Your complete guide to hiking the Kjeragbolten
One of the three most popular hikes in Norway
The first time I saw pictures of Norway it catapulted its way up my list of places to visit. A stunning country, home to some of the finest nature in Europe. A few of the places that show up again and again are the hanging boulder of Kjeragbolten, the flat rock of Preikestolen and the overhanging rock of Trolltunga. When Norway was finally booked these three hikes were the most anticipated parts of the trip, and due to their location all three would be done on consecutive days.
So let's start as we did...
Pt. 1: Kjeragbolten
Distance: 12 km (7.5 miles)
Elevation Gain: 570 metres (1,870 ft)
Hike Time: 6 to 8 hours
The easiest and most popular starting point for the majority of people is from the city of Stavanger. The journey does not require a ferry, so if you have a car the drive is 139 km (86 miles) and takes around 2.5 hours one way. There is also a bus direct from Stavanger.
Having our own vehicle and camping the night before we were able to get to the start point quite early. The start point for us was at the car park, though it is possible to save a bit of money and park further away for free. The road leading to the car park is quite narrow with a few pull ins, and what pull ins there were had cars parked in them already. If you can find somewhere to leave the car you'll save the 200 Norwegian Krone (equivalent to £20) parking fee, though you will extend your trek.
The sign read...
Before You Start:
- Good footwear is necessary for the walk.
- When the mountains are wet parts of the route can be very slippery.
- In icy conditions the trip is not recommended.
- The trip is not advisable in foggy conditions or in strong winds.
- It can be dangerous if you lose track of the red markers.
- Be prepared for the fact weather can change very quickly even on summer days.
- Due to the steep drops the tour is not recommended for small children.
And so we headed off. Less than 300 metres in and Mia's 'good footwear for the walk' completely gave up. Both soles tore away from the rest of her boot. Have you ever heard of both soles coming off at the same time? Well, now you have.
As soon as it began we knew it was going to be hard work. The wind was starting to pick up, and although we weren't exactly having to climb, there was a need to pull ourselves up with the chain ropes provided. At first it was quite steep, having to place your feet above knee height all the time on a long trek can cause wobbly legs, so we were taking it slowly.
Following the red arrows down into the first valley, we could see the trail snake its way to the next climb, and that was the theme of the whole hike, never really being able to see too far ahead. The views were of course spectacular.
Eventually we came to a sloping plateau where the landscape opened up. We were almost at the highest point with the ground to the right ending at the cliff edge with the mountains in the distance. The view to the right is Lysebotn, the little village a thousand feet down at the end of the Lysefjord.
I will point out that Lysebotn isn't easily visible, it requires going very close to the cliff edge in certain places, which on a windy or rainy day can be takes someone confident with heights and their own footing.
It was at this point that the wind felt relentless. Apart from the extra balance needed to compensate for the intense wind, it was the constant roar that I found most difficult.
In need of a break we crawled behind a small indent of cliff edge and had some lunch, not realising how close we were to the boulder.
We were asking ourselves how far could it be, or even where the trail was going, because on that plateau it doesn't look as though the boulder even fits into the surroundings. Then all of a sudden from nowhere it made sense.
The plateau dropped away into what was until that moment an unseen gully, which even in July had a sheet of ice on the ground. Climbing down into the large jutted rocks that make up the gully floor it wouldn't have taken much to turn an ankle. Especially because most people were looking straight ahead at the barely visible boulder.
Then there it is, the famous Kjeragbolten. As you face it the path naturally pushes you around to the left into a large open space where lots of people were sitting.
After 2.5 hours of hiking, climbing and fighting against the wind you have to decide if your shaky legs are going to step out onto the rock?
Despite how it looks it's actually really easy to get onto. There's almost a path onto it from behind the rock to the left, and because of its position the wind on the boulder was nowhere near as strong. I consider myself very sure footed and am confident when it comes to heights, but I must admit that even I had a moment before stepping out onto the rock. For one, after a strenuous 2.5 hour walk most people are going to be a little fatigued. There's also something about watching the people step out before you, giving you that extra moment to think about where you're going to place your feet.
After the photographs are taken and you've got your iconic shot, it suddenly kicks in that you're only half way through the hike. It was back through the gully and back onto the windy plateau we headed, the roar as deafening as before. Without stopping to take any photographs we got back to the car park in around 1.5 hours. The whole trek took around six hours including breaks and the time we spent at the boulder.
Difficulty: Challenging. Requires good physical condition. Quite a few miles with 570 metres of elevation change.
Distance: Between 10km & 12km depending on the source.
Hike Time: The sign at the start says it can be done in 5 hours. Generally between 6 and 8 hours with breaks but can of course be reduced if fitter or an experienced hiker.
My Opinion: One of the best hikes I've experienced. Challenging enough to be interesting but not too difficult or strenuous to become uncomfortable. Despite the wind we were so lucky with the weather, to have sunshine and blue skies. Knowing the weather brings the crowds we assume it was a busy day, but because of the landscape of the trek it never felt crowded on the route or even at the boulder.