Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A windy Vidden hike from Mt. Ulriken to Mt. Fløyen, Bergen

Who should have known, we would be back in Norway for a second time this year! Similar to our last trip, when we camped in the snow in Notodden, it seemed that a perfectly timed coincidence had taken us across the sea to strike out into the wild Norwegian mountains once again. Our return to Norway was back in late spring with first stop being Bergen - also known as The City among the Seven Mountains due to its mountanious terrain. With such a stunning setting enclosing the city center, there are plenty of opportunities within the extensive network of hiking trails taking one around the mountain landscape to fit ones time, need and physical condition. We definitely wanted to take advantage of that and with two and a half day in Bergen, we were ready to make the most out of it!
Scenic view of Bergen, Norway from the top of Mt. Ulriken - Before setting off on the 13 km long hike Vidden
Or so we thought...

You see, summer had been lingering around Northern Europe at that time - but I can assure you, that on these particular days, summer was no longer to be found. We arrived in Bergen in shorts and sweaters; utterly unprepared for the weather which was awaiting us. A sudden drop in temperature from an expected 18°C to 10°C caught us completely off guard. The wind was no joke too - it was forcefully brutal and we were literally blown away as we set foot in the city. The chill factor had our bones shaking and I felt like a walking icicle throughout our days in Bergen. In hindsight, however, we were rather lucky. Only few drops of rain fell from the sky while we were there and that is rather impressive seeing that approximately 240 days a year are characterised by crying clouds.

Due to this unexpected change in weather (or more likely poor preparation and lack of proper packed clothes), I must confess that even with the numerous mountain trails offered right in front of us, we only made it out in the mountains once: On the 13 km long stretch across the plateau known as Vidden between Mt. Ulriken and Mt. Fløyen.
A quick ride with Ulrikbanen took us to the peak of Mt. Ulriken, where Ulriksmasten is located
The Vidden hike is one of the most popular day excursions in Bergen among tourist as well as locals - and we understand why after trying it out ourselves. Not only are you rewarded with spectacular views of Bergen from above but the rocky and rugged mountain landscape itself is worth getting first hand experience with. The hike takes approximately 4-5 hours and both peaks can serve as starting and ending points. The easiest way to reach either peak is to take the the cable car Ulrikbanen to Mt. Ulriken and the Fløibanen funicular to Mt. Fløyen - alternatively you can also hike to the top if you feel for some extra leg muscle workout ;)

We began our day by taking Ulrikbanen up to the top of Mt. Ulriken; the highest (643 meters) of the mountains surrounding Bergen. Upon reaching the top, we spent a little time taking it all in. In one direction our eyes were immediately blessed with an unbeatable panoramic view of Bergen city tugged away between mountains and the fjord; and in the other direction, the impressive mountain landscape that would be our playground the next many hours. With the wind still lurking around and nothing to shields us from it, we knew beforehand, it would be a windy hike. Thankfully, the sun was out that day. So no matter how many cold kisses the wind would blow at us, we could expect to receive at least a few sunny warm kisses on the cheeks too.
The first part of the trail from Mt. Ulriken was only marked with simple metal poles and occasionally some wooden pole signs providing information and direction. We got a little disoriented at first as the metal poles were well camouflaged in the wild grasslands and therefore at times hard to spot. However, as soon as we reached the exposed rocky mountain back, where stone cairns marked the trail and could be seen from far distance away, it became a breeze to find our way. The next 5-6 km across Storfjellet was the "flat" part of the hike, which allowed us to really just enjoy the scenery without having to work out a sweat. At this time of year, patches of snow were still covering the landscape and we had to watch our steps for muddy and slippery surfaces. The latter was in a way the most challenging on this hike besides the wind of course. Otherwise we found the hike relatively easy and actually rather pleasant.
While the wind was blowing around our ears and we made our way from one stone cairn to the next, we noticed how some Norwegians were running and jumping through the terrain like mountain goats - fast and easy on their feet! We couldn't help but get a little envious of the active lifestyle that seems to be running in the Norwegian blood. No wonder they are proud of their outdoor culture. It made us talk about our own little Nordic Journey adventures and the way it sort of have had an impact on the way we like to travel or more precisely what it means for us to explore. Really taking time to immerse yourself in any given destination or activity, will make you appreciate the experience so much more. It's not about ticking most buckets off in the shortest time. It's about being present - and the outdoor culture has definitely given us that. We are still learning our ways through this form of active travel and the outdoor life in general but we are loving it more and more.
More than half way through the hike, the trail began winding downwards taking us past a cluster of large lakes. The water looked incredible blue compared to the more dull colors of the wild grass landscape, which had not gained its lush green colors yet. At this point we were convinced that the rest of the trail would be hurdle free, but we were surprised. There was one last rough up hill climb to conquer before the trail once again would go down hill. As we came closer to Mt. Fløyen we noticed how the rocky mountain landscape slowly changed from the wild grassland, we had been traversing all day, to forests of pinetrees. This change in scenery was a nice touch to an otherwise already beautiful hike in the mountains. Unfortunately, we were starting to get cold and tired so our admiration for the forest landscape should by no means be reflected in the way we rushed through this last part of the trail.
Five hours later, we finally reached Mt. Fløyen. Happy, tired and cold. For a short while we were sitting at the view platform to admire another great view out over Bergen city. There were still a few hours left before the sun would set and despite us both jib-jabbing all day about catching the sunset, we decided to go home. On any other day we would had spent more time at this peak and the surrounding forests. However, on that day we surrendered and saw ourselves defeated by the wind to even consider sticking around. With a short ride on Fløibanen, we soon found ourselves back in the heart of Bergen with a mountain hike richer than when we started the day.
The view platform at Mt. Fløyen provided us with a great view over Bergen city
Useful Information
The Vidden hike is a 13 km long stretch across the plateau between Mt. Ulriken and Mt. Fløyen in Bergen, that takes approximatelt 4-5 hours to complete. Both Mt. Ulriken and Mt. Fløyen serve as starting and ending points. The easiest way to reach either peak is to take the the cable car Ulrikbanen to Mt. Ulriken and the Fløibanen funicular to Mt. Fløyen - hiking to the top is also an alternative.

▶ Information about Mt. Ulriken and Ulrikbanen -
▶ Information about Mt. Fløyen and Fløibanen -
▶ Route description: Vidden from Mt. Fløyen to Mt. Ulriken @ by Den Norske Turistforening
Bergen & Hordaland Turlag - Subsite of the The Norwegian Trekking Association (English)