Visit norway, part 2: The rauma Valley and the troll path: For lovers of outdoor activities, mountaineering and spectacular views.
Picture above: Åndalsnes town centre with the Mountaineering Museum.
This is the second out of two blog posts about the Møre og Romsdal county in Norway. The first one was about Molde and the Atlantic Road. Today I want to write a little bit more about the surroundings around my home town Åndalsnes and about MY valley, The Rauma Valley, with its famous mountains.
All-in-all, Norway is a country with a great tradition for outdoor activities all year round, but I believe Romsdalen (The Rauma Valley) is particularly well known among people from the rest of the world. It's a magnet to mountain-climbers, parachuters and base-jumpers, and especially Åndalsnes and the municipality of Rauma has a high number of visiting climbers and base-jumpers from all over the world, especially in the summer. My childhood and teenage years were filled with exciting events around these people - mostly young men, but also a few women - who came to my homestead to try and conquer the most famous mountain of them all: Trollveggen, or The Troll Wall. Handsome young men with climbing gear over their shoulders was a rather common, but interesting sight for a young girl, and my home town has bred quite a few rather famous climbers.
Hans Christian Doseth is one of them. Sadly, he died in a climbing accident in Pakistan, while climbing the Trango mountain, when he was only 25 years old. I remember watching him once as he was practising his free-climbing technique in the mountain just above the house where I lived. It was fascinating to watch his technique! Many others could be mentioned here, but Hans Christian Doseth stands out, which I'm sure all who knows something about climbing will agree on. (References and links to read more: Go HERE.)
Another famous mountain climber from Romsdal is Arne Randers Heen. He is one of the pioneers, and I person I have always admired. Not only for his achievements as a climber, but for his modesty and wisdom. He worked as a tailor in Åndalsnes, and had his workshop in the town centre. I delivered the newspaper to him for a couple of years, and he was always friendly, but didn't say much when I popped in with the paper. He was usually busy with his work.
Arne Randers Heen is known for several first ascents, and his many ascents of Romsdalshorn, including the first winter climbing of the mountain. He was Norway's leading mountaineer from the 1920s to the 1950s. He was mostly autodidact in mountaineering, and an unconvential outsider to a sport defined by Norsk Tindeklubb in Oslo's west suburbs. He didn't have a single accident during his life in the mountains. In 1926 he climbed solo (alone) the south wall of Romsdalshorn, at the time a groundbreaking achievement. (References and links to read more: Go HERE.)
What to see in Åndalsnes
When you're in Åndalsnes, I highly recommend a visit to Norsk Tindemuseum - The Mountaineering Museum. To quote themselves: "The Norwegian Mountaineering Museum gives you an exciting experience and insight into local, national and international events throughout the history of mountaineering." The museum displays historical objects as well as interactive installations, inviting you to explore and play, regardless of age.
The museum also arranges guided trips or lend out equipment if you're experienced and want to go your own, for instance if you want to climb Romsdalsstigen - the Via Ferrata. Romsdalsstigen consists of two adventurous climbing trails: the Intro wall and the West wall. Both of them are equipped with steel wires and iron steps, and you're guaranteed a spectacular view of the Romsdalsfjellene mountains if you decide to challenge yourself with climbing one of these rock walls! With the right equipment, you can do it!
Find out more about the Via Ferrata and many other outdoor experiences in Åndalsnes and Romsdalen by checking out the references and links HERE.
The Rauma River
The Rauma River is the river that runs through Romsdalen, which (as I've mentioned earlier) is a valley in Møre og Romsdal and Oppland counties. It runs for 68 kilometres (42 mi) from Lesjaskogsvatnet, a lake in the municipality of Lesja, down to the town of Åndalsnes in the municipality of Rauma. This is where I grew up. The river was once famous for its salmon-fishing, but since an infection with Gyrodactylus salaris, only 5 to 10 % of the original stock survived. The authorities have spent many years trying to cure the river. The salmon runs up to the Slettafossen, a 16-metre (52 ft) high combination of waterfalls, and rapids more than 42 kilometres (26 mi) upriver from the estuary. I remember vividly how the bridge by Åndalsnes Camping, the Grøttør bridge, was filled with anglers in the summer. It was a good spot for catching some very big salmon!
The Grøttør bridge and Åndalsnes Camping.
The Rauma River and its valley are - I'm proud to say! - regarded as one of the most beautiful in Norway. The river runs very clear with a green tint, and the mountains tower some 1,500 to 1,800 metres (4,900 to 5,900 ft) above the river in the lower and middle parts of the valley. The Reinheimen National Park and the Trollveggen cliff (The Troll Wall) are both located along the southwestern shores of the river through the municipality of Rauma. T
The Rauma Valley - Romsdalen
The Romsdalsalpene mountains surround the river and the valley, including the mountains Store Trolltind, Store Venjetinden, Trollryggen, and the Romsdalshornet mountain. The Rauma Line railroad follows the river through the valley on its way north to Åndalsnes. The railroad crosses the river on the Kylling Bridge at the village of Verma, and this is one of the most beautiful railway bridges in the world, in my opinon.
Watch out for Trolls...!
Åndalsnes is the perfect starting point for a trip to Trollstigen - The Troll Path. This is really a must for anyone who visits Åndalsnes. If you're scared of heights it might be a challenge, but if you want great experiences, moving outside your comfort zone is sometimes necessary. So come with me to the valley of Trolls ...
Of course, you can easily reach this destination from Molde, Ålesund or Geiranger, too. In fact: A round-trip to see all of these places in one day is absolutely possible. However, I think Molde and Ålesund are towns where you should stop for a while, as there are lots of things to see and do there. But if you're short on time, a round-trip that covers all of these places is totally doable if you start early and are prepared to spend the whole day and arrive at your ending point late in the afternoon. I wouldn't want to rush it. Making plenty of stops and taking time to eat and drink and really enjoy the scenery, is what you should do.
As for me, I started my round-trip in Molde, where I currently live, early one Sunday morning. I drove through the Bolsøy Tunnel, which goes under the sea, and then across the Bolsøy Bridge, where I sometimes go fishing with my friends and which is another of the scenic roads in this country, - although not so much talked about or promoted to tourists as The Atlantic Road or The Troll Path.
A bit further along, I caught the ferry from Sølsnes to Åfarnes, and then drove on through Isfjorden to Åndalsnes.
Romsdalen and The Troll Path
My valley - my mountains. There's nothing like home!
The Rauma River was classified as a protected water-course in 1992, and the only main tributary affected by hydroelectric power is the Verma River with the over 300-metre (980 ft) Vermafossen falls. The biggest tributaries are the Ulvåa and Istra rivers. The Istra runs through the Ister Valley, which is well known for Trollstigen Road - or The Troll Path, which it's also called - in its upper parts.
Trollstigen was the main destination for my road-trip, and I can't even begin to describe how happy I was to finally visit the Istra Valley again. It had been a while, but I was delighted to find that it hadn't changed at all. The Trollstigen Gjestegård was already there the last time I came, and is a positive contribution to the vally with its many service facilities - toilets, souvenir shop, information desk, restaurant, guest cabins - a great "pit stop" for all the visitors who come through here on their way to Trollstigen. I was one of them, and I must say that I really appreciated the opportunity to stop and use the "rest room" for a couple of minutes before I started on the winding road up the mountain.
Once again I was very lucky with the weather. The traffic wasn't too heavy, as I was making this trip quite early in the summer, so I could more or less stop anywhere along the road to take pictures, without causing a traffic jam. A luxury, really, considering the amount of visitors that normally drive through this valley during the summer season. But the road is closes in the winter and seldom opens before the end of May / beginning of June due to huge amounts of snow in the mountains, so I benefitted from the fact that it was early in the season.
I took my time up the mountain, because I wanted to make the most of it and shoot many pictures for The Passionate Globetrotter magazine and also enjoy the view to the fullest. There are several places where you can stop and do that without disturbing anyone else, so I made the most of it and stopped wherever I could. The higher up I came, however, the fewer stops were made, because I'm a little bit scared of heights and the road is narrow in some places, and with only some rocks doing the job as a railing between my car and the valley below, I didn't particularly want to go too near to the edge of the road to shoot pictures ... So after having decided that enough was enough, I drove on to the top.
The Stigfossen waterfall at Stigfossen bridge, on the Trollstigen Road.
Since I last visited Trollstigen, there have been quite a few changes when it comes to the tourist facilities. The former cafeteria and souvenir shops have been replaced by some modern, but very nice looking buildings that blend quite well in with the surroundings, in my opinion. So I wasn't at all disappointed when I set eyes on them. There have also been built "floating" pathways all the way from the cafeteria- and souvenir shops area down to the recently built ramps or view-points where you get a breath-taking view to the road and valley below. The most spectacular view-point is easily accessed by steps that have been built all the way down to the platform, and I must say that I could feel a few butterflies iin my stomach as I approached the railing to take a few pictures of the valley and the zig-zag road below... With only a glass wall between me and nature, I had to silently convince myself that I was safe and that I wouldn't fall down unless I insisted on climbing the railing or forcing my way through the solid glass. So I tried to look relaxed and shoot my pictures without making a fuss, and then went back the same way that I came. On my way down I spotted a young father in front of me who was just leaving his baby's pram on top of the steps and carried the baby in his arms all the way down to the view-point (see second photo below), and I just hoped to God that he would hold the baby firmly in his arms and not lean over the railing with him or her ... I would have screamed if he had done that! But of course he didn't.
Bird's view of The Troll Path - The Trollstigen Road - from the view-point.
There were people of all sizes and nationalities in Trollstigen that day, so it seemed, and more cars in the parking space than I had expected, considering not having seen many on the way up. But there was plenty of space in the cafeteria and quite easy to find an available seat outside, as well. So I bought myself a waffle and sat for a moment in the sun, before I headed back to my car and moved on towards Valldal.
Since I had decided to make a round-trip, I had thought of going to Geiranger and then further on to Ålesund, but I was a bit tired that day, so I didn't do that after all. I decided that I'd just stop at a few attractions along the way and have a meal somewhere, and then take the shortes way back to Molde. So that's what I did.
My first stop after Trollstigen was at Gudbrandsjuvet, about half-way to Valldal. There were a couple of tourist buses in the parking area, and quite a few other cars, but I managed to squeeze my car in between a very stylish BMW Convertible and some other car. There was another sleek looking sports-car as well, - also a BMW, - so I couldn't resist taking a few pictures ... I didn't care much about cars before, but I've come to appreciate them more over the years, especially sleek looking cars like Jaguars, Bentleys, Porshe, Ferraris and old Morgans. Some day I'll have one myself ... But for now, I'm doing all-right with the one I have, and as long as it gets me from A to B in a comfortable manner, I'm not complaining...
So there I was, at Gudbrandsjuvet. Again, it was made accessible by bridges and pathways through the terrain. I stopped on the bridge just above the roaring waterfall and got my pictures. There was a cafeteria there as well, a very modern looking building with glass walls all around for a perfect view under all weather conditions. These modern designs semme to be the new trend now, in all the tourist attractions in the area. That's fine, I guess, and they're all well integrated with the surroundings, as far as I've been able to establish ... But I'm not sure that I like this trend 100 %. I mean: Accessibility is great. Modern design is great. Innovation is great... But do they all have to look the same?
I don't know... When I go abroad, I search for authenticity, the things that are typical for the area... the local traditions. That's what I want to see and experience. And of course: The attractions we have here, in my county and in Norway as a whole, are unique in many ways. The scenery compares to nothing else and is what people come here for, more than anything else. And I guess we need to upgrade the facilities to be able to meet the demand and the increasing number of visitors. But I hope we don't end up using the same mold for all of them, because then we'll lose our uniqueness.
Pathway down to Gudbrandsjuvet.
The modern service building at Gudbrandsjuvet, with cafeteria, souvenir shop and toilets.
That being said: Møre og Romsdal county is a great region to visit and is an eldorado for anyone who loves beautiful scenery, spectacular views, scenic roads, plenty of activities both indoors and outdoor, great adventure, good food, cultural events, fjords, mountains, rich traditions and modern designs in an exciting mix, arts and crafts, great hotels, - and so much more!
Like I said in my previous blog: I'm shamelessly proud of my home county and what we have to offer here, and I won't hesitate to recommend it as a destination for anyone, whether you're a solo traveler, a couple, family with children, or a group of friends.
Take a look at the references and links HERE and be amazed!
There are such a lot of professional and enthusiastic people in this region who are just waiting to welcome you to their establishments and give you experiences you will never forget!
I also recommend that you take a look at my video-clips from this road-trip and other trips. You can find them HERE.
I hope this blog post has inspired you to come and visit Norway and Møre og Romsdal. Rest assured that what you've just read about here is just the tip of the ice-berg. There is so much more! I haven't yet told you about Ålesund ... or Kristiansund ... or all the other great places, so there's a lot to explore! I will tell you more about Ålesund in a future blog-post, so stay tuned!
If you enjoyed this blog-post, feel free to comment below and / or share it with others! (The blog post was first published as an article in my travel magazine The Passionate Globetrotter.)
Hi, I'm Else Kosberg, a Norwegian woman who is passionate about travel, languages, photography & filming, and learning about other people and cultures. I'm a writer, motivational speaker and broadcaster who wants to empower others (and especially women) to live unapologetically on their own terms. I will forever be a Warrior for Peace, love and understanding across the borders, and with this blog I hope to inspire, motivate and empower YOU to start exploring the world and maybe follow the roads less traveled.