Exploring Norway – Møre og Romsdal

Norway has long been a desirable location for the mountain enthusiast. One only needs to add the word ‘Norway’ to a Google search engine and you will be rewarded with photos that make the jaw drop. 

At roughly 33% bigger than the UK and 1/3rd the size of USA, one begins to understand the scale of this Scandinavian country and its 5.3 million inhabitants.

Just think about it, Norway is 33% bigger than the UK, but the UK has 66.6 million inhabitants.

Needless to say, outside of Oslo (681,000), Bergen (271,000) and other key locations such as Trondheim and Stavanger, open space and amazing landscape is available for all to explore.

In a series of articles and posts, we intend to introduce you to the magic of Norway. 

Norway is the longest country in Norway and therefore, travelling anywhere is not a quick process. It has 60.000 miles of coastline, towering mountains and dramatic fjords. Remarkably it has 2-300 peaks over 2000m+, Galdhøpiggen the highest at 2469m closely followed by Glittertind at 2464m. There are over 1000 peaks over 1650m, so, if you love mountains, Norway should be at the top of the ‘to-do’ list!

We started with HARDANGER (HERE) and followed up with JOTUNHEIMEN (HERE).

In this article we explore Møre og Romsdal 

Image galleries HERE

The list will grow as we progress through Norway, but expect additional posts on: 

  • Stavanger
  • Senja
  • Tromso
  • Lofoten Islands
  • Lyngen
  • Svalbard

And more…

Møre og Romsdal 

 The name Møre og Romsdal was created in 1936. The first element refers to the districts of Nordmøre and Sunnmøre, and the last element refers to Romsdal. The three districts still have their own identities in many ways. Due to its difficult terrain, Møre og Romsdal has been very dependent on boat traffic, and its main car ferry company, MRF.

In terms of distance and travel, the entry to the Møre og Romsdal region is roughly 7.5-hours of driving from Oslo and 9-hours+ from Bergen. Møre og Romsdal is served by nine airports, of which only four airports have regular domestic flights. The largest airport in the county is Ålesund Airport, Vigra, which offers the only scheduled international routes from any airport in Møre og Romsdal.

The area is vast with 26 municipalities. Travel around the area, at times, can be lengthy and time consuming and if travelling by car, the need to use ferries may be required. We will look at the following areas: 

Stranda

Stranda is a municipality in Møre og Romsdal county, Norway. It is part of the Sunnmøre region.

Romsdalseggen

Romsdal is a traditional district in the Norwegian county Møre og Romsdal, located between Nordmøre and Sunnmøre. The district of Romsdal is named after the valley of Romsdalen, which covers part of Rauma. 

It is a popular area and in the months of June, July, August and September, you can fully expect routes to be popular with hikers, climbers and tourists. July and August being the key months due to more stable weather.

PRACTICALITIES

First and foremost, this is an introduction to Møre og Romsdal and we hope that you will read this article, digest the information and then plan your own adventure. There is much to explore in this area and countless trips will be required.

Møre og Romsdal ideally requires a vehicle, especially if you wish to travel say, from Romsdal to Stranda. However, you can take mini-breaks and stay in one area. Romsdal being a prime example, there are many route options.

In regard to accommodation, the best options are camping or using a hotel/ cabin. Remember, the word ‘cabin’ in Norway will often refer to an individual building (amongst many) on a campsite (different to a DNT Cabin). A cabin may well combine the best of both worlds, a cross between camping and a hotel. Please check details for each cabin, often, you need to bring your own sheets (silk liner for sleeping bag?) and towels. Trollstigen Resort (here) is an excellent example of what is on offer. On a personal perspective, camping is preferable with the option to stay 1, 2 or maybe 3 nights in a hotel (depending on the trip) to shower/ freshen up and then camp again. Also helps keep costs down. Although wild camping is allowed in Norway, some areas have less options than others. For example, on arrival in Åndalsnes the option to wild camp was limited, so, we stayed on an official site called Soggebru Camping which was a short drive from Åndalsnes but much quieter than others on offer.

OVERVIEW

Looking down on Åndalsnes

Åndalsnes is the start point for our journey and provides a central hub from which to explore. However, if you have a tent, the opportunity to wild camp is a ‘must do’ for several of the routes. (More information to follow below.) 

Dramatic landscape of Stranda

In Stranda, we used the option to stay one night in a hotel (Strand Hotel), this allowed us an opportunity to shower, launder clothes, have a good dinner/ breakfast and we then resumed wild camping. 

Climbing to summit Slogen.

Our final location Urke Møre og Romsdal, we camped at Urke Camping which provided access to Slogen and Saksa peaks. However, should you wish, there is an excellent hotel called Hotel Union Øye or there is a DNT Cabin (self-service cabin with provisions) that is ideal for the ascent/ descent of Slogen, Patchellhytta cabin.

Proposed Trip:

As mentioned, Møre og Romsdal has many options here are our ‘must do’ routes.

Areas to explore: 

  • Romsdalseggen (inc Blånebba)
  • Romsdalshornet
  • Store Venjetinden
  • Trollstigen
  • Trollveggen
  • Stranda Fjord Trail Race route.
  • Saksa
  • Slogen

 Schedule:

Day 1 – Travel to Åndalsnes and overnight.

Day 2 – Åndalsnes and the complete Romsdalseggen (inc Blånebba) out and back route. Drive to Vengjedalssetra Valley and wild camp. Camp near Venjesdalsvatnet lake or take the small climb to Litlefjelletand have a stunning wild camp with the Toll Wall facing you-

Day 3 – Store Venjetinden and wild camp as previous night.

Day 4 – Romsdalshornet and then drive up the impressive Trollstigen route, options for sight-seeing and walking if required. Wild camp.

Day 5 – Trollveggen via out and back route. Starts at the tourist center. Onward drive to Stranda for night in hotel.

Day 6 – Stranda Fjord Trail route and wild camp.

Day 7 – Drive to *Urke Møre og Romsdal and then climb Saksa.

Day 8 – Slogen climb and then overnight camp or onward travel. 

*options for camping, cabins, hotel or DNT cabin.

Please note: 

Some roads on this route are one way in and one way out. They often have a toll charge which is payable via a bank card. Many also need a mobile phone. A system is used in Norway called Vipps it may be worth doing some research to see if you can use this system, as I understand it, you need Norwegian bank account and phone number.

THE ROUTES 

Romsdalseggen

Romsdalseggen Ridge

This route is often undertaken as a point-to-point starting at Vengjedalssetra and finishes at Åndalsnes. To do this, the best option is to take the bus which leaves 08:30 or 09:30 (June 15 to August 30.) If this is your plan, you are strongly advised to book in advance.

However, our recommendation is a full day out, starting and finishing in Åndalsnes. This is a tough and challenging day and includes the highest point Blånebba. 

The route includes, Mjølvaskaret , Mjølvafjellet 1216m and Halsaskaret ridge.

The route starts in Åndalsnes next to a parking ground and immediately rises up with the first highlight being the Rampestreken viewpoint. This is a metal platform that allows you to walk out with stunning views over Åndalsnes (weather depending.) Romsdalstrappa rock steps lead upwards and finally everything opens up. A stone cabin Ottarbu is situated on Nesaksla should you need shelter in bad weather. From here, the route becomes more challenging and exposed depending on experience. The ridge narrows at Mjølvaskaret. Mjølvafjellet follows and now the terrain is more challenging with fixed chains and some exposure. Halsaskaret ridge is steep in places and in the wet, care is needed.

Progressing along, follow directly ahead to Blånebba. Any turn to the left here will take you to the valley where the bust takes the point-to-point hikers. The terrain steepens and is extremely rocky, Blånebba is the high point at 1320m. It is possible to explore here, look around and of course take photos. At all times take care.

The return route is via the way you came and although backtracking, it has a very different feel. What was down climbing is reversed and vice versa providing a great stimulus. The route is 20km+/- and the time it will take depends on many factors, for example we had rain and snow. However, a good pace and 4-hours would be achievable with photo stops. 

Store Venjetinden

Wild camp close to Vengjedalssetra, we suggest you go near Venjesdalsvatnet lake, there are some great camp spots at the top closer to Romsdalshornet and you have access to water.

The route to Store Venjetinden on the face of it looks like a straight out and back. Starting just off the road the start of the route is easy to miss due to overgrown trees. Expect your feet to get wet early on. 

You start climbing right from the start and continue to do so all the way. You need to feel comfortable moving over rock. Much of the rock is loose here, so, at all times take care. Snow may very well be present the higher up you go, so, be prepared with micro crampons and ice axe.

The higher you go, the more challenging the route becomes and some scrambling and climbing skills are required. At all times, keep asking, ‘can I go down the way I have come up?’ There is no shame in turning around.

The views on a clear day are remarkable providing stunning vistas over all the surrounding area. 

The route down is the same as the way you came. Again, care is needed on all the loose rocks. 

Romsdalshornet 

You can access Romsdalshornet route from the same wild camping place next to the Venjesdalsvatnet lake. However, if you are going to have a clear and calm night, we strongly recommend that you start the climb to Romsdalshornet and wild camp close to Litlefjellet. There are a couple of small pools here and stunning views of the ‘Troll Wall.’ Amazing at sunset and sunrise.

In the morning you can start the upward climb to Romsdalshornet which requires some climbing and scrambling at easy level until you arrive at the base of the horn. Continuing on very much depends on skill level and if you have climbing and mountaineering experience. Most people use ropes here, however, someone like Kilian Jornet considers this an easy scramble. 

“Fortunately – for most people – it is experienced as more demanding and dramatic from a distance than when you actually start climbing. From afar, it looks almost impossible, but as you get closer and closer, more and more formations appear and you see that the mountain is not so steep. Romsdalshorn is still a real challenge for most people. And an experience of a lifetime.” – Fjellguide.no

Trollstigen

It is a popular tourist attraction due to its steep incline of 10% and eleven hairpin bends up a steep mountainside. Visually spectacular, there are options to stop and soak in the views. Should you wish, there is a trail that starts in the valley and goes all the way up. Stigfossen falls is a highlight of the region which drops 320 metres down the mountainside. 

Trollveggen 

Trollveggen is the main reason why you would take the hair pin bends of Trollstigen. At the plateau once you have finished driving upwards, you will see a large parking area to the left. Here is a tourist center, cafe and several options for viewing platforms.

It also provides a wonderful out-and-back route to Trollveggen.

The Troll Wall is the tallest vertical rock face in Europe, about 1,100 meters (3,600 ft) from its base to the summit of its highest point. At its steepest, the summit ridge overhangs the base of the wall by nearly 50 meters.

The wall has an incredibly history of climbing, however, it is extreme and requires great skill. The route we take is a run/ hike and depending on time of year and conditions, much snow can be encountered. 

The route is an uncomplicated out-and-back over initially easy terrain, however, there are some significant boulder fields to cross and in the latter stages, a great deal of potential for snow. Be prepared for all weather.

The route is not long, at most 12km however, the terrain can be slow and all the way out, you are climbing. The return is much quicker. 

Stranda

The journey to Stranda should not take to look from Trollstigen, expect 90-minutes, however, you will need to take a ferry on the final leg. After many day’s camping and the mountains, now is a good time to spend a night in a hotel.

The Stranda Fjord Trail Race has several route options 25km, 48km and 100km. Our recommendation is the 48km and there are options to make this a fastpack over 2-days or, you can cut the route short finishing at Stranda. Slogen which appears in our schedule later was also part of the 100km route, so, you get the best of both worlds. A GPX track is available here. 

The routes here are stunning and challenging. Be prepared for tough terrain, changeable weather and stunning views. There will most likely be snow at times.

You have the option to start in Stranda adding km’s or take a bus to the race start point at Opshaug.

The early sections of the route are easy and at times runnable. Forest trail opens up with stunning views of the Fjord. Eventually, the trail will become steeper and steeper and you will climb an almost vertical wall of green moss. 

Once through this, the terrain turns to rock and boulder and you will climb and climb all the way to Fremste Blåhornet 1478m. At the summit, you will turn around and retrace but instead of turning right and taking the path you came up, you will continue on. Heimste Blåhornet is the next peak. The terrain is at all times challenging and although the route has markers, you are advised to follow a gpx.

Lofonmfjellet is the next significant peak at 1178m but what is between is no means easy, the terrain constantly asks questions of you. 

Rodsethornet 1085m follows. This section has some great ridges and exposure with stunning views below. 

Now you make your way back to Stranda with approximately 30km covered. You have the option to end the day, or continue on for the additional loop which takes in 3 significant peaks at 1230m, 1144m and 849m. 

Note – This whole route is a challenge!

Saksa 

The drive from Stranda to Urke Møre og Romsdal takes approximately 1-hour and the final section is stunning. Please note it is a dead end at Urke, you need to return via the way you came.

There are many possibilities for wild camping in this area, both in the valley and when out on the trails. We decided to stay at Urke Camping as it was very close to the climb of Saksa.

While Saksa may be one of the lower peaks in the area, it’s a wonderful little climb up and down that can be fitted in to any day. On a clear day, the views apparently are magnificent. For me, it was wind, rain, mud and pretty much no visibility. 

The route is like a classic VK winding up the mountain, at times on good single-track, other times, Nepali steps. In the wet, the trail gets very muddy and the rocks slippery. The final push to the summit is steep but there is little difficult terrain to worry about. 

Slogen

At 1564m, Slogen is a straight up climb from sea level and as such, this route brings its own challenges. You can break the climb up by staying at Patchellhytta Cabin, however, our choice was up and down in the same day. 

We chose the steeper and direct route starting near Øye.

Early climbing is in forest and once out of the tree line, the views and trail open up. At times it is steep but not technical. Eventually you will arrive at a ’T’ junction, almost certainly a snow field will be ahead of you. Here you go left to the summit. Notably, right will take you to Patchellhytta Cabin – this will be the route down.

From this ’T’ to the summit, the challenge increases as does the difficulty. For our ascent, snow had fallen over night adding to the challenge. Experience and comfort with some mountain exposure is recommended but not essential. Moderate climbing and scrambling skills are required; and the challenges increase closer to the summit. As always, self-check and ask, ‘can I go down what I have come up?’

Even though it is not among the highest peaks in Norway, the mountain is rated among the top ten mountain hikes in Norway. This is largely due to its beauty, view, and the fact that it’s rising directly from a fjord.

At the summit, there is a box and you can sign the book. On a clear day, views are amazing. 

On the descent, continue in a reverse direction as to the way up. At the ’T’ continue on along the ridge and follow the markers. In the distance you will see Patchellhytta Cabin. 

At the cabin, turn right and then follow the trail back down to the main road at Skylstad. The route down is rocky at first and then transitions to forest trail. If there has been a great deal of rain, expect mud and slippery conditions. 

It’s a stunning round trip route. 

As a recommendation, start early. We were on the trail up by 6am. 

RECOMMENDATIONS 

Never underestimate the mountains and the environment in which you are exploring. Snow can be a factor on all of the above routes and in July, we had some snow on every route. In particular Slogen. It is advisable to have micro crampons and an ice axe as a back-up for some of the routes.

Weather is crucial and many of the above routes would become very dangerous in bad weather. I cannot emphasize enough that grip is essential! You need an outsole that works on wet and dry rock. Running shoes are very personal but recommendations are VJ Sport MAXx and XTRM, Scott Supertrac RC2 and inov-8 Roclite. 

Be prepared, Norway can throw 4 seasons at you in 4 hours. 

  • Suitable pack
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Warm insulated layer
  • Warm trousers
  • Waterproof jacket/ pants
  • Food for the duration of the hike and some contingency
  • 1,5 ltrs of water (which can be replenished on all the routes via streams/ waterfalls)
  • Take water purification tablets as a just in case and consider a water purifier such as MSR Water purifier
  • Map/ Compass
  • Charged mobile phone with a suitable App such as ‘Footpath’ (here)
  • Cash/ Card
  • Garmin InReach or similar
  • Bivvy bag
  • Sunglasses
  • Suncream

Plan your routes, be realistic on timings and always start early. One of the huge advantages of outdoor activity in Norway is daylight. In June, July, August you have plenty of light.

CONCLUSION

Møre og Romsdal  has a great deal of variety and has something for experience and relatively inexperienced.

We touch on the possibilities available and trust me, you can spend months and months here and still have plenty of routes and options to keep you occupied. 

This article is created as a gateway to the area knowing only too well that it will whet your appetite for other adventures.

A car is advisable to get around and facilitate more exploration but of course, it is not essential. 

In comparison to our other articles on Exploring Norway, Hardanger and Jotunheimen, Møre og Romsdal is more extreme and on a par with Jotunheimen.

We cannot emphasize enough the role of weather and the impact it has on all of the above recommendations. The mountains will always be there, cancelling a planned route or turning back is acceptable and wise.

PERSONAL NOTE 

Special thanks to Abelone Lyng who has extensive knowledge of the area, her experience was invaluable in planning routes and making a workable itinerary.

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Exploring Norway – HARDANGER

Norway has long been a desirable location for the mountain enthusiast. One only need to add the word ‘Norway’ to a Google search engine, and you will be rewarded with photos that make the jaw drop. 

At roughly 33% bigger than the UK and 1/3rd the size of USA, one begins to understand the scale of this Scandinavian country and its 5.3 million inhabitants.  

Just think about it, Norway is 33% bigger than the UK, but the UK has 66.6 million inhabitants…

Needless to say, outside of Oslo (681,000 pop), Bergen (271,000 pop) and other key locations such as Trondheim and Stavanger, open space and amazing landscape is available for all to explore.

In a series of articles and posts, we intend to introduce you to the magic of Norway. 

Norway is the longest country in Europe and therefore, travelling anywhere is not a quick process. It has 60.000 miles of coastline, towering mountains and dramatic fjords. Remarkably it has 2-300 peaks over 2000m+, Galdhøpiggen the highest at 2469m closely followed by Glittertind at 2464m. There are over 1000 peaks over 1650m, so, if you love mountains, Norway should be at the top of the ‘to-do’ list! 

We are starting our articles with HARDANGER which is easily accessible from Oslo or Bergen and although based in the south of Norway, it does not lack any of the drama or mind-blowing views that northern Norway offers in abundance. 

The list will grow as we progress through Norway, but expect posts on: 

  • Stavanger
  • Loen
  • Jotunheimen
  • Senja
  • Tromso
  • Lofoten Islands
  • Romsdal
  • Lyngen
  • Svalbard

And more…

HARDANGER

The fjord (Hardangerfjord) resort of Kinsarvik will be used as an initial start point for adventures in the Hardanger area, by car, it is 2hrs 30min from Bergen and 5hrs from Oslo.

Located in the west of Norway, Hardanger is a traditional district with a great deal to offer in both summer and winter. For the purposes of this initial introduction, we are looking at a 4-5-day trip in June.

June provides a wonderful opportunity as the area transitions from winter to summer, if lucky, much of winter can remain and therefore you can gain the best of both worlds. It’s worth pointing out now, that winter conditions in Norway are harsh and you need to be prepared both physically, mentally and have the correct equipment to explore safely in this area. If any of the above have a question mark, look to travel and explore in July/ August when snow conditions will have disappeared.

Areas to explore:

  • Dronningstien aka The Queens Trail
  • Trolltunga
  • Folgefonna Glacier via Buerbreen
  • The waterfall route via Husedalen Valley
  • Climb Oksen

Other opportunities:

  • Kayak in one of the longest fjords in the world.
  • Via ferrata to Trolltunga.
  • Ice climb on the Folgefonna Glacier.

PRACTICALITIES

Norway is not a cheap place and therefore one needs to look at budget when exploring any area of the country. Flights, depending on the time of year will vary in price and car hire can be expensive. However, in many scenarios, a hire car allows one freedom to explore. Train services and public transport is good. We recommend a car to explore Hardanger.

Camping is part of the outdoor life and there is nowhere better than Norway to sleep outside. Norway allows for wild camping, however, be careful, some areas, particularly Trolltunga have a camping exclusion zone. 

For the purposes of this mini trip, we used an official campsite and wild camped. Below I provide a map to show an overview of the routes and areas we explored.

Our itinerary was as follows:

  • Day 1 – Travel and overnight stop.
  • Day 2 – Dronningstien aka The Queen Trail
  • Day 3 – AM: Trolltunga – PM: Buerbreen Glacier
  • Day 4 – Waterfall route via Husedalen Valley
  • Day 5 – Oksen and travel home.

All of the above trails are not long and are all achievable in one day or less.  

  • The Queen Trail is a longer route (20km) with mixed terrain on a point-to-point route.
  • Trolltunga is exposed and with snow (time of year dependent) – a more extreme challenge, particularly if one has limited snow experience.
  • Buerbreen Glacier is a short route but has plenty of vertical and technical terrain, expect fixed ropes, some snow and water crossing.
  • Husedalen Valley, the waterfall route is a great out and back with stunning views and at times, some testing terrain. Your feet will get wet!
  • Oksen is a straight up climb (1000m+) with some exposure, challenging terrain and the potential for snow/ glacier travel depending on the time of the year. It’s an out and back route.

Day 1 base was Kinsarvik. There is an official campsite, Kinsarvik Camping AS (here) which has cabins, space for motorhomes and tents. You are recommended to book any camping, especially in high season. Alternatively, you could wild camp close to Kinsarvik.

There is a Spar supermarket opposite the fjord, and this sells everything, including camping supplies. So, this is a great opportunity to stock up on any anything that you may require.

Our day 2 and day 3 base was an official campsite in Odda, called Odda Camping (here). This area due to its proximity to Trolltunga has potentially less options for wild camping, however, some options exist in Buer close by. It was a perfect location with a fjord as a backdrop, showers (20 Nok charge) and toilet facilities. At 250 krona per night (£20) it was a great option. Odda has a developed town with plenty of facilities, so, should you need anything, it will be available in the town.

Day 4 we wild camped below Oksen. There is nothing close by, so, be prepared with food etc.

Day 5 we wild camped on the way back to Oslo.

THE ROUTES 

Dronningstien aka The Queens Trail

 The trail is a point-to-point route between Kinsarvik and Lofthus. We recommend parking opposite the ESSO Petrol Station next to the fjord, parking is free.

The actual trail starts at Røte which is 4km up a road from route 13, very close to the ESSO petrol station. However, we recommend doing this on foot. Location is shown on the map below.

For the first 4km you will have no marking and then at Røte you will see blue a ‘D’ or blue spots. This is the route to follow. 

The official route is 16km and is estimated to take 8-9 hours and is described as ‘long and demanding!’ For perspective, we did the route with an additional 4km, we had a great deal of snow and we constantly stopped for photos. Yes, we did run, and we completed in 4hrs 50min. We did not push the pace or go fast.

Recommendations are for July to September but in June you have the chance of snow, 2020 had a great deal of snow, far more than normal. For us, this was a real plus!

The early km’s are all climbing and uninspiring but there are some wonderful views. Once the ‘D’ starts, the route becomes trail and you continue to climb eventually breaking out of the tree line. The immediate views over Hardangerfjord are quite amazing and breath tanking. It did not take long to realise why this was a favourite route of HM Queen Sonja, hence, The Queen’s Trail name.

Once high, the terrain has some undulations, but it is mostly flat with all the climbing coming in the early km’s. You will see from the run route below that we had snow for all the high sections and some snow on the descent to Lofthus. We had amazing weather, blue skies and plenty of heat. You really need to be careful of snow bridges, snow holes and potential danger and hazards. Best practice is to follow existing footsteps and pay attention to markers. Some ‘D’ or blue markers will be missing because of the snow but navigation is not a problem.

At all points, the Hardangerfjord is to your right and the views are stunning. On occasion you are brought to the edge of the plateau. Take time to stop, look over and soak up how incredible the vistas are.

You will find breathtaking views of the Sørfjord, Odda, the Folgefonna Glacier, Hardanger Bridge and Eidfjord. You can also see all the way over to Kvanndal and Utne, and along the fjord to Kinsarvik. 

Water is available at several points via streams, waterfalls or melting snow. Take the opportunity to replenish bottles. 

Before the highpoint of the route, there is a little climbing with some fixed rope, it’s nothing too scary or dramatic. Just use caution.

The high point is a square pile of stones (cairn) at 1107m which has a box on so that you can sign the book inside to confirm you were there.

From here, it is mostly descending all the way back to Lofthus. You will eventually switch from blue ‘D’ or dots to red ‘T.’ The descent is steep, winding, may have snow and includes the ‘Monk Steps.’ Open expansive trail eventually becomes tree covered.

Keep descending down. You will pass through a car park for those who wish to climb up from Lofthus. Keep descending and you will pass the famous orchards of this area, you will finally join the main road next to the fjord. The route is done!

A public bus back to Kinsarvik leaves from opposite Hotel Ullensvang. Please check on timings, but our information was 1551, 1810 and 2100hrs. There is a cafe/ shop called Kompaen that serves food and drinks should you need to replenish after a hard day on the trails before heading back. Make sure you taste some local apple juice or cider.

At Kinsarvik, we had a picnic by the fjord and then headed to Odda and Odda Camping. This would allow us an early start the following day for Trolltunga.

Trolltunga

The Trolltunga (Trolls Tongue) is an iconic route in Norway. Formed about 10,000 years ago by glacier erosion it is considered one of the most spectacular cliffs in Norway. From the side, it quite literally looks like a tongue balancing 700m above the Ringedalsvatnet lake.

Considered as a ‘demanding’ route, the out-and-back can be estimated to take 8-12 hours and the typical season is June to September. Outside of this timing one must have a guide. This year, 2020, Norway has had a great deal of snow and unusually, this year’s route was pretty much 90% snow and we had strict instructions to adhere to the marked route.

Despite conditions, we found the route very runnable and the snow was perfect. We did the out-and-back in 4-hours, just under 5-hours with all the photo stops. And trust me, photo stops are compulsory!

For most, particularly with snow, this is a challenging route, mainly due to the 20km+ distance, elevation gain and at times, demanding terrain.

It is a very, very popular route and therefore is often extremely busy. However, Coronavirus greatly has impacted on tourists and visitors in 2020 and the normal busy trails were quiet.

There are three car parks with limited space, 30 cars at P3, 180 at P2 and 220 at P1, book in advance (here) and if possible stay at car park 3 (Mågelitopp.) This is closest to the trail head and costs 600 Nok (£50). Car park 2 is 500 Nok. Car parks open 0600 hrs. There are also shuttle buses from Odda/ Tyssedal to Skjeggedal and then Skjeggedal to Mågelitopp with a cost of appx 450 Nok. You may think these costs pricey, however, the money is used by the local community to cover the impact of tourism in the area.

Importantly, this is a high mountain route with highly changeable conditions. Go prepared with extra warm layers, gloves, hat, waterproofs, food and water. You can replenish water en-route from streams and waterfalls.

It is possible to start from Skjeggedal which adds 4.3km up and down to the route hiking (or you can get the shuttle) but we decided to miss this as we were adding the Glacier route to our afternoon.

Start early, if running, you have the potential to arrive at Trolltunga first and have great opportunities for photos. It has been known at busy periods to wait over an hour to get on the tongue for the ‘iconic’ photo. We actually started at 0800 and caught all the hikers ahead of us. We actually had at least 40-minutes at the tongue for photos and picnic before the next people arrived.

Skjeggedal to Mågelitopp is a steep tough climb and well-marked. From Mågelitopp, the start of the Trolltunga route is just below the car park, the route is clearly marked and relatively flat. It’s marshy to start with interspersed rocks. We had snow in these early sections, so, we were well aware that the whole route would be snow bound.

The first few km’s are arguably the toughest with 800m of vertical.

After the initial hard work, the trail rolls along, the snow conditions making our trip perfect. At all times, the views to your right are stunning with mountain vistas and the stunning Ringedalsvatnet lake.

For safety, there is a mountain outpost and two emergency huts/ shelters should you have a problem.

There is a twin waterfall, Tyssestrengene and Tyssehylen Lake to pass before arriving at Trolltunga.

The approach to Trolltunga is perfectly safe and not technical for an experienced outdoor person. However, if new to hiking and extreme environments, take a little time, move slowly and make sure of foot and hand holds. Hopefully, you may not have to wait for an opportunity to walk out on the tongue for your photo moment.

The return route is a reverse of the outward route.

Without snow, the route would be very different and in a personal opinion, less beautiful and dramatic. The snow added a real extra element to the journey, so, I would recommend attempting Trolltunga as early in June as possible.

Once back at the P3 car park we returned to our campsite for a relaxing lunch. 

Buerbreen Glacier

The reason we chose P3 for Trolltunga was to allow us to do the out-and-back route to the Buerbreen Glacier which is a short drive from Odda. 

The route is less than 6km and has appx 450m of vertical gain, but the route has a great mix of some technical terrain, fixed rope, water crossings and snow if you are lucky.

Leaving Odda, you head to Buer and continue up the road to eventually arrive at a car park. Cost is 150 Nok.

A gravel road starts the route from a farm. There is a plethora of animals around to entertain.

Entering the forest, the trail winds upwards continually with very little flat trail. Expect wet feet and the need to use ropes to ascend rock sections. If conditions are wet, take care.

Keep looking back as the views are wonderful, countered by the dominant glacier ahead. The route up does have some challenges with fixed ropes.

Eventually the trail stops with the glacier ahead. Do not be tempted to veer off the route and explore on the glacier. Needless to say, this requires a different skill level, specialist equipment and knowledge of the glacier and its conditions.

 The panorama and views at the glacier are magical.

You return via the way you came.

At under 6km, it’s a great addition to the more adventurous morning at Trolltunga. Don’t underestimate this little hike. It’s a wonderful trail and the views are magical. 

We returned to Odda Campsite for a relaxing evening.

Husedalen Valley

This route was not on our original plan; however, we were advised by locals that Husedalen Valley in June is incredible due to the melting snow and the succession of waterfalls.

Leaving Kinsarvik head up Husavegen Road and continue until you arrive at a parking area on the left. 

The route is 12km +/- out and back with 630m+. The initial km’s are gravel road, first waterfall is called Tveitafossen. 

The gravel road forks, take the right trail. You climb steeply next to a pipeline before entering forest trail.

The second waterfall is already visible, Nyastølfossen.

The views are incredible and the noise of the waterfall impressive. The trail rises steeply at times with some demanding trail. Nyastølfossen is hidden, peeping through the trees and then suddenly you get full views. Take time to stop, watch and take photos.

The third waterfall, Nykkjesøyfossen is located in a beautiful meadow. This is a popular wild camping spot with incredible views, so, keep this in mind. There is a small hut and also a public toilet here. The trail is easy to lose here but keep close to the water edge (on your right) and follow climbing and scrambling over the rocks. Eventually you will see the trail rise up.

The trail goes up again through trees and heads towards the 4th and final waterfall, Søtefossen. At times it’s easy to lose the route but in all honesty, you cannot get lost, just head for the waterfall. Eventually you can go no further as the 4th raging torrent forces you to sit down and watch its beauty.

You return via the same route.

 This route is often listed as demanding, as always, this depends on experience and fitness. Estimated to take 5-6 hours we did the route in 3h 25m with continuous photo stops.

On returning to the car, we returned to the fjord at Kinsarvik for a lunch break and then we travelled over to Oksen to wild camp.

Oksen

 The drive to Oksen takes you over the impressive Hardanger Bridge (toll payable 150 Nok) which is the longest suspension bridge in Norway at 1380m long.

Please note, once you have left Kinsarvik (or any other town for that matter) you will not pass any shops or supplies on the route to Oksen. It’s a narrow out-and-back road that passes close to the fjord and remote houses. Eventually you will drive up heading to ‘Tjoflot’ – continue along the winding road and eventually you will come to a dead end where parking is available. A fee is payable for parking.

Our suggestion is to arrive late afternoon or early evening and wild camp close to the car park or, start the climb of Oksen and after approximately 1-mile you will find a plateau with two huts, here is a good place to camp.

With either of the above options, you can start the climb of Oksen early the following morning ahead of other people arriving. We decided to camp near the car park as we wanted to do the whole climb in one go.

This route is very different to the previous day’s expeditions. It feels much more remote, exposed and has many similarities to a classic VK (vertical kilometer) route. You will climb just over 1000m+ in less than 5km to reach the summit.

 We had dry weather but cloud and strong winds. Like the rest of the Hardanger area, once above a certain height, we had snow all the way to the summit making the journey extra special.

The early climbing is through forest as the trail winds up. Once you reach the plateau where the two huts are, the trail is now open and wide. The route is well marked but be careful in snow sections, at times it’s better to deviate on to firm/ harder ground.

The whole route is steep and especially so between 400-600m+ and after 800M+ with the route flattening out towards the summit.

At all times the views are incredible and arguably the views of Hardangerfjord, Sørfjorden, Granvinsfjorden, Eidfjorden and Samlafjorden are the best in the region.

The summit is marked with a stone cairn signifying the altitude of 1241m.

Take time to explore the summit and look at the different views. There is a stunning vista of the suspension bridge too.

At the summit you have options to extend your route. This was our original plan; however, snow and weather conditions were very unpredictable, and we decided (correctly) not to take risks and continue.

Had we had crampons and ice axe; we most certainly would have continued to Ingebjørgfjellet (passing Oksatjorni) which is signposted from the summit (5.4km away). The route is not marked, so, you need map and compass or a GPS. I use the ‘Footpath’ app on my iPhone which works excellently. Maps.me and ViewRanger are others to consider.

The return to the car is via the way you came, unfortunately, due to road access and a lack of public transport there is no other option. As an alternative, it is possible to climb Oksen from Hamre, however, you need to use a different road to access this area. The route up goes via Seljesete and Seljenuten.

The route is considered demanding with a time allowance of 7-hours. As mentioned previously, with good fitness and mountain experience it is perfectly feasible to do the route in under 3-hours even with plenty of photos.

We concluded our trip with a detour travelling back to Oslo. The weather was perfect, and we were not eager to return home when another night camping was possible. We called at Vøringfossen (here) which is an impressive waterfall towering 182m high.

We then continued to Ringericke and climbed up the Mørkonga gully to then camp high next to a lake for a final night.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Never underestimate the mountains and the environment in which you are exploring. June in particular is the start of the hiking season and as such, snow can be a factor on all of the above routes. This adds an additional potential for injury and problems. Particularly as the snow is melting and this can create snow holes, snow bridges and crevices. Do not take any risks and follow established routes and existing footprints.

Make sure you call in the Tourist Office in Kinsarvik and discuss your route options and take advice on current conditions and dangers.

It may be 30deg next to the fjord and glorious sunshine, but at the summit, it can be below zero, blowing a gale and torrential rain. You must take personal responsibility and be prepared for all conditions. At a minimum please take:

  • Suitable pack
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Warm insulated layer
  • Warm trousers
  • Waterproof jacket/ pants
  • Food for the duration of the hike and some contingency
  • 1,5 ltrs of water (which can be replenished on all the routes via streams/ waterfalls)
  • Take water purification tablets as a just in case and consider a water purifier such as MSR TrailShot (here)
  • Map/ Compass
  • Charged mobile phone with a suitable App such as ‘Footpath’ (here)
  • Cash/ Card
  • Garmin InReach or similar

Plan your routes, be realistic on timings and always start early. One of the huge advantages of outdoor activity in Norway is daylight. In June, it is light at 0300 and goes dark after 2200 hrs.

CONCLUSION

Hardanger is a paradise.

Quite simply, if you do the route options above, not only will you see some of the most amazing views ever, you will be rewarded with wonderful challenging days that will provide you with a lifetime of memories.

Weather, as always, is key. We chose our weather window and traveled to the area knowing that we would be rewarded with great conditions.

Of course, if you are making a special trip to the area, you will need to take the weather you are given. Although it is great to have a plan, be prepared for that plan to change based on weather conditions and personal safety. We were desperate to travel to Ingebjørgfjellet after Oksen summit but made a sensible call and retreated.  

The mountains and trails are going nowhere, always remember this!

The routes provided are achievable for all with enough allocated time based on individual experience and fitness.

Due to Covid-19, we experienced considerably quieter trails. On many occasions we were completely alone. Having spoken with locals and others, this is not normal! So, be prepared for more people when you venture to this area, especially Trolltunga.

For us, camping enhances the experience and brings you closer to the nature and environment. However, this is campervan heaven, and should you need a hotel, many are available.

Needless to say, we have picked highlights of the area and there is more to explore, but that will be another article!

This area would be fantastic for a Fastpacking trip, read here about equipment.

Also, here is a guide for Fastpacking in Nepal.

PERSONAL NOTE

I am fortunate to have travelled the world, experienced mountains, summits and trails in iconic locations. Norway may not have any peaks/ summits that can compete with the Alps, Pyrenees or the Himalayas, but what it does have is the most incredible views.

I can honestly say, our mini trip to Hardanger is one of the most rewarding ever! 

Special thanks to Abelone Lyng who was my partner in crime. Abe is the ‘muse’ in all the photos, the girl with a big smile and yes, these trails would have been a little less magic without her to enjoy the journey. She was also the inspiration for the trip and it is thanks to her we visited these amazing places.

View the complete IMAGE GALLERY HERE

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