Hiking & Camping Solo in Norway: Solrenningen - Ortnevik by Sognefjorden
Ahead of me was the last leg of this year’s Norwegian adventure. After a couple days of hiking on lower altitudes, through bushes, trees and general greenery, I was again to reach higher peaks and be surrounded by awe-inspiring grey views.
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After a longer break at the Solrenningen mountain shelter, I finally got myself going. I had quite the height to cover and there was no sense to stay down any longer.
The path was mostly fine – very steep at some points but generally providing nice climbing experience. Very soon I had views to admire and could see the shelter getting smaller and smaller. The trail marking was fine in the beginning but then I got confused at one moment. There was a river with beautiful waterfall and a kind of flat area with multiple possible paths. I still had no signal so ViewRanger was of no help. The paper map I consulted was not very helpful, too. I went this way and that to see if the path gets stronger anywhere but it was of no use. Finally I’ve noticed a red mark at a distance – the path was turning sharply left and crossing the river. Somehow I assumed it would be going straight or right – it just “looked” better (oh, me and my sense of direction!).
After another steep climb, I reached the top of the mountain ridge. The views were fabulous wherever I looked. I was again reminded how much I love that kind of scenery: bare, raw, rocky and Big.
As I reached the higher altitude, my phone started making sounds – I got a signal! I was flooded by messages and voice mails from my dear Norwegian friend to whom I was going – she was really nervous about me and had visions of me lying dead at a foot of a mountain. Of course, when I tried to contact her to let her know I was all good – the signal was gone. I was not worried at all because of the lack of signal for the past three days but now when I knew others worried (she called the Police! Other friends started to search news of a tourist dying in accidents in Norway!), I got really anxious. My texts were not going anywhere and I worried Police started to look for me (the good thing was, the Police were not as anxious and although they got my description – the pink hair must have raised some eyebrows – they did not start a search and rescue operation, thank goodness).
I kept on walking but was checking the phone pretty often. I also wanted to load more map for my ViewRanger and the UT.no map (a great help) for extra support.
The area was fantastic and walking was pretty easy (for Norway) – the rocks were huge and round with moss and small bushes, not much of loose rocks or boulders to climb. I started to look around for a spot for my tent – which was not an easy thing. There was hardly any flat or even area outside of rocks. My tent is not free-standing so I can’t pitch on a rock. It took me quite a while to find somewhat OK-ish spot. It was a bit uneven and on some low bushes but the view around compensated for all that.
I went to take some water for my dinner from a small pond not far away. There was a stream, too, but it was too soft to gather enough water. While I was walking around my camping spot, I was able to catch signal again – on a peak a 100 m away. I sent messages to all concerned folks, for whatever reason the Internet worked better than regular text messaging. I even managed to send a photo of the happy me, alive and well, on top of a mountain. My friends were all relieved I was fine and I could relax and focus on preparing my evening meal.
My dinner was the standard go-to: rice noodles and powder cheese soup (with extra protein). Nothing special but it’s a delicious dish when you are tired and eat it while sitting on a rock, watching the most beautiful view ever. After that I could walk around and take crazy number of photos of the surrounding me area, including some silly jumping ones.
Thanks to reconnecting with the world, we realized that there was some misconception about the dates between me and the friend who was waiting for me. She thought I was to come earlier than I did. I decided to cut the trail a bit and walk to Ortnevik the fastest route possible. My friend was on vacation at the time and it would be great if I could stay with them when she had more free time.
When I settled in my tent, the sky filled with dark grey clouds. I was not concern too much in the beginning, as many times dark clouds were just for show with no rain fallowing. But with every minute passing, the clouds were rolling by faster and faster, some almost black, some clear, some lead colored.
When the sun started to set I was a witness to spectacular show of colors. At one time it looked like a fiery oven opened above me – all in oranges and red. Then it started to rain. Then grumble and growl. My anxiety started to grow: I was on an open rocky field, with no protection whatsoever. I was not on the highest point – there were a few higher peaks not far from me – but there was no obvious high tree or such to collect thunders.
And soon I had a full on thunderstorm over me. I switched off the phone and tried hard to remember if there was anything else I could do to protect myself better. I could hear thunders cracking and counted seconds between the lightning and the sound. I was absolutely terrified.
I was lucky – the storm never came exactly over my head but I was exhausted after that anxious night. The night was filled with pouring rain but the tent was basically dry in the morning – thanks to high winds. I was ready to go to my friend – even that same day.
I saw on the map that there was a shortcut trail to Ortnavik with no need to go through the mountain shelter at Norddals.
The weather was gloomy and cold but with no rain. After about an hour of hiking through the beautiful rocky area (I’m in love with this landscape!) I stopped for a breakfast and coffee. There was a fast-flowing mountain spring at that spot, perfect to collect water and clean the dishes after.
It started to sprinkle a bit while I was eating but I decided to ignore it – there is nothing wrong with a bit of rain on your food, right?
Just then a fast hiking man came along. He was a Brit who said was trying to go to Ortnavik to catch a ferry at 4:30 pm. He was also to use the shortcut. After a short talk I realized it was actually possible I could catch the last ferry! The fact that he wanted to go the same way strengthen my belief it was not a stupid idea to use the non-major trail. I googled (gods bless the Internet) the ferry and saw the last one was at 5:45 pm. It was around 10:30 am at that moment so it seemed more than doable!
I didn’t spend as much time at this break as usual – not just because of the newly fed desire to reach Ortanvik faster but also because the rain started to get a bit too hard.
A few minutes later it was not just rain but a steady river flowing down the sky, including hail and strong wind. I tried to put on my rain pants as fast as possible but it’s not easy when the wind is hard and the zippers seem to go the wrong direction. I hid my big camera safely in the backpack and switched to taking photos only with my waterproof phone.
I put the rain covers on completely soaked pants but it wasn’t really a problem – I started to feel warmer right away.
I actually felt great walking in this weather. It felt raw and adventurous, filled with drama and Nature’s power. I guess it helped that it was only raining - no thunders anywhere around. I reached the trail junction showing a shortcut down to Ortnevik. Happy to see such clear marking I turned right and got lost only some 200 m in. The trail marks simply disappeared. There was no path as the trail leads over rocks so you can’t just follow the footsteps of others. I was retracing my steps multiple times, finding my way through rocks, boulders, snow patches and streams. Newly loaded map on View Ranger helped a lot with figuring out the correct direction. I tried to walk as fast as I could, with the Holy Grail of catching the last ferry on my mind.
I let my friend know that I have a chance to catch it – she needed to know at least an hour ahead of time to pick me up on the other side of the Sognefjorden.
I would love to tell you I flew throught the trail but it was not the case. I hoped it would be all straightforward downhill walk to the valley but nope. The trail was difficult and didn’t lack climbs on rocky paths or crossing streams in spate. Oh, and did I mention the huge patches of slippery snow threatening to break any moment under you?
Yet, I still had big hopes for catching the ferry. Some of the easier parts I speed walked or almost run (I’m serious!) and I probably would have caught it… if it weren’t for the last section. I reached a point where I could see the Fjord and started descending to the valley. The path was sometimes visible at other times simply disappeared. It took me down an almost vertical wall of jungle-like growth, with fallen trees, sudden drops, slippery and muddy ground and probably a troll or two, here and there.
Minutes were flying by and I had to tell my friend if she was to call the ferry and let them know weather I was coming or not. The last ferry would stop at Ortnevik only if someone booked the crossing.
Finally, with tears in my eyes, I had to let my friend know that I wouldn’t make it. I just couldn’t believe it – I was almost running, with no break for a snack or a breather. I was doing so well – climbing over rocks, crossing snow and jumping through streams – and the few hundred meters of descend through the thick growth won.
That’s the kind of moment when you just want to quit. I was deflated, all my energy spent, and motivation gone. But I couldn’t just sit in the thick greenery – I had to move on and find a spot for a night rest. I was dirty and tired. I was glad I had my rain pants on, as I slipped a few times on the mud and my legs were covered in it. My, supposedly waterproof, boots were soaked and cold when I was not moving. It took a lot of strength on my part to pull myself together and keep on going down the devilish slope.
If you ever hike this way – don’t take the shortcut. Go the main trail through Norddalshytten and Brydalsfjellet.
It took me crazy long to finally reach a coniferous forest. Finally, it was easy to walk with no bushes, thorns, thick grasses and fallen trees. I hit a fence and started to feel anxious about the chance to find a hidden spot for my tent as I was reaching the village of Ortnavik. I followed the fence down and reached dried river bed. There was a wildish-looking cow pasture next to it and I found a spot right next to a tree line on a kind of a dirt road. I thought I wold have a dry camp as the river bed was all rocks but then I noticed rubbery pipes going along it. Somewhere up the slope must have been a dam or such to collect water and run through pipes to an underground collector or a reservoir of some kind. There was a small open pipe where I could collect water like from a tap. Yay!
I tried not to think much about the disappointment of not catching the ferry and how much better it would have been if only I took the regular trail. All those “what ifs” can make a bad mood even worse. I tried to focus on the positives – I made it out of the Norwegian jungle, I had a view toward the fjords, I had water for my dinner and a pretty good spot (between cow droppings) for my tent.
I went to sleep and set up my alarm clock for 7:30 am to have plenty of time to reach the ferry – there was still a lot of village to walk through.
In the morning I didn’t care about the condensation and dew as I was not going to camp another night. I just stuffed everything in, put the still wet boots on and marched on. The day was brilliant with sun shining and hardly any clouds. Mountains towering over the village created deep shade.
I was surprised how tiny Ortnevik was. There were only a few farms, a church, a store (closed at the time), and a fish farm. I had plenty of time and could relax waiting for my transport.
The price for the ferry crossing was surprisingly cheap – only 52 NOK. It was not a long trip, of course – just on the other side, some 30min. But it was a ride over the famous Sognerfjorden! What a great way to see the beautiful fjords on a budget – just get on a regular, local ferry and pay as for a bus, instead of tourist-oriented cruises.
Can you imagine this to be your daily commute? My goodness the views! And it was just 30 min across the fjord! :)
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I reached my destination: Nordeide, where my friend was already waiting for me.
And so my big hiking adventure ended. Although I did one more day hike later on and then had some fantastic car drives with my friends (Glacier! – read soon!), this was really it for the summer solo hiking & camping trip. I had a fantastic time and fell in love with the Norwegian mountains. I am sure to go back there – to walk through another piece of this fantastic land.
Mileage, Maps, and gear:
From Solrenningen to a wild camp: 3, 5 km; height gain: about 600 m. Max. altitude: 1098 m.
From the wild camp above Solrenningen to a wild camp at the outskirts of Ortnevik: 16 km, height gain: 649 m, height loss: 1573 m. Max. altitude: 1220 m.
In the maps (click to see them in full size) below you can see the general area and then close ups of the sections to see the terrain better. The screen shots were taken from this fantastic website.
If you wonder what one needs to hike safely solo - check this packing list for hiking and camping solo in Norway!