Thanks Nicky for writing an awesome blog. What I love most about this piece of writing is that we were wet and tired and in a bus heading back down the hill from the climb. All I could think about was that it was nothing like Snowdon and Norway was fast becoming my 8th wonder… so long Snowdon! – Suzie
I (Nicky) am typing this whilst sitting on a bus. Pretty damp, shivering with cold, aching legs but a heart full of gratitude for fitness, strength, friendships and the rugged beauty of Scandinavia.
Today, the Wonder Woman Workshop’s “Fitness Five” took on Kjerag near to Stavanger in West Norway.
The “hike” was described as “challenging” on Rogaland’s website and they estimated that it would take 5-6 hours of the 12 hour day.
Suz, Steve & I (Nicky) had spent Wednesday orienting ourselves, pestering Olga & Leif to near distraction in the Tourist Information centres (Olga genuinely paled when we returned to her for a second time) & Thursday sailing down Lysefjord & then being “step ninjas” on Europe’s longest wooden staircase: 4444 very narrow planks at Florli (Fleur-Li which in the words of The Elf (not Troll) is “nice to say”)
Anne & Jannet (Jananne) arrived whilst we were sleeping off our stairbased challenge & after the greetings of the morning & initial pleasantries, the first question was how the day would compare to Snowdon. The Welsh mountain is a favourite Wonder Woman Workshop trip but a) I have never personally been to Snowdon b) I have never done the Kjerag hike & c) “compared to Snowdon this climb will be….” is not a sentence I have ever read (though it could be a hole in the market for UK adventurers) so I drew a blank at this & ‘became mother’ with “well we’ll just have to go & see for ourselves”.
After a quick 7/11 breakfast pit stop our driver Oncle Per (or Uncle Pear as I heard it) began to wind our coach through granite grey cliffs covered with moss & purple heather, past vast freshwater lakes, bubbling salmon rivers, waterfall after waterfall and an abundance of grass roofed wooden summer houses.
The weather evoked London in late Autumn – hazy with fog, pale grey skies, 8 degrees, windy & raining. Norway is having a “mini winter” this August & the wonders of modern technology delighted us with the news of the heatwave back home.
We arrived at the Eagles Nest an hour & half after setting off, coated up & were told in no uncertain terms that the coach would leave us behind if we didn’t get back in time. We had a brief chat with jolly Henrik the car park attendant who relished in showing us an enormous calf muscle the size of a head gained by regularly hiking to Kjeragbolt in 1.5 hours apparently. He let Suzi touch it but would not let us photograph it – weird behaviour but it was a calf that would have made Thor jealous so his pride was understandable (if not his camera shyness) and he had given us our goal (three hours, not the calf).
Three steps off the road & we immediately knew that this day was going to be like nothing any of us had tackled before.
I am no good at estimating gradients but the cliff ahead of us was bloody steep & if I tell you that the not too safety conscious Norwegians had helpfully provided ‘chainrails’ for the ‘hikers’ to a) heave themselves up with & b) keep themselves on the slope, that should paint a picture.
People were already skidding their way down as we began & were none too helpful in telling us it didn’t really get much easier. It turns out that were mostly correct but I deployed other techniques later on such as (spoiler alert) “you will be fine, I’m double your age & I managed it”.
So, what goes up must come down & after a 20 minute ascend we then had to do the reverse, also with the assistance of chain based ropes but often advancing with our backs towards the direction of travel which is unnatural and frightening even to seasoned snowboarders.
This was not a hike. It was scrambling & bouldering & heaving yourself up a mountain with a few bits of gradient based walking through a rock covered desert of grey & green and this is where the benefit of regular outdoor training comes in.
Not one of us had prepared ourselves specifically for this challenge; partly because I didn’t find it until a few days ago but mainly because we don’t need to. We train, we swing, we press, we move, we are fit for life & our bodies are ready for adventure. Today we box jumped off boulders, bear crawled up the steeps, crab crawled down the slippery descents, climbed for hours in the biting rain, heaved our bodies up & down the most challenging of terrains in awful conditions to the constant sound of rushing water & the occasional livestock bell (damn those nimble four legs) & we loved it.
The primary reason for the trip was to reach the Kjeragbolten. An oval shaped rock the size of an old Mini wedged between the crevice of the two sheer cliff faces dropping xx feet below with two waterfalls providing an unnecessary reminder of the pull of gravity nearby and a third water based falling thing audible but only visible from the top of the Bolt. In my opinion we saw a wonder of the world today, our hearts, lungs and adrenaline pumped to maximum & we could not have even got close without the strength, conditioning, endurance and mental toughness we have built over time. It is a wonderful investment we have made in ourselves.
We finished in a respectable four hours which Hi Vis Henrik begrudgingly approved. He had estimated five which made us the winners of the day in every way.
If you’ve not been to Norway, I highly recommend it especially if you enjoy the great outdoors!