 1.7 km. This bit is all straight up the face of a Fjord and an extreme change of elevation. When I set off on the trek I dressed in layers comfortable at ground level. It was warm but cloudy with scattered drizzles. Once we made it (basically walking up a melting glacier) it was sleeting, freezing, and we were not prepared for the conditions at all. Make sure you bring a backpack with extra layers, gloves, dry socks, and even a trash bag in case you need to keep your items dry. Hand warmers are a great idea in case you need a little boost of heat when the air is thinner and the temperature drops. It isn’t a bad idea to check and recheck the weather forecast for the whole area right before you set off.
Shoes will make or break your experience on this thrilling hike. You can’t enjoy the stunning 360 degree views when you’re worrying about whether or not your toes will freeze off if you make it to the ledge. One of the major mistakes I made was wearing rain boots for the hike. Of all my friends, I had the driest feet, but they felt like they were going to fall off after 30 minutes of climbing. DO NOT wear Nike Running Shoes for this hike, I speak from experience- it will not end well. Do your feet a huge favor and invest in some waterproof hiking boots and comfortable socks. Make sure you break them in far in advance for your journey so you don’t have to worry about pesky blisters.
Trolltunga is the most scenic hike I have ever been on, even in the sleet and rain I have never seen anything as beautiful. Although photographs will never do it justice, it is important that you bring a camera with a very large memory stick so you can fill it up with the picturesque scenery. Personally, I recommend getting a GoPro for all adventures because they are lightweight, waterproof, and take fantastic pictures. I ended up taking my DSLR and spent the majority of the hike trying to keep it dry. This resulted in very few photos. Of those, 60% had blurs on the lenses from rain drops. If only I had known that it takes almost no time to check the lenses, things would have turned out a little better. Be sure to take tons of photographs! No one ever regrets taking too many pictures of an indescribably beautiful place.
Don’t be a risk. If the conditions are dangerous, don’t be the stubborn American (or whatever your nationality may be) who goes despite the abundance of dangers. Before my hike, I was warned by the woman at the gift center that it was far too late to start, the weather conditions were too dangerous, and that we weren’t dressed comfortably. What did we do?We did it anyway. We wanted to prove a point that we could make it safely before sundown, and since it was the last day before we had to head back we stubbornly set off determined to prove her wrong. This was a terrible idea on many levels. We only ran into one other hiker, so if something bad had happened or someone made a misstep, there would have been no one there to help. If we got lost, we could have easily frozen to death. Bring lots of food and be prepared for an 8-10 hour hike. Get an early start so you have plenty of time to make it back without worrying about where you will have to find shelter for the night. If you are warned of dangers from the beginning, take the advice and do it another time.
It is perfectly fine to pack an empty water bottle, this will help keep your backpack light. You can fill your water bottle up at any water source unless it is marked as unsafe. MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) are an excellent thing to bring as food. They can be found at Military Surplus Stores in the US. They include a heating element that I credit to saving my fingers from hypothermia. As we finally made it to the ledge, my fingers were turning black and I had lost all feeling in them. With some fast thinking from one of my hiking buddies, we taped my hand in a bag with the heating element and it restored all feeling and color. If I had not had it, I am almost certain I wouldn’t have my fingers.
These last few tips probably seem like common sense, but common sense sometimes isn’t all that common. Unfortunately we made all these mistakes and it really made a difference in what the adventure could have entailed. Be sure to poop before you start the hike. Chances are: you forgot to bring TP, there isn’t much privacy along the trail, and your butt will be really cold exposed to the conditions. Do everyone a favor and go #2 in the bathrooms at the Travel Center. Also, MAKE SURE YOU TRAIN FOR THE HIKE. The first 1.7 km are very difficult. You will probably have to take several breaks since the air is thinner and zig-zagging up a Fjord is some wildly tough work. The best way to train for it is to spend a few days per week on a StairMaster for an hour until you are comfortable doing it. It takes at least 40 minutes to make it up the first 1.7 km of the Fjord, and the best way to describe it is pretty similar to climbing up thousands of stairs made from loose rocks. It may be a good idea to book a massage the day after, your body will thank you!
Even after making all those mistakes, I still had the most amazing time hiking Trolltunga. One day I hope to go back and do it right. When done correctly, Trolltunga will reward you with views of glaciers, waterfalls, wildlife, and nature that will exceed your wildest dreams. It truly is not a hike to miss, but don’t take my word for it, go be the adventure!