Trolltunga.


This trip was a pretty good example of how good luck trumps bad planning. That’s something I’ve pretty much grown to rely on in my life, because the only thing more astounding to me than my own lack of foresight is my good luck. This time I had even deluded myself into thinking I’d planned this trip pretty well. I’d borrowed a map of Hardangervidda from Michi and spent a lot of time being tough with my gear and trying to lighten it up. This had mixed results.

I swapped out my normal trangia kit and army surplus mess tin for a spork and an aluminium bowl. I swapped my 2 Kg Haglöfs sleeping bag for an 800 gramme Warbonnet black mamba quilt. I left my massive military compass home and used instead a tiny Silva button compass. Out went a Sigg aluminium bottle, in came a platypus plastic bladder (made in Ireland! Hurray!). All my food was dehydrated except for a few bags of home-made trail mix to eat on the road. So far so good.
However that was all way too smart for Tomás, so just as he’s leaving the car he panics and throws in a few last minute things including a KILO of CHEESE. A KILO of CHEESE. I don’t even like cheese that much (this is a lie I love cheese). And for some reason I find it incredibly hard to throw food away, so even though I knew it was mental, I carried that cheese up and down the mountain and it’s currently sitting in my fridge, wondering what’s going to happen next (it’s going on an omelette). I also threw in two books, a handful of spare batteries, and a massive salami. It was stupid, but thanks to my earlier cuts my weight was still just under 15 KG, which for me is not too bad. A lot of that is my SLR and a tripod, which I would have cut in favour of a point and shoot camera except the reason for this whole trip was photography.

The drive from Stockholm to Trolltunga took a long time and I arrived around 02:00. I probably wasn’t thinking straight, rather than stretch out on the backseat and sleep until morning, all I could think about was finding a nice place to sleep away from the parking lot. So I picked up my pack and wandered aimlessly up the nearest steep forested slope for an hour or two, before finding a hollow under a tree and falling asleep in it. After a few hours kip I went on up into the first valley, which has a scattering of huts along its floor. These were all deserted, although I saw one guy on skis pass by that evening.

From here I tried to head on up the trail to Trolltunga, but the snow was hip deep, soft and wet. It really was a nightmare, every few metres took an age. After a few hundred metres I decided to sleep on it, even though it was just around noon I was still pretty beat from the car journey. I stuck my tent up on a patch of clean snow and slept the whole day.

The next morning I’d resigned myself to not being able to complete the trip to Trolltunga. I couldn’t find the trail and the snow was too deep to make any progress in. I spent an enjoyable few hours reading the Butcher Boy (brilliant) and trying to make a time-lapse series of some mountain tops. The Nikon D80 has no built in intervalometer though, so I tried to time the shots by taking one picture every half page of the book. Sadly the Butcher Boy is absolutely fantastic so I would forget to take pictures everytime I got stuck in the book. Next time I’ll bring something shit to read instead.

At around noon I met a German and Belgian pair who were also attempting to get there, and teamed up with them. They said they’d been warned conditions were bad, and that two Polish hikers had aborted the walk just the day before, but they were determined to press on (“This guy who gave me the key to the hut said we would turn back too! I will show him we Germans don’t give up so easy!). As we left the valley it became clear that the conditions improved a little the higher up we went, the deepest wettest snow was at the beginning of the trail.

We followed the winter trail (marked with long branches poked into the snow) until it broke away from the Trolltunga path (marked with red ‘T’s painted on rocks (often totally covered in snow). The snow occasionally hid a little stream, which were hard to avoid, or a bigger one in which case you could hear the rushing water and steer clear. Still there were a few wet feet at the end of the day.

Trying to stay on the Trolltunga path was tough, by the half-way point we realised we were far too much out on the edge of the cliffs, and either had to retrace our steps for an hour or try and scramble up the ridge to where the path crossed over Storenuten. The sun was already heading down, so we tightened our rucksacks up and slowly edged our way up.

Then we came to a small dry river valley headed by small dam, it had very steep edges and my map seemed to point to a route much further North. Again though, we were short on time so carefully edged our way down and up the slope to save time.

The final part of the path lead around the deep river valley Tyssebotn, here we went much too far North up the slope of Loftsnuten. It was dark at this point and the wind was picking up. We couldn’t find any trace of the path here, and I was starting to think how we could fit three people in my tiny tent. But then we realised our mistake when saw on Michi’s more detailed map that the path should have crossed some powerlines which lay a long way to to our South. One more exhausting forced march later and we came to the Eastern edge of the valley where we finally saw Trolltunga looming out of the dark. Five minutes North was the hut Reinaskorsbu. Then that moment of tension when we try the key in the padlock and wonder if the old man in the valley had given the right key.

The Swedish huts are great, very clean, well maintained, lots of room and usually a great stove. The Norwegian huts put them to shame though. There were 6 beds with duvets and sheets supplied, a great iron stove in the corner, a propane cabin heater, oil lamps, a huge wooden table with a view out over the cliffs, and absolutely tons of food. On the wall was a menu and the corresponding price-list, along with forms and a dropbox for payment. We just had enough energy to get a fire roaring and melt a bucket of snow for tea. The snow which had been slushy soft all day now had to be hacked into the bucket with a knife.
After a few cups of soup I had to go back and take a picture of Trolltunga, I wasn’t going to be able to sleep without having that done. It took 90 seconds to get a decent exposure, so I had to stand still in the dark on Trolltunga for what seemed like an age to get the photo, but it was worth it.

After I got a few photos taken I hit the sack and slept like a log until morning. The black mamba down quilt I got off Warbonnet is just heaven to slide under when you’re tired and cold.

Bastard stars couldn’t keep still! This was a six minute exposure and this was where I felt a bit better about hefting that heavy tripod all over the place. At least it was going to do a bit of work for me, unlike that bloody cheese.

In the morning we had a nice breakfast, it was a quick tidy of the cabin, and then a fun half hour of photography on Trolltunga. It was after all the whole goal we’d struggled for all day yesterday, and after a few minutes cautiously edging out onto the tongue, we all felt secure enough to have a little sit on the edge. Very invigorating to sit there on the edge, feet dangling over the sheer drop, morning sun shining down. I would love to come back some day with some ropes and a harness and take some photos from lower down on the cliff, but next time would definitely be in late late Summer.

I was pretty eager to head back early, I remembered how hard yesterday had been and didn’t want to get spend the whole day slogging through the slush. At least in the morning the snow still had some strength to it, but that didn’t last long. It was tough, wet, exhausting work.

Thankfully there were waterfalls or streams every few hundred metres, which in the heat were very eagerly suckled. My compadres of the day preferred to drink bottled water they’d carried with them, a couple of big 2 litre bottles of water each! It made me feel better about the ridiculous weight of my cheese.

In the summery weather the wild-life was out in force, I saw this butterfly just floating by, as well as these two ptarmigans, one of them just starting to change into Summer dress.


Although no matter how wild the surroundings were, civilisation was never out of sight. Here was a jet flying into Bergen, and some electricity poles heading out over the mountain, must be a hell of a job looking after those in Winter.

After a few quick breaks, and a lot of wading through the snow, we finally made it back to the valley we had met in. At this point I was so sunburnt my ears were starting to curl up like two bits of bacon in a frying pan. When I’d come up to the valley I’d walked up through the forest, but on the way down I took the easy way out and walked down the cable car tracks. It was actually a little terrifying, the tracks are built around 2 or 3 metres off the ground and are rickety as hell. (I was too nervous to try and get my camera out of my pack, but you can see what the view was like from this photo). Still, it was a lot quicker than going through the forest.

After that was a long, fun drive to Stockholm, and when I got home I taped a huge bag of ice to my head. My ears had been curled up and stuck out enough to give my fiancé the giggles everytime she looked at me, but after an hour of ice they returned to normal. Next time I bring some SPF50 and a sombrero instead of all that cheese. At least it taught me that all those “Top ten most important things bring hiking” aren’t full of shit when they mention sun-screen. I have to remember I’m not in Ireland anymore and sustained periods of sunshine may occur! The big scabby lumps of skin peeling off my arms and ears right now stand testament to how badly Irish skin reacts when exposed to sunlight.
I was also dead lucky to have met my travelling buddies, otherwise I would have never made it to Trolltunga at all.

Overall this was a grade A trip, with just enough challenge and hardship to make it exciting, and loads of opportunities to take lovely pictures. I just wish the weather had been better. When Michi had been in Hardangervidda last year for a solo hike he got lots of gentle drizzle for a week without a break, which is exactly what I’d planned for. I got non-stop baking sunshine, which was what he likes (the freak!). Next trip I’ll hope for a little rain. It’s also funny to see how much effort it can take to do an easy 10 hour hike when the conditions are tough. In late Summer this is surely just a good relaxing day-long walk, but early May turned it into a real humdinger.

This has to have been the last Wintery/snowy trip this year though. So time to pack away the Meindls and woollen underwear and break out the speedos. Hurray!

29 thoughts on “Trolltunga.

  • May 26, 2010 at 6:18 pm
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    Wow Tomas, that's a pretty gnarly route to do so early in the season. Looks like the weather was very kind though. Very nice photos by the way!

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  • May 26, 2010 at 9:33 pm
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    Thanks Joe, I was happy with the photos but I just wish (as always) that I'd taken more!

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  • September 11, 2010 at 2:49 pm
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    Wonderful photos, just goes to show that a DSLR is still worth its weight in your pack.

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  • September 25, 2010 at 4:28 pm
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    Nice photos – just wonder: Why the heck didnt you use skis??? On skis the trip is 1-2 hours up carrying the skis in that season, then a nice walk of 1 hour on skis to Reinaskorsbu/Trolltunga. Start at 9 in the morning, and you will be back in the aftenoon, still with several hours of photography.
    I've been there both in winter and summer conditions, and I think the winter time is the best. Not so crowdy then 😉

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  • September 27, 2010 at 6:11 am
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    Good question Endre, Why didn't I use skis? The short answer is that I'm an idiot, the long answer is that I didn't predict the details of the trip, I didn't realise how much snow would be there and I had very little experience with skis.

    It was a good learning experience though, I don't think I'll ever go hiking in snow without skis ever again! Or without sun-screen.

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  • April 13, 2012 at 6:00 pm
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    when you've been around?

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  • April 13, 2012 at 6:08 pm
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    that day? thanks

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  • April 18, 2012 at 10:02 am
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    Not really sure what you mean. It was March I think! Many years ago. I should go back now that I know how to ski uphill 🙂

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  • June 18, 2012 at 8:56 am
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    what time of the year did you do this? I am going next saturday (June 23rd) and hoping its not this much snow 🙁 great pics and awesome story!!

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  • June 19, 2012 at 1:12 pm
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    It was quite early in the season, march I think. There will be no problem with snow at this time of year. Should also take much less time for the hike.

    Good luck!

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  • August 23, 2012 at 8:10 pm
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    Hi Tomas! I am going to Trolltunga in order to take some photos. I am pretty sure I need a position lower down, In order to get the Trolltunga above the horizon. Am I right? And if so, is there any anchor to rapell from? (I will bring a rope and harness….

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  • August 24, 2012 at 6:52 am
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    Hey Lasse,

    It's been a long time since this trip, but I do remember we talked a lot about going back with abseil gear. There is a ledge around 10 metres down, a little north of the Trolltunga itself. Inside the cabin there was a picture taken from that ledge, and it was excellent, with the Trolltunga well over the horizon. At the shoulder of the cliff above the ledge were two old iron bars, fixed into the rock.

    I think you could use a sling around the bars, and then have a back-up anchor with some trad-gear maybe, and use that to get down to the ledge. Getting back up looked like some very easy climbing. The ledge was pretty wide, I think you could comfortably set-up a camera on tripod there.

    Good luck on the trip!

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  • August 24, 2012 at 8:13 am
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    Thanks a lot Tomas!!!
    You give me exactly the information I need!. Rope, harness and some tradgear. That ledge is probably the spot I will be on.
    best

    l a s s e

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  • September 9, 2012 at 5:09 pm
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    Hi,
    did you make it too the legde? I guess everybody who has been at the trolltunga thinks about taking pictures from there. We did the hike in July, but of course didn't think of bringing rope an harness.
    Best

    Reply
  • December 15, 2012 at 1:12 am
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    Hey Tomas! So that was MAY!? How do you think it would be around March???

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  • December 16, 2012 at 8:51 am
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    Hi Beate, haven't been to this blog since I was there. so late reply.

    But, yes, I made it easily to the ledge by rapelling. and actually slightly lower than the ledge thanks to my harness and rope.
    The anchor was better than I expected: two modern bolts in the rock (sportclimbingstyle). And to get back I actually could walk to the right, no rope needed for that.

    Thanks Thomas for the help.The image will be on a Lindemans wine box next season.

    best

    Reply
  • December 16, 2012 at 8:27 pm
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    Hey Mike!

    I think it depends so much on the weather, if you are lucky and get nice spring weather then you could have a great ski out there. If you get caught by some nasty storm you might not be so happy. With a lot more experience under my belt I now realise I was really lucky on this trip weather-wise.

    Skis and warm clothes, a good map and a few checks on YR.no, and March should be fantastic.

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  • December 16, 2012 at 8:29 pm
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    Wow! Sounds like you had some fun out there, I will keep my eyes peeled for the wine box 🙂

    And now it's definitely on my list to head back out with some climbing gear. And skis of course…

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  • March 22, 2014 at 8:15 am
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    Hey! You can go to Storgata 3, 0155 Oslo, Norway (+47 22 82 28 00) to get keys, it's the DNT centre, and they give you the keys if you become a member of the DNT. It costs a bit but the money is going for all the upkeep of the cabins. I think you can pick them up in other places too, but it's probably best to contact them if you want more details,

    http://english.turistforeningen.no/

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  • April 11, 2014 at 5:54 am
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    Hi, I want to go to Trolltunga the first week of June with a friend. I've been finding a tour to go there but they start from 15th of June ¿? How can I do it to go before?
    Great pictures by the way! Thanks

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  • July 2, 2014 at 6:20 pm
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    Any idea how the weather would be in early October? Great photos!

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  • November 7, 2014 at 2:57 pm
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    Hi Tomas, with nikon 70 – 200/ f2.8 zoom lens, would it be possible to take side shots of me standing at the edge of the rock? or there is something more required?? thanks for your answer

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  • December 30, 2014 at 5:05 am
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    Hi Endre, I never hiked Trolltunga, but I am interested in doing it in the winter. How does it take only 1-2 hour carrying up the skis? Is there a different route in the snow as I read it's about a 4-5 hour hike each way in the sumemr. Thanks.

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    • February 24, 2015 at 7:45 am
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      Hey Frederick!

      I did it in March, I am sure by April it won't be so harsh. I'm just not sure how much snow would be left up there. I would highly recommend skis 🙂

      Reply
  • April 28, 2016 at 1:22 pm
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    Hello,

    We want to challenge trolltunga at the beginning of May 😀 Have You used any map or gps or maybe apps on phone?

    Thanks

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    • April 29, 2016 at 4:17 am
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      I used google maps to find the trailhead, it was not so well sign-posted. Once you get there you just head up the big hill which has a lift on it, and from there you will need a map. It’s not difficult terrain at all, but not so easy to find the right route.

      The right map is ‘Hardangervidda’.

      Best of luck!

      Reply

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