Text: Sonja L. Birch-Olsen
However, the feeling disappears once we meet our calm guide Jostein Soldal from the company OpplevOdda. We gather around him at the foot of the mountain to get instructions and tips how to soften the vertigo. Together we are getting ready to climb the 400 metres to the dam watcher’s house at the top of the mountain Lilletopp.
A climb through history
We are in Tyssedal beside the Sørfjord, an arm of the more famous Hardangerfjord, in Hardanger. The small town made it big when a huge power plant was opened here in 1906. Mountain water was dammed, and waterfalls and water put in pipes. Today the big turbines are just for display in the Norwegian Museum of Hydro Power and Industry (NVIM), and the huge pipes serve as a backdrop to the climbing.
- Climbing here in Tyssedal will give you the opportunity to feel how the everyday life was for the navvy people who built the waterpower stations, when they secured mountain constructions, founded the concrete fundament, hand carved bricks and established the penstock. This is an introduction to Norwegian history within a fantastic nature frame, says Jostein.
After putting on helmets, safety harnesses and being equipped with some rope and two carabiners, we start our descend towards the top. At first we climb up the ladder that runs alongside the pipes. Just climbing in a leisurly manner can be exhausting for some, but judging by the eager faces of the rest of the group, it seems as if the nerves are left behind.
Halfway up the ladder it is time for a little break, before facing the scariest part of the route; to climb out on the metal bars which are drilled or cemented into the rock. But first another safety instruction from Jostein:
- When beginning your climb, you will attach and lock both carabiners onto the wire cable. Each time you reach a place where the cable is attached to the rock, you will need to individually unclip and re-clip your carabiners beyond the attachment point. This must ALWAYS be done ONE AT A TIME, ensuring that you are ALWAYS attached to the cable by AT LEAST ONE CARABINER.
An adrenalin kick
After venturing away from the safety of the ladder the only sounds are the clicks from the carabiners and some heavy breathing. The group of climbers, who are tourists from Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands, all walk slowly facing the mountain wall and clinging on to the handlebars.
But as they move on they gain confidence and soon they are walking along as if they were on a pleasant Sunday stroll. In this awesome mountain environment, some even stop and turn around so that they can take in the amazing views of Tyssedal and the Sørfjord, from an unusual perspective.
- Wow! Look at the fantastic views, smiles Caroline Stadelmann from Sweden.
- This is the first time I’ve climbed a Via Ferrata and I’m loving it. It’s a real adrenalin kick!
Italian army technique
The Via Ferrata technique was first used by Italian alpine military army units in the Dolomites in World War I. It is a technique that works good for amateur climbers. Anyone who can walk can climb a Via Ferrata – no previous experience is necessary. If you are not afraid of heights, and want to experience the mountains in a different way, then Via Ferrata climbing is for you.
Who can join
You must be in normal good shape, not afraid of heights and 15 years or older.
What to wear/equipment
No special clothing is required. However, you might want to wear comfortable trainers, trousers or shorts and a T-shirt or jumper. You get quite warm once you start climbing. It can be an idea to bring a small rucksack, packed lunch and something to drink (water is recommended).
All necessary equipment such as helmets, harnesses and carabiners are provided by OpplevOdda.
Three – four hours
1 May – 15 December
From NOK 600 (includes all necessary climbing equipment and entry to NVIM). Please book a day in advance.
Getting to Tyssedal
By car from Bergen
Follow the road rv. 7 - passing Arna, Norheimsund and stop for ferry crossing at Kvanndal. Ferry to Utne and then road rv. 550 to Odda and Tyssedal. Total travel time: 3 hours and 30 minutes.
By car from Stavanger
Follow the scenic road rv. 13 - passing Lauvvik, Oanes, (or ferry directly to) Tau, Sand and Røldal. Total travel time: 5 hours.
By car from Oslo
Follow the road E134 – passing Drammen, Notodden, Seljord, Haukeligrend and Røldal. Total travel time: 5 hours and 45 minutes.
By car from Kristiansand
Follow the road rv. 9 - passing Evje and Hovden to Haukeligrend. Then follow road E134 – passing Røldal and Odda to Tyssedal. Total travel time: 5 hours and 30 minutes.
By public transport from Oslo
Catch the Bergen Railway to Geilo where you catch the bus (runs 1 May - 30 September) to Tyssedal. Total travel time: Approximately 7 hours.
By public transport from Bergen
Bus to Norheimsund where you catch the ferry (runs 1 May - 30 September) to Lofthus. From Loftus you travel by bus to Tyssedal. Total travel time: Approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes.
For timetables and booking, please contact the Norwegian State Railways (NSB), Tide Reiser and Skyss.