One of my favorite activities we did while in Norway was the Via Ferrata Loen. It was quite the drive from Stavanger, where we started our journey by car, but well worth it. If you make your way to this location, I suggest flying into Bergen and making your way up to Loen from there.
A little history: Modern via ferrata routes involve fixed equipment such as steel cables and iron ladders secured to rock along a mountainside. A harness is required, so you’re secured to the route with safety tethers at all times. The only caveat is that you’re responsible for maneuvering yourself through the route, but you’re accompanied by a guide if you don’t already have the equipment and ability to guide yourself. The term via ferrata is Italian and means iron road. This concept was introduced in the Dolomites during the First World War when the Austrian and Italian armies utilized wooden structures and ropes to help move troops and supplies at high altitude over the difficult terrain.
At our location in Loen, we began our adventure with Loen Active by hiking to the base of Mt. Hoven, which stood at 3,317 ft above the fjord. From there, we could see the arduous route we were going to be climbing. Each section of the continuous route was rated a different grade of difficulty, with one particular section allowing you to choose between an easier or more difficult climb. As a rock climber, I felt at ease being in a harness, but with each cable being bolted to the rock every 10 to 30 feet, I knew one misstep could drag me down a lengthy distance to the previous bolt. Suffice it to say, my heart rate was consistently elevated and I could sense it wasn’t solely due to the exertion.
We approached the section where we had to choose how much of a challenge we were up for, and I debated with myself for some time, but opted to attempt the harder route. It was graded an E, which is the highest level on the scale and meant I’d be dealing with continuous exposed vertical or overhanging sections more physical in nature. Some parts of the route I felt confident about, but there were others that definitely made me a bit nervous. I have to admit there was one maneuver on an overhanging ledge that tripped me up and I ended up falling about a foot or so to the bolt below. I recovered, but by that time I was eager to complete that section.
Immediately after, our next section consisted of the most unique part of Via Ferrata Loen, its suspended cable bridge known as Gjølmunnebrua. This bridge is suspended across a 525 ft deep canyon, and as it spans 394 ft in length, it holds the record for the longest via ferrata bridge in Europe! I have to admit this part was a little nerve wracking, but we all made it across successfully. The next challenge involved walking across a different type of bridge consisting of 3 cables – one to balance on and one on each side of your body. This obstacle was optional, but of course I had to prove to myself I could do it. And to my surprise, it wasn’t so terrifying after all!
At the end of our adventure, we made it to the top of Mt. Hoven and enjoyed a breathtaking view on the rooftop of Hoven Restaurant. We opted to take the Loen Skylift back to the base of the mountain, which only recently opened in May 2017. The alternative would be to hike down a side trail, but we felt satisfied enough with our recent accomplishment. As expected, we concluded the day with some soreness, bruises, and scrapes. Though with the scenery we witnessed and terrain we traversed, we were at an all time high.
If you’re up for an adrenaline-filled adventure with fantastic views, I would highly recommend seeking out a Via Ferrata route near your next travel destination!