Acrophobia is not a “fear of heights”, like everyone says.

Acrophobia comes from the Greek root ἄκρον (akron) which means: the farthest bounds or uttermost parts, the end, the extreme—the edge.

I am a true acrophobe—I am not afraid of heights; I am afraid of the edge.

The very extreme edge of Preikestolen looks hand-chiseled, a right-angled granite cube suspended 1,800 ft (604 meters) over Lysefjord. When I reach the top, my primate instincts take over, freezing my boots to the rock. In my mind, I scold the the happy fools who sit along the edge, dangling their feet over the unforgiving cliff, absorbing the dizzy view of cold water a thousand feet below.

Preikestolen is Norway’s travel poster moment. This country has no Coliseum or Eiffel tower—no, Norway’s greatest monument is made by nature: an ice-cracked stone that carved out the near-perfect block of rock, offering a heavenly perch for anyone daring enough to stand on top. Which I did . . . .

From the bottom of Lysefjord to the top of Preikestolen  is not a difficult hike. In my opinion, anyone who can walk up a flight of stairs can hike up Preikestolen. It takes about two hours, during which there are only two real “climbs”—the rest is fairly level.

And it’s beautiful. Hiking Preikestolen sure beats huffing it out on a stairstepper at the gym while browsing reruns on Reality TV. This is what I love about Norway: the endless outdoors and how active a place this is.

Preikestolen means preacher’s chair in Norwegian, but is normally translated as “Pulpit Rock”. This barely makes sense until you see one of the suspended pulpits in the older Norwegian churches. These cathedral-style pulpit literally hung from the walls of the church, an ornate perch from where the preacher could pronounce his sermon on the congregation.

(Like this one, from Stavanger Cathedral, built in 1125):

The "Preikestolen" at Stavanger Cathedral. (Photo by Andrew Evans, National Geographic Traveler)

 

The fjord-side Preikestolen is a tad higher than the one in the cathedral and there is no medieval carved railing. In fact, there is no railing at all. There is only the extraordinary view of Norway’s fjords that seem to go on forever.

Acrophobe that I am, I still hiked to the top of Preikestolen and marched straight out to the edge. I did not dangle my legs as some of you suggested I should (that’s not in my contract). Nor did I take a picture of myself jumping in the air at the edge of such a precarious precipice. I will risk a lot for a good shot, but on the day I was there, the lighting was all wrong for such deadly stunts.

No, I merely hiked to the edge, which is a mighty feat for an acrophobe like me. Was it worth all that heart-jumping adrenalin? Totally. In fact, I don’t see how anyone can come to the Norwegian fjords and NOT choose to hike to the top of Preikestolen.

This is what the fjords are all about: ice and stone, nature’s raw beauty and getting a little closer to God in the process.

Comments

  1. kaja hall
    Arctic
    May 24, 2012, 8:05 am

    Nice You like it! But you hav not seen it all, before you have been to the arctic: north of norway! and Svalbard its breath takeing…!!! Welcome: all the best from the welcoming pepole of the north

  2. Gio Palatucci
    Washington, D.C.
    May 24, 2012, 12:17 pm

    Wow! The views are beautiful! I love the angles and vantage points you captured in this video.

    It’s good to hear that the hike is suited for all levels. I love hiking but wouldn’t consider myself an expert by any means.

    Thank you for sharing, Andrew. As always, your stories have inspired my wanderlust.

    • Andrew Evans
      May 25, 2012, 8:28 am

      Thank you Gio. You’d love this hike–you must do it someday!

  3. JC
    NYC
    May 24, 2012, 4:04 pm

    Incredible video. Love that you got up there and fought your fears. Looks like it was 100% worth it. Would love to see that first hand one day. Looking forward to your next post!

  4. Lanny Knutson
    Winnipeg, Canada
    May 25, 2012, 12:10 am

    Takk for reisen. Thanks for the return trip. The video is as I remember it a year ago when I hiked to Preikestolen, acrophobe that I am, too. The next day, Pentecost Sunday (pinsedag), I heard a sermon from that preikestolen in the Stavanger cathedral.

    • Andrew Evans
      May 27, 2012, 1:07 pm

      You’re welcome Lanny! It was a great hike & very meaningful for me as well. Already hoping to do it again someday.

  5. roger
    Stavanger
    May 25, 2012, 3:31 pm

    Hei,
    I heard that you was in Sabi Sushi?

  6. Arie Paap
    Zeewolde The Netherlands
    May 26, 2012, 11:49 am

    Beautyfull pictures, we even bean dear, my wive and me, this pictures ……i’ts makes memory compleatly!
    Best regard,
    Arie Paap

  7. AWAIS AHMAD
    SKARDU
    May 26, 2012, 12:08 pm

    I LOVE PHOTOGRAFY OF NATIONAL GEOGRAFIC CHANAL

  8. Håvard
    Trondheim
    May 28, 2012, 7:52 am

    Just reading about Preikestolen makes me dizzy.

  9. Tom Wong
    Vancouver, BC
    May 29, 2012, 3:42 pm

    We are going there in 2 weeks! Are you planning to hike Kjerag as well? We want to go there, but the summer bus service doesn’t start until end of June, so have to probably rent a car to get there.

  10. Marketing and tourism translator
    http://www.native-translator.co.uk/
    May 31, 2012, 3:55 am

    Love the blogging you have made about Norway. It is an incredible country with very friendly and welcoming people.

  11. Terryl Oliver
    Knoxville, TN, USA
    June 1, 2012, 5:37 am

    My hands are sweating, just watching you at the edge. I know I developed that fear of the edge in Norway, but the views in that country are more than worth it. Thank you for sharing some things from the land of my forefathers!

  12. [...] Hike Preikestolen [...]

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  16. Joseph
    Stavanger
    August 13, 2013, 8:14 am

    Preikestolen, Is this where you have a hanging rock squeezed by 2 walls??

  17. Dublin, Ireland | traveltidbit
    April 24, 9:25 pm

    […] must-see if you’re into outdoor activities is hiking to the top of the Preikestolen rock. The hike is on a well marked path and is suitable for people of all ages, which is great because […]

  18. Lizzie
    August 18, 8:01 pm

    I am planning to visit Norway in early October. I suppose this climb would be out of the question in the fall? If so, would you recommend another adventure? I’ve always wanted to visit Norway, and I can’t even explain why. Even a suggestion about a lovely old town to visit, especially if there might be a regional celebration going on… I would appreciate!