Visit Norway but be prepared

This summer has truly shown how bad people’s preparations for hiking in the mountains can be.

The Pulpit outside Stavanger in the southwestern part of Norway is one of our major tourist sites. About 270 000 visitors stepped out onto this amazing rock last year, and the number is likely to be at least as high this year.
There are two other places that are just as amazing (Trolltunga and Kjeragbolten), with the number of visitors increasing there also.

On August 8th this year, the southern part of Norway experienced really bad weather. Parts of the path to the Pulpit turned into a river, and for the first time, it was decided to close the path to this popular destination. Prior to the path closing, people were warned not to go hiking. Many ignored the warnings. The most popular reason was ’We only have today to see the Pulpit’.

I can understand their feelings. Really. 15 years ago Soletraveller were incredibly lucky when we spent a whole day at the wonderful Matchu Picchu site in Peru. That was the last day of sightseeing up there before three weeks of heavy rain and fog. Had we arrived one day later, we never would have been able to see the place. Of course we would have been sad and disappointed.

When my mom first hiked up to the Pulpit 30 years ago, she saw people with high heel shoes and cloggs! That was even before sherpas had improved the path. Obviously she was not the only one seeing this in the Norwegian mountains, as it has become some sort of a joke, the tourist’s footwear.

This summer though, we can´t really laugh about it anymore. The rescue teams near popular sites such as The Pulpit and Trolltunga have helped several people down. On August 8th, some locals really turned into heroes helping cold and wet people down. Many of them wearing shorts and t-shirts …

People don´t seem to understand the distances or the type of hike they are about to undertake. They have not planned for enough water and they are not appropriately dressed, whether it is proper boots or warm clothing.
It does not take long to freeze when the rain is pouring down and you´re wearing jeans. Cotton is not thermal clothing, wool is. Ballerina shoes are not for hiking, boots with proper support for the ankle are.

Check the conditions at your destination. How long is the hike? Half an hour? 2 hours? 8 hours? Are there steep areas and what sort of ground is there? Stone? Mud? Is it paved? And more importantly: are you fit for the distance?
What clothing do you have? Are you prepared for rain? Should there be a fall in temperature, do you have warm clothing? Do your shoes/boots give enough support for your feet and ankles?
What else would you need? Snacks? Food?
Water should always be in your bag. Blister plasters as well. Maybe some extra socks.

Recently a mom and her toddler were rescued from Trolltunga. The toddler had been kept in a baby carrier for 10–12 hours and was serioulsy cold. The mother was in tears, explaining she didn´t realize how long the hike really was.

Photo: Ruth Lawrence

With the help of Google, a local tourist office or sites such as UT.no (info about hikes in Norway), getting information about your hike is the least of your problems. It is all out there. Be prepared, even for the shortest hike. In countries like Norway, weather can change, and the temperatures can drop quickly. The country is full of stones. It is steep, some places rough and most of the time: natural. Although sherpas have prepared the paths to popular sites with big stones, making it easier to hike, it is still a hike.

Enjoy these wonderful sites, but be smart and be prepared. It would be sad to see the authorities put up restrictions for the sites to prevent accidents. Nature is wild. Please respect it.  🙂

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