After hiking and camping at Pulpit Rock the day before, we spent the morning sleeping in and resting our legs. Knowing the 11 km hike up to Trolltunga, commonly known as the Troll's Tongue, would take anywhere from five to six hours, we planned to start late in the day and camp once tired. We would then wake up early and finish our ascent, giving us a head start on the crowds.
We began our hike at about six in the evening. From our time in Norway, we knew the sun would set close to eleven so we planned to hike about three-quarters of the way before calling it a night.
Like past trekkers have expressed, the first 1.5 km of the trail is a b*tch. Like terrible. It's not so much the never-ending incline as it is the mud. It rained almost every day we were in Norway so the trail was extremely wet and slippery. Even with great tread on my boots, it was challenging to climb without falling, especially with a large bag.
The first incline left us dirty, tired and wet. It started raining, but we were too sweaty to put on raincoats. After taking about an hour, we finally reached the top and the trail flattened out through a quiet valley with streams and tiny mountain cabins. We marched on, snacking on granola bars and making small talk.
We enjoyed passing other hikers from all over the world who were making their descent. We had fun guessing where people were from and what language they spoke. We soon reached the second long and rocky incline though, so I quickly grew quiet as I tried to powerhouse through it. Leg days in the gym were paying off.
At about 4 km, we met our first patch of snow as well as a thick fog that would stay with us until morning. Hiking the trail became increasingly difficult as visibility vanished, but we continued to walk anyway. We were alone in a sea of fog, relying solely on the red "T" 's used to mark Norway's hiking routes. Our spirits remained high and, at one point, we even made a game out of who could spot the "T" first.
When we reached the 7 km mark, it was getting late. We could barely see in front of our faces and we didn't have any headlamps, but we weren't tired. With only 4 km to go, we decided to press on into the night.
While I would normally be wary of hiking in the snow at dark, Norway felt magical. I knew there weren't any predators and being with Anthony helped ease any fear. Instead, we squinted through the thick fog, amazed at the beauty around us. We were alone and had the wilderness of Norway all to ourselves. During the climb, we found waterfalls, snow lakes, and streams that trickled over the mossy rocks. Although we wouldn't see the jagged peaks until morning, we could feel their power surrounding us. The last 4 km of the hike felt effortless as we delighted in our circumstance.
When we reached the summit at 11 pm, the fog had grown so thick that we couldn't find the last trail sign. We wandered around with outstretched hands, squinting for any evidence that we had made it to the top.
After stumbling around for a while, I realized a shadowy figure in the distance was actually a tent - we weren't alone up here after all! Upon hearing our voices, a couple excitedly popped their heads out, welcoming us to the top.
"Did you just get here?" they asked.
"Yea, we didn't start until around six. Is this the top?" I yelled through the wind.
"Yea! Congratulations - you guys made great time! There are a few other tents spread around here, but there are still some dry spots to set up camp. See you at sunrise!"
Their warm welcome made us feel like we had reached the top of Everest and joined a special club - the club of those who not only hike but camp at Trolltunga!
While it was late, time was irrelevant as we spent the next hour pitching camp and cooking our ramen noodles. It was hard to start a fire with all the wind, but hot, half-cooked noodles were five-star cuisine at this point.
We quickly ate, put on every piece of clothing we had with us, and snuggled into our sleeping bags. We wouldn't get any sleep that night - it was way too cold and we were pushing the limit with our three season gear, but it didn't matter. We passed a chocolate bar back and forth in silence, both of us with silly smiles across our face.
"We made it!" Anthony exclaimed before I burrowed myself at the bottom of my sleeping bag and closed my eyes.
The early sunrise and the cold woke us both in time to have Troll's Tongue to ourselves. We had camped up top with about ten other trekkers, but everyone rolled out of their tents at different times. The fog had disappeared and now the sun was showing its face in the horizon. Troll's Tongue jetted out into the air, majestic and commanding of the fjord below. Much smaller than Pulpit Rock, it hid seductively, tucked away behind other cliffs and mountains. The work required to reach it made it that much more captivating.
We took pictures, drank our coffee and relished silently in the snow before packing up to make the four-hour descent to our car. Hiking down the trail, while a lot easier, took its toll on our feet. We made it down just in time for a hearty, but cheap lunch of gas station hot dogs and ice cream, although I would have much preferred Chipotle.
And then, just like that, we were driving back toward Voss by noon to catch a train to the airport. We would be in Belgium within 24 hours.