Surrounding Bergen are a number of mountains, each accessible via clearly marked and maintained hiking trails. Every year in May, the local Trekking Association (Bergen od Hordaland Turlag) holds the 7 or 4 Mountains Hike, a day hike where around 8000 participants walk up Lyderhorn, Damsgårdsfjellet, Løvstakken, Ulriken, Fløyen, Rundemannen and Sandviksfjellet – the seven main mountains around Bergen. It involves covering a distance of around 35km, with 2300m of vertical ascent and descent.
Accidentally stumbling upon this event whilst researching which mountain is the best to go hiking if you only have a day spare in Bergen, I signed on to the event paid the 500NOK entry fee (yikes!) when I learnt that it would involve getting a tshirt at the end and after watching the promo video 😛 At least it pretty much answered the question I was trying to answer: Which of the 7 peaks should I do? I guess why do one when you could do all seven?!
As they didn’t have time to mail out my registration card (I signed up exactly 2 weeks before the date), I picked it up from the trekking office in the old market area of Bergen on my first day in the city.
With a bit more information on the trail from the people in the office, I set myself a target of completing the event in 12 hours, including breaks.
The big day
Come Sunday morning, I was back at the office at 6am sharp to catch the first batch of shuttle buses from the city centre to the starting line. According to Cily at Bergen Ashram, sunny days in Bergen are the exception rather than the rule (hence the Scandinavian saying that “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad equipment/clothing”) the forecast for my time in Bergen was clear skies and sunshine! Even so, the morning started off foggy and cool with minimal visibility and plenty ‘drama’ in the atmosphere. I admit, it was pretty cool hiking through the fog filled trees in the early morning with a couple of hundred people in front and behind you…
There wasn’t much of a prelude to the trail. It was off the bus and straight onto following the line of people walking uphill. With a long day ahead, I guess it was best to just plod along as quickly as possible, unless you want to face the stampede of people behind you! I did manage to get a few snaps along the way whilst managing to hit the top of Lyderhorn in just under an hour. One down, six to go!
From there, it was no rest for the weary as everyone quickly made their way down the rocky and slippery mountainside to the foot of the next hill – Damsgardfjellet. At 350m, this was the shortest of all mountains that day, though it was also one of the steepest gradients. Powered by a banana, I managed to get to the top by the 2.5hr mark.
By the time I hit the top of Løvstakken around 4 hours in (around 11:30am), the fog and clouds were fast clearing away, revealing clear blue skies and an excellent view of the city centre.
Nevertheless, the conditions underfoot, particularly in the tree-shaded descent sections were still really really muddy. I can see why some locals chose to wear gumboots for the event as if you’re not careful, you would end up thigh deep in mud! It was around this point that I caught up with an old man with an interesting sign stuck to the back of his backpack… Though I can’t read Norwegian, it was pretty clear what it said… It turns out that this guy is the legend who has done the 7 Mountains Hike a total of 49 times, which is basically every year since inauguration.
After reaching the bottom of Løvstakken, the route takes you past the local athletics stadium, which was also the starting point for the shorter 4 Mountains Hike. For those doing the 7 Mountains, it was a symbolic halfway mark and there were plenty of volunteers on hand giving out free chocolate milk and sports drinks. With the sun out, it was a nice place to sit down and have some lunch!
By this stage, I was still feeling pretty good. I did have a small slip on the rocks heading down to the stadium (damaging the lens on my camera in the process ) but was in generally good spirits and on time.
The next mountain on the list was Ulriken, which is also the tallest of the 7 with a height of 640m. Those who are visiting Bergen and wish to head to the top of Ulriken without walking; you’re in luck. A gondola/cable car service exists which takes people right to the top! Unfortunately, taking the cable car would be considered as cheating for this event …
I must say, the weather in Bergen (in Spring anyway) reminded me of Melbourne… Definitely a four-seasons-in-one-day city and today was no different. If you take part in this event, I would highly recommend ‘doing as the locals do’ and dress and pack accordingly (unless you’re one of the crazy locals who run the entire event). This means wearing/packing layers and packing clothing to shield you from the wind you’ll experience at the top of each of the mountains.
The packed lunch is a fine art in Scandinavia (I’m waiting for them to open a museum of fine packed lunches, next to a wooden furniture museum :P) and you would be certainly frowned upon if you did not pack one for the day. For me, I had several bread rolls, packets of sliced meat and cheese as well as a couple of chocolate bars, bananas, beef jerky and dried fruits to snack on. As there were plenty of water stations along the way, I just had my 2L Camelbak for water.
Once you hit Ulriken and Floyen (probably the main two mountains most frequently visited by tourists), there are ample cafes and shops to buy cold drinks or snacks from if you don’t want to carry too much.
After Floyen, it was a temporary good bye to the city of Bergen as you head further inland to Rundemanen. This section was more flatter than previous sections, which was definitely a welcome change and the weather made a cool change in the afternoon with the sun disappearing as quickly as it appeared. A quick check of the watch showed that I made it there in 10 hours 15 minutes.
With the end goal in sight, I powered on to Sandviksfjellet, getting there within 40 minutes, receiving the final ‘punch’ in the registration card and down to the finish line at the Old Market Area, completing the day’s hike in 11 hours 50 minutes!
All in all, this was a highly enjoyable day in Bergen. If you are ever considering coming to Bergen to take part in this event but are unsure if you’re physically able to do so, rest assured that people of all abilities do this event, not just the super-fit-people-who-are-crazy-in-running-the-whole-thing.
The most important advice here is you should be prepared for the day. Take it at your own pace, make sure you have suitable equipment and make sure you take breaks when you need it.
Probably the best way to train is to do plenty of walking prior, to condition your leg muscles for the uphill and downhill sections (downhill is often harder than up, especially on the knees). A good set of walking poles probably wouldn’t hurt either.
Would I do it again (and again and again…)? Probably not. I’ll much rather spend the equivalent of 500NOK and do a different event elsewhere in the world, but I certainly don’t regret doing it once I even got a nice little certificate and medal! If you are really keen and do it multiple times, you can upgrade your medal to a silver and then a gold coloured one depending on how many events you have completed. People in Bergen really wear these with pride on event day.
If you don’t have time to do the event, I would definitely recommend heading up to Ulriken and or Floyen if you’re visiting Bergen, by whatever means as the views are definitely worth it.