Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) Sunrise Hike
Sitting in Stavanger airport, I simply cannot stop thinking about the last two days and how I could possibly justify in words how magical the last two days have been …
Stavanger is one of those places I didn’t know existed, and cannot imagine many people have it high on their travel list… but they should! Instagram can truly inspire individuals to travel the world, explore and experience new places. Having stumbled across Pulpit Rock myself, I immediately added it to the ‘bucket list’. The challenge however was to somehow convince my wife (Jenna, who is scared of heights!) to get on that aircraft, hike up a mountain in the middle of the night to end on a sheer drop of 604 meters! This was certainly no easy task, the usual ‘dream holiday’ for Jenna has always been finding the perfect spot on tropical beach with the warmth of the sun, the sound of the waves crashing, and ultimately falling asleep and waking up wondering where the day has gone…
After pondering for a while, my mission started, it was mid March 2015 and the plan was devised after a great deal of research where I managed to find… relatively safe looking YouTube videos of the hike demonstrating it was quite plausible with easy walking, some spectacular views along the way as well as plenty of space at the end to stay as far away as the ledge as you may want. Now ultimately, I should have known how little Jenna actually trusted me, she quickly started her own research and found videos demonstrating certain death… but then again, she also clearly underestimated my powers of persuasion… so here we are (for the second time!).
Sunrise Hike #1
It was April 2015, the beginning of the season and we were one of the first sunrise hikes of the year, the path only recently being opened after a snowy winter. We arrived in Stavanger on the Friday night with the hike booked for the Sunday morning. It was freezing, the weather forecast uncertain and we had no idea what to expect.
It all started on Sunday, 26 April 2015, at 1am. Johannes, our guide, picked us up from the Stavanger Tourist Information centre in town, and we drove for around 5 minutes to get to the ferry port. The ferry journey is around 35 minutes and from the other side, it is around a 20 minute drive to the Preikestolen mountain lodge where the hike begins. Being novice hikers, with no hiking appropriate clothing, we hired hiking boots, waterproof pants and jackets, these were brand new and a great idea given the temperature fluctuated around freezing point and a chance of rain. In addition to this, we were provided with hiking poles, headlamps as well as a beanie to keep warm. We started our hike at around 2.30am with the first of three steep inclines. It was the darkest of nights, the thick clouds blocking out the moonlight and without the headlamps, you couldn’t see each other. In April, the sun was due to rise at 5:52am which provided us with ample time, and relaxed pace to reach this spot overlooking Preikestolen, where the views looking over the fjord towards the sunrise cannot be beaten.
As luck would have it, a few minutes into the hike before the rain started pouring down, the weather frequently changed as we ascended, it was as if we were in a series of weather systems … the rain turned to sleet, the sleet became larger and felt like hail before we were walking through light snow. Now many of you may appreciate the fact that hiking (or walking) in some snow is much more pleasant than being battered with sleet or hail! It was an incredible experience hiking in these conditions as it is probably safe to say we’re unlikely to ever experience such volatility in such a short period of time.
When we reached the top, the snowfall cleared and it felt promising, the weather seemed to have calmed down and we had another 30 minutes to wait before the sun was due to rise. Johannes, being a fantastic guide, provided us with a waterproof sheet to sit on, some hot drinks, pulled out his portable camp stove, some premixed batter and started to whip up some pancakes!!
Having enjoyed the time to relax, eat and drink, the sad realisation was in front of us … absolutely nothing, the fog was so thick you couldn’t see a thing … we sat there waiting, anxious, hoping that it would clear, but nothing. The sunrise was long gone so we packed our backpacks to make our way down a few narrow ledges to step foot on Pulpit rock, still hoping for the fog to clear and provide us with some of the views over the fjord. We spent around 10 minutes there taking a few photos with us standing close to the edge, and then it happened, around 2 seconds of absolutely stunning glimpses of the fjord, not quite long enough to actually take a photo of … but just enough for the GoPro to be pointed in the right direction for some evidence of us standing on Preikestolen with this spectacular sight …
From the moment we had the glimpse over the fjord, we couldn’t stop talking about how surreal it would be standing in that exact spot, watching the sunrise over the fjord on a clear day. Every step we took back towards the lodge, we kept saying, over and over … ‘imagine if …’
The descent provided us with ample amounts of rain and snow and clearly wanted to rub it in our faces, this time, slightly less enjoyable given the lack of sleep and no prospect of reaching Preikestolen, it was over. When we reached the lodge, we enjoyed a well deserved, second breakfast (after those delicious pancakes), which was consisted of a decent spread of freshly baked bread, jam, fruit and as well as some rather odd caramelised, brown Scandinavian whey cheese which I simply had to try … twice … to reconfirm that I wasn’t all that sure about it…
We got back to Stavanger town by around 9.30am, just in time for a third breakfast of the day at the Radisson Blu Atlantic hotel (after all, we already paid for it!), enjoyed a couple hours of sleep before our complimentary late check-out and finally our journey back to the airport.
I have to say, when I woke up, it felt like I had the most amazing dream, the fact that earlier that day we started a hike, in the middle of the night, and in those conditions, is an unforgettable yet surreal experience … something I will forever be grateful.
The bit in-between
What can I say, other than after our weekend in Stavanger, we had quite a full travel itinerary…
We spent 9 days in Turkey, 3 days in Cinque Terre, a weekend in Bergen, had a punt at the Royal Ascot in London, as well as a 9 day cruise through the Baltic Capitals, (which will all have their separate blogs!) … It was after a short hike (Stoltzekleiven), mid-June in another Norwegian city called Bergen when we decided we couldn’t wait any longer, turned on our data roaming, checked flights and emailed Johannes to confirm availability to guide us up for another sunrise hike!
Instagram page for thewelltravelledman
Sunrise Hike #2
Having just returned from our Baltic cruise, we attempted a full week of work, arriving in Stavanger Friday, 10 July 2015.
This time, the hike was on the Saturday morning, knowing it would be a futile attempt at sleep, we didn’t worry about accommodation. Instead we arrived around 9:30pm after a day at work, wandered around the port, through the cobbled streets in town and found a place to eat. Dinner that evening was easy, we decided it had to either be a burger, or a pizza, it didn’t bother us either way, we knew we were about to burn those calories!
The forecasts was that the sun would rise at 4:42am, light cloud and a light breeze …
There was no need for the waterproof pants and jacket, we put on the boots, headlamps and grabbed the hiking poles. It was around 5 degrees, what a difference 5 degrees can make! It was 2.30am, just like the first hike, but with the earlier sunrise, we had 1hr10m less to reach Preikestolen – we set off, the pace was much quicker, we knew we needed to keep a steady pace, briefly stopping in a few spots to talk about the views in the distance, or taking a quick photo of the scenery. It was never completely dark – there was always a blue tinge in the sky, and it was beautiful.
It was about an hour into the hike – the edges of the clouds lit up with magical tinges of bright orange and red shades …
we knew this time would be perfect …
Johannes, knowing we have been here before, treated us to a different approach to an even higher vantage point overlooking Preikestolen, we continued the climb for around 10 minutes, and arrived with around 20 minutes to spare. Again, we enjoyed some freshly made pancakes, a warm drink and simply soaked up the views in front of us. With around 5 minutes to spare, Johannes quickly got up and grabbed his camera, having done the same the two of us quickly mimicked the movements of a couple of mountain goats, clambering down and around a couple of ledges to find the perfect vantage point – to be fair, it doesn’t matter where you stood, it was spectacular – but we knew, the spot we were standing on … was it!
I can’t describe in words how beautiful this was to watch… It would have to be one of the most spectacular experience of my life, to be able to sit on what feels like the top of the world, overlooking Preikestolen and the fjord, watching the beautiful colours emerge through the clouds, the crescent of the sun rising and the place transforming every second.
Once we watched the sunrise, we went down to stand on Pulpit Rock, or in my case, stick my head over the edge to see exactly how high we were! We spent around 25 minutes on Preikestolen itself, but it is somewhere I could have spent hours! We got some spectacular photos, Jenna even partially conquered her greatest fear and stood near the edge for some unforgettable photos.
Jenna conquering her fears
We then started our hike down which was again around 2 hours and we made it to the lodge for breakfast before heading back to the Scandic Stavanger Park hotel for a power nap and some leisure in town!
Stavanger at leisure
Stavanger town itself is quite picturesque with its pastel coloured buildings, the Old Town with the quaint little houses painted in white, and of course the Vikings’ Three Swords in Rock (Sverd I Fjell), but you won’t need more than a day to explore what it has to offer.
We used our time in town to wander the cobblestone streets and cycling (see below!), but for the most part enjoyed sitting in the local cafes, either talking about how great the sunrise hike is going to be, or reminiscing over the most amazing experience we just had, sorting through photos and watching the GoPro videos (whilst enjoying a local beer of course!).
The most important thing when traveling to Norway, is to remember that nothing is open on a Sunday…
… it’s against the law to have stores (other than small convenience stores, restaurants and museums open to the public. For the Norwegians, this day of rest is not necessarily all that relaxing, the majority of them spend the day outdoors hiking, canoeing or riding their bikes (even in the rain!)
Hotels have bikes you can use – free of charge…
… we found these ideal for the c. 5km easy ride along the cycling paths and stunning parks to the Sverd I Fjell (three swords in rock). Stavanger for the most part is relatively flat and the locals are very friendly and courteous when you do come to intersections or need to ask for directions.
Tips And Reviews
I knew the only way to convince my wife to do this hike, would be to arrange a guided tour, someone who knows the area and won’t take us anywhere that isn’t appropriate for our ability. It was the best decision we made. We booked with Outdoorlife Norway and the guide / owner Johannes, is knowledgeable, very friendly and highly recommended. Check out the links and trip adviser reviews below for more information.
You can certainly do the hike on your own, but be warned, this is one of the main reasons for tourists visiting Stavanger, when Cruise ships are in port, be prepared for hundreds, if not thousands of tourists along the path and spoiling the serenity and views, in my opinion the sunrise hike would have to be the best way of experiencing this wonderful place.
We stayed at two different hotels whilst in Stavanger. We first stayed at the Radisson Blu, followed by Scandic Stavanger Park. Both were very good hotels, with a few differences. The breakfast at the Radisson Blu had more to offer, but the rooms at the Scandic were much nicer and newer. Check out the trip adviser reviews below.
Food and Drink:
We ate at a few places (see below!) but the highlight for us would be Døgnville burgers!
- Døgnville – Reviewed on Trip Advisor
- Hanekam – Reviewed on Trip Advisor
- Al-Forno Pizzeria og Restaurant – Reviewed on Trip Advisor
- B Sorensens Dampskibsexpedition – Reviewed on Trip Advisor
- Dolly Dimples – Reviewed on Trip Advisor
“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller” – Ibn Battuta