Hiking in Tromsdalstinden

Hiking in Tromsdalstinden
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By Michael Holtermann, co-written and edited by Kenneth Kiesnoski for Faces of Scandinaiva.

Norway may have a lot to recommend it, and everyone – visitor and native alike – has his or her favorite attraction, activity, area, or other aspect of this very special country. But I think all would agree that Norway’s unrivaled scenery is its special calling card. If forced to pick a particular favorite spot or pastime to point visitors to, I’d direct them to Tromsdalstinden, a spectacular mountain within walking distance of the northern port of Tromsø that holds very special memories for me.

Now a graphic designer living in New York City for last two decades, I grew up in much more bucolic surroundings, in the picturesque Trøndelag region just outside Trondheim. Before ultimately heading for the Big City across the pond, I started my higher education as a student of music in an even more remote and northerly locale. You guessed it: Tromsø. It’s a small but sophisticated port city above the Arctic Circle some 725 miles north of my hometown. One of its greatest advantages? When you’re in Tromsø, nature’s literally right at your doorstep.

An example? While studying at the local conservatory, I lived in the suburb of Tromsdalen, just behind Tromsø’s stunning Arctic Cathedral, at the foot of Storsteinen, a 1,381-foot peak you can ascend via the hair-raising but perfectly safe Fjellheisen cable car. The ride’s popular with locals and tourists alike for its stunning views of the area, but my classmates and I often rode up in early spring for – sunbathing, of all things. Toting food, drinks and insulated mats, we’d ride up to the still-snowcapped summit, dig holes in the snow, lay down a mat and then strip down ourselves to soak in some rays. If you do the same, take care: Despite chilly temperatures, blazing sunshine plus highly reflective snow can equal a quicker-than-expected burn on this Arctic “beach.”

And in warmer months, we’d get more ambitious. Here’s where Tromsdalstinden comes in. One of our favorite things to do in late summer or fall would be to strike out across the Tromsdal valley for that 4,000-foot-plus peak. (An 8-hour-or-so trek, it’s a popular hike, but be sure you start early, wear good shoes, and bring plenty of drink, and – in the autumn – mosquito repellent.)

It’s easy enough to begin with: There’s one well-marked road up, initially, through a wooded area, and the ascent isn’t too tough. Eventually, you leave the trees behind and strike out across the first plateau, a heather-rich stretch known as “Loftet” or Attic, marking the beginning of the peak proper. Climbing the first ridge of the mountain – the most strenuous part of the hike – you’re treated to the magnificent views that unfold: The cityscape of Tromsø on the island of Tromsøya, and farther out, the islands of Kvaløya, Ringvassøya, and Sommarøy. Eventually, you reach the summit – a real peak with sharp drops on all sides. In Norwegian, we have an expression that from the top of Tromsdalstinden, you can see seven church parishes in their entirety. And it’s true: There’s an unobstructed, 360-degree view in all directions. There’s also a stone beacon or cairn on the top of the mountain. Underneath, there’s a book, wrapped in plastic, in which you can inscribe your name to commemorate your visit.

Taking in the view, surrounded by silence, it’s hard not to think of life, and the world – and particularly Norway – as beautiful. This isn’t a place to chat; it’s more a spot for reflection and contemplation. On your good fortune, to be in Norway.

Photo credits (in slideshow on top of page): Bård Løken © Destinasjon Tromsø; Innovation Norway; Wikipedia Common.

Music in this video by Saami singer Mari Boine

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