Preikestolen and Lysefjord

Preikestolen, with the Lysefjord behind. According to the Lonely Planet guide, this is one of the world’s Top 10 Views. Judge for yourself…

Date completed: 19th June 2014.

Weather conditions: Cloudy and humid at first, some drizzle. Mist rolled in as I approached the Preikestolen, but this then cleared in a suitably spectacular fashion, and the remainder of the walk was fairly sunny.

Summits: The summit of the walk I did is actually the top of Neverdalsfjellet, which rises behind Preikestolen and is 706 meters, or 2316 feet above sea level. Preikestolen itself is 604 meters high, or 1981 feet. Bear in mind this is an absolutely vertical drop down from the platform to the sea below.

Mist clearing

The mist clears from the top of the rock

Distance: The information boards on the route state that it is 3.8km from the Preikestolhytta to the top of the rock. Double this for the return journey and add a bit for the walk up to Neverdalsfjellet and I reckon I did about 10km today, or just over 6 miles.

Total ascent: Preikestolhytta is 270m above sea level. There are some descents on the way, so let’s estimate about 520m of ascent, or about 1700 feet.

Start and end point: Started and finished at Preikestolhytta, where there is a hostel, cafe and car park. This is fairly easy to get to by public transport. You have to take the ferry from Stavanger to Tau, which runs about every 45 minutes during the day, then there are several companies running buses from Tau to Preikestolhytta, timed to meet the arrivals and departures back to Stavanger. I used the minibus service run by Tide Reiser, which worked just fine, but I did note that the bus I caught back left 10 minutes before the scheduled departure time because it had filled up.

Eidavatnet

Looking across the Lysefjord to the lake of Eidavatnet

Pub at end: The cafe/restaurant at Preikestolhytta does bottled beers (which, as is the case throughout Norway, are exorbitantly priced). If heading back to Stavanger, I highly recommend you finish the day at the best pub in the whole country, the Cardinal on Skagen, near the old harbour.

Route: This is probably the most popular single hike in the whole of Norway and you are not going to be alone on it: although if you extend it up to Neverdalsfjellet, as I did (and I do recommend this), more solitude can be found there. This is hiking as mass tourism. The crowds I can live with — and the people give the photographs a decent sense of scale — but I do wish this didn’t have to mean litter; some people don’t even deserve to be let out of doors.

On the ascent

On the ascent, about 1.5km in

The main path is not losable, so you don’t need a map. If in doubt, look for the red ‘T’s painted on the rocks, there will always be one visible. Or just follow everyone else. However, the path is quite steep and rocky in parts so make sure you have proper footwear — something which was not the case for quite a few people that I passed today. In wet weather — which in Norway is very common — there will be slippery sections and I bet this route accounts for quite a few sprained ankles in any given week. And, as is obvious from the photos, don’t play around at the top, near the edge. It’s nearly 2000 feet straight down.

The path leads up through the pine and birch forests for a couple of kilometers before the views open up, with the Lysefjord coming into sight gradually ahead. There is a decent view over to the left (north), as well, pictured here: I think this is the lake of Troppevatnet.

Troppevatnet

View across to Troppevatnet

Not long after this point there is a signpost offering a choice of routes, the ‘Cliff Route’ and the ‘Hill Route’. I think it is better to stick to the Cliff Route for ascent and come down the other way. The route, as befits its name, loops round an increasingly steep slope until the edge of the fjord is reached, this being the point that those suffering from vertigo will first start to wonder what they are doing here. But it’s all quite safe, as long as you stay away from the edge. (A signboard at the bottom warns you off doing this walk in the winter and I certainly concur.) Eventually, Preikestolen itself is reached.

Vertical view

View of the rock from the slopes of Neverdalsfjellet above.

As you can see from the photos, the top of the rock is an almost perfectly flat square of granite. It was formed about 10,000 years ago when the glaciers round here melted, and at some point will all end up in the fjord, breaking along the crack that is visible in the pictures, particularly the one at the top — though not at any point soon (granite doesn’t just flake away at a moment’s notice).

The name Prekeistolen means “The Pulpit Rock” and it’s quite appropriate. You can quite imagine Moses or some other Biblical figure standing up here and receiving the Ten Commandments. The view down the Lysefjord is stunning, and has been named one of the World’s Top 10 Views by the Lonely Planet (see this page). If you really want to sit and dangle your legs over the edge, or lie so you can look over the precipice (see the picture at the bottom), feel free; I got within about 3 feet, but that was near enough. I was getting vertigo on behalf of other people at times.

Once you’ve eaten your lunch and had enough of the crowds, you could of course head straight back down, but I think this would be a waste: for a start, you wouldn’t get the even better photo opportunities offered by the views of the rock itself, backed by the fjord. So instead of going back the way you came, look for the ‘Hill Route’, which starts (or ends) at the notice board just where the main path arrives on the rock platform. After an initially steep scramble this path loops around and takes you above the rock, the point from which I took the picture at the top of the page — which you of course will do as well.

View from Neverdalsfjellet

View the other way (west) down the Lysefjord, from the top of Neverdalsfjellet

The ‘Hill Route’ is also marked with red ‘T’s, but I broke away from these soon after leaving that viewpoint in order to get up to the summit of Neverdalsfjellet. There is a steep-sided but shallow canyon to cross first, but after that, the path up to the top is fairly clear. It is worth exploring the summit plateau as there are some good views in other directions, which will be unseen by those who just stick to the main drag, including the one seen here, and the one of Eidavatnet pictured earlier. Once you’ve had enough, head back to the Hill Route and follow the red ‘T’s once more, zigzagging down a bit and then dropping back down to the signpost passed earlier, at which point just follow the path back the way you came up this morning.

Lysefjord

The Lysefjord, from Neverdalsfjellet

Commentary: I have been to 34 of the countries in the world, and my considered judgment is that the five with the most beautiful landscapes are, in reverse order: 5) Greece; 4) Fiji; 3) the United Kingdom [something largely unappreciated by many people who live there, I would add — and particularly by its awful government]; 2) New Zealand.

Number 1 is definitely Norway however. OK, maybe it’s not a particularly diverse place, in the way that the UK and New Zealand are. But when what it does is so goddamn amazing, who cares? In The Hitch-Hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy the protagonist Arthur Dent meets Slartibartfast, an alien who, it turns out, was one of those who actually manufactured the Earth, and who was personally responsible for designing the fjords of Norway. He “won an award” for them. Well deserved I say. What an astonishing landscape these sea-filled canyons really are, and even if they were just carved into otherwise monotonous plateaux they’d still be beautiful.

In the mist

On arrival at the top of the rock things were shrouded in mist for a few minutes — adding a mystique to the other qualities

But add to the fjords the mountains around, and the swathes of forest on the lower slopes and colourful foliage higher up — and, well, I could wax lyrical about this all day. You get the message I am sure. If you’ve never been here, come, even if just for the weekend. (But just don’t expect to go home with any money.)

I’ve been working here Monday – Wednesday, but today was booked in as a day off months ago so I could do this hike. When I woke up this morning and saw it was raining, this was disappointing, but in the end all worked out fine, as you can see from the photos. The only downers were that at one point I slipped on the rocks and whacked my elbow, which is still painful now, and also the amount of litter on the route. Why do people do that? Surely you’ve come for a reason — to admire the place — so why mar it for others by leaving your crap behind? This is one form of pollution that’s so avoidable.

On the edge

If you want to do this, feel free. I tried and lasted about a microsecond.

Anyway, back home tomorrow. I hope to do my next Lake District walk within the next couple of weeks, by about 1st July.

One Response to “Preikestolen, Norway”

  1. […] had booked today (Thursday 19th June) in as a day off months ago, specifically to do the walk to Preikestolen, ‘The Pulpit Rock”. This granite platform rises nearly 2,000 feet directly above the […]

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