There’s no Timon and Pumba here, just two 90s Asian girls who are definitely not acting their age. The entire reason for DBF and me going to Norway was a piece of rock. Yes, we saw a picture on instagram and said that was our vacation spot.
Did we have any idea what country it was in? Nope.
Did we know how to get to the rock after we got into whatever country it was in? Nope.
Did we know how long it’d take for all of this to happen? Nope.
Does this sound like a disaster waiting to happen? Sure…
But, we completely lucked out that Trolltunga was in Norway and we were able to find plenty of other things to do (eat) that helped occupy an entire 2 weeks in the country. Plus, more importantly, the hike to the tip of Pride Rock was totally worth the effort of planning, driving, and lugging a stuffed lion I bought from Disney World 4 years ago across the Atlantic.
For the youngins who are not familiar with the Lion King (anyone who thinks Finding Nemo is the best Disney movie about a lost animal finding his way back home) here’s the story: (For you old folks, it’s based on Hamlet).
All of the animals in the savannah reside in the kingdom ruled by King Mufasa. He and his lioness pride rule from Pride Rock. Young lion cub Simba will be king of Pride Rock one day and fellow cub Nala his queen. For those of you wondering, “Wait, Mufasa was the only male lion, who was Nala’s daddy?” You figure it out, I don’t want to go down that road. Mufasa, voiced by James Earl Jones, aka Darth Vader, dies in an “accident.”
Simba’s evil uncle, Scar, scars the poor little cub into thinking he killed his own father and forces him to run away. Scar is the king, Simba’s mom his queen, and there’s your Hamlet situation. Simba chills in the jungle, living the sweet life with a meerkat and a wharthog. Hakuna matata. If only life could remain like that (if only real life could be like that!).
Mufasa shows up in a dreamlike scene and tells Simba to remember who he is, in a tone similar to “Luke, I’m your father” might I say. Like any good father, Mufasa told his son to get his sunbathing ass away from the waterfall/pool area and make something of himself. Simba races across the desert and challenges his uncle for the throne. And, unlike Hamlet, Simba lives, and roars loudly on Pride Rock, establishing himself as king.
But you didn’t need to know all that to understand why I call it Pride Rock. You just have to watch the first 5 min and you’ll see this scene:
I’ll start at the end, this is Trolltunga. All pictures taken by me, except for the ones with me in them because, well, that’d be a neat trick…
To get to Trolltunga, which means “Troll’s Tongue”, we drove to Skjeggdal, pronounced “Che-dal” or, in our marvelous way of butchering the Norwegian language, “Ska-je-gaga-dal”. Good thing Norwegians were at least bilingual, if not trilingual, and spoke English. We booked the hike with Trolltunga Active. They had their office, with rental equipment, near the trailhead of Trolltunga, directly across from the parking lot, which meant we didn’t get lost trying to find the place ^_^ They also offered various packages, year round, for all hikers. We chose to do a nontraditional hike, and by nontraditional, I mean not hike 100% of the time.
The Himmelstigen to Trolltunga path included:
- Green: 7km bike ride (hills & gravel included)
- Blue: 3km rock scramble (slippery rocks included)
- Black: 250m vertical climb up the rock face (harness and safety equipment included)
- Orange: 1km hike to the finish (potential to get lost included)
Once you’ve reached the end, the only way back is to do everything in reverse: hike 1km, climb down 250m of rock, scramble down 3km of rockbed, and ride out the 7km as the last leg of your victory “lap” back to the Trolltunga Active office.
You can imagine how excited I was to kick some serious mountain ass. The regular hike would’ve taken 12 hours round trip and have lots of hills. We still got lots of hills, and the roundtrip still took 12 hours, but we were able to exercise different parts of our body. One thing I want note is, training in the gym paid off in more ways than one. Beyond surprising myself in terms of physical conditioning, I knew how to properly move in each segment of the hike, and, the next day, was sore only in the glutes. WIN!
- 7km Bike Ride (~1 hr each way)
- Biking (duh)
- Glute Bridges
You get gorgeous views of mountains and waterfalls on your right as you bike up hills and ride down hills. Just make sure you keep the speed up so you can cruise past the larger pieces of gravel. There’s plenty photo op spots where you see the perfect reflection of the mountains and sky in the fjord. You also get to step right into the water because your legs are short and you can’t hop across the wet areas where the waterfall is crossing paths with the bike trail.
The hills were particularly fun for me. Cruising uphill required standing up on the bike, to maintain momentum. Then , the trusty quads and glutes kicked in. After conditioning on a bike that loved to push inertia against you, and a trainer who loved to watch you collapse right after a 3 min routine on said bike, trying to pedal at 100rpm when, in reality, you’re barely hitting 80rpm…what’s a little hill?
Going downhill required a stable core, to maintain your hold on the bike, and, to keep it from flipping over you, or flipping you over. Going through the entire 7 km, then, with these focuses in mind, was a great cardio workout. The entire time, Simba stayed in my backpack. He was such a good trooper, didn’t complain at all. Neither did my back and legs 😀
- 3km Rock Scramble (~2 hrs each way)
- Bear Crawls
- Bear Walks
- Squat jumps
- Hip CARs
- Posterior Chain
- Hip Flexor
This is where we took breaks for lunch and listened to the guides’ instructions on how to put on the harness and use the harnesses. This is also where I slipped and fell. You’re first climbing through some seemingly typical hiking trails, which may be wet due to light rain. Then you’re several hundred hop, skips, jumps, and a few falls away from the start of the via ferrata.
The trick is to find a rock that’s grippy. Which, unfortunately, I couldn’t train for at the gym, so I missed a few. The other trick is to know where the via ferrata is, because there really isn’t a huge billboard that says, “STAIRCASE TO TROLLTUNGA HERE.” Because if there was one, they might as well put up sign next to it that says, “HAH, NOT REALLY A STAIRCASE, SUCKER…TIRED YET???”
Climbing up required you to be on all fours at some parts. Having done bear crawls (sometimes with a 35lb plate on my back, for shits and giggles, of course) certainly helped. My backpack was like a weighted plate, and each climb up, down, etc reminded me exactly how to brace my core and move in a smooth, controlled motion, with the occasional slip into water…damn moss.
What’s really cool about the rock scramble is you see a giant cavernous structure on the side of the mountains. According to our guide, the locals had rerouted the waterfall that once stood there, to power a dam. This dried up the rocky area where we were scrambling and allowed their tour group to use the area for our exact path to Trolltunga. Otherwise, we’d be swept away by the waterfall.
As we progressed up, I kept on looking back and down, and things just got smaller and smaller…
- 250m Via Ferrata (40-60min)
- Lat pull down
- Negative Lat Pull Down
- Pull Ups
- Spiderman Crawls
- Shoulder CARS
- Oblique Abs
This was my favorite part. We climbed up the vertical face of the mountain, and I kept on looking down with each step. Can you blame me when the view was this:
Parts of the climb were tricky, mainly due to my lack of wingspan, and we had to really stretch to reach a few of the holds. But, there were also ledges where you just knelt down and stared. Unfortunately, due to light rain, a not so solid grip, and a requirement to use both my hands to reach and climb up the via ferrata, I could only intermittently take my phone out of my jacket pocket for a quick snap before tucking it safely back into the zipper pocket.
The via ferrata served as a good break for my legs, as we were mostly using arms. Having conquered body weight pull ups and steps to help lift me up made it a lot less strenuous on my back. After all, I’m carrying a lion cub. The via ferrata also did a number on your grip. Because you had to maintain a safe distance between each climber, sometimes you were just dangling there as the lead tour guide paused to explain the next step.
- 1km Hike (20-30min)
- Step Ups
- Farmer’s Carry
- Posterior Chain (You’ve been lugging a backpack for 4+ hours)
It’s so easy to get lost here, it’s not funny. Would you laugh if Frodo got lost while taking the ring to Mordor? I don’t think so. Had we gone without a guide, I think we’d have been just gone. You see snow and rock surrounding you, all 360 degrees. It was cold too, like something from a movie, except you weren’t elves so you couldn’t walk on snow. *insert squishy shoe noise* As you hop, skip, jump your way to the end of the hike, you also notice a few tents. Those fearless (crazy) souls thought it’d be a good idea to camp out here in the wind overnight. Hah, I was happy to last an hour there with the wind.
Nothing beyond your standard hiking/walking skills are required before reaching the final destination. There were multiple microclimates that we went through to reach this level. At the top, wind speed picked up so we each added another layer to our outerwear. Grippy shoes help since there’s still snow packed at the top. And you’re never really sure if there is ground beneath you as you’re trudging along. By this time, the weight of the backpack may feel like actual weight, so your back muscles may be a bit displeased with you, but nothing too unbearable.
Finally, we reached our destination and, Simba was quite happy.
To take awesome photos from the ledge, we stood in line for about 5-10 minutes. It was quite organized, as tourists respected each person’s time on Trolltunga and waited patiently before taking their turn. One of our tour guides had the fun task of belaying down to a ledge to take photos of us on the main outcropping.
And now, I present to you, the list of immature/stupid/potentially dangerous (but not really dangerous) things you can do while on that ledge:
- Be Rafiki (picture shown)
- Selfie on ledge
- Jump up on ledge
- Hang Feet off Ledge (and move back slowly)
- Hold phone over the ledge and get an unclear picture of the rocks below (grip well)
- Jump again on the ledge because the first picture was bad
That entire trip, one way, took about 6 hours. Now that we had our photos and we’ve soaked in the views, time to do everything in reverse to go back. Luckily, the rocks dried up, so rather than slipping or butt sliding our way down, I was able to do some rock hopping. Another benefit of the weather clearing up? Perfect reflection of the surrounding mountains during the bike ride back.