Preikestolen or Pulpit Rock Norway, (Preikestolen in English: “The Pulpit Rock”, “Pulpit” or “Preacher’s Chair”) once visited, is one of those places that you are never likely to forget. To say it is impressive feels like it’s an understatement. Its majestic beauty and that of its surrounding region is hard to compare to anywhere else.
Acknowledged by many as being the most photographed and popular site of natural beauty in Norway, Preikestolen is a steep cliff which rises 604 metres (1,982 ft) above the Lysefjorden. Atop the cliff, there is an almost flat top of approximately 25 by 25 metres (82 ft × 82 ft) and affords beautiful views across Rogaland County and down to the fjord below. This is truly a hiker’s paradise and there is no wonder that tourism numbers here have more than doubled over the past decade.
So, what is the origin of this natural wonder? Well according to Wikipedia:
“The cliff was formed during the ice age, approximately 10,000 years ago, when the edges of the glacier reached the cliff. The water from the glacier froze in the crevices of the mountain and eventually broke off large, angular blocks, which were later carried away with the glacier. This is the cause of the angular shape of the plateau. Along the plateau itself there continues to be a deep crack. Due to these cracks, the plateau will at some point fall down, but all the geological investigations have revealed that this will not happen in the foreseeable future, and geologists have confirmed the safety of the plateau.”
Interestingly, you would also recognise Preikestolen if you are a Mission Impossible fan as it appears quite prominently in the 2018 release of Mission: Impossible – Fallout.
It is the sixth instalment in the Mission: Impossible film series starring (among others) Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Alec Baldwin, Henry Cavill, and Angela Bassett.
Preikestolen is located in the southern part of the Ryfylke district in Rogaland county in Western Norway. The closest major centre is Stavanger, the fourth largest city in Norway and situated some 25 klms (16 mi) from the site.
Travel time to the trailhead of Preikestolen is roughly an hour from Stavanger and can be reached by ferry and car. The ferry travels from Stavanger and takes some 40 minutes to reach the town of Tau where you disembark and drive the remainder of the way to the car park at Preikestolhytta where the path going up to Preikestolen begins.
Open year-round, this trail can also be done via an organised tour who will look after the logistics of the journey for you and ensure you have a safe hike. This is especially recommended if you are an inexperienced hiker and particularly if you are planning your trip during the winter. There is also the option to start the hike during the night in order to witness a spectacular sunrise but you need to exercise real caution in doing this, particularly ensuring you watch your footing as you ascend.
My fiancé James and I were extremely fortunate to be under the care and guidance of his older brother, sister in law and one of his nieces that took us on this amazing adventure. Stavanger, Norway happened to be the location of James’ European Family Reunion for 2019 as one of his brothers and also a sister lives there and kindly offered to host the family get-together in Norway.
Tor (James’ older brother), his lovely wife Anne Synnøve and one of their daughters Helene (who did all the driving), James and I set off from Stavanger and caught the car ferry to Tau. The scenery during this 40-minute trip across the bay and heading toward the fjords was just stunning. Norway’s mainland, islands and waterways are simply pristine as you will see in numerous beautiful photos contained within other posts covering our trip through this beautiful country.
From the town of Tau, it was about a 20-minute trip up to the car park that lay at the foot of the hike to Preikestolen. It was indeed a privilege to be hosted by James’ family on this trip as their knowledge of this hike, the site and all related logistics made it very easy for us, aside from the fact that we could explore this famous region in such wonderful company.
Many people casually state that this hike is easy. However, believe me when I say that there is a certain level of fitness required to undertake this journey. It is not as easy as some people would lead you to think. The fact is that there were many people who turned back without reaching Preikestolen on the day we went and some (like James) that injured himself in the process of completing the hike. More on that later. Needless to say, this is not a hike to be overly confident of, unless you are experienced and/or have a reasonably good level of fitness.
The trail itself doesn’t sound that bad. It is a round trip of roughly 8 klms with a net elevation gain of 500 meters and typically taking between 4-6 hours to complete the round trip. However, the trail climbs and descends various ridges with significant changes in terrain including swampland, forests and quite a few sets of challenging stone stairways built by Nepalese Sherpas.
Depending on the time of the year and the weather, the prevailing conditions can also make the trail considerably more challenging that the beautiful day we were blessed with as we headed up.
Aside from being reasonably physically fit or practised as a hiker in preparation for this trail, you do need to have had a good breakfast for the energy. Carrying a light but durable backpack with plenty of water for hydration and nutritious snacks to keep you going is a must as well as hiking poles if you use them and of course a hat and sunscreen.
It is a rocky ascent for most of the way and at the places where it is steepest, Nepalese Sherpas laid down large stones to form steps up the trail.
While it is true to say that the Nepalese Sherpas did a thorough job of laying stones down on quite a number of very steep paths, the steps created were not at all uniform in their height. This resulted in many steps being extremely high and others not so much.
At some points you would come across multiple very high steps that you literally had to create momentum to heave your body weight forward, while your leg muscles strained to lift your body high up on to the next step. And the next step. And the next step, and so on. There was no wonder that many people just had to stop for small breaks on the way and unfortunately some lost heart and turned back.
Needless to say, the higher you go, the better the views and as stated earlier the terrain changes quite a few times during the journey.
The fabulous views, together with continual encouragement from our Norwegian relatives, helped a great deal when it came to mustering the effort to keep going as far as possible to experience the magical beauty of this place. There is no doubt that Tor, Anne Synnøve and Helene were all very fit and used to this type of terrain compared to James and I but we did our best, following their advice.
Reaching Preikestolen or Pulpit Rock
After a couple/few hours of negotiating the various terrains and climbing and descending the ridges, Preikestolen is reached as you travel along a series of ledges that eventually leads to the ultimate prize.
I will let a few photos below speak for the beauty that you can enjoy, looking out to the various peaks and fjords in spectacular Rogaland.
There is little wonder that people want to set out early to allow time to spend in this special and peaceful place, gazing out at such an awesome vista, taking it all in and enjoying the serenity of the overwhelming natural beauty. It was indeed good fortune that it was such a beautiful clear day and that Preikestolen was not at all crowded when compared to many photos I had seen prior to visiting Norway.
But of course, time marches on and you eventually have to think about the second half of the journey, heading back the way you came.
Heading down in many ways can be considered just as difficult (or in some cases, even more so) and it really can be a mistake to think that going down must automatically be easier than making the ascent. After all you’ve got gravity on your side, right? In truth, that could in fact be part of the problem.
It certainly proved a problem for James in an incident that occurred around ¾ of the way down. It was at this point the group were heading down one of the steep stone set of steps. Here he misjudged the height of the step which was deeper than he thought it was. The result was that he came down harder on that stone than he was expecting, which caused damage and quite a bit of pain to his right knee.
Even though he only had a quarter of the trip left to go, in terms of time, that represented around 40 or so minutes where he was slowed as he delicately and carefully plotted his course along each foot hold, trying not to jar his sore knee.
Fortunately, James’ niece Helene spotted a couple of women hikers that did not make it to the top and were just a bit ahead and she asked if they might have any painkillers. Fortunately, they did and were kind enough to give some to James which eased the pain a bit. The other major help to James in getting back down was the physical support his brother Tor provided in helping him through some challenging areas of descent and finding the best path for him to walk.
Anne Synnøve and I had left to return to the car park much earlier so we eagerly awaited the rest of the group and were in contact by cell phones so we knew what had happened.
It wasn’t easy but James made it down within a reasonable time, all things considered.
Completing the hike
Having reached the safety of the car park again, it was easy from there for the 5 of us to make our way back to the waterside town of Tau and catch the car ferry back to Stavanger. Aside from the pain that James felt with handling stairs until his injury healed, everything was just fine and he was back to normal in a few days.
So that, in a nutshell, was our experience of hiking up to Preikestolen. If you are keen on finding out more, do visit their official website.
Was the hike hard for us? Sure. Did it cause some pain? A bit. Would we recommend doing this? Absolutely. Just ensure you get some degree of fitness first and ideally some experience in hikes up steep and rocky terrain.
Preikestolen is simply one of those absolute iconic destinations that so many people talk about having on their bucket list. I can understand why. This was a really wonderful day and time that we got to spend with family members from Norway which I will never forget. Such fantastic natural beauty spent in the company of those we care about. What could be better than that?
Have you hiked up Norway’s Preikestolen or Pulpit Rock? Is this a place that interests you? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.