A definite highlight of my vacation was the hike up to Pulpit Rock, near Stavanger Norway. I did this as an excursion booked through the cruise itself (because I was alone and Darrell was worried about me getting stranded by myself!) but you could definitely do it independently – and a LOT cheaper – if you like. The travel instructions for doing it on your own are covered nicely here: http://www.coffeecakeandculture.com/hiking-the-pulpit-rock-preikestolen-norway/
I enjoyed this so much that I’d do it again . . . and again . . . and again. It was gorgeous! However, it was also very challenging. We received a note with our excursion tickets on the cruise ship telling us that this was strenuous exercise and to be sure to bring water and wear hiking boots. While it is labeled in lots of places as an easy to moderate hike, I’d say that for an inexperienced hiker, this probably falls more on the “hard” side of moderate. I was very glad I’d been walking lots of hills in my hiking boots and doing lots of stairs because they prepared me well for this exertion.
After riding the bus from the cruise port to the ferry and then the ferry to trail, we were dropped off at a secondary entrance to the trail for Pulpit Rock. Quick tip about the ferry: Restrooms and free WiFi on board. If you’re doing the Disney cruise excursion, be sure to use the restrooms on the ferry as that’s the last chance you’ll get for HOURS! The plus of them dropping off at this site was that it saved a very STEEP section of the trail. The minus was that it bypassed the bathrooms at the other trail head. I was really glad I’d gone to the restroom on the ferry! I had a backpack with me for my lunch (they gave us lunch as part of the excursion), my water and a couple of extra layers including gloves and a fleece – both of which I used. I was glad I had the bag for holding things and the layers.
There were lots of people on the trail, both from my own excursion and other groups, as well as locals with their children and even some dogs! The beginning didn’t seem so bad – some little climbs, but mostly smooth-ish paths or wooden trails.
About 30 minutes into the hike, we started hitting what I call the “mountain goat” section of the climb. I’d put on my gloves pretty quickly in the course of the hike because it was chilly and rainy (and with the lupus, if my hands get cold they’re pretty much shot). That turned out to be really handy as I used my hands to help me scramble up the wet and rocky path. There were lots of places where you were stepping from rock to rock, sometimes with several feet in elevation distance between the rocks. My hands helped keep me from falling many times, especially given how wet it all was. Definitely be careful on this section if you have any qualms about your legs, your knees or your balance.
space out (after the boulder climb)
It was absolutely beautiful though and there were several places to stop for the views and photos (and to catch your breath!).
Apparently sherpas from Nepal came through to smooth the trail in the last few years, so a lot of the trail is assembled from rocks in the area. It’s beautiful that way, but uneven. I was grateful for the added stability of my hiking boots instead of sneakers or hiking shoes.
The middle stretch was the most challenging for me, with the steep boulder-y trail (sorry no pics – too busy trying not to fall!). The upper third smoothed out a bit in terms of terrain and included lots of wider spots to pause and look at the lakes and early glimpses of the fjord. The upper third also got chillier, especially as we came around to the peak side and the temperature started dropping. Tip: Wear layers if you can because there’s big temperature difference as you move along the trail.
As you get close to the top, there are many areas of the trail that are narrow enough you have to take turns coming and going but for the most part, people were polite about letting groups pass up or down in turn. I enjoyed the exertion and scenery enough that I told myself it didn’t matter if the top was disappointing once I finally got there, but I’ve got to say – it was breathtaking and definitely did NOT disappoint.
It was also incredibly cold and windy, with sleet, but thankfully that just felt like a Nebraska winter so I was okay with that. I took some pictures, leaned a teeny bit over the edge to feel brave and dizzy and hung my feet over a bit. Then it was time to back up, put on my fleece, and eat my lunch with this amazing view. I confess I didn’t drink much water even though I’d been hiking up for a couple of hours because I knew I was a couple of hours back DOWN the trail before I’d find a bathroom.
I was nervous about going down those slippery bouldery stretches, but I made it back down the trail without major catastrophe. I slipped a few times, but never anything that resulted in more than plopping to my bottom on a boulder and I never worried about getting lost until I got very near the bottom where the trail markers stopped.
For most of the trail, these handy red markings showed up any time I thought “This cannot possibly be the right path!”
It took me about an hour and 45 minutes to go up and about an hour and 15 minutes to come down, with about 4 miles round trip according to most sources I’ve seen. The whole way – both up and down – includes lots of places of climbing and descending, so you do more climbing than the cumulative rise would suggest.
At the base of the trail, there’s a hostel with a little restaurant (much appreciated coffee!), restrooms, a gift shop and of course, Wifi. I hung out there to warm up and drink up. All in all, totally worth the effort but I appreciated the groundwork I’d laid in the month prior to the trip. I think the stairs and strength work outs were especially helpful in getting my legs in good enough shape that I felt fine after the climb. We did another climb the next day along a waterfall and I had no pain whatsoever, so the prep work paid off.
Do you get to do a lot of hiking in your area? What are some of the hiking “rules of the road”? People seemed to be really nice about passing for the most part – other than the occasional overzealous teenager rushing the line – and not to mind when I squashed their foot catching myself after a slip, so I think hikers must be a pretty forgiving group.