It is not the size of the mountain. it is how you climb it!

As i was about to visit Norway few days ago . i was looking through my instagram feed to see if i can find some interesting locations to visit!
I found a few and made a quick list of where i wanted to go. This is how i always do it. i don’t research much. i find what i like to see and i decide i’m going to get there.

To me, travel is not only about exploring it is also about photography. i go places not only experience the place, but also to get that special photo for my collection of memories!

so when i arrived to Trolltunga area (Norway), first thing i found out that to get to that place you have to hike for 28km (19.5 miles) round trip from the parking lot 2 with about 1100 meters elevation total and takes about 8-12 hours to complete round trip!

Next thing i found out, was, the guy at the tourist center telling me, it’s already 1pm. It’s not recommended to get started this late. weather in mountains changes unexpectedly and it might be dangerous to go there. Usually people start at 8am in the morning!

Problem was, i didn’t have another morning. I had to return my rental car by 1pm next day and was 6000 miles away from home without any idea if i will every return here! I had to make it happen!

by the time i got some food for the trip and found my way to parking lot, packed my backpack, paid for parking, it was 3pm already.
First section of the hike, from parking lot number 2, where i parked, was supposedly the most difficult. it was 2.7 miles long, up the steep windy road that leads to parking lot number 3.

there was also an option to take a shuttle for $20 from parking 2(where i was) to parking lot 3 and skip 2.7 mile hike. but the shuttle didn’t leave for another hour (4pm). and i did’nt know if the van was gonna be full or not. cause there were other hikers waiting for it(there was no one to ask either).
so i thought if its full already, i might not get a seat. then i still would have to hike 2.7 miles anyway (on top of 6.4 miles from parking lot 3) and i will lose another hour of day light.

I decided not to waste anymore time, start hiking and do 19.5 miles total.The sign said it takes 1.5 hours to go up 2.7 miles from parking 2 to parking 3. but i kicked it into higher gear and made it up to parking lot 3 in only 22 minutes!

it was a bit rough! i haven’t hiked in a while! so i broke sweat like colorado river almost immediately and was feeling really hot, but i focused to keep the fast pace and focused on my breathing and tried to get as much oxygen into my lungs as possible!

when i reached parking number 3 – first 2.7 miles completed. it was exactly 10 Kilometers till final destination. with markers at each kilometer along the way. first 2 kilometers were flat surface with couple of little bridges over the creek. But at 8 kilometers left to destination, it started to get really rough again! Terrain changed into a rocky mountain for about 2 more kilometers it was a level 3 scramble up pretty much straight up the hill with at least 2000ft elevation!

it was pretty hard to climb, my legs were feeling tired already after initial 2.7 miles, pretty much straight uphill, but i kept up the quick tempo and only stopped once to get my thin hoodie out- in fact THE ONLY “warmer” piece of clothing i had with me!

At this point weather wasn’t an issue yet. but with each kilometer up higher wind started feeling pretty chilly and temperature has dropped! quite drastically!

passed the 6 kilometer mark terrain got a little more forgiving, i would have pretty much jogged it all the way if it wasn’t for my 30+ lbs backpack, where i had my food, my camera tripod, battery pack and some extra shirts in case it got really cold on the top of the mountain. since i didnt even bring a jacket. my thoughts were i would just put on 3-4 shirts on me if it got really cold up there!

i kept up good pace and made it to final destination in a little less than 3 hours!
at that point the clouds were already pulling in and it started to get real rainy and cold! i got few shots of Troll Tunga( trolls tongue)- a tongue looking rock formation, sticking out about the 700 meter drop overlooking a bluish-green looking lake! A true natures wonder! it looked exactly as i saw it in the pictures!

Being there felt amazing, no matter how much my body was shivering, i still felt this excitement and big sense of relief i made it to my desired destination! i felt accomplished!

After taking some photos, i ate an apple and sat down for 2 minutes to catch a breath. but the wind started blowing so strong(it knocked down my camera with tripod) and temperatures dropped so quickly (i saw snowflakes in the air) that my hands started to freeze and i decided it is better to keep on moving rather than sit in place and continue turning into an icicle!

no matter how elated i felt about my recent accomplishment, in back of my mind i knew this wasn’t over yet. Reality was, i only made it half way. I still had to drag my ass 14km back! and it wasn’t going to be all fun and roses!
Hiking mountains is an interesting experience! Many people think the hardest part of climbing is going up! and it may appear that way! But going down can also be almost as challenging!

You’re out of energy after the ascend, your legs are tired, your back is sweaty. it starts to get dark slowly. then it starts to rain, fatigue and hunger set in slowly, your mind starts to doubt itself.

i set out back pretty much in complete fog! almost immediately after start, i passed a small group of people, who didnt seem to be in a big hurry. which i thought was weird. cause it was getting really cold and rainy.
I kept my usual pace. going up and down the hills passing markers and counting kilometers as breathing gets harder and feet get heavier with every step!

When you hike alone for a long time under extreme conditions, your body gets tired and your mind races from thought to thought and you start to evaluate yourself, your life and your existence.
i was thinking about why i do what i do, what is important to me, about my work, my dreams and i was thinking about my daughter. i also thought how relieving it will be to get a hotel room after this and soak my legs in a hot tub afterwards. Which never happened. i didn’t have a lot of hotel choices afterwards and hotel room i got didn’t have a tub only a shower! 😀

The whole way back i was constantly thinking about the book i just finished reading. An auto biography of Lance Armstrong. and his triumphant will to compete and win tour de france ( before and after surviving the disease).
As i read that book and literally witnessed the guy work SO HARD for what he achieved, i couldn’t help but think my life is so irrelevant. As i read how much work he had to put in to winning the hardest cycling race on planet earth. 3 weeks of literally hell like conditions, rain, cold, hot, deserts, mountains, while climbing steepest mountains and trying to beat other contenders. I was thinking i haven’t ever put that much effort in anything in life. With what he(and other athletes) were able to achieve by working super hard, I felt as if my existence on this planet was meaningless to the point of almost being irrelevant.Thinking those thoughts i pressed on to keep my pace. While my mind was trying to convince me i’m tired because my legs did start to feel heavy and hurt a little.

And my body wanted to get me to stop and take a break, i pressed on and kept hiking at the max speed, jumping over rocks and hopping across creeks pushing ahead while trying to catch my breath, imaging Lance going as fast as he could to stay ahead of the followers as he was climbing up an icey mountain!

couple of people that i passed along the way told me i was going so fast, as they were stopping to take breaks, to drink water and this one couple even stopped to kiss each other for few seconds!.

After 6 kilometers of hiking in fog and have lost the trail couple of times, I was somewhat relieved to make it back to the scramble 3 stretch where one had to basically hop down these rocks to get to kilometer 7 mark. that meant, evertyhing was visible again and it was only 2 kilometers away from parking lot number 3. plus another 2.7 miles left on top of that to reach my vehicle!

As you hike hard for a long time. it is suggested to wear some knee braces, because muscles around knees get a little weak and going down can become extremely painful! the shins usually start to hurt first going down and sometimes going down backwards can be a little helpful.
But i was hopping down those rocks like an easter bunny and pretty much made it down that scramble 3 hill back to parking lot 3 in less than 25 minutes.

from there the last 2.7 miles down the windy road wasn’t so bad at all! it was an easy stroll and i also got to enjoy the magnificent view that stretch had to offer- huge blue/greenish lakes below, gigantic mountains with patches on snow on top of them as well as waterfalls running down the sides in some places! the rain has stopped, the wind died down and i was happy to get bite into an strawberry ice cream cone as a reward i got myself from a little shop next to a parking lot!

To me, hiking mountains is almost as a metaphor for living life . there are ups and down, there are flats and stretches, some are hard and some are easy, there are rocks and lakes along the way. it gets cold and rainy and next moment it gets hot and sunny!

Then there is a mountain. it sits there for millions of years minding its own business, through rain or shine. Just resting, being a mountain. You don’t have to climb it. you don’t even have to look at it. but if you do, you have to accept it as it is and adapt your pace, and decide how far up you are willing to take it!

On mountain you will also meet people, who go at their pace and you will pass some of them. And some of them might pass you! Some people will make it to top and some will settle in the middle and some will even turn around and go back! some will say hello and some won’t, some will talk to you and some will act like they don’t even see you! Everyone has their own mission on mountain. There is no judgment, there is no requirements or any kind of rules (except maybe not to trash the place)!

Then when you get to the top or to your destination. you can’t really stay there for long. you will have to go down eventually. and going up and down usually takes longer than enjoying your reward- reaching destination.
And while it’s nice to get a photo or keep a memories of the those achievements you have conquered. after few times you start to realize those things are just quick and temporary.No matter how beautiful the top of the mountain or the destination. you still have to get down from there into the valley and start to plan your next venture and do whatever it takes to get there!

After doing it few times, you’re “kinda” forced to realize – unless you really into just wasting time, you better start paying attention to what it takes to get you to the top. or in other words you better start loving the journey!
Regardless how good the reward, it is the process that is ultimately what counts and you better learn to love and enjoy it!it is the pain and struggle that you feel inside your lungs and legs you use to keep you moving. it is the strain inside your mind that wants you to sit down and rest, but in the end it is the drive inside your heart that makes you want to keep on pushing forward.

i also want to thank Lance Armstrong for writing his amazing biography that kept me from giving up and stopping along the way! his spirit was within me and i knew his greatness was somehow a part of me! im grateful for his inspiration and example of how it is really possible to tame your body and make it do almost the impossible!

i heard one guy say recently. God is not trying to kill your ambition. But God is always trying to kill your EGO. And it is the Ego that keeps us afraid, limited, attached and serving time in prisons of mind created conditions.I realized in hardship moments like that. When you literally conquer your body by pushing it to, and, passed it’s (usually imaginary) limits.

It is in those times when you actually do kill your ego, while it fights back as strong as it can. But ultimately loses it’ power and submits to your will and becomes your ultimate servant.As i glanced at my phone when i reached the parking lot where the sign said the whole hike takes 8-12 hours. I realized I did the whole course in under 6!

I felt proud of myself. I knew what i did was pretty awesome, i was 6000 miles away from home. I knew odds were against me and i came virtually unprepared (i didn’t even wear hiking boots) [thanks to #DIESEL shoes for saving me once again!]

diesel shoes, diesel, hiking shoes,

And while no one was racing me, deep inside I that knew I won the race. I won a battle against myself! I felt like Lance Armstrong wearing a yellow shirt standing on top of the podium. For a moment i truly felt like a champion! In that moment, that was more than enough for me…

As the famous travelers quote says: “at the end of the day when we climb it is not the mountains that we conquer, but we conquer ourselves!”

Happy climbing!


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Author: Eddie Marke

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1 thought on “It is not the size of the mountain. it is how you climb it!

  1. It was all worth it. When you climb you conquer the mountains, you conquer the world and the most of it you conquer yourself to be on the top. Such a amazing adventure and amazing you.

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