Quietly keeping watch over Tromso, through polar nights and summer months when the sun does not rest, is Storsteinen – a mountain that gives you panoramic views of Tromso and the lands beyond. And to get there, you can (and absolutely should) take Fjellheiser, the cable car that will propel you from sea level to the platform that sits at 420m in a breath-taking four-minute ride.
I was planning to hold off and take the cable car when my family came to visit, but one Saturday morning I woke up expecting snow, only to be greeted by vibrant blue skies without a cloud in site. And I knew I had to go to Fjellheisen.
When you get these clear days in the arctic, the blue skies you see are unlike the blues you see in any other sky. Here, they are a vibrant, bright, light, almost electric in intensity and intoxicatingly beautiful.
So, after a hearty breakfast of champions (bread, nugatti (chocolate spread) and caffeine), I packed my bag, donned my 20 layers and set off.
A simple bus ride to Tromsdalen later, I was at the base of Fjellheisen, and before I new it I was being gently lifted up the mountain, along with twenty or so other excited people, some with skies, some wearing suede brogues (yes, really!), some as round as Michelin men, like me, due to the number of layers we managed to pull one on top of the other.
Once at the top, there are a couple of paths you can hike up and around to explore the mountain and the views.
So off I set, camera around my neck, already scanning every inch of my view for a photography opportunity.
The height, slight breeze and general winter weather leaves un-gloved hands in significant pain and lowered functionality in moments. The chill is enough to cause headaches to those who, like me, are susceptible to pain from cold around your head/ears.
Within minutes, however, I was working up a sweat and could feel every muscle in my legs working hard to get me up the slope.
The snow on my route was deep. I lost sight of my feet for the majority of my hike. I lost my balance trying to tread in holes left behind from the traveller before me. I lost my breath many times – there is something about walking with so many layers on in thick snow!
But all around me was a landscape so harsh yet so beautiful, glistening white and blue as the arctic midday sun reflected off of months of snow and ice. Little islands of tree skeletons peeped through the snow here and there, and lichen clung to visible rock. Some mountain tops rolled gently into the next, whilst others, like daggers, rose higher with their weather-worn jagged peaks.
To my left lay another mountain ridge, separated by a fjord hundreds of meters below (and out of my line of site), in front of me the peak of Storsteinen and the mountain range beyond, and to my right the island of Tromsoya, the ancient fjord and the mountain peaks beyond. As the sun started its early decent in the sky, and clouds lined the peaks across the fjord, a golden light cast across the mountains and the settlements and city below.
When you are alone in nature like this, in lands formed by glaciers, in places where the weather conditions makes life different and intense and raw, it’s hard not to feel a part of something greater, to feel a yearning for a something primal, and to feel grounded and connected to nature once again.
Whilst Tromso is a great and modern city, with students and tourists from all around the globe frequenting its streets, what makes it so special for me living here is the sheer overwhelming sense of awe that I feel every time I step outside, or even just look out of my window. The natural beauty of this land never ceases to stop me in my tracks, and will always keep me wanting more. More connection with the earth, more lessons with the local people, more adventures into the mountains and through the fjords.
What to wear
Layers and wool! The first time I moved Northern Norway I was told that wool is your best friend – it keeps you warm and it doesn’t need to be washed so often.
Wool base layers are great if you have them, and make sure to wear layers (as opposed to one big jumper).
Snow boots are a great purchase, though you can hire these through places like Tromso Outdoors.
And don’t forget to keep your ears and head warm. When you are high in the mountains, the wind chill and temperature will drop quickly, and even if you are hiking and moving about, you will still feel it sting at your exposed extremities, so be sure to cover up and keep your warmth in. If you do start to heat up, you can always shake off some layers!
Snacks and water are a great idea to pack, however there is a lovely cafe where you can grab a hearty hot chocolate after your hike!
If you make it to Fjellheisen, let me know how you liked it!