The ‘Trolls Tongue’ was one of the main reasons I’d wanted to go to Norway in the first place and see what all the fuss was about. Plus, my now twice yearly ‘cultural’ pilgrimage to Ibiza needed some balancing out with something a bit more hands on.
What better way than to tackle one of the most iconic hikes in the world, and freeze my ass off in the Norwegian wilds for a few days. After warming up with a 12km hike around Bergen – I was ready to go.
About 3 hours away from Bergen, or around 6 hours from Oslo is the brilliantly named town of Odda, which provides a straightforward jumping off point and place to stay overnight, in order to start the hike in the wee hours from the settlement of Skjeggedal.
The key details »
- Time: 8-12 hours
- Distance: around 22km (11km each way)
- Difficulty: mostly Moderate, weather dependant – with some more difficult parts
- When to go: ideally between June – Sept
What to pack?
It can get pretty cold up at the pinnacle of the hike, so pack plenty of warm clothes you can put on – especially if you’ve managed to get a sweat on en-route as you’ll feel the temperature drop quickly.
Needless to say, pack plenty of food and water as there’s nowhere at all on the route to buy any snacks – and it can be tiring, even for the more experienced hikers. We stocked up in Bergen before we left, and again in Odda because we were very hungry.
And a camera, that goes without saying too.
Getting from Bergen to Odda:
The general pattern of being disorganised continued – and predictably we set off from Bergen later than planned, eventually walking down to the main bus station at around 3pm. Over 3 hours travel into the relative wilderness of the Norwegian Fjords, via 2 boats and 2 buses, sounded like a fairly daunting journey in the daylight let alone in the impending darkness. Luckily it turns out Norway is pretty well set up for transport links, even deep into the countryside.
We hopped onto the 740 Skyuss initially, and had to change on to the 760 half way there; which was 2 beautifully surreal ferries across the Fjords later. There was a direct bus too I might add – the 940 – which we had duly missed after leaving Bergen behind schedule. All the bus drivers we encountered were extremely helpful, and spoke better English than me. You could also, of course, just hire a car and drive.
Accommodation in Odda:
In the accessible vicinity of Trolltunga there are lots of little towns and villages, who host an abundance of Campsites, Guesthouses, Air BnB’s and Hotels. My friend Vanessa & I opted for the ‘does-what-it-says-on-the-tin’ Odda Camping.
We pitched up in an extremely sweet spot on the edge of a picture perfect lake, straddled by small mountains and trees either side. Our neighbours were an enthusiastic pair of couples from Poland, who’d become unlikely friends after living in Stavanger for 10 years. They force fed us Vodka (honestly!) until when the older lady fell of her chair numerous times, we finally managed to make our excuses and escape; after of course we’d tried a traditional Polish hot-dog, which was quite good in fairness.
Tip: You can actually wild camp in Norway, pretty much anywhere! That would possibly be my preferred option for next time.
Getting from Odda to Trolltunga:
We got up at 5.30am and it was unsurprisingly freezing cold. There were numerous early morning coaches ferrying people on the 45 minutes trip from Odda Camping to Skjeggedal – the base of Trolltunga. We narrowly got the 2nd one of the day at 6.10am – jumping on just as the driver was about to leave. Ironically, we then stopped in Odda town centre for about 15-mins whilst he had a cup of tea.
The start of the hike once you arrive at the base, is the most soul destroying. A winding gravel roadway which undulates upwards, whilst those with cars who’ve paid for a ‘car park pass’ for the top drive past you.
This didn’t look like a fun 4km – so we unashamedly hitchhiked. Luckily two guys from California kindly picked us up in their 4 x 4, and all of a sudden we’d got ourselves some new hiking pals for the day.
Start > 2km…
Once you’ve skipped the pointless bit at the beginning – because who wouldn’t? – the toughest section of the hike awaits you within the first 2km. After walking across the tundra you reach a steeper climb, a series of large rocks which ascends about 500m; before hitting a sharply angled rock face. This section – I should imagine – is a bit of a nightmare if it’s icy or raining. We got very lucky with the weather.
2km > 5km…
Whilst still ascending, this section is far more gentle; and there’s plenty more to see when you look around. That and the worrying signs which tell you to ‘turn back immediately’ if you’ve not reached them by a certain time. This is clearly a serious hike.
At around this point, I loved beginning to see the small groups of die hard outdoorsy types who had decided to actually camp on the trial. I was actually quite jealous, as waking up overlooking the snow topped mountains must be special.
5km > 9km…
For me, one of the most breathtaking sections of the hike. You head towards the edge of land that the eye can see ahead, into a vast valley which has a huge crystal blue river running through it. A solid place to stop to soak in the view, and get some photos. If you look hard enough, you can also see the Folgefonna Glacier too.
9km > 11km…
Give or take the odd steep section, it’s mostly plain sailing for the final 2km of the hike. Long flat sections interspersed with some big old rocks to clamber over, depending on which route you end up taking. There are lots of spots of icy streams and mini waterfalls where you can stop and top up your water bottle here. A wise move.
More and more people seem to be appearing around you, which is the first clear sign that you’re approaching the final destination. It feels like you’d need to ascend some more first – so the first glimpse of the Trolls Tongue is even more mesmerising in that you’re not fully expecting it. The view is every bit as astonishing as you’d imagine, and then some.
I must admit, watching everyone walk out on to the tongue itself made my vertigo go crazy, even more so when some of the lunatics started doing backflips and spinning around on their heads (!) – but I managed to give myself a kick up the arse and get in line to walk out to the edge myself. It’s around a 40-min wait for your turn, which didn’t help the nerves, but eventually when you walk out, it’s one of the most surreal experiences you can imagine. I quickly got back off again as soon as my legs started to wobble.
The 11km back to base…
I was pretty knackered by this point, but basically went into auto-pilot for the return leg, and the small group we’d amassed managed to get back to the beginning in a decent 4 hours or so. We were driven on by the promise of a lift back to Odda from an older American couple we’d befriended on the way. I felt a bit bad when I slipped ankle deep into a bog about 1km before the end, and then into their lovely clean hire car. Sorry guys!
Well, there are barely enough superlatives for Trolltunga. The hike itself to get there is testing, but I wouldn’t go as far as difficult. The trolls tongue itself is an otherworldly place, the likes of which id never seen before, and 100% well worth the 22km round trek to get there; not to mention the vast rivers, mountainsides and even glaciers which dot the route. Highly recommended, and a must visit for anyone heading to the land of the Fjords.