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A person standing alone at Preikestolen (The Pulpit Rock) in sunshine
Morning at Preikestolen.
Photo: Paul Edmundson
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“Oh my god, oh my god.” Pieter Coppens holds his head in his hands and wanders restlessly about the plateau, his gaze flickering between the fjord and the mountains beyond the edge of the cliff.

Text: Mikael Lunde

Mere inches away, the ground beneath his feet abruptly comes to an end, turning into a dead drop of more than 600 metres. The sun has just peeked through the thick layer of trollish fog over the Lysefjord. The view that emerges from atop the Pulpit Rock shortly after dawn is one for which you cannot possibly prepare.

There is some primeval, spiritual atmosphere that pervades this place, something that reaches to the core of where and why beliefs and superstitions appeared in the first place. The nature is so raw, so massive and overwhelming that it feels eternal. Not (merely) beautiful or pretty, rather the Pulpit is violent, incomprehensible, dizzying. Divine. And that’s why you can hear it: Oh my god.

Preikestolen

Preikestolen.
Photo: Mikael Lunde

Four hours earlier

On the edge of the cliff stands a solitary tent. Farther up the slope two travellers sit in silence, a few feet apart – in the dead of night. They gaze at the misty landscape in shades of gray and blue. On the stone itself, a small group of young backpackers are chatting quietly. All of them are here for the same reason: to experience something unforgettable.

It’s not yet 6 AM when the sun breaks through for the first time. The fjord reveals itself bathed in a magical light that makes it hard to determine where the water ends and the sky begins.

Still inside the tent on the edge of the cliff, the 22‐year‐old Belgians Pieter Coppens and Dieter de Feytens are fast asleep – less than two feet separating their heads from a free fall as high as two Eiffel Towers. “We actually slept pretty well”, says Pieter when they wake up somewhat later in the morning. He begins the day by stretching his arms towards the sky, feet planted at the hard, rocky ground – his toes at the very edge.

Preikestolen

Preikestolen.
Photo: Mikael Lunde

Talking to the gods

Hiking to Preikestolen

Main hiking season: April–October.
Distance: 6 kilometres
Time: The roundtrip takes about 4 hours

The hike starts from the parking lot (parking fee applies) by the Preikestolen Mountain Lodge.

The terrain is slightly hilly, and the difference in altitude is 350 metres.

Always check the weather forecast before you embark on your hike.

If there is snow in the mountains, it is not recommended to do the hike without a guide. Note that the path leading up to the plateau is often frozen and slippery during the winter months. Spiked shoes are a must, and are available for rent in the parking lot.

You need good footwear (preferably hiking boots), a change of warm clothes, food, plenty of water, and maybe a chocolate and a hot drink.

At the edge one might let the mind wander – towards nature itself, characterized by life and death and renewal, seasons that come and go. But even then, something remains firm. Places where generations can experience the same views and share experiences across time.

“I heard it got the name because one can stand here and talk to the gods. Because one comes so close”, says Pieter Coppens. “I can understand that. To stand here – it gives me almost a spiritual feeling.”

Preikestolen

Preikestolen.
Photo: Mikael Lunde
Preikestolen

Preikestolen.
Photo: Mikael Lunde

One life

The two of them arrived just before midnight the night before. Well prepared, with hiking boots, a trekking cook set, a good knife, and a leather full of water. The tent they really didn’t want to use, but a shower caused them to change their minds. In any case, they were always going to sleep on the edge: “We heard from some friends that it was amazing. So it was”, says Dieter de Feyter. He encourages everyone to travel and to seek out these kinds of experiences.

“You learn so much about yourself,” he says. Adding, perhaps as much to himself as anyone else: “You have only this one life.”

Life, and one’s place in it all, may be something you will come to think about in the face of raw nature at the top of the Pulpit Rock.

About Preikestolen

Preikestolen (the Pulpit Rock) towers an impressive 604 metres over the Lysefjord and has been named one of the world’s most spectacular viewing points by both CNN Go and Lonely Planet.

The mountain plateau of about 25x25 metres was probably shaped some 10,000 years ago, during the ice age, when the edges of the glacier reached the cliff. Water froze in the crevices in the mountain and broke loose large blocks of stone, which were later carried away with the glacier.

In the old days, the name of the plateau was Hyvlatånnå (planed tooth). The cliff has always been a well known landmark for travellers on the Lysefjord.

It was not until 1896 when the athlete Thomas Peter Randulf first noticed Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock), that the plateau was given its name and began its journey to fame. Randulf spotted the enormous plateau when aboard a ship on the Lysefjord, and decided to conquer the massive flat rock.

Today, between 200,000 and 300,000 people visit Preikestolen during the summer months.

Safety in the mountains

Return to hike another day

Norway is an incredible place to explore, with untamed mythical landscapes, mountains, valleys, and fjords. Before you enter the outdoors, get familiar with the nine simple rules of the Norwegian mountain code to help you stay safe.

  1. Plan your trip and inform others about the route you have selected.
  2. Adapt the planned routes according to ability and conditions.
  3. Pay attention to the weather and the avalanche warnings.
  4. Be prepared for bad weather and frost, even on short trips.
  5. Bring the necessary equipment so you can help yourself and others.
  6. Choose safe routes. Recognize avalanche terrain and unsafe ice.
  7. Use a map and a compass. Always know where you are.
  8. Don’t be ashamed to turn around.
  9. Conserve your energy and seek shelter if necessary.

Read the mountain code with supplementary comments.

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