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It Takes Two To Trolltunga

By Phil on 2014.07.15 In General

This weekend I visited my Fjällräven Polar mate Jostein, who lives in Stavanger in Norway and who I have kept in regular contact with since the Polar. We had talked about meeting up, but this was a very much a spur of the moment meeting before he goes back into the Norwegian army in a few weeks’ time.

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We got on so well while on the Polar as Team UK were teamed up with Team Norway for the trek. As Jostein had picked up my Mackem accent so well during the Polar, I thought it was only appropriate to take him some gifts from my home city and gave him a Mackem Legends t-shirt and a gourmet tin of Peas Pudding for him to eat when he next makes a ham sandwich, as well as a box of doughnuts which he had specifically asked me to smuggle into Norway for him. He really is now an official adopted Mackem. Whay aye!

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The plan for the weekend was to wild camp and hike Trolltunga, which is a few hours’ drive north of Stavanger. I had previously seen photos of the stunning Trolltunga (the Trolls Tongue) rock, but never thought I would get this opportunity to hike it. I also saw this as perfect chance for further practice for the Fjällräven Classic in August, which I’m doing with 6 of my other Polar team mates, so I packed my rucksack as I would if hiking the Classic. This included sleeping bag, tent and all others things required for overnight hiking and weighing about 18kg.

We left Stavanger early Friday morning like the famous expedition duo of Shackleton and Amundsen and headed to Odda where we would start the hike up to Trolltunga. With Jostein’s military background and vast knowledge of the outdoors, what could possibly go wrong…

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The weather was perfect, very hot and clear blue skies, so Jostein decided we wouldn’t need my tent I was carrying as we would camp out in the open like we did on last night of the Polar, but without the snow and freezing temperatures. I decide to carry the tent anyway just in case and to also give me practice carrying the extra weight, though I soon wish I hadn’t.

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We should have took note of the sign above! But instead we followed this route

We left the car at 14:45 and headed up the steep marked path up towards Trolltunga. Within minutes of starting the hike I was really struggling. Not sure if it was due to lack of sleep and energy, the heat, extra rucksack weight or combo of all of those, but it was tough. The sweat was pouring out of me and I was constantly drinking water from my rucksack water bladder. Jostein then reminded me about what Johan Skullman taught us on the Fjällräven Polar about the importance of maintaining the correct body temperature, though this time I needed to be a lot cooler than when we were on the Polar, so we took a break before taking our tops off and carried on topless for the rest of the steep ascent. This did help to some degree, but I still found it hard going and needing to stop for rests. Jostein again used his skills and helped me mentally by setting the pace and focussing on hiking for a set time before having a short rest and drink of water and increasing the time after every stop. This really helped as it gives you something to aim for and drive you on and helps to forget about how hard you are struggling. It also showed me how much I have lost my fitness since returning from the Polar in April and how much I need to get back into training ready for the Classic in August.

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We finally made it to the first of our summits before taking a food break while sunbathing and refilling our water bottles from the constant streams of water coming from the melting snow from the mountains around us. It was stunning. It was a combination of large grassy crags from the Lake District, snow covered mountains like the Munro’s of Scotland and the Alps all rolled into one, with a small scatting of beautiful Norwegian cabins.

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I was also surprised at the lack of people walking around us on such a popular hike, but there was a reason for that. We headed on over the large crags through many streams before we reached a large lake. It was then we realised that we were probably not on the official Trolltunga path anymore and probably the reason for lack of other hikers around us. Yes you guessed it, we were lost. Well kind of. We had obviously missed the red T way mark turning point we should have taken and instead had walked a good few kilometres further north. It was now 19:00 and there was no way we could make it to Trolltunga before dark while carrying our full rucksacks, as we knew we had to head over 2 or 3 large summits before picking up the path again rather than walking back to where we should have turned off. So we decided to abandon our rucksacks and hide them behind some rocks and cover with Jostein’s camouflage sleeping bag. We took our head torches, extra layer of clothing, a water bottle and some emergency food rations and headed off towards Trolltunga. Despite us being lost and having to walk over some very steep summits; it was an amazing hike with some stunning views as we walked across large deep snow patches, around frozen lakes and the occasional scrambling up rocks.

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We finally arrived at Trolltunga at around 22:00 and luckily it was still fairly light, as we watched the sun set across the Fjord, before taking the usual iconic tourist photos of Trolltunga. It was stunning! As it was very late in the day, there were no large crowds of people, just the odd few who obviously wanted to see the sun set also and a small few who had obviously planned on camping nearby.

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Standing on Trolltunga was a really strange feeling. It was great to see the views across the Fjords from the rock, though I wasn’t daring enough as Jostein who decided to sit on the edge of Trolltunga with his feet dangling below. It made my stomach turn just watching him. Even now as I’m writing this I can still feel that feeling in my stomach. Despite him telling me: “It’s just like sitting on a chair. How many times have you fallen off a chair? Go on, give it a go!” I decided to not chance sitting on “the chair” and was happy to keep a little distance from the edge.

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As we arrived late and had a 3 hour hike back to our rucksacks and planned camp for the night, we decided to head back along the tourist path before turning off to where we thought we needed to. We thought staying on the path for as long as possible would be the safest option at that time of night.

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After an hour of walking, I started to get slight blurred vision. I wasn’t sure if it was tiredness, dehydration or combination of both, so we stopped for a short break and more water before putting on my head torch, which seemed to help a little bit. At about midnight we had to make a decision if now was the time to go over the top of the summit or stay on the path for a little longer. We could see in the distance the summit was slightly lower and maybe that was best time to head over, so we continued towards it. Then out of nowhere appeared a little hut. I looked at Jostein and asked if he thought it was a refuge hut. He wasn’t sure so I went and had a closer look. Sure enough it was. The door was open and inside was a bunk bed and a stove. We had struck gold! This gave us the option of spending the night there before heading back to our rucksacks in the morning. Even though it wasn’t particularly cold outside, it was certainly the best and safest option we had at that time of night.

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Despite the luxury of a hut and mattress for the night, it certainly wasn’t a great night sleep, but a couple of hours were better than nothing. We quickly finished off what little food we had left before heading back over the top towards our rucksacks. It was another beautiful sunny day as we headed over more snow topped mountains and lakes. We had quite a laugh about our previous days exploits as he recited scenes from Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit with references to Mackemshire and Lakeshire which he believes how I live back home here in England. It certainly kept our spirits up.

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It Carlsberg made refuge huts, this would probably be the best refuge hut in the world!

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Two hours later we finally arrived back at our stashed rucksacks. We had left two banana skins as markers on a large rock close to where we had left rucksacks, which was a good job, as you really couldn’t see them hidden under his camouflaged sleeping bag. We decided to chill for a bit around the lake before heading back to the car. I decide to put my fire making skills to the test by making a small fire with just my knife and fire stick which we had learned while on the Polar, while Jostein decided to soak and sunbathe by the small lake.

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Jostein was delighted to find his camouflaged sleeping bag covering our rucksacks. Can you see it??

As we headed back to the car we came across two elderly Norwegian men heading towards the lake where had left our rucksacks. Jostein told them that we had been to Trolltunga and which route we had taken. They were both impressed and said we had done it via the best route possible, away from the crowds on the tourist route and a much more scenic route. Though he did leave out the details that we hadn’t intended on doing that route and that it was only due to us getting slightly lost.

As we head back towards the car, we could see the path going up the side of one of the mountains which was very busy with people heading towards Trolltunga. I’m glad we got lost and took the path we did, as we made our own route and got to see some amazing scenery that others wouldn’t have seen. I’m also used to getting lost and love experiencing the unknown and not knowing what’s around the corner. It’s what makes it an adventure.

The final 2km steep descent back to the car were not pleasant at all for me, as my now common problem with my feet and boots were starting to kick in. My feet and toes were in agony. I really thought after 4 pairs of hiking boots I had found the right pair, but maybe not, as every step was met with sheer pain. Despite my moaning and whining, I got little sympathy from Jostein. “I need to stop mate and need water.” To which Jostein replied. “You want water, you don’t need water. Now howay man, come on. Not far to go now. ”Which is just what I needed. I needed to be pushed or else I would have taken the easy option of many stops on the way down. We finally arrived back at the car at exactly 14:45. It had been 24 hours exactly since we had left to do Trolltunga.

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My face of fatigue! Feet in agony!

Despite my struggles at the start and the end, getting lost, walking in the dark, blurred vision, and sleeping in a refuge hut, it was an amazing hike/adventure. I learned a lot of things during those 24 hours, especially how to mentally deal with certain scenarios and how you cope with unexpected things put in front of you in certain conditions. It was without doubt the best single hike I have ever been on and one I will never ever forget. Cheers Jostein mate for making it possible. Though next time we take a map yeah?

After a quick change at the car and a few celebratory high fives, we drove to Odda and booked ourselves into a hotel for a well-deserved rest, wash and proper food! Ironically the bar in the hotel was call the Trolltunga bar. I thought we had left that thing behind us hours ago.

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After a good night’s sleep in the hotel, we had early breakfast before heading back to Stavanger. As if the hike up Trolltunga wasn’t enough, Jostein had a surprise planned for me later that day before my flight home. He told me we were heading to the airport to meet two of his friends for my surprise. This worried me, as he is a keen Skydiver and had been trying to get me to bungee jump and push myself out of my comfort zone all weekend, as if Trolltunga wasn’t enough. Luckily for me, he wasn’t planning on pushing me out of an aeroplane with a parachute strapped to my back; instead it was a leisurely flight over Stavanger and up the coast.

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Two magnificent men and their flying machine, they went up tiddly up up, they came down tiddly down down…

We met his pilot friend Victoria at the hanger of the 4 seater Piper Cherokee Arrow R200 plane which we would be flying in. I couldn’t believe he had arranged such a thing for my visit. I had never been in a plane so small before, but I wasn’t nervous at all, until Victoria, Melissa and Jostein started talking in Norwegian to each other and laughing and mentioning the words “rollercoaster” and “loop”, until I realise they were winding me up.

After our very short briefing from Victoria we were up in the air. They let me sit in the front next to Victoria as she flew us over Stavanger and towards Preikestolen, which is another famous tourist attraction, a steep cliff above Lysefjorden. It was a stunning sight as we flew around it a few times looking at the crowds on people standing on it. After our final lap of the Preikestolen, Victoria gave me control of the plane! She talked me though how to control the plane and told me to head to the coast. I couldn’t believe what was happening. It was an unbelievable experience. There I was in full control of this little plane flying over the coast of Stavanger. It was a perfect way to end the weekend.

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Cockpit selfie of me, Melissa, Jostein and Victoria

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Flying past the tourist on Preikestolen rock

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Flying past the tourist on Preikestolen rock

I had an unforgettable long weekend visiting Jostein in Norway. I knew we would have such a great time, but never expected it to be such an epic and fun adventure as it turned out to be. We had such a laugh from start to finish as well as experiencing an unbelievable hike to Trolltunga and learning a lot of things along the way. As if that wasn’t enough, he topped it off by arranging our own personal flight with his pilot friend Victoria and a chance for me to fly a plane! Unbelievable.

I always say that spur of the moment adventures and experiencing the unknown are the best and this surely was one of those! Cheers Jostein mate for making it possible and inviting me “Great times!!!”. Can’t wait for our next one.

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Welcome

Welcome to my blog about hiking, trekking, Fjällräven Polar 2014, in fact anything where you require boots and the outdoors.

My name is Phil, and following my outdoor epiphany which started in the summer of 2012 I’m now hooked on everything outdoors. So far my biggest treks have included the 250km Cathar Way, the 170km Tour du Mont Blanc and best of all, winning 1st place to take part in the Fjällräven Polar in April 2014.

I plan to use this blog to write about all my adventures, which will include my personal goal of becoming a Munroist (completing all 282 Scottish Munro mountains), summer treks, weekends in the Lakes and many more.

I like to try and make my blog posts humorous so I hope you enjoy reading and that I can put a smile on people’s faces while showing you some amazing places.

If you have any questions about the blog or the places I'm writing about, don't hesitate to contact me on: phil@philyourboots.com

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