Norwegian Mountains, Sogn og Fjordane
Via Ferrata - Loen, Aug 28 2013
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A Via Ferrata is Italian for "iron road", and denotes a protected (steel cables, ladders, etc.) climbing route, predominantly in the Alps, but more and more found "everywhere". You climb a fixed route wearing a helmet, a harness and a via ferrata kit - a lanyard and two carabiners. For those interested, the internet is full of information, maps, routes, books, etc. about this increasingly popular outdoors activity.
According to Wikipedia, Norway has 5 Via Ferrata Routes; Røggjin - Hemsedal, Eggjapiken - Lom, Trolltunga - Odda, Hoven - Loen and Munken - Leksvik. Some of these locations have more than 1 route. And up to today, I had not been to any one of them...
Via Ferrata Loen
The main Via Ferrata route in Loen starts above Hotel Alexandra and runs up the ridge on the west side of the Tungegjølet gorge. At approx. 770m, a bridge stretches across Tungegjølet and allows you to finish your climb along a second ferrata route which starts on the far side of the bridge.
The bridge (opened Aug 24 2013) could very well be Europe's longest of it's kind (approx. 120m) and hangs 160m above the Gorge. Your relation to vertigo (if any) will be explored during your journey across.
You can rent guides and equipment at Loen Active in Loen. The guided trip begins in Loen, climbs the Via Ferrata route, passes the high point of the Hoven mountain and descends to Oppheim. The clients will be transported back to Loen. Check out their website for more information.
Our climb, Aug 28 2013
On this very day in August, the plan was to go to Loen after work and to climb the new Via Ferrata route - my first Via Ferrata route ever. My friends Lena and Terje came along and my girlfriend Anne met us in Loen to baby-sit my dog Karma. As much as Anne and me wanted to climb together, Anne had already climbed this route and volunteered to take care of Karma while we were on the mountain.
We left Hotel Alexandra at 4:41pm and Anne showed us the way up the winding forest road. We crossed the creek from the gorge at 175m and followed the forest path up to the first slab section with protection. This section is a good test; if you're uncomfortable - don't proceed!
0,35km meters later, we arrived at the platform which marks the starting point of the route. Moving along the cable was easy and handling the ferrata kit felt quite natural to operate. We quickly understood that this would be a most enjoyable evening...
The challenge increased slightly in the steepest wall of the route. It was tempting to climb as natural as possible but the rock was overall slick and we all ended up by using the wire to advance progress.
Personally, I liked the steepest section best. The overall route was perhaps a bit too easy for my taste and so it felt good to get some real air below us.
The highlight would surely be the new bridge (opened 4 days earlier) at approx. 770m. At first glance, the crossing looked intimidating and I had no idea how much the bridge would sway. I was the first one out and halfway across I got a bit nervous that the bridge and I would start swaying asynchronously until we went into an impossible opposite loop. The abyss below me was quite insignificant; I was only concerned about the potential sway.
I actually had to focus to shake off this twisted perception. By taking a good look at the stabilizing wires, my brain starting producing the right thoughts, and the crossing went OK. Another group (2 adults, 2 children) was just heading up the brand new route when I arrived at the platform.
Lena was next out and met her daemons along the way. She decided that crossing this gorge was not of great importance this very day and turned around. A wise move.
Terje was the last one out and did not seem very affected by the surroundings...
It was to return to the other side and this time the crossing was much easier. First and foremost because I already had done it once, but secondly because I let the carabiners slide along the cable above me, avoiding the constant clipping past the numerous vertical wires between the rails and the walkway.
Once across, Lena put up a brave face and I faced the option of applauding her decision or telling her that the rest of the day (and week) would be miserable because she didn't complete. I chose the latter and it didn't take a lot persuasion. It was almost as if she had come to the same conclusion already. And once Terje returned, Lena headed across. And this time, she turned around after reaching the other side...
Back on the route, we had one more vertical section before the ferrata route ended at approx. 890m. And the last wall was just as fun as the first...
From the end of the ferrata route, we followed a path 0,4km up to the top of Hoven (1008m). From here, we had a magnificent view of Loen and the Indre Nordfjord region.
We followed a marked path down to Oppheim, where Anne was waiting. The time was 8:26pm when we arrived there and we had been on the move for approx. 3h:45m. For a dog, this is a lifetime and we were all heartly welcomed by Karma...
Let me wrap up this trip report by paying my deepest respect and regards to the people who put their hearts, minds, time and effort into this project. For those who enjoy this route without renting guides for Loen Active, donations are encouraged. We didn't leave any money, but I hope that this trip report will be appreciated...
The pictures were taken with a Canon EOS 60D + EF-S 18-200mm F3.5-5.6 IS
(Full size images)
(Images scaled down.
On the ferrata route
Descent to Oppheim
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