Have you seen those photos on Instagram? You know the ones I mean: someone standing on top of a dramatic rock formation overlooking the Norwegian Fjords in total, blissful isolation. Well, impressive as those rock formations are – if you go in summer, you are guaranteed to be sharing that moment with thousands of other tourists, all vying for that perfect “unspoilt” photo at the top – not exactly the experience that Instagram would have you believe. The solution? Don your ski jacket and go to Preikestolen in the middle of winter for even more dramatic scenery, tonnes of snow, and the best bit – hardly any tourists! And I have some even better news – you can do it all in the space of a weekend, without using up any of your annual leave!
How to get there:
Fly to Stavanger from London – Norwegian Air currently have a route that leaves Friday evening, and returns on Sunday evening, which means you really don’t need to use up your precious annual leave unless you really want to! Once in Stavanger, I really recommend taking a tour to Preikestolen, as they arrange all transport (ferry and bus), specialist winter hiking gear (including extra items to hire if necessary), and expert guides to make sure you stay safe and happy! I went with Outdoorlife Norway, and they were absolutely fantastic – if (when) I get to go back to Stavanger to do another hike, I will definitely use them again. Note – It is possible to do the hike by yourself if you are an experienced hiker and have access to a car (there is a bus that you can take, but I think it only runs in the summer), although, *puts on sensible hat* in the interest of safety I would not recommend it.
Now, I was a little nervous about this hike, primarily for two reasons:
- Slipping off the edge of a cliff to my certain death
- Being so unfit I don’t make it to the top
Luckily, armed with crampons, walking boots and hiking sticks, I had a relatively good grip when walking through the snow, although still did manage to slip around a little bit because I am incredibly clumsy. Also, there were relatively few death defying parts until the final push, which I was grateful for.
As for the fitness part… The guides told us that the first hill would make us want to die, which we all laughed about in the car park. Turns out, he was pretty much right. In the first half hour I genuinely thought I was going to pass out – I was dripping in sweat (despite the cold temperatures), slightly shaking and completely out of breath. As the path plateaued out into a nice viewing spot over a frozen lake, I desperately tried to catch my breath and smile for photos while wondering just how much more of this my body could take. Thank goodness, that really was the worst of it, and although there were several more steep climbs, there were more than enough plateaus to catch your breath. Everyone in our group managed to make it to the top and back down with no problem at all, so don’t be worried about your fitness level – and if you have any really pressing questions, just email the tour company ahead of time, they will be more than happy to make sure you are comfortable and able to complete the hike!
Once I got into the hiking, it was a spectacular journey. The flawless snow sparkled in the sun, making the whole landscape look like a fairy-tale – there was just so much natural beauty everywhere you looked. Our tour guides were fantastic – patient, encouraging, full of interesting information, and most importantly – fun! Towards the top of the trail we could feel the temperature drop and the wind pick up, reminding us of just how high up we were – 604m to be exact. We stopped for lunch outside a small storm shelter in a lovely valley, before heading on to the last couple of hills. When we reached the final stretch, we were awarded with an incredible view of the fjord directly ahead of us, before turning the corner and coming face-to-face with the rock we had all spent hours trekking to see. It was just as impressive, if not more, than we expected it to be, and if I could have set up camp right there I would have! After a lot of photos, we headed back down towards the car park. The journey down was, unsurprisingly, much faster than the journey up, and before I knew it we were on the ferry heading back to Stavanger.
The Practical Stuff:
- The whole day lasted around 9 hours including the bus and ferry travel time – I think we were hiking for around 6.5 hours with several photo stops, lunch and time at the top.
- Outdoorlife provided us with nut snacks and hot tea, but you need to bring your own lunch and any other snacks you feel you might need. I brought a bottle of water, a sandwich, a bag of peppermints and a bag of chocolate covered raisins and was golden.
- The weather was cold, but surprisingly not that cold. I wore thermals, a top, a jumper and a ski jacket, along with leggings and waterproof trousers – and two pairs of socks. I took off the top, jumper and ski jacket for a lot of the hike and just wore my thermal top! However, at the top of Preikestolen, I was really glad for the extra layers, so definitely layer up, bring more than you think you will need to wear as you can always take them off if needed! Waterproofs are a MUST, as hiking with wet clothes from the snow would have been miserable.
- If you have any doubts about the shoes you have, just hire them from the tour company – I did that and they were waterproof, warm and comfortable.
- I only brought my Iphone with me for photos as I was worried about falling over and breaking my camera. This worked fine… ish, but when we got to the top, the weather was too cold and it shut down and drained pretty much all the battery. Plus I didn’t fall over once, so bring your camera if you have a good case for it – the views are stunning and you’ll want to take a thousand pictures!
TL;DR – Flawless views, hiking and snow… lots of snow. What’s not to love?!
Have you been hiking in the winter? Where is your favourite spot? Do you think Priekestolen is better in the summer or the winter? Let me know in the comments! 🙂
In the interest of transparency, part of this post was kindly sponsored by Outdoorlife Norway. However, all opinions and recommendations are completely my own and not as a result of any sponsorship!