I am always surprised by how the mother nature could wow me, which made me feel tiny, together with all my troubles and worries, they suddenly became small.
It was a trip celebrating an important moment of my life, and I was glad to share it with my family and good friends. We went to Norway – a country famous for its breathtaking scenery in nature: Fjords, alpine mountains, cliffs, waterfalls, northern lights, and so much more.
That day we headed out so early in the morning in Bergen for a full day Fjordtours glacier hiking tour. The beautiful view @ Norheimsund:
There was a thing, though: We booked the trip online, and the tour was on the weekend. We were asked to redeem the tickets before, yes we only arrived Bergen the night before. So we went 7:15 am in the morning and to my horror, the ticket office (which is absolutely in no way anywhere close to the bus stop – we had to run) opens at 7:30 am on the weekends, and the bus departs at 7:25 am!! We were waving vigorously outside the ticket office as there was an office staff inside, ignored us and looked away – we decided to run to the bus with our email confirmation (but not tickets) and explained what happened. In the end, the driver was kind enough to let us got on the bus.
Folgefonna is not necessarily the most famous glacier in Norway. The glacier is part of the Folgefonna National Park, and it is merely the third largest glacier in the country. I suggested going Folgefonna because it’s close to Bergen, locating on the west side of Sorfjord. Still, it took more than 3 hours to get there. First, we took a bus at the Bergen bus station to Norheimsund, then we took a speedboat to Herand, and took a bus again to go uphill and finally we arrived at the Folgefonna Summer Ski Center.
Once we had reached the center, some group-mates were already there. So we waited no time and geared up with hiking boots, Girdle straps (as we will be hooked up later during the hike), snowshoes and sticks. 🙂 Our guide gave us a brief introduction about the glacier, and I saw many visitors came to the ski center for snowboarding (apparently people can ski or snowboard in the middle of July – in short sleeves!). In fact, no matter in Norway, Iceland, or other countries, Glacier hiking is a summer activity.
Norway is famous for its spectacular Fjords. Many of Norway’s Fjords are found in the western section of the country. Originally formed in a valley by melting glaciers, Fjords are comprised of long and narrow bodies of water, often these are found on long rocky mountain coastlines. Famous Tourist spots and Unesco World Heritage sites include Geirangerfjord, Hardangerfjord, Sognefjord (Aurlandsfjordm and Nærøyfjord are part of the Norway in a Nutshell® tour, which will be posted on the blog soon) could be viewed on a breathtaking cruise.
A glacier is a slowly moving river of ice. Not all large block of ice is called a glacier, and it is formed after the snow accumulated over an extended period of time. When the snow gets deeper, the weight and pressure turn the bottom layer of snow into ice, the high pressure combined with the force of gravity causes the glacier to move. These movements crafted and shaped the face of the earth through erosion, formed lakes, and valleys, and served as the largest source of fresh water on the planet.
The hike was about 5 hours, and it’s not as challenging as I thought. However, we came for the view and it didn’t disappoint me. We gradually hike to the top which was about 1644m above sea level. There, we had lunch (we bought our fruits and sandwiches) and caught a glimpse of the blue ice of the glacier, which in fact cover an area of 213km2! From an underground, well source beside the glacier, water is transported to the other side of the fjord.
As mentioned before, the glacier is moving (although very slowly) and the movements could form gaps and cracks in the hiking trail that become an effective trap if covered by snow. So we were hooked up by a rope and walked in a line along the glacier ridge to avoid anyone falling in these cracks. We enjoyed a spectacular, unobstructed, panoramic view of the environment.
In the end, after an almost 5-hour hike we “ski” down the slope with our snowshoes and return to Bergen for a gorgeous sunset at the Fløyen!
So, what is so special about glacier hiking?
If you asked me what’s different about glacier trekking with ‘normal’ hiking:
It looked different. Unlike mountain hiking, it was an entirely different color theme. Everywhere I looked was in black-and-white. Besides, I had a clear, unobstructed view of the landscape covered with snowy-white ice.
The walk was different. It was not as challenging as I thought. Still, it felt different stepping on the soft snow that just fell the night before and trekking through the terrain with snowshoes. I wore the snowshoe in Finland and Iceland before, but that was my first hiking with snowshoes!
It tasted different! Yes… we did 😛 the day we went the glacier was covered a new layer of snow from the night before. As we walked, we could not resist having a taste of a nature snow cone! It’s the planet’s source of freshwater after all!
For the hikers:
It’s not so cold. As said, glacier hike is a summer activity that’s only available from mid-June to mid-August. Although we were surrounded by ice, it was not that cold on a clear day once the sun comes out and we were actively moving. A hoodie is excellent – some of us even took it off and wore only a t-shirt mid-way.
What to bring to a glacier hike? Suggested attire – it’s nice to have them but not a must: Water-proofing sportswear, gloves, and hiking boots. The site provides you equipment such as hiking boots (if they have your size), snowshoes, strap girdle, helmet and walking sticks. Sunglasses and sunblock, on the other hand, are a must. It’s a glacier, so no shades, no toilets, nowhere to hide. Prepare food and beverage for the hike. We brought some fruits (bananas, apples, and cherry tomatoes), sandwiches, and energy bars.
It’s safe. Reasonable precautions are required but the entire experience was accompanied by a professional guide, and it was completely safe. Just have fun!