By Four Wheeled Nomad: Words by Lisa Morris, images by Jason Spafford
You can’t go to Norway and not yomp the hills, much less pass up on Kjeragbolten. It’d be like going to Mount Rushmore and saying, “Oh, we didn’t bother with the big carved mountainside thing. But we did take a look at the gift shop.” Kjeragbolten (also known as The Bolt), is a glacier deposited boulder wedged neatly into Kjerag’s crevasse in southern Norway. Reliably informed that a moderately challenging 5.5-mile hike without any climbing equipment, would get us to this climactic end with towering views of the Lysefjord 3,228-feet below. There was nothing to lose except your footing…so the Norwegians said. The Bolt entails a 1,780-foot elevation gain, which isn’t so bad…they added.
After the last ice age, global warming caused a rise in sea level, flooding the fjords. Around 50,000 BC the glacier melted, which was accompanied by a rebound in rock formations as the ice disappeared. In Kjeragbolten’s case, the rising sea level couldn’t keep up with the speed of the rebound, which sandwiched the 5-cubic-metre rock into its current position, flanked on both sides by Kjerag. As natural features go, it was quite astounding.
During the ascent up Kjerag, shortly after leaving Øygardsstølen, a fear of falling I refused to acknowledge tried to slide its way up from my stomach. I needed to stop catastrophising. Jason exacted a promise from me to take the greatest care when stepping on and off the Bolt. Oh, and to avoid dying.
Relative to the other iconic hikes we had under our belts, the trek to Kjerag has to be described as moderate. Abruptly, it began with a steep climb to the cliffs from 2,100-feet above sea level to 600-feet higher and then wound along the fertile Litle Stordalen. Clearly indicated with red markers all the way, the well-trammelled path followed a track up and over a new ridge before coming down into Stordalen, the valley behind the Kjerag Massive. The path then wended a little towards the Lysefjord and from that point, ascended along the edge of the massive over polished granite out to the cairn at Nesatind.
We arrived with the clamour and excitement of the circus coming into town. Up there facing the rock jammed into its seemingly solid position for the first time, there was only so much room in my stomach. At that moment, the entire space was taken up by a raw nervousness of plummeting. A touch of nausea and uncertainty grew as I visualised being the author of my own avoidable demise.
Startled out of my musings of going over the edge by a guy who did just that. My jewel of the evening, we bore witness to a balls-as-big-as-churchbells bloke slack-lining on a strip of webbing perhaps 200-metres long, elevated directly over the fjord below. Utterly distracted from myself, I lost count to the number times he abandoned his balance and purposely fell. The only thing saving him from hurtling to his death was a harness and a few metres of rope connecting him to what looked like a line of dental floss.
On tenterhooks, we all quietly wondered if the line would snap but it didn’t. Intentions clear, he continued to disturb and then calm the line, adeptly rose to his feet, arms outstretched. For us watching the spectacle, time seemed to stop. And then the guy turned over, thought for a bit, and begun spooling forwards. Without further ado, my stomach lurched and I decided, right, I’ll do it now before I take leave of my crazy and return to my senses.
Nerves strung like wire, I’d waited all day in a quiet fever of tension. It was dismayingly clear to me that in a heartbeat, things could go beyond the tipping point. Slightly rounded, the convex-shaped rock made any safe entry onto and exit from the Bolt increasingly tricky by the fact there was a fine layer of dust coating the surface. Not overly slippy in the right footwear but not altogether grippy either. Despite putting myself in the precarious scenario, a phenomenal first and nape-tingling buzz ensued.
To my mind, experiencing the Bolt was a difficult operation anyone could perform, the equivalent of a pianist playing Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini,” except that one dare not miss a note or fluff a phrase. The adrenaline-fuelled day ended without incident and night slowly cloaked us in soft, safe silence. fourwheelednomad