By Four Wheeled Nomad: Words by Lisa Morris, images by Jason Spafford
“Get a load of that – that’s it!” I barked above the roar of blessed tourists in all shapes, sizes and ages. Best as I tried to blot them out, I zoned in on the thinning blade of rock jutting out over Hardangerfjord. It’s a sight, alright. Perhaps one of the most spectacular Norwegian destinations hiked to date, the trek to reach it was a challenging 15.3-miles long. It incorporated a sizable 3,630-foot elevation gain too. Budgeting eight to ten hours round trip based on official guidelines, we somehow made it there and back in six and a half. Heck, we must be edging towards getting our Nordic hike on.
Beyond pleased we did, we took the decision to camp overnight and begin proceedings 1.2-miles from Skjeggedal (the majority start at the P2 car park) at the P3 shuttle service point farther up – a private and somewhat costly place to be dropped off but well worth the numerous switchbacks and wad of Krone for the elevation saved.The first steps of a long stomp into the unknown, carrying your world on your back, are always exhilarating, empowering even. You feel as if you could keep going for a hundred miles, whooping and yelling, “The path is as where I take it, I move as I choose and I sleep where I fall!” It’s the ultimate existential joy.
I’d mentally prepared myself for the long haul, felt good after the recent training under our belts but the first hour was just plain hard work. Any mountain goat stride I was hoping to assume was clearly hopeless optimism. Hiking steep terrain in the hot sun behind Jason’s sure-footed pace, at one point I slumped down on a rock, lay flat out and coaxed myself into not vomiting. I felt clammy in a cool unease.
My progress was stultifyingly slow. I registered my dubious grasp of the business at hand, while acknowledging the moxie it’d taken to make it this far. Less than a mile. My breathless misery was compounded by the normally breathing day-trippers carrying zero or minimal loads. I contented myself with smiling vaguely and avoiding eye contact with anyone making it look easy.
Rewarded en route by the Ringedel Dam, and plenty of flat interspersed with mildly undulating terrain, I was grateful we chose to wait for a favourable weather window. Conditions are unpredictable, and the scaremongering stories around those suffering the onset of hyperthermia and exposure, are all true.
We packed light, right down to sharing one sleeping bag and made do with prioritising just enough calorific food and the bare essentials, full camera ensemble in tow. Glugging down natural spring water on the fly, we replenished our water supply from running sources en route. At one hydration stop, two young boys walked by, deep in conversation. An inadvertent sexist undertone notwithstanding, “Your mum is so cool, she could almost be a man.” [Drier than dry: What did I miss?]
Long story long, we arrived footsore and our backs in bits. Far from designed for hauling one’s load long distance, the steel frame of Jason’s camera bag pressed into my spine for duration of the hike. Packed with people, my brain was roaring from the hordes more than the precipitous height. That said, a squished sandwich at the end of a massive yomp tasted more sublime than the finest Michelin star cuisine.
Alas, one sleeping bag between the two of us meant sleep became a lusted after commodity. Rewarded by a 5am start the following morning, gave rise to an exquisite vantage point of the beautiful fjord. Alongside an unearthly stillness. Just me and my vertiginous surroundings, adrenaline zinging, triumphant. Not one of us dared speak, so great was our reverence for what we were experiencing. That, or we just didn’t want to risk awakening the sleeping masses.
A tissue of mist lingered over the slither of rock before the sun slowly burned it away. There permeated in my soul an exhilaration, a settled expectancy to the long-haul back and bulldog spirit clothed in peace. fourwheelednomad