In August 2019, we packed the family, (two adults and two children aged 11 and 13), into a camper van, heading for Loen, the little town at the heart of the Nordfjord in the municipality of Stryn.
Loen is about a 10 minute drive from Stryn, 2.5 hours from Ålesund, 4.5 hours from Bergen and 6 hours from Oslo. Our trip over the mountain started at our main office in Hyggen, via Hemsedal, then we took the ferry over to Sogndal and then went on to Loen.
We were unbelievably lucky with the weather, and what a view we had – THE WHOLE WAY!! Norway is truly a beautiful and spectacular country!!!!
Our goal for the trip was to finally test out the Via Ferrata in Loen. And we really did – it was a long weekend that will definitely go into the scrapbook!
After arriving in Loen, we found a great campsite; Sande Camping, right down on the shores of lake Lovatnet. We enjoyed the beautiful setting with a lovely dinner outdoors surrounded by the majestic mountains and the green lake.
In the evening, the grandparents also came to visit, which was great because we had our dog with us. Dogs and Via Ferratas don’t go well together, so the dog stayed in Loen with the grandparents.
We then had a good night’s sleep before the challenge of the Via Ferrata!
What is a Via Ferrata?
A Via Ferrata was originally an ‘iron path’ and its history goes back to the First World War where routes were built in the Dolomites in Italy to help troops move about at a high altitude in difficult conditions.
More recently, they have become popular facilitated climbing trails.
A Via Feratta route has fixed safety bolts bolted into the mountain such as steel wire, hoops, ladders and bridges.
As you walk, you attach carabiner hooks from a specially adapted climbing harness to steel wires, suspension bridges and iron steps that are attached to the rock walls. In addition to natural footholds, planks and iron steps have also been set up.
We had pre-ordered climbing equipment from Loen Active, an activity company in the centre of Loen, right behind the Hotel Alexandra. Here you can rent the equipment you need. They also have a large car park with free parking for the day.
You can choose whether you want to do a guided tour in a group or do it without a guide.
The dad in our family is an experienced climbing guide, so we chose to go on our own. The trails are well-marked, so you can’t really go wrong. We were given climbing harnesses and helmets. We all had well worn-in hiking shoes, really important for a whole day on the mountainside.
NB! Remember gloves – unfortunately we forgot them and got some blisters after a day on the wires…
When it comes to clothes, you should bring enough to be able to vary them with the weather. We had glorious sunshine and, apart from the clothes we were wearing, we only had extra windbreakers with us.
The most important thing is to have enough food, chocolate and water!
You won’t be able to refill your drinks until you get to the top.
The trip starts at Loen Active, right down by the Nordfjord. The first 100 metres go along the fjord and then onto a gravel path up to the right just before you reach Loen Skylift.
The first hour of the trip is on paths and forest tracks all the way up to 450 metres above sea level. You eventually arrive at a wooden platting, with maps of the different trails where the difficulty levels are outlined. The climb starts from the platting, on Via Ferrata, up to 900 metres above sea level. The climbing harnesses are attached to solid wires, so you are secured all the way.
Tip! We started our trip at around 12:00. We left after the guided group and we were relatively alone all the way up. We didn’t have to wait for others to climb – or get in the way of others climbing behind us.
The climbing routes are graded from A – F, where A is the least demanding.
We had all previously been on Via Ferattas in Italy, so we had some experience. But we wanted this to be a good experience for the whole family, so we chose the ‘easy’ route, route 1.
Usually such routes have difficulty level A, and possibly B in some parts. That’s what we thought this would be too…but after a while, we discovered that we should have read the climbing map more carefully because there were also long sections where the degree of difficulty was C. A few more challenges than we had expected there…This map from Loen Active shows in detail how the routes are set up:
But what an expereince! And what a sense of achievement you feel when you can even master the challenges of Level C! We pushed both body and mind, up, up, up– sometimes it was Mum who needed help, others it was our youngest. Fear and mastery go hand in hand.
We all knew that going back down was not an option. We just had to take our time when it was a challenge finding the next step. And breaks. Breaks full of chocolate, adrenaline and a spectacular view, in glorious sunshine.
As I said, we had forgotten to bring gloves on the trip (you can actually borrow gloves from Loen Active), which meant that our hands were quite sore after hours on the mountainside. It was a huge relief when another couple climbing at the same time as us had an extra pair that we got to share and keep. We took turns in using the gloves; one glove per person is better than none 😀
All climbing is fun, and when we took a few breaks along the way, we had enough energy to keep going. We looked for the next step, and pulled ourselves up some parts which, looking back on it afterwards, it was hard to see how we even found the next step. But we helped each other. Told each other where to hold on, or where the next step was, and cheered each other on when reached the next point. And the whole time, we could see out sub-goal: the famous Gjølmunnebrua!
The suspension bridge hangs 750 metres above sea level. Between the Hoven and Midt-Tunga mountains. It is the longest Via Feratta suspension bridge in Europe.
118 metres long, over a 160 metre deep gorge.
Going over the bridge was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. If you haven’t had butterflies in your stomach yet, you’ll probably get them here…
Mum is the one who most enjoys taking photographs and videos,and so she sent the three others over the bridge first – and stood there alone on the other side, taking photos and videos on her mobile. Pleased and quite happy – until she realised that she herself also had to go over the bridge. Scared of heights. Alone.
On thin metal planks. With one wire on one side and one above, where the harness was fastened. She just had to take one step at a time, with legs like jelly, and push herself. Pretend it was nothing, with her heart thumping in her ears. And talking to herself ‘one more step, you can do that, one more step,’ and ‘now you’re half way, it would be silly to turn back now.’ It also helped to be cheered on by her supporters on the other side of the bridge – because everyone got over it in the end, and even managed to look down a little bit and out at the view!
On the other side of the bridge there’s good platting with an amazing view. It’s perfect for stopping to have a bite to eat here.
Then all you have to do is attach yourself to the wires again, there’s still an hour until you reach the top.
Or…you can challenge yourself with a slightly shorter trip, and then a ‘walk’ on the Gjølmunnestrengen wire – a 36m-long wire, i.e. no metal plates, only thin wires to walk on and lean on. Then you have to really concentrate…and you can be reassured by the safety harness you have here, as on the rest of the trip…you won’t fall, even if there are any accidents…
We chose to take the usual climbing route for the next 150 metres up to the top. And from approximately 900 metres above sea level, there is a normal path all the way up to Hoven, which is 1,011 metres above sea level.
At the top, there is a large plateau where you can take in the view, and there are amenities such as Hoven restaurant and kiosk, as well as toilets…etc. This is also the final stop of the Loen Skylift – one of the steepest cable cars in the world.
We can safely say that the ice cream we bought at the top was the best ever! – And the most well deserved. You could say the same about the view. Absolutely fantastic!! We could see the lush Lodalen, the green Lovatnet, Oledalen, Loen, the peak of Skåla and the mighty Jostedalsbreen glacier. I think we could even see the camper van, the grandparents and the dog from the top 😀 Beautiful, as far as the eye could see!!!
After the ice creams had been guzzled, and most of the adrenaline had settled, it was time to come back down the mountain. There are two alternatives:
From the station at the bottom, it only takes 5-8 minutes to walk back to Loen again to return the climbing equipment.
The entire trip took us a total of 7-8 hours.
Well…the pictures speak for themselves…if you are scared of heights, I personally, would not recommend doing this Via Ferrata. Instead, take the gravel path up and you’ll still have the same amazing experience at the top.
Want to see a film from the Via Ferrata in Loen?
We recommend this:
We stayed in the beautiful Loen and at Sande Camping for a few days. Some of us just wanted to relax, others wanted to experience more. Based on personal experience, I can recommend the following:
Two of us decided to take the trip up to Briksdalsbreen, an arm of the Jostedalsbreen glacier. Situated on the north side, in Briksdalen, in the heart of Oldedalen in Sogn and Fjordane.
From 1,200 metres above sea level, the wild glacier plunges into the lush, narrow Briksdalen. A spectacular sight that draws 300,000 visitors from all over the world, every year!!
Here you will find a café, a restaurant, a souvenir shop and an activity park. From the Briksdalsbre Mountain Lodge it’s easy to get to Briksdalsbreen, a trip of approx. 40 minutes on a good path/road.
For more information, see www.briksdal.no
The two fittest of us had a bit of spring left in their step, so the day after the Via Ferrata climb, they decided to take the trip to the top of Skåla – Norway’s longest upward slope!
A trip that starts at 0 and goes up to 1,848 metres above sea level. A steady climb all the way up.
Along the way, you pass the beautiful Tjugen Seter (425 m.a.s.l.) and the Skålavatnet lake where you can have a swim if you want to. You might want to fill up your water bottles in the meltwater river that you pass on the way up, as the melted snow is the only water available once you get to the top.
Up at the top, just 10-20 metres from the edge of Skåla, is the famour round Klouman’s Tower, one of the most spectacular cabins in the Norwegian Trekking Association’s cabin system!
An overnight stay in this tower is highly recommended. The tower is open during the tourist season and sells general kiosk items.
The view from the top is fantastic, try to catch a sunrise or a sunset!
Find out more about the trip to Skåla here:
After three wonderful days in the sunshine in Loen, swimming in the Lovatnet, the plan was to drive via Beitostølen to take Besseggen mountain range on the same trip. But during the last night in Loen, the weather changed dramatically, so our plans quickly changed. We did the Besseggen a couple of weeks later instead.
Now, after having had a bit of time to digest the whole experience, we are all left with fantastic memories. We were blessed with great weather, talk about going at exactly the right time!!! Norway is a beautiful country!!
Would you like to experience the same as us? Get in touch and we will put together a similar experience for you!