I am always surprised by how mother nature could wow me, which made me feel tiny, together with all my troubles and worries, they suddenly became small.
I was in Norway in the summer and it was my celebration trip of an important moment in my life. I was glad to share it with my family and good friends! My friends and I visited Norway – a country that is famous for its breathtaking natural sceneries and phenomenon, from Fjords, alpine mountains, cliffs, waterfalls, northern lights, to so much more.
So one morning, we headed out really early in Bergen in the morning for a full-day Fjordtours glacier hike. We booked the trip online, and the tour was on the weekend. It was then I realized we were required to redeem tickets at the ticket office before getting on t bus. The tricky thing was, we arrived in Bergen at night after the ticket office closed the day before, and the bus left Bergen at 7:25 am, which is 5-minute before the ticket office opened!
The ticket office is nowhere near the bus stop, and I only realized that when we were at the ticket office at 7:15 am. We saw someone in the ticket office, we were waving like mad people outside at the door, and somehow he chose to completely ignore us. While we didn’t want to miss the bus, we decided (and it all happened in 10 minutes) to run to the bus station with only our email confirmation (that was printed) and tried to explain what happened. We were able to jump off the bus in the end, and the driver was kind enough to let us in… but man, it was a stressful 15 minutes in our lives.
The bus took off on time and then we calm ourselves and get some much-needed rest from the run. The trip to Folgefonna will be a bus – ferry – bus journey. Our first stop is to hop on the speedboat at Norheimsund, where we took some pictures of the stunning view.
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.
Folgefonna consists of three glaciers, namely the Nordre (northern) Folgefonna, Midtre (central) Folgefonna, and Søndre (southern) Folgefonna. The southern Folgefonna is the main glacier with an area of 167 sq. kilometers. In total, it has an area of 207 sq. kilometers, and the Folgefonna National Park was established in 2005. The summer skiing resort is located in the northern region.
I suggested going to Folgefonna because it’s close to Bergen, located on the west side of Sorfjord. Still, it took more than 3 hours to get there. First, we took a bus from 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.
Glaciers and Fjords in Norway
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 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.
Folgefonna Glacier Hike
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 besides 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 is 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 from ‘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.
Walking down by the water, you may also get to see the blue ice in the water, which is a really special sight that doesn’t like a typical hike in the mountains.
- 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!
Furthermore, for the safety of the hike, we wore a helmet, and we were connected by a rope. All in all, it is a unique and completely new experience for those who never walk on glaciers.
- It tasted different! Yes… we did 😛 the day we went the glacier was covered with 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 fresh water after all!
Something hikers should know
- 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.
- Know your limit. Walking on uneven terrain could be physically challenging. While it may not look that tough, you need a certain level of physical strength to walk up the glacier. Pace yourself and know your limit or you may exert yourself for going too far.
- 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 with 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.
- Be Prepared. Still, check the weather and road condition before going on a hike. While we join a guided tour that they will also make sure that weather condition is suitable for hikers to go on, but it’s important to be alert and prepare to face unpredictable situations.
- It’s safe. Reasonable precautions are required, and you should never go on a glacier hike alone. Having said that, the entire experience was accompanied by a professional guide, and it was completely safe. Just have fun!