Party at the Pulpit Rock
Hoo boy have I got a destination for you! Trust me, there is Norway you are gonna forget it.
Ha ha ha……ha…. Sorry.
Anyway, our goal today? – Neverdalsfjellet (Try saying that 3 times fast). A 700-meter tall mountain peak, boasting one of the non-official wonders of the natural world: Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock). A large overhanging rock that sticks out from the side of the mountain, giving you a monstrous cliff with more than a 600-meter sheer drop to the ground and possibly one of the most stunning views in the entire world. If you want to get there, much like any place in Norway, you are going to need a car. There is allegedly a bus as well, but I’ve no idea where it was hiding. You will need to get to, or already be in, the town of Stavanger. A beautiful little hamlet, famous for white houses and giant swords stuck in rocks.
You take the ferry from Stavanger’s harbour across the water to Tau, an arduous and slow ferry ride that lasts 40 minutes. Luckily the scenery is quite…. Scenic.
Once you land, you set off on about a half hour jaunt through a small town and its surrounds, before reaching the base of the mountain, where you then drive up a winding mountain road – Cutting out 270 meters of the 700-meter ascent. You will find parking and a decent sized lodge here in a magnificent spot, overlooking a valley and a fjord and right at the base of the hiking trail to the summit of the mountain. If you wanted a secluded, quiet and relaxing place for a holiday, I really can’t think of many better places I’ve seen. This will be your last chance to stop at the store where you can buy anything you have forgotten. This is a hike up an honest to god mountain, so I hope you came prepared. You will need good shoes, lots of water, food and to be physically fit. There is a moderate level of challenge required to reach the peak, with some fun boulder scrambling along the route.
It starts out easy enough. Definitely a steep incline and rocky to boot, but nothing overly spectacular or difficult for a mountain hike. The route at this point is often populated by elderly people, people walking their dogs and families with young children.
Don’t let this fool you. It is not long before the hike becomes more demanding.
The hills get more and more steep, the path more and more vague (no longer a path, really, just the following of a natural collection of rocks) and the rocks more and more large.
As you can see, by this stage it is no longer a walk, but a climb. There is a lot of fun to be had as you scramble and clamber up and around the rocks. At this point, it is worth noting that the path itself was is longer signposted at all. All we had to guide us were the people ahead of us, the occasional rock spray painted with a red T, and also cairns (that’s a pile of rocks built by someone). Old school baby.
At one point as I clambered up the mountainside, I arrived at an old Norwegian man standing still, seemingly stuck on a rock above me. Being the good Samaritan I am, I reached up and offered him my hand to help him down. He misunderstood, took my hand and yanked me up to his level. He thought I was the one asking for help. I had been thoroughly out man’d and we laughed about it for days afterwards.
The climb will take you up a rocky stream (careful of wet rocks!), and eventually open up to a wide rocky plain with some jaw-dropping views and two beautiful mountaintop lakes that would be fantastic to swim in. When we were there, the weather was wet, cold and sour, so we declined to take a dip.
Tired? But you still have 200 meters ascent to the top…
You will climb down a ways after this. Don’t worry, you haven’t gone the wrong way, you just have to put in more effort in climbing further up. You didn’t think this mountain was going to have any mercy, did you? For us, this was compounded by a sudden intense downpour that made climbing down on the slippery rocks very dangerous. The rain passed almost instantaneously once we reached the bottom of the slope – Leaving us cold, soggy and bitter.
Still, onward you must go! Follow the cairns (rock piles remember?). They are the only things left guiding you across the large open spaces near the summit.
The air was crisp and oxygen-rich, giving us a bit of a natural high that allowed us to push on through our mounting exhaustion. After a bit more scrabbling and climbing as well as walking up some steep rock slopes, you will arrive at a beautiful cliff side (not THE cliff side, but a cliffside). Follow the path leading perilously along the side of the cliff. Beware! There is nary a safety rail in sight.
We paused up here to drink in the oxygen high we were riding and also the view, and you should too. Also, I should mention that I love heights more than anything. Everyone else there was afraid of heights and kept their distance, and thus – I had the ledge all to myself.
Continue along the cliff edge a bit more and you will finally come upon your target, Pulpit rock itself. A bizarre, rectangular piece of rock, somehow staying attached to the side of the mountain and not falling off into the fjord, more than 600 meters below. It honestly looks like it was poorly superglued there by some lazy giant.
Once we all reached the rock, we sat down amidst the the gaggle of other hikers that were already there and caught our breaths for a good while. We took the time to eat our lunch, soak in the scenery and whatnot. It wasn’t really serene. Utterly spectacular beyond the scope of simple human words, but not serene. No matter what way you get to the top, this is the final destination for pretty much everyone else on this mountain, so it can get a little busy up here.
Honestly though. You can’t tell me this view is not worth the effort.
A very common mistake to make while mountain hiking, is to push yourself on the way up. Getting to the top and thinking “hell yeah! now I can relax” is an all too common error. While its true that you just climbed a mountain and exhausted yourself doing it – You are only halfway. You need to get back down the way you came, and climbing downwards is much more strenuous than going upwards. Our hands and butts both had pretty bad cases of road rash by the time we had slipped and slid our way down the huge rocks we had effortlessly bounded up just hours before. So remember to conserve your energy and save enough to get back down!
Still, if you are the outdoorsy type and want to see one of the best natural views that ever existed on the planet, there are much worse things you could do than make a trip to Pulpit Rock.