GOTTA HAVE FAITH
“Fucking hell, here he is now,”
Shouted a familiar voice behind me, just as my spirit was about to crumble away like a Hobnob in the hands of a toddler.
The first words out of my mouth in hours. Never before had I been happier to see Jon's smiling mug. I was no longer alone in the world. We were a team again. A pair. A couple of rambunctious journeymen set out to ascend the behemoth.
AND WE'RE THE TWO BEST FRIENDS THAT ANYBODY...COULD HAVE?
"Mate, go down and queue or we'll be up here forever. I'll go and wait up there with the camera,"
Said Jon, while pointing to a large section of cliff overlooking the tongue itself, before turning and doing a light "Dad jog" over to his chosen vantage point.
(You know, one of those jogs where it looks like you're making an effort to run and make up ground, but you're not actually getting anywhere.)
Ironic too, because he's actually a Dad.
To get down to the snaking (yet entirely orderly) queue that'd formed before the tongue, I had to climb about 15m down a small section of metal rungs which had been cemented into the side of the rock face.
This queue has formed entirely of it's own volition.
No signage. No attendants.
And they say that we aren't all connected...this is the hive mind in full flow.
Directly in front of me in line, was a blonde girl in her early 20s, who's accent I picked out as being from somewhere near Boston; she tended to rolled her A's like all of the characters do in The Departed.
Her name was "Faith", and as it turned out, she appeared to have a lot of it in herself.
"Will you get me on the GoPro, too?"
"I've got you covered, Faith. Jeez,"
Replied a doting male companion, while Faith did a trial run of posey photos with her selfie stick, experimenting with around 35 different angles in order to find "the golden one".
Every single snap involved the exact same pose. Each one was almost indistinguishable from another, with only subtle variations: a pout, a peace sign, an amorous tilt of the head, sometimes a wink, a pokey-out tongue. What was for certain, was that Faith had put hours of work into this. It was apparent to me, and everybody else in the queue, that she was a master of her craft, and her chosen craft was: "looking good on Instagram".
This is what people do now.
In 2017, this can pass as a job.
Making a fake life look real is a profession in and of itself.
Before long, Faith initiated an entirely one-sided conversation with me about which of her angles was best, while her (presumed) boyfriend looked on unamused. I offered little in support and quickly tuned out, but not before being drawn to a small logo on the upper part of her jacket: it was her Instagram handle.
NOT HAVING IT.
THAT'S NOT A THING PEOPLE DO.
PEOPLE DON'T DO THAT.
After Faith realised that I wasn't prepared to suffer her vain attempts at conversation, she turned around to resume queueing. It was then, to my horror, that I saw that she also had the same tag (only larger) printed onto the bottom segment of her purple Patagonia gilet.
WHERE DO YOU EVEN GO TO HAVE THAT DONE?
*10 MINUTES PASSES*
Shit. What am I going to do?
I haven't practiced. I haven't put in the hours. I'm not up to this.
NO. I can do this.
Gotta have faith...or be like Faith, in this case.
All of that time spent next to a couple of "Insta-fluencers" (yes, they actually said that), made me feel pressured to have my own signature pose. Before long, it'd be my turn up to bat. I'd be the one out in the limelight. All eyes on me.
*15 MINUTES LATER*
Faith executed her poses in the blink of an eye. Within 30 seconds she was done.
Practice really does make perfect.
(And if it doesn't, a VSCO filter can do the rest, as my images demonstrate.)
*Your turn. Walk out onto the rock. Be careful not to slip, trip and die.*
How silly is this?
We've all hauled our meat vehicles up to these dizzying heights, just to take a digital rendering of the occasion to tell our 'audiences' on social media something about ourselves.
*What're you trying to tell other people about yourself?*
That I enjoy travelling? That I enjoy hiking? That I have an adventurer's spirit?
*But, none of those things are true.*
I KNOW, BUT THEY DON'T KNOW THAT, DO THEY?
I stepped out onto the rock alone, scouring the faces in the crowd attentively, managing to pick out Jonny and his camera. My mind had gone completely blank. I'd entered autopilot. At a loss for what pose to do, and in a haze of confusion, I seemed to instinctively replicate the "shrug" emoji for my first photo; visually displaying what I could sense others around me already knew: that I didn't know what the fuck I was doing.
What the hell was that?
Okay, I've got time for maybe one more pose...make it a good one this time.
There were way more people gathered on the cliffside than when I'd left to go and queue. For a split second, I locked eyes with a burly hirsute gent wearing a "Slayer" hoodie; as a metalhead, my eyes were drawn to the iconic logo. He didn't have to say anything. I knew what he wanted of me. I needed to represent the limited mosh contingent that'd found their way up to the Trolltunga.
My second (and last photo) on the tongue was in that man's honour. I bowed both legs, leaned back, poked out my tongue, and threw up both rock horns like a demented crab.
NO I WON'T. BACK. DOWN.
The biggest ball ache that comes with hiking up the side of a mountain for four hours, is that eventually — whether you want to or not (not in our case) — you actually have to walk back down the same mountain for four hours.
While this seems obvious to most, it was something that completely slipped my mind, until Jonny said:
"We should probably start making our way back down."
Those two little words cut my spirit in half like a katana blade would a row of watermelons.
Our mission had been completed. We'd had our fill. We had more than enough photos to prove to our respective e-audiences that we'd conquered the Trolltunga, but now it was time for the hard part: the descent back down to reality.
The bitter, twisted, descent back down to reality.
(There's a pattern here somewhere.)
*You could always pretend that you've fallen and twisted your ankle so you get airlifted off the mountain?*
C'mon now. Who'd actually do that?
*Just saying. It's an option.*
I crouched down, pausing momentarily to reflect on our imminent return journey, secretly wishing that I was enough of a bastard to feign a serious injury and be flown by the emergency services to a cushy, private hospital on the outskirts of some quaint little Norwegian town.
The town would be called "Rahlhëim", and the hospital would have its have its very own in-house franchised Greggs.
*AN HOUR LATER*
The greatest wonders of the world could have been before us, and it wouldn't have mattered. Nature had become boring. It was the exact same nature as we'd both absorbed on the way up. A lot of folk tend to talk of "getting lost in nature" as being a panacea to all known modern ills, but I'm here to tell you: it isn't. There is a thing as too much nature, and that day, we'd overdosed on the green stuff.
Tree. Mountain. Rock. I get it. God, I get it. It's nice. It really is nice.
I wonder what's trending on Twitter?
I NEED TO SEE PHOTOS OF HANDMADE BOOTS ON INSTAGRAM.
For the vast duration of our journey back, Jonny and I upheld a strict code of silence, interspersed with the odd "I can't believe this", "this is the pits" and occasionally, a brief comment about our surroundings...
“Fucking hell, look at them. They must have left a lasagne in,"
Said Jonny, breaking a 30-minute silence and pointing to a middle-aged, uber-athletic couple as they sped on past us in a flash of neon-coloured sportswear.
Lasagne. I fucking love lasagne.
*ANOTHER HOUR GOES BY*
Somewhere near the "3km to the carpark" signpost (so, 8km to the top if you were walking up), we spotted a large shape shuffling towards us in the distance. It was already quite late in the day, so we didn’t even consider for one moment that it could've been someone trying to get up to the top.
A lone female hiker approached who looked like she’d shopped for the expedition exclusively in River Island. She wasn't wearing even one functional item of clothing; a poorly-insulated “fast fashion” parka; skinny jeans; and a pair of slip-on daps that were entirely drenched by the snow.
I would offer her help, but there's nothing I can do.
Maybe some words of encouragement?
"It's a long way to the top, mind..."
*If you wanna rock and roll that is...am I right?*
The lady didn't acknowledge our presence, and instead, made her way past us, mumbling something in her mother tongue that I sensed was akin to "take me out to the pasture and put me out of my misery".
"She's walking like she's pooed her knicks,"
Remarked Jonny, when the lady was safely outside of earshot as not to offend.
Maybe she had to have a 'wildy' somewhere along the way.
There's not even any leaves growing at this altitude either, so unless she's carrying tissues...
He was right, she was walking exactly how you'd expect someone to bumble along if they'd pooed their knicks, and the last thing you want when you're hours away from being able to wipe your arse properly, is pooey knicks.
I am a creature of comfort/hygiene and pooey knicks (pants in my case) are my absolute kryptonite.
*YET ANOTHER MISERABLE HOUR ESCAPES US*
The last 1km — or the Anklesnåp Gauntlet, as I now like to refer to it — was so difficult, that we basically had to de-climb back down in the direction of the carpark. I was hungry, thirsty, and tired. I had an audible raspiness and desperation to my voice. I traversed the rocks with my hands and feet like Gollum would — but without the ragged little set of pants.
Now that I can actually see the bottom, I feel overcome with a sudden desperation to get down there.
In order to prevent us slipping and rolling to our death in a Sonic-like blur, we were sure to keep a firm hold on the thick blue ropes that were tied between the trees peppering the mountainside. I once again picked up the pace, leaving Jon behind me in my wake with zero regard for proper ankle health.
I needed to get down.
I feel like I’m trying to escape from a remote, mountainside prison.
*IN HEAD: A GERMAN SHEPARD BARKS MENACINGLY. A SIREN CAN BE HEARD. THE CRACK OF TWIGS SNAPPING CAN BE HEARD FAINTLY IN THE DISTANCE.*
STARTED AT THE BOTTOM...WANT A BEER
I exclaimed at the top of my lungs with only 500m left to go, jumping into the air in slow motion to celebrate.
*IN HEAD: 'COLDPLAY - FIX YOU' PLAYS.*
Tears stream, down your face. When you lose something you cannot replace...
*ALSO IN HEAD: MONTAGE OF ME RUNNING TOWARDS THE CAR PARK CRYING.*
It was the hardest physical (and mental) feat I’d ever achieved, and I felt as though I should have had a participation medal, but instead, there was piss all. No fanfare. No celebration. No podium where I'd be showered by an oversized bottle of champers by bikini-clad babes.
Oh, except for: one guy sitting on a picnic bench who greeted me as I walked past him.
"Did you enjoy your time on Trolltunga today?"
Does he work for the park, or what?
Is he going to get me to fill out a questionnaire?
Because, I do have a legitimate suggestion: BUILD A GREGGS AT THE TOP. A SUBWAY. A DOMINOS. SOMETHING WITH CARBS.
EVEN A SPAR WOULD SUFFICE.
"Uhhh...it was an experience, put it that way."
"Oh, okay. Bye."
That was odd.
What I would give for a few beers right now.
I'd settle for just the one.
But it'd have to be cold.
And stronger than 4.9%.
And have an interesting design on the side.
It was late afternoon by the time I'd reached the bottom and the sun was out in full force. It was scorching. Rows of camper vans lined the grassy verges surrounding a small, wooden hut that provided hiking information (but should probably have just been a pub). Everywhere I looked there were people enjoying beers, but unfortunately they were from their own personal stashes; cooler boxes filled to the brim with ice and bottles, hipster Scandi couples frolicking on the grass, exactly what I imagine a Budweiser ad to look like from the 1970s.
Beer, beer, everywhere, but not a drop to drunk...
*20 MINUTES LATER JONNY JOINS ME AT THE BOTTOM*
When we reached the car, the first thing I did — after vowing never to step foot on Trolltungan soil ever again — was to calculate how many calories we must've burned, using a likely inaccurate online calculator.
Okay, so 700 cals per hour. For a solid 8 hours.
Carry the one...
PREPARE THY KING'S BANQUET, FOR WE ARE A COUPLE OF WEARY WANDERERS IN NEED OF REFUELLING.
I'm just playing around...
*In your own head?*
My legs throbbed. My ankles were on fire. My belly growled. Nearly all of my primal desires needed immediate attention. Carbicide was an absolute certainty. I was about to wipe Rema out of every item of every simple carb that it stocked. If I wasn't held solely responsible for the Great Norwegian Biscuit Shortage of 2017, then I wouldn't be happy.
They better do Hobnobs...
The chocolate ones.
*BACK IN THE CAR AFTER GRUB ACQUISITION*
To kick the refuelling off, I ate an entire pack of Oreos, just to whet my appetite for the big-boy shit: a bagful of Rema's "finest" chicken goujons.
(If I’d packed sandwiches like every other fucker had, I might've been a little more conservative with my purchases, but everyday's a school day isn't it?)
Back at the BnB, my feast lay before me and I tucked in without hesitation, as to replenish the old glycogen stores that had been rinsed to zero.
Crisps are brill.
If they weren’t so unhealthy, I think I’d always just be eating crisps.
I think crisps might be my passion.
"They" always say you should “follow your passion”, don’t they?
*Who's "they" again?*
Maybe, when I get home, I'll start making my own hand cooked crisps?
I'll become a "Crispatier".
I can do all the street food events and be known for making artisanal chips.
My final item was a rip version of Ben & Jerry’s that tasted a lot like absolute poverty — ironically it cost about £15.
In the same way I endured the coffee at the airport, if I've paid for something, I'm having it.
All of it.
What I'd give for some B&J's.
*Heh. That sounds like "BJ".*
Haha. Yeah it does.
*There's a crumb there...*
The 22km hike up to the cusp of space, coupled with the mass consumption of cals in one go meant that a total system shutdown was imminent.
Down to my pants. Lights out.
*INFINITE SLUMBER COMMENCES*
(I woke up at briefly at 9 p.m. and Jonny said something like “you probably shouldn’t go back to sleep, or you'll be up in the middle of the night” but I had to. The urge to rest was irresistible. I turned over and went back to the land of the dead...then Jonny filmed my arse in my pants for his Insta story. The bastard.)
So friends, here concludes my trip to Norway. I mean, we did do other stuff for our remaining days in Norge, but it was mostly limited to: sitting in Airbnbs on our laptops listening to music and eating family-sized bags of crisps.
Would I recommend Trolltunga to others? Ask yourself the following first:
- Do you partake in (and enjoy) the pastime of walking uphill (aka hiking)?
- Are you versed in moderate intensity exercise for a prolonged duration of time?
- Do you know somebody that you can do a day's worth of exercise with and not hate by the end of the day?
- Are you willing to pay hundreds of pounds and travel internationally to take an Insta photo on a protruding rock that looks like a pokey-out tongue, purely for likes?
If you answered "yes" to all of the above, then you should definitely go.
Otherwise, do tread carefully, for the Trolltunga is no joke.