Hikers and climbers from all over the world visit Loen to try via ferrata. It's a challenging pastime, yet it’s available to everyone from the ages of 12 to 80. The hiking route starts at the bottom of the fjord and climbs towards the magnificent mountain called Hoven. I went there with a Norwegian group lead by two guides.
I found the Norwegians very open-minded. They were friendly, fit, outdoor types and it was hard to keep up with the group. Norwegians have the outdoors in their blood and many of them saw this difficult route as an easy weekend activity.
Hoven Mountain is legendary. In folklore is has a dramatic origin. Long ago, the Norse god, Odin was riding his eight-legged horse when suddenly the horse stopped. The horse kicked the ground causing the mountain to appear. The dramatic story is believable when you stand at the foot of the mountain. It is one of the most prominent in the area and has a sharp, dramatic rock face.
We started our route by hiking up the mountain through the forest, full of blueberries and, according to our local guide, trolls! There's nothing to worry about though, the trolls sleep during the day and provide very little danger to passing travellers. We felt reassured!
Suddenly, we reached the place where the via ferrata starts. Via ferrata comes from the Italian word for “iron road”. It is a mountain activity that involves climbing a clearly defined path. The route contains steel cables, and often ladders attached to the side of the mountain. Climbers harness themselves to the cables as they progress along the frequently very steep routes.
We attached ourselves to the steel wire and started climbing. It was challenging, yet exciting and purifying. The higher we climbed the more beautiful the scenery became. You could see the Nord fjord, Lake Loen and all the little houses we had left behind. It looked like a painting.
The scariest part of the route for me was a narrow footbridge that you needed to cross if you wanted to reach the top. The suspension bridge spans a 120m wide canyon, and the drop below reaches 160m. It is the longest via ferrata bridge in Europe and it definitely gave me chills, even though it was perfectly safe and I had a professional guide just behind me.
After the bridge, the route becomes easier. You could drink from a small stream that trickled besides the route. It was a great place to relax and catch my breath, readying myself for the final ascent. When we reached the top, such beautiful scenery greeted us. It was stunning, and after the thrill of the climb, I felt like a new person.
There's a recently opened restaurant on the top of Hoven where you can get a via ferrata’s burger and a well-deserved pint of beer. To get down you can use the new Skylift or hike through the woods. The locals claim the best way to refresh yourself after the trip is to jump into the Fjord! In my opinion, that’s just for the tough climbers – the ones not scared by cold water! Instead, I enjoyed the heated outdoor pool in Hotel Alexandra.
I am very proud of myself for completing this route. It's definitely something I will never be able to forget and it was a once in a lifetime experience. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys seeking out new challenges and experiences. So, come to Loen and overcome your fears… just like I did!