Tungodden to Stokkevåg
An overnight hike along Steinsundøyna island of the Solund archipelago.
Nested at the mouth of the Sognefjord, Western Norway
Cradled by the North Sea, on the western coast of Norway, lies an archipelago of 1 200 islands. Solund is the western-most municipality in Norway and consists only of islands. This island cluster sits at the mouth of the Sognefjord, where Norway’s largest fjord cuts into the country.
This region is home to a rich fishing industry, due to the local geography and maritime conditions. Living from the sea is in their bones.
The landscapes in this region are quite exceptional. The mountains are bare and raw, exposing the rocks to all the elements found this far north in the world: cold winds and raging oceans, with lashing storms.
The denticulate coastline of Solund was carved by the same forces that forged Norway’s largest fjord: the Sognefjord.
The erosion began some 2.5 million years ago, during the Quaternary glaciation. Over time, the western drainage basin was dissected into valleys and fjords due to the erosive power of the monolithic glaciers that dominated Scandinavia during this time.
A weakness in the earth’s crust made this region particularly susceptible to glacial erosion and the deep Sognefjord valley tracks along fractures in the surface. The body of this ‘King of Fjords’ extends 200 km inland and cuts up to one kilometre deep in some areas.
This same glacial erosive process precipitated the serrated coast that lines the western shores of Norway, making way for a dramatic landscape.
THE HIDEOUT IN THE CLIFFS: In this little cove, Oda’s great-grandparents used to hide their liquor, as alcohol was declared illegal during the Norwegian prohibition referendum in 1919. Due to a severe backlash, the prohibition was overturned in 1926.
These docks are now a UNESCO Heritage Site and were rebuilt after a fire ravaged it in 1702. Their foundations date back to the 12th Century.
Hiking from Tungodden to Stokkevåg
Oda and I were embarking on an overnight hike on her very own island, Steinsundøyna. Steinsundøyna is one of the 1 200 islands that make up the archipelago municipality of Solund, so one of the many to explore. It stretches 9 kilometres from tip to tail and spans 5 kilometres wide. The southern peninsula of the island is relatively flat bedrock, dappled with freshwater rock pools. The north is more textured, with steep hummocks breaking out of the ground.
We are headed to the tallest peak on the island, Stokkevåg, perched comfortably at 219 meters above sea level. It rests comfortably at the edge of a cliff that looks north over the cold Atlantic.
Oda and I had been planning this trip for over a year, and what better place to start than the island she grew up calling her second home. The Tungoddens have lived off the land and sea here for the past 400 years.
We were eager to explore all the edges of it.
QUICK HIKING TIPS: It is very important to take breaks and remain hydrated while hiking. The lesson we learnt in Norway is to always put sunscreen on, even if it feels chilly. The sun can, and will, still burn you.
Camping on the Roof of the World
The midnight sun was fascinating. I could never get quite used to it. It’s a true spectacle to behold.
I have always had my days dictated by the sun. I followed its routine like clockwork. I am up by 6 am in summer. I eat at 7, am ready for the day by 8. I have lunch between 12 and 1, whether I am hungry or not, and by later afternoon I wind down. Don’t even try talking to me after 10 pm, as I will be sleeping. It led to a very structured, inflexible life.
But here, my structure dissipates. The days are long and sort of thin. I decide when I want to eat, sleep, shower, read… there is no clock hand dictating my decisions. My days roll around more of what I feel than what I think – a welcome change for me.
Perched upon the peak of Stokkevåg, Oda and I watched the midnight sun sink below the horizon. We breathed in the staggering beauty of it all, and we felt infinite.
The wind combed through our mountaintop grass. It felt like we were on the roof of the world. Mounds rose out of the ocean in the distance, but our precipice made us the king. We had a 360° panorama, and I felt like I could see into every corner of the world.
In the distance the gradient shifted from steel blue to grey, to white, as the last dregs of light drained from the sky, dragging the warmth away with it. Suddenly I was very aware of the wind. And with that, we snuck into our final layers and wormed our way into the sleeping bag.
For all the perks our Marmot tent had to offer, noise cancellation wasn’t one of them. The wind continued to rush across our rooftop, whistling through the teeth of the rocks that perched around us.
We fought hard for sleep, but sleep was stubborn.
CAMPING AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD: The summit of Stokkevåg is 219 metres, but it felt like it was at the top of the world. The North Sea spills out below and there is an unparalleled view of the quintessential Western Norwegian coastline.
THE MIDNIGHT SUN: Due to the axis and rotation of the earth, the days of summer in Norway are very long. We hiked up here just after the summer soltice - the longest day of the year. This is the sun setting at 11:45 pm over the North Sea.
Waking up for 4 am Coffee
It was past 12 am and the light in the tent maintained the perfect reading condition. We were able to succumb to our tired bodies for a few short hours, before the sun crawled over the horizon, stretching its eager fingers to wake us at 4:15 am. We tried to be stubborn, but the sun prevailed. Oda and I gave in and went to enjoy a spectacular sunrise.
Oda boiled the water and I prepare the condensed milk. Within fifteen minutes we were sipping sweet coffee, with a view fit for the gods.
We eased back into the thatch grass, tucked into our sleeping bags and watch the arctic sun rise and roll over the haggard horizon.
This early morning coffee formed a habit we would keep for the rest of our hiking trip in Norway. It was a moment to relish and reflect on our journey and the world around us.
After our coffee ritual, we did some yoga stretches with Oda leading the way, and myself trying desperately to keep up. Oda reached for her toes with ease, but my fingers dangle uncomfortably at my knees. It did do the trick though, and in no time our bodies were warm and the stiffness from the previous day was gone.
We packed up camp and set off in search of water. Our bottles had run dry, and I spotted a dam a few hundred meters further along the ridge of Stokkevåg. Once again, we followed no path, but our feet were growing more confident.
EARLY MORNING COFFEE: After a night of little sleep, we crawled out of the tent to watch the sun rise over the dappled islands of Solund. We drank a quick coffee mix of Nescafe instant coffee, hot water and condensed milk.
Getting off the Beaten Track
We waded through the grass, leaving shoelace trails on the mountaintop. We were sure no one had been here for ages. It was our spot. No one in Oda’s living memory had gone camping where we camped. This made me feel more intimate with the mountain. There are so few places on earth that humans have not flocked to. But on this hiking trip, we encountered no other human being.
A short time later we were successful in our hunt for water. We settled down near the dam for our second breakfast. Yes, the hobbits would be proud. It was 7 am, just the right time to tuck into a tomato and mackerel sandwich, followed by soup and a second cup of coffee. Even though the wind persisted, we stripped off our layers and took a quick dip in the pool. Refreshing.
Time to go home. Oda had us scale a 60°slope. My mind struggled to fathom what the human body can do. Unfortunately, my body struggled to fathom it too. I resorted to a clumsy scrawl to reach the top of the rock outcrop, wheezing and clutching my stomach as I got to the top.
The descent was not easier. I spied a fence someone had erected on this otherwise unmarked slope. My logic dictated that since there was a fence, people trekked up a reasonable path to erect it.
I have never been more wrong.
What began as a wide enough path soon twisted into a sludge of water, grass and sheep poop. Crevices opened in the ground for no reason, and it soon became clear that we were no longer following a human path.
Our track twisted closer to the bottom of the cliff on the right, and we approached the trees. Up until this point, I did not understand the fuss about the trees, but that soon changes.
The sheep’s path dove straight into the thicket.
Being lost, Oda and I had to follow. Since the path was made by knee-high four-leggeds, it was not suitable for our height. We knelt onto our hands and knees and crawled into the thicket, army-style. I could feel the branches scratch and my skin and pull at my bag. I prayed to every god I knew to not encounter any spiders. And I know many gods.
Eventually, we reached the end and we emerged from the twisted vegetation. I spotted a few spiders on Oda’s bag and whacked them away with a stick, but apparently, I was safe. I guess my praying worked. Thank Odin.
GETTING OFF THE BEATEN TRACK: Even though diverging from the path is not advised when hiking in the wilderness, there was no path here in the farmland. On Stokkevåg we were caught in the wild and had no man-made path to follow, so we followed the sheep.
Hiking to Hardbakke
We still had a great deal to descend, but it was an open landscape, so it went much quicker. Soon enough we were back amongst the tolling cow and sheep bells and on the dirt road. It would be another 5 km until we reached Hardbakke, the destination Heidi and Bertil would collect us from.
Even though we began with much enthusiasm and vigour, the flat road dulled our spirits. We managed to grab a ride with a man and his grandson, who courteously took in two smelly hikers for the last four km into the town.
Once we hit civilisation, we went straight to the market for pancakes and the restroom. That is not necessarily the order of preference. When we set down our bags and sprawled out on a bench, I realised how little rest I actually got during our first night of camping. Oda was optimistically suggesting another hike after the pancakes, but even she soon quietened down.
We ambled down to the docks to wait for her parents to collect us by boat. A patch of grass kept us company and soon carried us into nap-land until Oda’s parents woke us up an hour later. I was definitely a lot more rested.
EN ROUTE TO HARDBAKKE: Our hike ended in Hardbakke, a small village east of Tungodden. This was the official shopping island and is where the Tungoddens' would travel to for buying supplies and groceries.
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Created by Soninke Combrinck