I've been planning on a multi-week hike for most of the year. The hike I had planned on was a traverse of the Wind Rivers Range back in the US. However, recent shenanigans resulted in my flight to the US being canceled.
I still wanted to go hiking (and I already had booked 20 consecutive days off from work) so I went into action to scramble and find alternative plans.
I've been here in Norway for some time now, and there's a big attraction I still haven't seen: Trolltunga. I looked up where it was on the map and realized that ... you know, it's not really too far away from where I ended by hike from Bergen. What if I went to see Trolltunga and then hooked up to my previous stopping point and finished that out? It would tie things together nicely, I think!
So I fired up Gaia GPS and started looking at routes and strategies -- being more careful than I was two years ago. It turns out that there's a very large difference between summer routes and winter routes!
Next, I gathered all of my normal gear -- keeping in mind the lesson that I learned (there are no trees on Hardangervidda), so I'll be ground-sleeping on this one. I'm watching a friend's cat, and he kept a close eye on the operation, making sure that nothing was forgotten.
The way this hike was to be structured, I would be starting the hike with a brutal 7-day food carry. There aren't any stores in the middle of the national park! There are some tourist cabins which could/would sell a hungry traveler food at an inflated price, but I was hoping to avoid relying on that -- especially since I didn't know what the rules were in the COVID-19 era!
I went to the store and loaded up on what I thought would be sufficient for that stretch and brought it home to do food-prep later that night. (Sorry, I didn't get any pictures).
Great, I've got everything sorted: gear, food, route. Now it's time to buy the bus ticket and get some sleep!
Uh-oh, the bus tickets are sold out for the next 5 days! I could take a different route (via train), but they want 2300 kr for that, which is crazy to me. Screw it -- how about I just flip the route and walk there instead?
With some minor adjustments, that plan is all sorted out. The only difference is that I won't need basically any of this food that I bought. I'll be leaving home with a very light food load and have to do a resupply before I enter Hardangervidda. Oh well, the good news it that hiking food doesn't really go bad.
With my new hike-there plan, I started running the numbers and quickly came to a realization: if I leave on Friday morning, then I'll likely be in Kongsberg on Sunday. This is fine, except Kongsberg is my last major city before I begin the seven-day stretch. Figuring that it's a bad idea to try and resupply on a Sunday (when the big/major stores are closed) I decided to delay for a day instead.
I took the day to do a last-minute review of my gear, and decided to pick up some new shoes for myself. The old ones I have still have a few hundred miles left in them, but they're a bit bigger than I like, especially for warm-weather hikes. So let's go see whether they have my size in stock :-)
Enough procrastinating -- let's get this show on the road! After taking the morning to clean my apartment and get it ready for guests, I finally saddled up, locked my door, and headed to the train.
I wasn't starting the hike from my front door. I tried and tried, but couldn't find any good routes from Oslo that didn't require a morning of road walking. So instead, I'm taking the train to Sandvika and starting my hike from there. Doing it this way cuts out some 8.5 miles of road-walking, and I'm okay with that.
After that, it was as expected: road-walking to get out of the city and into nature. It didn't take too long, but there was also a fair amount of road-woods-road-woods bouncing. I guess I just have to get used to this.
While walking, I did come across some local wildlife, out doing their own thing. We nodded at each other and then went about our respective business. It was tempting to go say hello, but being that close is always a bit unsettling because it reminds you just how small and weak we humans are.
I found myself a nice dinner spot in the corner of a cemetery. I hope it wasn't too disrespectful -- maybe me sitting there for 45 minutes and reading their names and wondering what their lives had been like made up for it?
I eventually found a nice flat rock in the woods to sleep on. While this is warm and cozy, it does present some slight complications since I don't have a free-standing tent with me. This means that in order for it to work effectively, it needs to be staked into the dirt.
I don't know if it'll rain tonight, so I did some half-assed counterbalancing with rocks and shrubs to make it stand up. It won't withstand any wind, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Well, my tent blew over last night. I mean it's okay because it didn't rain or anything, but around 5am the wind picked up and decided that I didn't need my tent anymore. All in all, I was okay with it because it also blew away the mosquitos that were trying to snack. I slept most of the night with a towel over my face to try and keep them at bay. I have a mosquito net, but it's useless without a hat. I'll try and pick one of these up tomorrow morning when I'm in Kongsberg (since I'll need one when I'm crossing the treeless plateau anyway).
And with that wake-up call, it was time to get going again. Not only did I have a scenic sunrise to wake up to, one of the first orders of business was to cross an interesting (to me) dam. It was a recreational dam, rather than a power-generating dam. This meant that it was low and more like a bridge than anything.
After that, I had a spell where I walked in the woods, and then on some roads, and then on some dirt roads and then in the woods, and so on. The vistas were incredible, though -- that's one great thing about walking through farmland!
Around lunchtime, I passed through the little village of Hokksund. There is a gas station here and some local farmers had set up a tent and were selling fresh produce. I couldn't resist, and picked up some strawberries to help me pass the time while I road-walked through this little slice of civilization.
After that, it was back into the road/dirt-road/woods rotation, climbing on towards Kongsberg. Kongsberg is the last city I'll be going through on my hike and where I'll need to do a large resupply before I head out across Hardangervidda. As I approached Kongsberg, I was noticing that it was only around 4pm. I realized that if I pushed just a little bit more, I could alter my plan: instead of camping just outside of Kongsberg, I could go into town and get a hotel for the night.
I think it could do me some good to recharge mentally, physically, and electrically before I push on for a 7-day stretch. (Additionally, I was running the numbers and .. it's going to be tight if I try to keep my phone charged without leaving Kongsberg with everything on full. Even still, it'll be tight ...)
So that's what I did. I wound up strolling into the hotel around 7:15pm and taking a much-appreciated shower. I'm also very excited for breakfast tomorrow ...
The first order of business: go to the hotel breakfast and eat everything I can find. The more I eat, the less I have to buy and put in my pack, right? A delicious strategy.
After that, it was time to go to the two sporting goods stores and try to find a hat. Without a hat, I'm going to get absolutely fried on Hardangervidda, sunscreen be damned.
I wound up finding the only hat in town, and it had a bug net attached. This is unnecessary because I have my own, but hey -- beggars can't be choosers. I might as well use it and I can always cut it off if I don't like it.
After that, it was time to go to the grocery store and buy 7 days worth of calories. This is always both the easiest thing and the hardest thing to do. On the one hand, it's just calories and it doesn't really matter. On the other hand, it's so hard to estimate how much I'll need -- especially before Hiker Hunger sets in. So oh well, I just wandered around the REMA1000 and threw stuff in my basket and called it good enough.
With that taken care of, it was time to hit the road (literally; road-walking) and get out of town. This involved pretty much a whole day of climbing -- up up up to get out of town. It wasn't steep, and it was even reasonably pretty. Plus, it was an overcast day, so the heat wasn't unbearable.
One big distraction I had was that the trail was just lined with blueberries. It took some major self control to not just sit and feast instead of hiking. I was getting some strong northern Oregon vibes.
Once I completed the climb (or at least got high up), it was very rewarding to be able to see a long ways off, and see the mountains that I'll be heading towards. Not exactly the plateau, but definitely part of the same range.
It also looked like rain far off in the distance -- let's hope that clears out before I get there! I have a rain jacket so I'm not worried ("det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlig klær", as the locals say), but it would be nice to have sun anyway.
By the time I was ready to call it a night, I found a great campsite: the end of a dirt road. Sure, it might not be the safest idea, but what're the odds that someone will drive along between now and when I get going (I'm usually walking by 07:30) anyway?
So I had some excitement last night: my sleeping pad has a pinhole leak in it. I don't know how I got it, but I had to throw a breath or two into it every 45 minutes or so in order to stay aloft -- not a great night of sleep. I have a patch kit, so I hope I can find & patch it (or else this will be a very uncomfortable hike). On the other hand, sleeping with my mosquito-net hat on worked like a charm -- no bug bites!
As I set off on my hike (walking along the road I had slept on), I came across an interesting site: bee hives. The road had lots of bee colonies, and it was cool to stand there for a minute and just watch them going about their lives, making delicious honey. Smart little critters!
After some time, I came across someone's house which was under construction. There wasn't anyone working there, and I saw it as a perfect opportunity to dry out my gear (there was heavy condensation last night so my sleeping bag was a bit unhappy. There was also a convenient stack of pallets to sit on and munch on some trail mix while I waited for everything to bake.
I also took this opportunity to blow up my sleeping pad and listen very carefully for the leak. I was able to track it down and it was thankfully not on a seam or anywhere difficult! I slapped a patch on there and then rolled it up to put it away while the glue cures.
Once everything was dried out, I got to hiking again, which took me up and over a mountain. This was actually kind of a treat because it felt like "real" hiking and wasn't a road. Also it was partly cloudy, but nice weather and great views, so that was just peachy.
After a while, I reached the top and was rewarded with a wonderful view before descending.
This is unfortunately where my pictures for the day end because from here on out -- another 4 hours or so -- it was nothing but mud. And when I say "mud" I really mean muddy water that's between ankle and knee deep. Continuously. For miles and miles and miles.
It was horrible.
I met up with a Norwegian local who was out hiking, so it was nice to be able to share the misery with someone. We wound up setting up camp on the porch of someone's cabin because everything else was just mud. Barf.
Oh god what a wet night.
I didn't set up my tent because:
However, there was so much condensation that it was functionally the same as a light rain. I'm going to need to find somewhere to dry out my sleeping bag today or it's going to be bad news bears.
The hiking this morning was more mud -- at least for the morning. So I sucked it up and put on my still-wet socks and shoved my feet into my still-wet shoes and got straight to splashing through puddles.
In case you can't tell from my writing, I'll make it clear: I was not a happy camper. This was just so maddening and frustrating and ugh who likes hiking with cold wet feet for hours and hours and miles and miles? Oh well, the only way through it is to go through it so I might as well just move as fast as I can.
Eventually it ended, and I was greeted with the most joyous of sights: a gravel road. It sounds like I'm kidding, but I was almost as happy as when I finally found that Jeep road on the PCT. I had the option here to continue up into the forest to keep hiking, or to walk the road. I am not ashamed to say that I walked the road -- my feet needed a break to dry out and take an hour off.
And onwards I went: hiking hiking hiking. I eventually left the road and continued the ever-increasing climb up towards the plateau on well-maintained trails.
As I continued this climb, I saw ominous clouds nearby, and rain in adjacent valleys.
Eventually these rainclouds started thundering instead of just looking menacing. The rain was still a valley away, but every so often I'd get hit with a minute or five of Jesus rain, accompanied by thunderclaps. Strange stuff. Beautiful, but strange.
Around the time it was going to be time for me to call it quits for the day, there was a conveniently-placed DNT cabin. These self-service cabins are open to any member (you get a key when you join), and have firewood, dishes, beds, food, and so on for a reasonable fee. I wasn't interested in any of that, except the roof over my head (I have camped in a thunderstorm before; once is enough for me).
So in I went! I even made a fire to dry out my clothes (I had been able to dry out my sleeping bag while I ate lunch earlier today). I didn't want to risk anything with COVID-19, so I just slept in my gear on the floor while the thunder rolled on by.
It was a pretty great evening, all things considered.
Well last night wasn't quite as restful as I had hoped for -- that damn fire made the cabin way too warm. I would've cracked a window but there weren't any screens and I didn't want to let in the mosquitos. Oh well, it was still marginally better than being struck by lightning, I suppose.
Today's morning hike was wonderful -- just a beautiful trail hike with lots to see. And minimal mud!
Eventually, I reached the approach to another landmark: Imingfjell. This is a staffed tourist cabin -- I wasn't planning on staying there, but it still a noteworthy landmark because it showed up on the map.
When I reached it, I had a startling realization: I was in for some road walking. A lot of road walking. Now, if you've read the rest of this trip, you'll know that I'm no stranger to road walking but I'm mentioning it here, so that should tell you something. This was some 11 miles (~18 km) of the most boring paved-road road-walking imaginable. It was hell on my feet, ankles, and psyche.
There was exactly one bit of excitement: there was one stream crossing where I didn't feel comfortable rock-hopping. I took off my shoes & socks and did a barefoot crossing through the chilly water. It also gave me a minute to hang out on the other side while my feet dried before I resumed my never-ending march.
Eventually, I reached a spot where the trail supposedly forked to the left and the road kept going to the right. However, I couldn't find the trail. Instead, I decided that was far enough and that I'll set up camp, eat dinner, and look in the morning with some fresh eyes & ankles.
Holy cow, so many mosquitoes. I'm really glad that I bought this hat, and that I figured out a good sleep system with it the past few nights. Anyway, up and at 'em -- time to find this trail.
After a decent amount of trail-blazing, I found the "trail." It's not really so much a trail as a scavenger hunt with a series of connect-the-dot rock cairns. I don't know if this is supposed to be a people trail or what, but I'm following some horse-tracks, so maybe that's what it's for? Alternatively, maybe it's a winter trail that Gaia GPS has mislabeled? Either way, it's not too bad so I'll just keep following it.
At one point, I was looking off into the distance and I saw a whole ridge entirely covered with snow. I'd heard that this area of the country got a lot of snow this winter but, like, it's the middle of August so I should be fine, right? I'll have to ask at the next couple of cabins to see if anyone knows anything about what I'm walking towards.
Speaking of which, I eventually arrived at an established trail and finally entered the actual national park!
I reached the cabin, Mårbu. I'm not stopping here, but I was hoping to grab some lunch. Due to COVID-19, they've closed to day visitors and are not selling prepared food, but I still bought myself a hiker lunch -- a bag of chips and a Sprite. I think that the main reason I enjoy hiking is because I get to just eat absolute garbage, day in and day out.
The guy working at the cabin didn't know anything about the snow, so I just thanked him for his time and hiked on. We'll see what we see, I guess! However, the trail opened up and it was just a proper hike. There wasn't a cloud in the sky all day, and that made me very very very glad that I'd purchased that hat!
Eventually, I reached my next cabin: Rauhelleren. The crew here had a much more-established operation. Not only did they know about the trail conditions (snow), but they knew about the weather, and they also sold me a cooked dinner! As much as I love my dry ramen, it's nice to get some fresh food once in a while.
I hike on about 100m and set up my tent just outside of their pasture. I think I'll go back in the morning for a last-minute weather check & restroom visit.
I woke up this morning to nothing but clouds and wetness. Uh-oh.
I went in to the cabin and asked about the weather, and was reassured that the sun will burn off the fog and it'll be a crystal clear day again today -- phew!
So might as well get to hiking, I suppose! Soon thereafter, the weather turned (as promised) and I had ample time to dry out all of my gear -- all the way down to my socks!
Today was definitely a stark reminder of what it means to be on a plateau. There was virtually no elevation gain (or loss) all day -- just smooth flat trails without any shade all day. There were a couple of stretches of snow that I had to walk across, but nothing like that I saw on the horizon. There's another staffed cabin tomorrow; I'll ask there what the deal is.
Coincidentally, that cabin tomorrow morning is my exit point, should I need to abort. And even more of a coincidence: if I have to exit, it would be exiting out via Eidfjord, which is where my ill-fated Bergensstien attempt ended two years ago.
Time to find out about that snow! The hike was immediately stunningly pretty, with clear skies and glacier lakes abound.
I quickly reached the last of the staffed cabins, and I asked the gentleman working there about the snow. He waved his hand dismissively and said "it's no problem". Yay! Onwards I go, then :-)
As I hiked onwards, the trail kept getting prettier and prettier and prettier. There was some snow at times, but none of it was bad. Sometimes a little bit annoying, but even if I'd had a my microspikes, I don't think I would've bothered to put them on.
One thing I found interesting was that the sun cups were extremely different from the sun cups I'm used to. I assume it's because the sun never really gets high in the sky here, but it was still really interesting to see.
The alpine lakes that I came across were stunning. The water was so blue and the snow was so white and the grass was so green. I regret that all I have for you is some inadequate pictures, but maybe that will serve as incentive to go out and see it for yourself :-)
My alarm went off at 4am and I groaned myself awake. Man was I tired! I don't think I had realized just how hard I'd been working until I was a) virtually done and b) not getting a full night sleep. Anyway, onwards! I put on my headlamp and got to steppin'.
In due course, I reached the site of Trolltunga. There were some muggles camping out who were doing similar plans, but they couldn't really be bothered to get up before dawn, so they slumbered on while I went to get my pictures in the stillness.
Of course, me being there by myself made it tricky to get pictures. I did one with a self-timer, but I'll tell ya: being on the edge of a 3500+-foot drop doesn't really make you want to run very fast.
After I took my pictures at Trolltunga, I packed up and kept on hiking. Just a mile or so down (up) the trail is another wonder: Kleiner Preikestolen. I thought Trolltunga was neat, but Kleiner Preikestolen was just unsettling. I belly-crawled to the edge and peeked over and .. the next thing you see are the rocks below, after looking through more than 4,000 feet of empty air.
After that, I saddled up one last time and kept hiking. I didn't have plans to hike down the standard tourist route. Instead, I wanted to head the long way around the lake and see the whole valley. If I do it right, I'll drop straight down into Odda -- no bus required!
I wound up calling it quits a smidge early because the planned route ended with a +400m climb followed by a -1400m descent. Instead, I took my lumps and just did a direct -800m descent. Maybe next time I'll go the other way, when I'm not as tired (and when I have more than 4% battery on my phone).
I eventually wound up back at the traditional start of the trail. The bus was due in an hour, but why would I wait for that when I have a perfectly good thumb? I set up shop with an ice cream cone at the mouth of the parking lot and got a hitch on the third car that went by -- perfect. They were also staying where I was planning on staying (Odda Camping) before I took the bus home in the morning.
However, I learned that Odda Camping is kind of expensive (300kr to set up my own tent? 40kr for a 10-minute shower?!) so instead, I showered, walked into town, bought some dinner, charged my phone while I ate, and went home by:
The night train was terrible simply because -- despite my luxurious shower and new shirt and new socks -- I just smelled so bad. I took off my shoes on the train and just felt horrible for everyone. Oh well though, life goes on.
Overall, this hike was a delight. I was really happy with how it turned out, even if it wasn't perfect overall. I think there are a few things that I would change if I was to do this again (or recommend that anyone else do it).
Here's how the plan worked out in reality:
|1||Stage 1 (24.3 mi)||Day 1 (21.8 mi)|
|2||Stage 2 (25.8 mi)||Day 2 (30.4 mi)|
|3||Stage 3 (31.0 mi)||Day 3 (15.7 mi)|
|4||Stage 4 (19.8 mi)||Day 4 (22.2 mi)|
|5||Stage 5 (24.2 mi)||Day 5 (22.3 mi)|
|6||Stage 6 (29.4 mi)||Day 6 (20.7 mi)|
|7||Stage 7 (29.8 mi)||Day 7 (21.8 mi)|
|8||Stage 8 (21.2 mi)||Day 8 (23.2 mi)|
|9||Stage 9 (13.4 mi)||Day 9 (28.5 mi)|
|10||----||Day 10 (15.7 mi)|
There were a couple of hard-learned lessons from this trip -- things I'll try to keep in mind going forward. It's not a complete list, but these are the ones that I thought of and resolved to write down that I remembered them :)
I brought my phone and a battery pack. Per the math, the battery has enough juice to charge my phone from 0% to 100% 7+ times. Given that I'm planning for 7 days between resupplies, this is perfect! However, this completely neglected to account for me being ending the trip at 0%. This meant that I needed to scramble in Odda to find chargers & charge things before I began my trip home (7+ hours).
Due to charging inefficiencies and other issues (temperature changes, etc), I wound up with just enough battery capacity. By that, I mean that I walked into Odda with my phone at 1% and my battery pack at 0%. It also meant that I didn't have enough battery to get really good pictures from Trolltunga, and couldn't really consult my map while I was doing the roundabout hike back to civilization. Not great.
Next time, I'd bring a little 2000 mAh battery pack for emergencies such as this. It's only a few grams and would be a big relief in an uncomfortable situation.
If the map says it's going to be a swamp / marsh, it's going to be. Your feet will get wet, period.
On the other side of the coin, if Gaia GPS says that there's a route that's a conveniently-straight line and cuts out a lot of ups and downs .. consider double-checking that against another source. It's entirely possible that it's a mislabeled winter trail, intended to be crossed on skis.
Being a DNT member saved my skin that day with the thunderstorms. (Well, okay, it turned out to not be an issue, but could've been really bad). Even if you're not planning on doing a hytte-til-hytte trip, it's nice to have the option to seek refuge somewhere should you need it.
Being relatively new to Norway, I really enjoyed the hike, end to end. There was a lot of road-walking in the beginning, but it did let me see a lot of the Norwegian villages and towns and cities, up close and personal. However, if I was to do it again, I would likely skip that portion of the trip. Specifically, I would get a ride to Imingfjell and begin the hike there -- that's about the start of the Hardangervidda national park, and when the trail starts to get objectively "good" anyway.
Even more specifically, I would try to hitch as far down that lake as possible -- it's a lot of really really really boring road walking. If someone's driving that way and wouldn't mind giving you a ride to the parking lot at the far end, take them up on it!
If you're strapped for time (or just want to spend more time doing the best parts), there's another option which I think would be stellar. I haven't done this part yet (of course) but it seems reasonable to me -- but double-check during your planning process!
In short, you could take the bus to Eidfjord, and hike south from there to Trolltunga. The sequence of DNT cabins you'd follow would go something like:
I think that route would really treat you to just the condensed highlights of the hike, anyway. Here is a quick-and-dirty route that I would use as a jumping-off point if I was to redo this section.