Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Besseggen, Preikestolen and the Fimmvörðuháls with a fear of heights

Besseggen, Preikestolen and the Fimmvörðuháls with a fear of heights

Old Aug 30th, 2013, 07:34 AM
  #41  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 40,364
Received 7 Likes on 4 Posts
Your trip sounds thrilling.

I'm glad you went so the rest of us can just be armchair cliffhangers.
gruezi is offline  
Old Aug 30th, 2013, 10:07 AM
  #42  
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 1,358
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I can only think of a falling domino effect and think you made a wise decision to stop considering the various sort of climbers around you. Gorgeous view!
Finecheapboxofwine is offline  
Old Aug 30th, 2013, 10:09 AM
  #43  
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 4,549
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
pheeww! this is a real nail biter report! Imagine had you not stopped short, your added weight together of perhaps 300 lbs could have tipped the breaking point scale of those fissures and the whole table could have collapsed.

I know it's wrong, but everytime you type about the unstable couple, I giggle. Sorry. I really don't mean to.

Very entertaining, indeed!
Lookin_Glass is offline  
Old Aug 30th, 2013, 10:31 AM
  #44  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 32,129
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I can't check now but I believe I stole "unstable" from an unnamed poster above. It works better than "divorcing".
colduphere is offline  
Old Aug 30th, 2013, 12:16 PM
  #45  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 57,091
Received 5 Likes on 3 Posts
cold - we really need to know - did you make it back in one piece?

this is what I call a cliffhanger!
annhig is offline  
Old Aug 30th, 2013, 04:16 PM
  #46  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 4,109
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
A wonderful report! Just looking at the pictures makes my knees go to jelly!
irishface is offline  
Old Aug 30th, 2013, 04:17 PM
  #47  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 4,109
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for sharing a wonderful report of adventures! Just looking at the pictures turns my knees to jelly!
irishface is offline  
Old Aug 30th, 2013, 04:27 PM
  #48  
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 4,549
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
it's not the heights that scare me, it is the time between falling and landing.
Lookin_Glass is offline  
Old Aug 31st, 2013, 04:14 AM
  #49  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 32,129
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi Gruezi and Irishface. Yes we made it Ann but the scariest part for me was still ahead.

That was about it for our visit to Norway. We spent our last night at the First Alstor hotel which is on the outskirts of Stavanger. It was the most reasonably priced hotel we could find and quite well located if you are driving in and out of town. We drove to the airport Sunday at lunch for the short flight to Reykjavík. We were almost sad to say goodbye to our rental car. The Volvo 70 had been large enough for five of us and very stable in some tricky conditions. Rental for seven days cost just over $800 through Hertz.

We arrived in Reykjavik at 3 pm on August 18. We each bought a Flybus “return plus” ticket (about $40 each), meaning that we had a bus ride into town and back to the airport on departure day, plus service in a second smaller vehicle to and from our hotel from the Reykjavik bus station. Or in our case – a hostel. We were staying at the KEX Hostel, perhaps the funkiest place we have ever stayed. It seems to be one of the social centres of Reykjavik, known for both good food and live music. Aside from a few old-timers, it was crowded with young backpackers. About the only language we heard was English:

http://www.kexhostel.is/

Our room was the usual hostel room. It had six bunk beds stuffed into a room about 20x8. We had rented all six beds even though there were only five of us. Cost was about $270 a night. We could have found something cheaper but we knew the teenagers would love the place and the location was excellent. It was also a place we could easily leave our luggage as we would be there for one night, gone for two and back for two more. There were several bathrooms on each floor and one shower room for each of females and males. The place was a bit old and dark but clean.

We usually try and use water to orient ourselves in a city - an ocean, river or lake. In Reykjavik that is a bit tricky as the water curves around the city on three sides. Finally we figured out that the main street Laugavegur was our key reference point. Stores, tourist offices, restaurants, ATMs were all on this street. As were a million backpackers. This city is a hotspot for young travellers.

Mind you we weren’t in need of much our first night. We found a restaurant that served the most wonderful salmon I have ever had. They were also willing to give the 18 year old a beer while only threatening to demand proof of age every few minutes (he was underage). Then it was back to the hostel to pack for the next three days.

We had signed up with a tour company for this part of the trip – Icelandic Mountain Guides. There was not a chance in hell that my wife would agree to a three day hike in the wilds of Iceland without a guide. The price was very steep, about $800 a person for the three days. That might be tolerable for an individual or couple but it adds up pretty quickly when there are five of you. In the end I think our hike would have been very easy to organize on our own. But I am not sure we would have managed to get by some of the tricky parts of the trail without the guide helping us. One in particular which I will get to in a minute.

We weren’t quite certain how the trip was going to work transportation wise. A driver picked the nine of us up at our three different hotels starting at 7:00 am on Monday. I had assumed that this vehicle would drive us to the start of the hike. But that is not how it works in Iceland, at least for us. The driver took us to the central bus station where we met our guide. We then climbed on to a regularly scheduled bus and headed off to the east with lots of other travellers going to various places.

Our first impression of our guide was that he looked the part – athletic with all the right hiking gear – and personable. We did start to wonder how often he had done the guide thing when he told us that our arrival time at Porsmork would depend on traffic. Well I suppose that was theoretically possible but the bus stopped very frequently along the route with lots of time spent waiting at gas stations for the next scheduled departure time. Then we had to switch buses to one with bigger wheels (to cross small rivers). This bus as well was a scheduled bus operating on a precise time schedule. So traffic had very little to do with it.

But this was a minor quibble with the guide. Our bigger problem was his name. He told us to call him Good John. But we didn’t want to do that and must have asked him 100 times over three days to repeat his name so that we could address him correctly. Even at our goodbye dinner I had to ask him again what his name was so that I could use it in my thank you speech. Once again it came out as goojune or gajuun, nowhere close to its correct pronunciation, whatever that was.
colduphere is offline  
Old Aug 31st, 2013, 05:00 AM
  #50  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 3,458
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
There was a photo of the Preikestolen on the cover of the guidebook we bought to help in planning our trip. Before we even got serious in our planning, I told mr_go that I was open to nearly anything else in the book but would not be going anywhere near that! After reading your description, I'm really glad we didn't--I wouldn't have made it even as far up as you did. Still enjoying your report...
ms_go is online now  
Old Aug 31st, 2013, 11:23 AM
  #51  
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 336
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I was feeling wussy as we looked up at Preikestolen from the bottom, from the deck of a tour boat on the Lysefjord in July. I was thinking about your hike, and regretting that we hadn't organized ourselves to get on the trail. Now I feel lucky. Thanks for helping me get over my guilt.
Friendship_Bay is offline  
Old Aug 31st, 2013, 04:12 PM
  #52  
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 20,199
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I am looking forward to reading more. I don't quite understand the allure of exposing oneself to these dreadful heights on vacation. My dil just sent me video of my youngest son climbing to the Zugspitze cross. I felt sick to my stomach watching it. They didn't tell me they were going to do it and it only came out three days later at dinner with family after they had consumed wine.
seetheworld is offline  
Old Aug 31st, 2013, 04:45 PM
  #53  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 32,129
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hello Ms Go, FB and STW - I have comments for all of you but can't get home to type them up as I just locked myself out of my car. I am blaming post traumatic stress syndrome.
colduphere is offline  
Old Sep 1st, 2013, 02:10 AM
  #54  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 32,129
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Ms Go I am betting there is some tension between economic and conservation authorities over the use of the Preikestolen picture (though you said guidebook – I suppose they can do what they want). It may only be a few days a year but the place is being overrun. I will guess that local conservation authorities are not happy. Friendship Bay while the view from the top is amazing I assume that the view from the bottom is amazing as well. The route to the Preikestolen parking lot does not offer a view of the Preikestolen. I wish we could have had that view as well. STW I agree with you. But I was hearing last night that since we all returned that the scariest moments are now the centrepieces of everyone’s stories about the trip, and in a positive way.

We had signed up for a three day, two night hike after discussion with Icelandic Mountain Guides. Our first thought had been to do something longer but a five day trip would have ended the day before three of our group were running in the Rekjavik half-marathon. That did not seem like a good idea.

Instead we agreed to hopefully complete the hike over the Fimmvörðuháls. This is the site of the first phase of the volcano eruption in Eyjafjallajökull in 2010. (I am stealing this from the company’s web site) “the Fimmvörðuháls hike has become a real hot spot, with spectacular nature and exciting geological features. The trail goes from the nature reserve of Þórsmörk, up between the two glaciers, onto and then over the recently formed lava, passing right by the two new craters, Magni and Móði, before descending to the lowlands on the southern side. Once there we are greeted by the great Skógarfoss waterfall and the Atlantic coast is not far away. This astonishing diversity makes this short trek another favorite in Iceland. Accommodation is in mountain huts.”

As noted above, our bus ride was about four hours from Reykjavik and included a change in buses to one that could cross rivers. Where we live you don’t cross rivers in buses so we were eager to see how big the tires on this bus must be. In the end the rivers were more like streams, but it was explained to us that water flow is extremely variable. A dry bed one day could be a raging torrent the next. Indeed we did pass one 4x4 that had swallowed more water than it could chew and was now inoperable, with its passengers waiting a few meters away for help.

We arrived at a mountain hut – more or less like an extremely large cottage - where a number of passengers got off. I think there were three mountain huts in the Porsmork area and this was not ours. But the helpful manager of the place was willing to sell us beer that we could take to the next hut where we were staying. 10,000 Icelandic Krona bought us 10 large beers. This was presented to us almost as an illegal favour from an entrepreneurial hut manager. But it turned out that our cabin manager also had beer to sell. We could have bought a lot of beer over the next two days but we didn’t because of course … we were there to hike. Here is the hike as described by our guiding firm:

http://www.mountainguides.is/overnig...k-skógar/

The first day was primarily a get to know the area hike. This would give our guide a chance to see if his troops could climb a hill. The second day was 13 kilometers with a climb of 3000 feet. The third day was also about 13 kilometers with a descent of 3000 feet. Sort of up the hill one day and down the hill the next. In the end these numbers didn’t mean much as I will explain.

So on day one we went on a hike in the area, where bless his heart, our guide decided against hiking a particular ridge because he thought it was a bit dangerous. Love you Goojune. But he heard enough questions from three of us to realize that some of us had height concerns. He pointed out a ridge in the far distance and told us that we might have minor problems with “the cat’s back”. This was a 100 meter long section that resembles a cat’s back when the cat arches its back. Narrow top and almost a straight fall off on both sides. Fortunately I was not using my phone to access the Internet. If I had I would have googled “the cat’s back” and not slept that night.
colduphere is offline  
Old Sep 1st, 2013, 02:20 AM
  #55  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 32,129
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Geez that link didn't work again, just as it didn't above. I am a slow learner.
colduphere is offline  
Old Sep 1st, 2013, 12:00 PM
  #56  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 57,091
Received 5 Likes on 3 Posts
10,000 Icelandic Krona bought us 10 large beers. >>

I make that about £5 a beer - not bad for Iceland. just as well you didn't drink to much else you might have found yourselves along that ridge!
annhig is offline  
Old Sep 2nd, 2013, 06:06 AM
  #57  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 32,129
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Now that it is over Ann, I wish I had had a beer to celebrate at the end of the ridge. That would have been wonderful.

This is a picture from our day one practice hike. Sometimes these streams could be a trickle. Sometimes they are so powerful they wash away the temporary bridges:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tiktok-...n/photostream/

We had a wonderful dinner of lamb that the guide cooked on the communal barbecue. Everyone chipped in somehow with dinner – making a salad, doing the dishes etc. It appeared there were about 60 hikers in the hut that night. We were off in a side room that had about 15 beds. We thought we would have the place to ourselves until four people came in around 10 o’clock. The beds were in little cubicles – two beds on the bottom and then a bed higher up over the bottom two. Snorers were an annoyance. But no one wanted to point fingers as no one could prove they didn’t snore as well.

We woke up around 7 am, made breakfast and then headed off on our 13 kilometer hike. Goojune repeated often how much he enjoyed the contrasts of the Porsmork area. Our cabin was located in an oasis of green, with plenty of smallish trees dotting the landscape. Over the day we would encounter the white of glaciers, the black and red of lava, the gray of water. It really was a land of contrasts.

The hike was easy to start but as we climbed up the side of a valley the trail became narrower, with an increasingly steep fall-off to the right. Most people wouldn’t even notice but three of us were getting nervous. At one point I kept muttering “Jesus Christ”, with the odd other worded added in. I was right behind the guide. Finally he asked me if I was saying a prayer. I told him I didn’t like the fall-off on the side of the trail. Unfortunately his response was “You are kidding right?” Ah no I am not kidding. To which he said that if I was getting nervous at that point I would be frightened out of my mind in a few minutes. Well, tally ho then.

With that we came to the cat’s back, the ridge he was alluding to and the place he had tried to point out the day before. At dangerous hiking spots trail officials will often attach chains to the mountain side of the trail so that you have something to hang on to. At the cat’s back there was no way to put up chains as the drop-off was on both sides. It was a teensy weensy strip of land that ran for about 100 meters (probably less) with huge drop-offs on both sides. Not sheer cliffs, just incredibly steep slopes with plenty of grass to soften your certain death. If you fell you wouldn’t die immediately, you would roll and bounce and do a few hundred somersaults before reaching the bottom perhaps 800 feet down there somewhere. Left or right side, it didn’t matter. Pick your poison.

Six of the group walked across the ridge without a great deal of difficulty. As the guide said it was just like walking on a narrow sidewalk. Easy peasy. Yes we know goojune, those of us with a fear of heights have heard that line about 1000 times in our frightened lives. It doesn’t work. Stable husband had made it half way across and then turned on a dime to take pictures of the three remaining wussies – stable wife, unstable wife and unstable person – me. Seeing him click away really pissed me off. I snapped at him to please stop taking pictures. This was not the Roman f ing Colosseum. I did not want pictures of my death made available to family members, friends and neighbours. “Yes here is colduphere just before he started tumbling.”

The guide had crossed the ridge and then returned to the middle of it, having being reminded that three of us were paralysed with fear. His first offer was to help the three of us cross the ridge as a group. Unstable wife said that would not work. Meanwhile I was trying to quickly calculate how I could hike back to the start of the trail, take a bus to the other end of the hike, and hike in the reverse direction and meet everyone at the other side of the 100 meter ridge. Let’s see – one hour plus four hours for the bus plus a ten hour hike back. Nope, won’t work. The ridge had to be crossed.

Here are some pictures of the cat’s back taken by other travellers. I am a little annoyed that I cannot find a picture of how steep the slopes are, as these pictures doesn’t do it justice. They flatten the image dramatically. What looks like a 20 foot gentle slope in these pictures is a 200 foot steep drop. Perhaps I should have let stable husband take some pictures after all:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tiktok-africa/5938411662/

http://www.pbase.com/stebbith/image/99084696

The following picture provides a better look at what really worried me. There was a section (middle of the picture) that was not flat. There was a large rock right in the middle of the three foot trail that forced everyone to stop and consider their options. (Now that I reread this I see that the rock is also visible just in front of the woman in the above picture.) Most people stepped up on the rock and then over. Some went around the rock on the right, really putting themselves right at the edge. When it was my turn to go, the guide told me to step around the rock to the right. I told him I would not do that that in a million years. Instead I sat on my ass facing left just before the rock, ass up on to the rock, ass down off the rock and then ass slide for another ten feet. Scrape! I worried about ripping my brand new North Face rain pants but figured they would rip into confetti if I tumbled down the 800 feet so what the hell.

http://tinyurl.com/mhpgxgo

After passing this section I returned to my feet, pretended I had never been frightened in the first place and almost sprinted the rest of the cat’s back. I would like to say that the family was at the other end with hugs and kisses but everyone had moved on. The trip was paid for – who needed dad?

Right at the end of the cat’s back was a steep climb with a chain/wire offering some assistance. It was just as dangerous as the ridge that had terrified the three of us (that is not us in the picture):

http://www.pbase.com/stebbith/image/99084027

But slopes behind us didn’t worry the three of us nearly as much as slopes beside us. Our guide was somewhat perplexed as to why one section was so scary to us while an equally difficult section was so easy.
colduphere is offline  
Old Sep 2nd, 2013, 11:52 AM
  #58  
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 11,656
Likes: 0
Received 7 Likes on 1 Post
Great report!
yestravel is offline  
Old Sep 2nd, 2013, 02:03 PM
  #59  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 57,091
Received 5 Likes on 3 Posts
funny, cold- that section at the end would have worried me much more than the ridge.

here's something from our own lake district to add to your nightmares - Striding Edge:

http://www.stridingedge.net/lake%20d...ing%20edge.htm

[and no, I've not done it - I'm much too much of a wuss to do that].
annhig is offline  
Old Sep 3rd, 2013, 06:03 AM
  #60  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 32,129
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Yestravel thanks for reading. Ann okay that’s another place off my list. I need to find places where U-turns are easy. By the way that warning message they give is the kind of message I suggested to our guide that they offer for the hike we were on. Nothing dramatic but some wording that tells the prospective hiker that a couple of places could be considered dangerous, especially in rainy and windy weather. I doubt they will provide such a warning.

We followed up the cat’s back with a fairly long climb. I think our guide was used to somewhat younger hikers. He predicted that the climb would take 30 minutes but it took some of us significantly longer. Mind you there really was no hurry. Unlike the Inca Trail for example we were not trying to get somewhere. The whole point of this hike was to be out there, looking around at the beauty. And the higher we went the more beautiful things became. At the start of the hike the glaciers were patches of white off in the distance. The higher we went the patches became huge expanses of white. We could see the texture of the surface much more clearly. I pointed to what I thought was a cross country ski trail or snowmobile trail. I was informed that it was a fissure. This was some fissure as it ran for miles.

Here is a picture of our long climb, which got quite steep at the end, but at least it was not dangerous. The guys in the picture are going the other way:

http://www.pbase.com/stebbith/image/99083619

We followed the climb with a flat section over loose rock. This area looked quite desolate. We were getting close to where the eruption had occurred in 2010. Increasingly we saw lava fields with steam coming off of them:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/3728761...n/photostream/

Just before lunch we came to a second spot that our guide had warned us about. There was a short bridge of rock with sharp drop-offs on both sides. Again we are talking about drop-offs of several hundred feet. But the bridge was several feet wide so we all felt comfortable going over it. At the end of the bridge was a 40 foot high piece of rock that ended with almost a steeple formation on top. I was glad to hear that we didn’t have to climb right to the top and possibly impale ourselves on the steeple. Rather we circled around the rock near the top. Great we’re done. That was easy.

Until we circled around the rock and saw what followed. A narrow trail dug into the side of a steep, deep valley. This was another “slip and roll for days” section. There were chains to hang on to on the left. Again the pictures don’t do it justice. And the guy in the picture is too relaxed for my liking. Several of us were more like the people behind him. Hanging on and tilting against the hill:

http://www.pbase.com/stebbith/image/99082126

But we survived and sat down for lunch shortly thereafter. The views we had most of the day:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/3728761...n/photostream/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tiktok-...n/photostream/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tiktok-...n/photostream/

The highlight of the afternoon walk was visiting the two craters formed by the 2010 eruption. This eruption occurred over a couple of months and in different places. I am not sure we fully understood the explanations of what happened as the sequence of events is quite complex. In any event we visited the newly formed craters of Magni and Móði. These craters erupted just before the principal crater of Eyjafjallajökull, and the lava is still steaming on parts of the surface. From a distance these craters looked like they would be quite a climb. But they were actually quite small and it only took a few minutes to reach the top.

This is a partial picture of the smaller crater. Surprisingly I can’t find any recent pictures on the Internet of the two craters:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/3728761...n/photostream/

After a further three kilometer walk or so we came to our hut. It was quite small and already half full. The kitchen was too small for the people there and the aroma of the place was not the best. But worse seven of us had to walk another mile past the hut to reach our supply truck that had our food. The truck could not make it all the way to our cabin given poor trail conditions. It had to stop at a cabin that was for day-use only. We had been warned that this would happen in the pre-hike communications.

When we finally got to this day-use cabin after crossing over several mini-valleys of snow (with a few dangerous looking crevices) our guide jumped on his phone and engaged in a couple of animated conversations. When he got off the phone he told us that he had negotiated our use of the day-use only cabin for that night. This was good news as this place was cleaner and roomier. The bad news was that we had to walk all the way back to the first cabin, get our stuff and two remaining members and then hike back again to the second cabin. Then when we got to the second cabin the guide asked three of us to walk another mile or so to collect some water out of a stream. By the end of all of this walking our youngest son and I had walked about 21 kilometers over rough terrain and with significant climbing. Everyone was tired. We ate a great meal of trout and went to bed at 9 pm.

The hut we didn’t want to stay in:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/93108868@N00/6359379767

Instead, off in the distance, we could see this day-use hut:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sigfus/...n/photostream/

The day-use hut had become pretty run down. In September 2012 they dragged in the replacement (the white hut) which we stayed in. It was quite nice. They got rid of the old one:

http://www.sunnlenska.is/frettir/10472.html
colduphere is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Your Privacy Choices -