Trolltunga is a spectacular stone protruding from vertical cliffs directly over a 700 meter drop to Ringedalsvatnet.
In 2009 Trolltunga was virtually unknown. In 2016 more than 100.000 visitors are expected making this one of the most popular hikes of Norway along Besseggen and Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen).
It is however also a tough walk, much tougher than most of those attempting it thinks. Hikers with jeans and flip-floppers are not uncommon on the trail, a recipe for disaster since it is a tough area of Hardangervidda, requiring full four-season equipment: The landshape is barren, the weather is rough and unpredictable with frequent snowfall even in summer. Even in mid-August snow fields are still present. This summer, mountain rescue was called 3-4 times a week, placing the voluntary mountain rescue service sunder major strain.
The area around Trolltunga is overcrowded, and around midday there may be queues of several hundred hikers around the base including the short access ladder. In 2015 a woman fell to her death from the base.
The day I was at Trolltunga, the weather was reasonably rough, temperatures approaching zero and strong winds. I saw many hikers in jeans or shorts and flip-floppers. Unsurprisingly I learned later that mountain rescue had been activated twice that day. Several solutions have been discussed including restricting the access to the trail. However free access to the National Parks is a cornerstone for many Norwegians.
But why not benefit from this success and build a hut near Trolltunga? Or a shelter? Both solutions would prevent the majority of rescue operations. Or what about a coffeeshop such as the one on top of Galdhøpiggen?
Curiously there is a sign right at Trolltunga pointing to the hut Reinaskorbu, which also appears in some map and I met several people planning to overnight there on their way up on Hardangervidda from Skjeggedal. However the Reinaskorbu hut is closed.
99% visit Trolltunga on a one day hike from Skjeggedal and back.
I came from the opposite direction, from inside the Hardangervidda, doing a 3h return hike from the Tyssevassbu hut before continuing down the Hardangervidda to Litlos. Less than 0,1% come from this direction and the trail is rocky with several snowbridges to cross, 2,5 hours one way.
Strangely, the last 500m of the route is completely unmarked. Perhaps there are concerns that the hundreds of dayhikers may take the wrong turn going back from Trolltunga, heading towards Tyssevassbu and Hardangervidda instead of down to Odda.