Awhile back, I came across a photo on Instagram that looked so incredibly unreal, I didn’t think it could possibly exist on Earth. There was no way that rock could naturally jut out like that… and in such an epic location too!! After a bit of research, I found that it was in fact real, and it was in Norway. I had to go see it.
Trolltunga, which means “Troll’s Tongue,” is an impressive rock formation that juts out 700 meters above the sapphire blue Lake Ringedalsvatnet, surrounded by towering cliffs. It was formed by glacial erosion about 10,000 years ago, and every day between June-September, tourists from all over the world make the challenging 22km round-trip trek to witness it in person. This year, I was one of them.
It’s not recommended to hike Trolltunga alone, so I’d searched Local Discussions on Couchsurfing and found an American girl named Rebecca who said I could join their hiking group. They’d be coming from the opposite direction as me, so I told them I’d meet them at the beginning of the hike in Skjeggedal at 6:30am. I said if I hadn’t arrived by then to just go without me, as it meant I hadn’t found a ride.
The earliest shuttle from Odda was at 7:35am, so I asked around my hostel to see if anyone else was going early. No luck… There was no way I could afford a taxi by myself, so I did the only other thing I could think of… I hitchhiked!!
It actually took two rides to get there, so the first guy drove me to Tyssedal, and then a girl drove me the rest of the way to Skjeggedal, but unfortunately I didn’t arrive until 6:45am. I contemplated waiting for backpackers from my hostel to show up on the shuttle, but I didn’t want to wait that long, so I started on the hike solo, figuring I’d catch up to Rebecca and her friends.
The beginning of the Trolltunga hike is very challenging, as it begins with a steep ascent up uneven rocks and slippery mud, with dirty ropes to help with some of the steepest parts. Though there used to be a funicular up the initial ascent, it closed down years ago, so the climb is now required to reach Trolltunga.
I took a break after about 15 minutes to catch my breath, and I met a couple Canadian girls who invited me to join them. Just as I was telling them the story of how I was supposed to meet a group but arrived a little too late, a guy passing by goes, “Are you Christina?” Confused, I said, “Yes… why?” Turned out he was Rebecca’s friend Andrew and was trying to catch up with them as well. What a coincidence he just happened to be passing by at the exact time I was explaining my story!
I continued on the hike with Andrew, planning to catch up with Rebecca and her friends eventually. At the top of the climb, we passed the first sign saying “1 km.” All that time and we’d only gone one kilometer?! I guess the distance felt longer since we’d been going slow trying to find dry patches around mud and climbing some pretty steep inclines. At least there was a stream to refill our water bottles, as we’d drank quite a lot.
After the first kilometer, the trail flattened out and carried us through a marshy valley. Part of this involved walking on the wooden path over top, while during other bits we found ourselves leaping from rock to rock.
We had another fairly steep ascent and though the climb was tough, it rewarded us with fabulous panoramic views of the valley. From there, we started going around lakes and even through snow. And sometimes we found ourselves sinking into thick mud…
Around the 5km mark we reached Rebecca and her friends, and from there, the rest of the hike seemed to fly by. I think it helped also that I’d met some new people, and we had conversation flowing nearly the entire time as we got to know each other.
Turns out, Rebecca is had some incredible stories! She’s run a marathon on every continent (including Antarctica) and has run the length of Lake Malawi (850km ~ 529 miles) in 28 days. She works in marketing as well, but she freelances so she can work a few months and then travel a few months. Hearing about her life was such an inspiration! I was so caught up in talking with Rebecca and her friends that the hike flew by, and the hours spent trekking through mud and snow seemed a lot shorter than they actually were.
About 4.5 hours after starting (including a few photo and snack breaks) we finally reached Trolltunga, and breathtaking would be an understatement. It’s truly impossible to describe the sight of Trolltunga jutting out from sheer cliffs over a massive lake below– you simply must go!
We got in line, which took around 20 minutes and finally got to step out and take our picture on the end. The vibe at the top was quite fun, with everyone happy to have made it and laughing along as some people did crazy poses on the tongue. We spent around an hour and a half at the top, and then made the journey back, making our total trip time around ten hours.
By the end of the trek, the bottoms of your feet are begging you to sit down, every leg muscle hurts, and you’re basically sliding down the mud to avoid picking up your feet. The hardest parts of the path were the steep ascent at the beginning, and then steep descent at the end (where all five of us slipped and fell at least once). But aside from those sections, it’s not the terrain that’s challenging, but the distance and the fact that your body is exhausted that makes this hike more demanding. It was a long day to say the least, 22km (~14 miles) with a 1000m (2900ft) ascent, but Trolltunga is absolutely worth the time and pain it takes to get there.
Tips for Visiting Trolltunga:
- Wear proper shoes. Hiking shoes are ideal, or at least shoes with good support. It is possible in sneakers, but your feet will be hurting (and probably soaked) by the end. You will be walking over uneven rocks and through mud for most of the hike.
- Be prepared! Bring enough clothing and food to last at least 12 hours in case it takes awhile. Though nobody had ever died until the day I did the hike, rescues are very frequent simply because people don’t bring enough warm clothes or food.
- Plan for snow and/or rain. The weather in the mountains can change drastically in just minutes, so you will want a waterproof outer layer.
- Just carry one bottle of water and fill it up in the streams to save weight. You don’t even need to purify it… Norwegian glacier water is actually better than any bottled water I’ve ever tasted :)
- Leave early. Not only will this guarantee you’re back before dark, but you’ll have a shorter wait to take your photo as well.
- If you have the time to spare, pick the day with the best weather forecast. Trolltunga is possible in the rain, but is 1000x more fun in the sun!
- Plan to hike Trolltunga between May (sometimes June depending on snow melt) and September. Outside of these months, the trek can be very dangerous (or impossible) due to snow.
- From Odda, there’s a bus that runs from the main bus station for around 100NOK (~12) each way. If you have a car, parking is 100NOK at the top, or alternatively, you can hitchhike like I did.
**I must add that if you do make the trip to Trolltunga, please be careful!! Just hours before we sat atop Trolltunga, a 24-year-old Australian girl lost her balance and fell to her death, becoming the first fatality ever. Seeing the helicopters fly by to retrieve her as we were hiking was a sobering reminder of the great risks that come along with exploring nature…
Though you should exercise caution, if you get the chance, you should absolutely make the trip to Trolltunga. And if you have any questions before you go, feel free to ask!
As always, keep on livin’ pura vida ✌