Hiking to the famous Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen) overlooking Lysefjord, Norway
Keen to get to Preikestolen, we were up early, buzzing and busy, as we were parked up in Oanes, a good half hour drive away. We had been expecting a rather miserable, grey day and were happily surprised the weather forecast had again been proven wrong. The skies had cleared overnight and we were treated to a bright, still cloudy but occasionally sunny day for our trek. Sun makes everything on a walk so much more enjoyable and beautiful, especially one that ends at such an iconic place as Preikestolen. It’s the one site that we’ve been seeing in stunning photographs ever since we first decided to visit Norway, so was unmissable.
After our half hour drive we arrived in the main car-park just before 9am, to find the designated motorhome area very nearly full. There was no way that all those vans, neatly levelled and closed up, had all managed to arrive here and settle in before us this morning, so they must have stayed overnight. Many large posted signs said that overnighting in the car-park was absolutely prohibited, but that is clearly not enforced. It cost 200 NOK to park, so we assumed this becomes the overnight fee for those who stay over. If we’d known, we could have been here the night before too and had a slightly lazier start.
We squeezed into the only space we could find and readied ourselves for the walk. Despite good advice on the signs, there were still groups of people heading up the path in woefully inadequate footwear and clothing, with no rucksacks, jackets or water with them. The start of the trail immediately headed steeply up a gravel path, before it reached built-stone steps that climbed quickly to a flat-boulder plateau with a panoramic view. Here there was a small timber hut, not yet opened as we passed, where you could pay to zip-line back down to the car-park rather than complete the walk. The ride opened at noon, in time to catch the first of those who had visited Preikestolen as they returned along the path.
We found ourselves passing lots of others on the route up, with many already struggling, looking like it will be a very long day for them. We didn’t find the path to be particularly difficult, but we do a lot of hill-walking and I guess it makes a difference. After a short up and down stretch, we passed some beautiful lakes on either side of the path, where we saw a couple drying off after swimming. We wished we’d known there was the possibility and had brought our togs, as it would have been a great spot to spend a bit of time on the way down. But Norway has an embarrassing abundance of great places to swim, so we’ll find others.
The path led on, over some timber decking pathways and built timber steps that eased the difficulty in several areas, making the route fully accessible to all. Views of the fjord below began to open out as we neared our destination, with glimpses of the sparkling grey-blue appearing to our left. We strolled up a flat granite slope where we suddenly hit the edge of the fjord cliff, and we could finally see the full extent of the vertical drop down to the sea below. To our right we could just see the corner of Preikestolen, jutting out, eerily familiar from so many photos. A few walkers hugged the cliff to the right rather than walk near the open edge as they made their way to the expansive flat area.
It took us a little under an hour to cover the 3.8km distance listed (4.1km tracked by my Polar Flow watch, but this was from our parking spot), so we made good time. When we first arrived there were perhaps fifteen or twenty people already milling around on the rock, many of whom had camped there overnight, their tents and cooking utensils still strewn around. Some others were in the process of packing up their pop-up tents, so there must have been quite a party on the rock overnight. Splits and cavities in the rocks were filled up with discarded bottles, cans and other litter; it’s quite a shame how selfish and lazy people can be sometimes.
Two buzzing drones scooted around overhead, filming or photographing the rock and the current inhabitants, including us. We posed for some photos of our own on the iconic corner, showing the vertical drop down to Lysefjord fjord over 600 metres below. We were glad to have this time to play and photograph whist Pulpit Rock was still relatively unoccupied, and we took time to savour the view and the situation. We were always aware the milling crowds were on their way and the reflective, relative quiet of our early moments on Preikestolen would be lost to the crowds eventually.
Satisfied, we moved away from the flat rock to examine it from a different perspective. We followed a path up and over the cliff behind to view Preikestolen from above, where we could watch the slow trickle of people arrive, like colourful ants. We sat here a while, simply watching and absorbing the view. The weather had cleared more than we could have hoped, and the slight mist hanging in the air added a level of grandeur to the full vista. We could see right along Lysefjord in both directions, with a blanket of wispy clouds sitting just above the adjacent mountains. We felt very fortunate to have timed our walk to coincide with such a stunning weather window.
The crowds we met coming up as we returned grew thicker with every minute walked, and we were extremely glad to have made the effort to arrive early. Preikestolen must have been groaning with the weight of people once they all arrived at the top. The weather was also deteriorating as we descended, clouding over a little and throwing a thin blanket of grey over the trail. We reached the plateau where we resisted the urge to zip-line down the last portion of the walk.
Arriving back at the busy car-park we enjoyed the satisfying acts of removing our walking boots and having a celebratory cup of tea. It was still not yet lunch-time and we felt we had already experienced a full day, so we skipped out of the car-park and headed northwards with smiles on our faces.