Dating back to roughly 800 A.D., the Vikings sailed around Scandinavia, spreading folklore about wicked creatures and mountain trolls. In the accounts, trolls were seen as unfriendly beings and dangerous to humans. Additional tales declared that trolls turned to stone when caught out in the sunlight. These stories served as a warning to all people that entered the treacherous mountains.
Over time, Norse mythology has evolved, and people’s opinions have changed. Trolls are now seen as an attraction. In Norway, gift shops are scattered with figurine trolls, and some tourist destinations feature large, troll sculptures.
Norwegians remain proud of their folk traditions. And now, I was hiking a trail that was named after these legendary, mythological creatures.
Troll’s Tongue, or Trolltunga in Norwegian, is a famous rock formation that is located next to Folgefonna National Park in western Norway. The unique, geological landform is named because it resembles a troll’s tongue.
The hike to the rock formation takes anywhere from 8 to 12 hours to complete and is only recommended for those with high physical endurance. Despite the trial’s difficulty level, hundreds of hikers climb this trail daily during the summer season. My dad, whose name is Serge, and I were among the crowd.
We arrived at the car park at 8 in the morning. It was misty and cool, and an intense fog covered the mountains all around us. We put on our backpacks filled with lots of water, freshly made sandwiches, and ample snacks. I also lugged along my camera, which added a few pounds to my backpack. Later on, though, I knew it’d be worth carrying to get the highly acclaimed photo – sitting at the edge of Trolltunga.
Full of energy and unaware of the exact journey ahead, we began walking. About a mile into the hike, we came across a giant wall of stairs made out of rocks. The stairs go up about a half a mile. It was extremely intimidating to look at and even more demanding to climb. We pushed on, took multiple breaks, and finally made it to the top of the stairs about an hour later. During this section of the trail, we came across several signs that read “Non-potable water. Do not drink.”
For the next few hours, my dad and I hiked up and down some steep hills. The mountain landscape was green and rocky. As we walked, on our right-hand side, a deep valley appeared. The blue, shimmering waters of Lake Ringedalsvatnet filled the valley floor.
Despite warnings from a sign featuring a troll, we came across some not so beautiful views as well. Along the hike, I saw cigarette butts, cans of Red Bull, plastic water bottle caps, and plastic sandwich bags. Seeing all of the litter along the way undermined the beauty of the mountain landscape.
In the last hour of our hike, the scenery changed slightly. The trail underneath our feet transitioned from dirt and mud to only rock. At this point, we could sense that we were getting close to the rock formation due to an increase in the number of people.
Stepping onto Troll’s Tongue
After one final push over a rocky hill, we reached our destination. The rock formation wasn’t visible at first. So we walked over near the crowd of people and looked down. And there it was—the enormous, 10,000-year-old cliff that we had traveled so far to see.
After stretching my legs and eating a soggy peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I walked over to the cliff and climbed down a few steel steps that were embedded into the rock. I joined the line of other hikers that were waiting for their moment of fame on the edge of the rock. After about 20 minutes of waiting for my picture, I walked out onto the rock, smiling and excited. I sat down near the edge and scooted up so that my feet could dangle off the cliff. Trolltunga hangs over 2,200 feet above Lake Ringedalsvatnet.
It was a truly geeky moment when I thought to myself how cool it was to be sitting on top of a solid piece of bedrock that was formed during the glacial recession at the end of the last Ice Age.
I breathed in and looked at the extraordinary viewpoint from Troll’s Tongue. I saw the lake below me and the mountains above me. Even, Folgefonna Glacier began to peak out in the cloudy distance. Folgefonna is Norway’s third-largest glacier.
I realized quickly that it was time to give someone else a turn and head back, first to the trail and eventually to our car. My dad and I took it slow and steady on our hike back. We were pretty tired at this point but carefully navigated through the trail. When we reached the halfway point, a friendly, first-aid guide suggested that we eat some snacks, be careful of our footing, and fill up our water containers at a nearby stream.
After about ten-and-a-half grueling hours of hiking, we finally reached the car park. Let me tell you, I’ve never been so happy to see a car.
Reflecting on this journey, I have a piece of advice to all adventurers, tourists, and hikers. Please, don’t leave your trash behind. The mountain doesn’t need it, and future hikers after you shouldn’t have to deal with it.
This post is the third in a series of posts about firsthand experiences visiting Norwegian glaciers, famous fjords, and well-known hiking destinations. Check back to GlacierHub in upcoming weeks to read more about my travels in Norway.
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