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Throughout my trips to Norway in the last few years, one thing has always been in the back of my mind. As much as I have loved exploring the country in winter and seeing it in all its snow-frosted majesty, I’ve wanted to go hiking. I’ve wanted to sweat it out climbing high up above a fjord to be rewarded with a picture-perfect bird’s eye view at the end. While many people do go hiking in winter, the fact that I am (a) incredibly clumsy and (b) often travel alone has stopped me in the past, since it seemed more like a recipe for a broken ankle than for fun.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the activity that featured most heavily on my itinerary for my trip around Northern Norway in summer was hiking. Unfortunately, the poor weather that plagued northern Europe for the entirety of last summer extended all the way up to the Arctic reaches of Norway as well, which meant that my multiple days of hiking ended up being cut down to just one day trip.
Luckily, that day trip — to a place called Strupen in Lyngenfjord near Tromsø — was quite the memorable one. I couldn’t have asked for a more magnificent location, and the company made the day that much more enjoyable…and they made the more difficult parts of the hike seem a lot more speedy as well.
In general, locations in Norway are much more accessible with a boat, and Strupen doesn’t deviate from that pattern. Located on the western shores of the mighty Lyngenfjord in the heart of the Lyngen Alps, it was actually not far as the crow flies from my holiday house near Koppangen. However, since the road north actually ends in Koppangen — and I’m not a crow so I can’t fly — I would have been stuck there.
Instead, I took the slightly longer route, which involved taking a ferry from my side of the fjord across to the eastern shores to meet Ingar, my guide for the day. From his gorgeous little holiday homes nestled on the shoreline at Nordmannvik, we could see our destination…and to get there, we hopped back in a boat to cross the fjord yet again. Luckily it was a perfectly calm day, otherwise I might have been a motion sickness-induced disaster by the time we arrived!
By the time we dropped anchor just offshore from Strupen, I had learned more about our little group of hikers and what had brought everyone this far north. Accompanying Ingar and his wife were his sister, a cousin from southern Sweden, and his cousin’s family. As with most people I meet while hiking, I felt like they were kindred spirits; they all seemed to be people that simply loved being out in nature for the sake of it.
Even just climbing out of the boat, I couldn’t help but stare around in awe. The bay was crystal clear; the intermingling of glacier water from the mountains above with the waters of the fjord had created a body of water that glimmered a brilliant blue; it almost resembled the otherworldly colour of purely glacier-fed lakes like Lake Pukaki in New Zealand.
In the other direction, the peaks of the Lyngen Alps towered above. Somewhere nestled in those peaks was Strupen Glacier, the outflow of which was visible as a speck of a waterfall at the base of a cliff. Between us and the mountains was a rolling field of green, punctuated by a row of trees. I don’t think I could have found a place more perfect if I’d tried.
As we hiked across the field and then along the rocky edge of the glacier river, the waterfall went from a speck to a roaring cascade. Standing at its base, the spray of ice-cold water felt fresh on our faces; despite the fact that the glacier stood many hundreds of metres above, the ice surrounding us caused the temperature to drop significantly. Below the falls, a rainbow leaped from the milky turquoise waters. It was extraordinary, and if my day had ended there, I would have been happy.
However, that was just the start; after all, we were still on flat ground and there was so much above us to explore. Since he knew what lay ahead of us and since he was quite nimble on his feet, Ingar kindly offered to take some gear from my camera-and-tripod laden backpack and then pointed out our route. We wouldn’t be rock climbing, but we were to make our way up a steep slope, crossing the jagged boulders of a creek multiple times along the way, with our end destination being a plateau that he assured me was worth the walk.
Luckily, our group was a mix of ages and fitness levels; while I was feeling much more fit after doing a number of short hikes in Finland, my main problem was balance. As you know from my “adventure travel for the uncoordinated” tagline, I am not exactly stable on my feet. I do love hiking through the mountains, but I’m a bit wobbly when I do it!
As we clambered through the undergrowth, the fjord behind us dropped away, giving us panoramic views across the water back to Ingar’s home. It was hard to keep my eyes on the track when I kept wanting to turn around and look at the view, but luckily we had a number of rest stops to have snacks and take it all in.
The final climb up to the plateau was daunting, and I’ll be honest when I say that initially, I really wasn’t sure if I’d make it up. The path was steep and covered in scree, which meant my feet never quite stayed in the place I’d planted them. However, my initial doubts were easily put to rest; Ingar’s good supervision meant that I followed in his footsteps and made it up onto the plateau in much less time than I was expecting.
And wow, what a spot it was. I would have been devastated if I hadn’t made it to the plateau and then had later seen photos of what I’d missed. To one side, a valley stretched into the mountains, which were speckled with snow that was holding on late into the season. Far in the distance, yet another waterfall flowed on its never-ending mission to reach the sea; far beyond that would have been Strupen glacier itself.
The summer’s poor weather hadn’t affected everyone badly. Apparently, the temperatures had been so cool that, somewhere up in the mountains, people were still skiing. The Lyngen Alps are one of the most popular skiing areas in Northern Norway, but even so, the fact that people were still skiing there in the middle of July was incredible.
Unfortunately, it seemed like the conditions were such that even the most skilled skiers were having a rough time. As we stood on the plateau, a rescue helicopter buzzed low over our heads and stopped just on the other side of the ridge. Hopefully the person being picked up recovered quickly.
Despite that downer, our trip to the plateau was a time for celebration. We found ourselves a nice rocky outcrop looking down on the sweeping view of the fjord below and popped a cork on a bottle of champagne.
I know that summiting a minor plateau in the mountains isn’t usually cause for a glass of bubbly, but we were also celebrating a milestone. The Swedes had gotten engaged in this very spot, and it was the first time they had returned; this time, along with Ingar (who had guided their original walk as well), they were able to bring their teenage daughter along for the hike.
It always seems too soon when you have to leave for the return trip home, and the same can definitely be said for this hike. The downhill trip was a bit more treacherous than uphill, and I sometimes found it tough to keep my centre of gravity, well, not aiming directly downhill. That said, it’s a huge credit to Ingar (and everyone else around me) that I was able to make it back to the boat with no injuries whatsoever. Given my history, that’s quite an accomplishment!
A few hours and two more fjord crossings later, I was back at my holiday house, idly skipping rocks along the water as I looked north towards Strupen. It had been a thoroughly enjoyable walk made even better by great company, and while I was exhausted, I was also content. I’d finally been able to hike in Norway, and the feeling was addictive…and well worth the wait.
Have you been hiking in Norway (particularly in the north)? What was your experience like?
A huge thanks to Ingar and his family for taking me along on their hike to Strupen. I really appreciate everything you did for me and the fact that I could come along for what was a very special hike. Thanks to Visit Lyngenfjord for organising both my trip with Ingar and my “Take Me Away” holiday home between Lyngseidet and Koppangen.
The “Take Me Away” home sleeps 8 people across 4 bedrooms, features a sauna, and being across the road from the fjord, has amazing views. Ingar’s Lyngen Fjordbuer feature large patios and panoramic windows with stunning views and are available for weekly rentals from 11030nok. With your holiday house rental, you can also rent a boat; I highly recommend enquiring about his guiding services as well!