When in Norway, go and hike!
This weekend I found myself in the pretty little harbour town of Stavanger, the fourth largest town in Norway. It’s full of beautiful little houses and quaint old fishing warehouses that line the harbour now converted to brightly-coloured trendy bars and restaurants.
About 25 km east of Stavanger is the Lysefjord, a 45km long mountainous fjord where you’ll find the famous tourist mecca, Preikestolen, or the ‘Pulpit Rock’. This huge flat-topped rock sits over 604 metres above sea level and is the second most extreme hike to undertake in the whole of Norway. With that in mind, I just had to do it…..
Making the trip…..
After a superb Scandinavian breakfast at the Victoria Hotel, I departed for Preikestolen from Fiskepir Ferry Terminal in Stavanger with a 35 minute ferry ride to Tau, followed by a connecting bus ride to Preikestolen Base Camp Lodge 20 km away. Luckily for me, my hotel was right on the harbour edge in Stavanger, ideally placed within 5 minutes walking distance from the Ferry terminal.
There is a full daily schedule of ferry times and the connecting bus times for outward and inward journeys to Pulpit Rock here. It’s very well organised and there’s always a bus waiting when you get off the ferry and when you’ve finished the hike.
I got the 10.30 am ferry to Tau which arrived at 11.05 am and the bus got me to the base camp at 11.45 am where I started my ascent.
The hike starts on fairly level ground but ascends steeply after only a few metres, and by 100 metres I was huffing and puffing, wondering if I was out of my mind to even attempt it!
The very start of the hike involves climbing 350 metres in height up a steep flight of steps over very uneven terrain, but it gives you a bird’s eye view of the base camp and lake at the starting point below.
The hike is a whopping 4.2 km there and 4.2 km back…a total of over 8.4 km over very rough terrain. There is a very well-marked trail to Pulpit Rock where you follow the red ‘T’ marks painted on rocks, so you can’t really go wrong…
The trail takes you hiking over massive boulders and rocks so you’re hardly ever walking on flat ground. Most of the time you’re lifting your feet and taking each step between 3 inches and up to 2 feet in height on top of the boulders.
I sat here on a boulder and surveyed the territory. It was so quiet that all I could hear were birds tweeting, bees buzzing and the sound of water running at a hidden waterfall nearby. As I was pondering, sitting on a rock in silence, with no urban sounds around me, it could have been a time in any decade, century, millennia, even back to the ice age when these mountains were formed, some 10,000 years ago, this landscape hadn’t changed in all that time….
On my way again, the trail winds up and over mountains and dips into flat valleys where you get some respite from the ever-upward trek.
And now and again I came across an unexpected mountain lake….
And another lake where everyone is so hot and tired that they jump in and have a swim!
Then you turn a corner and you get an awesome view of the Lysefjord below, but you’re still not there yet. I stopped here for another 5 minute break to get my breath and I heard someone say to me, ‘you’re nearly there, it’s only round the corner’. I looked up and saw a very large lady…and when I say large….I mean large. She was walking with two hiking poles and with her knees strapped up and I got chatting to her. She had injured one of her knees in a skiing accident but was determined to make the hike. She was on her way down, after having taken 3 1/2 hours to make the trek up, and she would take another 3 1/2 hours to get down too. This was an amazing feat and an inspiration so it drove me on with renewed vigour.
There is no doubt that the Pulpit Rock is hugely popular as the trail was full of people coming and going, and some parts of the trail were so bad at times that I had to stop to give way to the oncoming “traffic”. There were also a lot of dogs and children making the hike and you can’t really believe how their little legs carry them all that way! Before I’d even gone halfway over the trail, my lungs felt fit to burst and it showed how unfit I was. There were lots of grey haired pensioners in their well-worn hiking boots and ski poles that overtook me easily, so I thought to myself that I needed to go hiking more often. I rounded a corner and this sight greeted me….
I had made it!
And as you scare yourself silly looking over the edge you get a view of the Lysefjord below
and there’s a cruise boat….I did the cruise boat the next day and got a view of Pulpit Rock from the fjord….
It took me two hours to make the trek upwards and I stayed up on the rock for about 40 minutes, just people watching and eating lunch up there.
After a good rest and lunch, I made my way back down. My lungs were working well, through all the exertion of going up, and I was surprisingly quick and nimble on my feet. The Capricorn mountain goat came out in me and it only took 1 hour and 20 minutes to get back down.
Travel tips to get to Pulpit Rock
To get to Pulpit Rock, you have to take the ferry from Stavanger to Tau (the green line)(A), then a bus from Tau to the actual base camp (the blue line)(B), where you start the hike to Pulpit Rock (the dotted black line). If you have a car, you can take the black line route.
The ferry costs 49 NOK each way, which is about £8 return.
The return bus fare from Tau to Preikestolen is 150 NOK which is around £12.50.
Make sure you take plenty of water for the whole trip, and food for when you get to the top, if you need it. This is the wilderness so you won’t find any toilets or shops. You are on your own!