Trolltunga – the Troll Tongue – is a famous hike in Norway and one of my favorite hikes of all time. This hike is long and strenuous and should not be underestimated. That being said, Jesse and I really pushed the limits on this.
We started the day exploring the Hardanger National Tourist Route. From Odda, it’s a short drive north to Tyssedal where a narrow mountain road climbs to the edge of lake Ringedalsvatnet. There is a large parking lot that is often filled in the summer, so it’s recommended to get their early. Jesse, Jack and I rolled in just before noon. You have to pay for parking, but there are maintained bathrooms at the trailhead. There are also large informative signs about the route and multiple warnings about the length of the hike and elevation gain, as well as recommendations for how much water, food and layers to bring. All this started to get us worried. They recommend starting the hike at least by 10 AM. Jesse and I quickly took some screen shots on our phones about the route, packed some food, layers, water and headlamps and hit the trail. We stared our hike around just after 12:00.
The route starts with a very long steep pitch, thankfully the trail has been really well maintained and there are stone stairs for about 1 km with 450 m vertical. Getting through the first km is quite an accomplishment since it’s the most gruelling pitch, however there are still 10 km to go! Until 2010 there was a funicular here to whisk you to top of the first pitch making the journey shorter. We were really wishing that was running every step up, and then down the steep stairs. It had been raining recently so this section of the trail, covered in trees was still muddy and quite slippery is some spots. Looking down behind us, we watched as the views improved with every step looking out over calm blue lake.
The route is marked with painted red T. From here the trail levels out for a bit, a nice reprieve. This area is grassy and marshy, but there are nice boards in place to keep you going. At the far end of this flat “valley” is a development with cabins that used to be serviced by the funicular. Today there were numerous helicopters dropping off goods on the mountains… maybe they’ll be fixing the funicular. Although I read that this is unlikely since in general hiking Trolltunga is being discouraged due to the number of rescues that are necessary each year from hikers who are unprepared for the journey. There were over 40 rescues in 2016… people with injuries, but then people who didn’t take food and water with them, who had no rain gear and developed hypothermia…. it goes on. But huge respect should be paid to the Rode Kors volunteers who spend their own money on gear and their free time to hike this trail again and again to get people to safety (of course for some evacuations there is air support, but only when the weather permits it). Along the route there are several safe houses, with shelter from the elements and phone connections to call for help. One such cabin is in this area near the top of the funicular.
Just past the cabins is the 2nd major climb up to a saddle, Trombeskar. From the saddle there are excellent views to the west of massive glaciers in Folgefonna Nasjonalpark. There are signs at the top of this saddle telling you to turn around if you haven’t made it there by 13:00. After charging up the first 4 km, we took a short break here, comforted by the fact that we were now only 45 minutes behind schedule 😉
The trail levels out again and the hard part was over; now there were 7 km left, but the trail was just short ups and downs. The path forks here an alternative trails to Tyssevassbu, a cabin. We stayed to the right, wrapping around a small lake. The trail then dips down slightly and heads to the edge just above Ringedalsvatnet, where there was another survival shelter and views of the large lake below. Not much further along the trail, probably close to the 8 km mark, we met a woman who looked lost, she was walking slowly, did not look prepared and I saw her turn around and start hiking back towards us as we approached. She asked if we had a cell phone and said she needed to call her friends. I lent her my phone and helped her look up the international code for Italy. Her friends didn’t answer. She said they had gone ahead, but that was long time ago. We offered to try to get a message to them if we could find them on the trail, but she said not to worry, she was going to head back down since she was too tired and it was getting too late.
We hiked away from Ringedalsvatnet again and then around past some small ponds finally nearing Trolltunga. Suddenly we found a mass of people sitting on the rocks near the edge over the lake enjoying the sunshine and snacks. 11 km out and we needed a nice break. But first Jack and Jesse went out on the Trolls Tongue, and then I took a turn. There was no line and we figured why not.
The edge looks very narrow and unstable in pictures, I was quite convinced that I would not have gone out on it. But when we got there, it wasn’t hazardous to shimmy down to the edge of the Trolltonga, and the rock itself was wide and flat. So there wasn’t much for tripping hazards. However on a wet windy day, it would not be wise to run out there and do back flips like some people were doing. It’s still about 700 m straight down to the water.
Just past the Trolltonga we could walk a bit more and found another small rock to go out on that did not have such a crazy drop. We sat up on the side of a cliff looking at the lake and watched as others took their turns on the Trolltonga. We saw everything from a timid girl who went out with her significant other after a long deliberation to 5 guys in jeans and white tanktops mooning the camera, doing backflips and then getting the bright idea to tie up to one another and lower a friend over the edge. Everyone watched in awe as they did this. They did seem somewhat knowledgeable since they had a linesaver in place on the rock edge, climbing gloves and multiple people tied in… but overall it looked crazy! And we found out later that it made news, people were not very happy about their dangerous copy cat stunt. Then they lowered a second person. This younger person was obviously not as comfortable or experienced, as he climbed back up he lost the linesaver, everyone watched as something fell and finally hit the bottom. People started talking about how they had broken the rock, but then I realized it was probably the line saver, one of the friends of the group was near us taking photos and confirmed it was the line saver. Thankfully that was all that fell, I think everyone there was fearful for them.
Jesse and I lent the camera to a nice woman from Germany who took a photo of the 2 of us. Some of the people that we had passed along the way made it to the top and quickly took a few pictures and turned around. It was getting later and we were among the last to leave the top (that planned to return to the bottom that night). Going down went a lot faster, although we were exhausted and sometimes hiking down is way worse. We met our Italian friend on her way down nearing the top of the funicular. She had found her friends. But she had broken her hiking pole and was going really slowly. I told her about the emergency shelter in case they didn’t make good time. It was already starting to get a bit dark and going down the last pitch without headlights would be very dangerous. We didn’t end up needing ours, we made it to the bottom just at dark. There were a number of people still coming down we could see all the headlights weaving back and forth down the last pitch.
Exhausted was and understatement. Typically it takes 10-12 hour to hike the 22 km round trip to Trolltunga, we had done it in just over 6 hours. Some trail running was involved, but since we’d done some much hiking all summer we were in shape for it. I don’t recommend rushing as much as we did… the problem is that there are too many amazing sights in Norway; it’s tough to rush to get somewhere else when where you are is so nice. But this hike with it’s breathtaking vistas is more than worth the time.