Approaching the summit

Approaching the summit

Date completed: 30th September 2017 (with friend/work colleague Mariann).

Weather conditions: Excellent under any circumstances, but particularly for northern Norway, three degrees above the Arctic Circle, on the last day of September. Sunny throughout and relatively warm.

View back to Tromsø

View back to Tromsø city, with the jagged mountains of Kvaløy (Whale Island) behind

Summit: Tromsdalstind is 1,236m above sea level, or 4,055 feet. If it were in the UK it would be higher than any mountain in England and Wales and topped by only a handful in Scotland.

Start and end point: Started at the car park at the end of the street Turistvegen, near the Tromsø Pistolklubb, which is as far as cars can get up Tromsdalen. The last few hundred metres of this road are very potholed, so drive carefully. It is not possible to reach this point by public transport, but starting in Tromsø city centre is quite feasible, though it will require at least another hour’s walking at each end of the day. Or, get a city bus to the junction of Turistvegen and Fløyvegen (the road which leads to the cable car), this is as near as you can make it by public transport.

Distance: Signposts with distances marked on them, and my pedometer, insisted it was just under 8 miles, so I must concur with this, but it certainly felt longer. Starting and finishing in Tromsø city would add another 2 miles to this at each end, thus 12 miles in total.

Tromsdalstinden

Tromsdalstinden in the afternoon sun

Total ascent: If you start in the city, this is sea level, so you’ll be doing all 4,055 feet of the mountain. The car park is at about 100m (330 feet), so driving there saves you a bit, but not much. Almost every step of the way is uphill, with no height lost at any point save a brief descent to the river about a mile in; so let’s say 3,800 feet of total ascent.

Pub at end: None near the end, but Tromsø city centre has many bars of course: if you can stand the alcohol prices in Norway. You should go home and change clothes first though: there aren’t any ‘walkers’ pubs’.

Snow near the summit

A remaining patch of snow near the summit

Route card: The map at this page is quite useful and can be downloaded onto your phone for reference on the mountain.

Route: Tromsdalstinden roughly translates as ‘Tromsdale Pike’. The mountain dominates any view eastwards from the city of Tromsø over to the mainland; no other major city in Norway has such a high summit so close by. It’s an obvious destination for anyone fancying a hike from the city, and lives up to expectations — this was an excellent walk all round. But a few words of guidance are needed before you go yomping up it.

Climbing Nordegga

Mariann hauls herself up the boulder slopes of Nordegga

This is not a particularly long walk, nor is it a dangerous one at any point, but it’s not for fell walking novices. Certainly you need to be prepared gear-wise. Tromsø is above 69ºN and though I lucked out today, the weather here (as in the whole country to be honest) can be highly unpredictable. This walk is not recommended at all in poor visibility — there are far too many places at which the path could easily be lost and many sheer precipices lying quite close at hand. The whole of the mountain from 700m up — meaning the last1750 feet more or less — is a vegetation-free desert and a wilderness of boulders and stones, which you have to spend a lot of time clambering over. Tread carefully and take your time on these sections as it would be all too easy to sprain an ankle, or stumble and get a face full of rock. Unless you really are used to these kinds of conditions, don’t do it in snow or ice — meaning that you are limited, more or less, to walking it from late June until mid-October.

Misty Tromsdalen woods

Morning mist in the woods of Tromsdalen

But none of this is meant to put you off. On a clear day, as we had today, it is a fine walk, with glorious views, a largely unloseable path, and as an added bonus it was also bone dry underfoot. The walk took us a shade under 6 hours and 30 minutes, including breaks.

If you do end up starting in Tromsø city centre you need to walk over the bridge to the mainland, and turn up the road past the very distinctive cathedral, and just keep going up this street (Turistvegen). Or, get a bus to the junction of this street with Fløyvegen, near the Spar store. Go up the road until, as I said above, it loses its asphalt and eventually reaches the car park by the Pistolklubb. This is where we parked in Mariann’s car; I imagine that by not much later than 10am, when we arrived there, on a sunny weekend day, this car park will be full and you’ll have to start further down the road.

Crossing the river

Crossing the river

Walk up the valley for a mile or so then look for a signposted path branching off to the left, and take it (signposted ‘Tromsdalstinden om [via] Nordegga’). This is the best way to go up the mountain as doing it the other way round would involve a very unpleasant descent. This path drops quite steeply down to the crossing of the river, but that’s the last downhill you’ll be experiencing for a while.

From this point on the path climbs through the woods, which thin out as the tree-line is reached, then up a ridge that appears to be a kind of initial line of defence for the mountain behind.

Start of main ascent

Approaching the start of the main ascent. Scree slope of Nordegga ahead.

All has been fairly easy thus far, but looming up ahead is a steep and rocky slope (Nordegga, which — I think — means ‘North Edge’) up which the path climbs, and after this point you face over an hour of toil to reach the summit (we took about 75 minutes from here to the top). Necessary guidance is provided all the way by red paint markers on rocks, and if you can’t see the next one and the route is in doubt, do look for it, because it will be there and it will reliably indicate the way. I imagine these are much harder to spot in poor visibility which is exactly why I wouldn’t do the walk in such conditions.

This climb is never a dangerous one and nor is it, in the end, all that bad — Wandope the other day was harder and more exhausting, despite being much shorter — but it is a haul, make no mistake, and probably outstays its welcome by about 20 minutes. The summit will be reached with great relief. In a box attached to the big summit cairn is a visitors’ book you can sign.

On the summit

On the summit

The view from the top is brilliant. Tromsdalstinden looks like a big fat lump when you see it from the city so it is something of a surprise to see how narrow the summit ridge is, with a sheer drop off immediately to the east. The mountain just to the north, Skarsfjellet, is blatantly light green (see the picture). Various fjords and inlets dig their way into the jagged mountains around, some of which are covered in dustings of snow all year. The city of Tromsø, on its little island, is clearly visible, as one would expect bearing in mind how prominent the mountain is in views of the place.

Skarsfjellet

Looking north to the light-green Skarsfjellet

Descent is achieved by carrying on along the summit ridge, following the poles stuck into the rocks, and clambering over more boulders until you finally drop down to the col marked on the map as ‘Salen’, where the path swings round to the north again, as the direct drop into the coombe below is far too steep. Stick with it; it will get you down there eventually. Note how the little tarns at the head of the coombe are obviously just the remnants of a much larger body of water that must have dried up over the centuries.

The path then leads, without further incident, into the main valley and will take you back to the car park a couple of miles later, a longer end to the walk than maybe you were after (particularly if you are walking all the way back to Tromsø), but it is easy, trouble-free walking.

Coombe at head of valley

The day’s last sun, in the coombe at the head of the valley

Arctic commentary: This is the third of my ‘international guest appearance’ walks to take place in Norway, after Skorve in 2013 and Preikestolen the following year. I’m lucky that I’m still doing fairly regular work in this beautiful country, as since last year I’ve been working with colleagues at the University of Tromsø. This is the world’s northernmost city of more than 50,000 people, located above 69ºN among stellar scenery that, while largely typical of Norway, is still highly distinctive and beautiful when you compare it to the rest of the world.

Fjellheisen and Kvaløy

Fjellheisen (the summit of the cable car from Tromsø) and the Kvaløy mountains

But though I have had my eye on the hike up Tromsdalstinden since I started coming here, i knew that I could not necessarily depend on the weather and a free day coinciding. I gave it a shot on this visit however, bringing all my necessary gear, which basically meant not just my boots but all the kit that kept me warm and healthy on the top of Kilimanjaro — goose down jacket, long-johns, all that jazz.

How lucky we were, therefore. Not only was the weather good enough to walk, it was absolutely glorious today. The Kili kit was all utterly unnecessary. In fact once we got to the top, at 4,055 feet, I saw one fit young Norwegian type up there in what amounted to a sports bra. The sun shone out of a perfect blue sky all day, it wasn’t that windy (though it was a bit breezy at points), and all in all one couldn’t have asked for better.

Balsfjord

View of Balsfjord

Little more to add, seeing as this is something of an intrusion into the main project — which I intend to continue either next weekend or the one after, again, depending on the weather; there are some fells to nab before certain summer bus services disappear, whether for the winter or, going on the government, possibly permanently. Norway has political issues too, they have just re-elected a right-wing regime in a very closely fought election a couple of years ago, but here social democracy still has a much stronger foothold and it’s definitely a nation that loves its outdoor spaces. What’s not to like though? I hope this wasn’t the last walk I do here, and I greatly look forward to the next one.

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