Monday, August 22, 2016

Hike to Trolltunga (Norway Part Four)

Trolltunga is a very famous hike in Norway, and that became apparent as soon as we hit the trail. This place was Disneyland levels of crowded. The beautiful weather we had on yesterday's hike was gone, and we set off on a slog through rain, mist, and mud. This trek started with an incredible amount of elevation gain in the first kilometer, so that we were essentially ascending slippery rock stairs and slopes of mud with ropes. We did all of this in a line of constant hikers, like a few of many marching ants. I cannot imagine what this place is like on a sunny day!

This hike felt especially challenging since it was our third day of hiking, it was pretty long (23 kilometers round trip), and the weather was miserable. We made it to the end but only stopped for a quick selfie before heading back down. There was a huge line of people waiting to have their photo taken on the actual "tongue", but this was good enough for us! 

Of course, as soon as we got back to the parking lot the sun came out. Our guides bought us beers and we were able to dry out a bit. This was the one hike of the trip that none of us were crazy about because of the crowds. I feel like this one could be skipped unless you happen to have stunning weather and don't mind the lack of solitude. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Hike to Buer Glacier (Norway Part Three)

Our second hike in Norway was to Buer Glacier, and we lucked out with a gorgeous sunny day. This hike starts in a valley past farms, then quickly picks up into the mountains. There were steep sections of rock with helpful ropes to aid in the climb. As we got higher and higher we were able to watch our progress looking down into the valley behind us. 

Once we got close to the foot of the glacier our path was interrupted by fast, rough water. There used to be a suspension bridge here but there was not much left of it. Those brave enough in our group (almost everyone except me) went across a cable with a harness to get a slightly closer view. I was pretty satisfied sitting on rocks in the sunshine with Buer Glacier in front of me and the entertainment of watching everyone pulling themselves across on the cable. 

Our base for this hike was Odda, which is a great place to stay with access to lots of hiking. We stayed at the Trolltunga Hotel, which was about a 15-20 minute walk up from the town center. We were up early before our hike and managed to catch a mirror image of Odda on the fjord. 

Later that evening before dinner we sat on the boardwalk with gas station beers and watched the clouds seeping over the mountains. Perfect place, perfect day, and perfect hike. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Hike to Kjeragbolten (Norway Part Two)

Our first hike of the trip was to Kjerag Bolten on a misty day. We made a neste pakke (what our guides taught us to call our sack lunches on the trip) in the foggy parking lot and got going. Getting an early start was important as this is a popular spot, even on a day with poor visibility.

This hike involves three big hills will valleys in between, so the elevation gain comes in bursts. The steep sections (both up and down) have chains that you can hold on to, and we definitely needed them. The rock we were hiking on had good grip but it was steep. The benefit of this was getting a good arm workout in during the hike. And of course, safety!

Once we reached the top we mostly had the place to ourselves, which was nice. One of our guides demonstrated get on and off of the Kjeragbolten (photo below). When you're standing on the boulder it is a 984 meter drop to the fjord below. My fear of heights kept me far from the edges of the cliff and far from the boulder, but it was fun watching my braver hiking partners take the risk. 

Even with the fog, it was a beautiful hike. We caught glimpses of the Lysefjord below us to remind us there was actually an end to the vapory abyss. 

When we got back to the parking lot our guides pulled beers out of the van, mama sheep toured their babies around looking for handouts, and a man was playing an alpine horn out into the valley around us. Norway, you crazy, amazing place!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Into the Fjords (Norway Part One)

Ten of the days we spent in Norway were in the fjords, and Joe and I both agree it was the most beautiful place we have ever traveled to. There were all of the things I love about the PNW without all the people; just mountains, water, and little farms. 

We did a ten day hiking and kayaking tour run by Nordic Ventures (the same company that runs the REI trip here) which I would highly recommend. This tour allowed us to get way off the beaten track. We had so many unique experiences, from a rainy campsite on the shore of the Nærøyfjord to a woodfired hottub precariously placed on a cliff above the Aurlandsfjord, and even summitting the tallest peak in Norway after roping up to cross a glacier. 

The trip was a series of challenges and rewards, and I felt so inspired every day. I have some hikes to share in detail, but I want to start the same way we did: journeying into the fjords. These photos were taken as we ferried into the Lysefjord on Day One.

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