Saturday, 23 September 2017

#Loen Skylift! #Mount Hoven #8 Cruise Diary

Cruising Greenland, Iceland and Norway #8

Continuing my cruise diary...

Friday 1st September

Sailing to our next port at Olden, Norway, meant cruising along a very long fjord. I’m sure we were told our route was along one of the longest fjords in Norway. Entering the first part near Maloy we cruised along the sea opening to Nordfjord > to Innvikfjorden and >along to Olden at the head of the fjord. The end of the fjord doesn’t culminate in one bay, it’s actually like there are ‘2 heads of the loch’ with Olden to the south and the town of Loen to the north.

Most of the sail was done overnight but I was awake to see the ship make its slow way to the harbour at Olden. The views to either side were fantastic and it was easy to believe that the cruise along it would have been stupendous in daylight.

We booked the Loen Skylift—a short cable car trip—for our Olden trip knowing it came the day after the long trip at Alesund and because it was yet another method of travel to view the panoramic sights of Norway from on high. 

Loen Skylift, Norway
Travelling to the mountain tops by coach would have meant another long day so the cable car was an excellent way to do it in a few minutes. The coach ride from the harbour to the cable car stop at Loen was quick mainly due to the tunnel connections between the fjord ends.

Loen Skylift, Norway
The Loen Skylift was the most amazing cable car ride I’ve eve had so far and I’ve taken a lot of rides in many different kinds of cable cars. The Loen Skylift  claims to be one of the steepest cable car rides on the globe. 

Brand new, the engineers had to create a new type of ‘lifting mechanism’ because nothing that existed was capable of coping with the slope of Mount Hoven. The ride takes about five minutes and up to a height of 1011 metres (3316 feet). A comparison might be going straight to the top of Liathach (Carn Eige, Torridon, Scotland) or Snowdon in Wales.  

It was the smoothest, the most silent and incredible ride I’ve experienced and so close to the surface of the mountain near the top that someone tall with a long stretch could have put their hand out of the top ventilation window and touched the rock wall. That may be the tiniest exaggeration but only the tiniest! There was no lurch over the sections of the cable just a beautiful glide to the top.

Unfortunately, it was very misty with light intermittent rain. That meant the view from the top of Mount Hoven was seriously restricted when we exited the cable car at around 10 a.m. It wasn’t as cold as I expected but my ski jacket was perfect for taking a wander on the top of Mount Hoven. However, the wind was so shrill I didn’t linger on the pathways. Because the mist was so low the cliff edges were difficult to see and the top pathways close to the restaurant had no perimeter edging (that I could detect).

I loved the huge horseshoe at the summit and wondered if it was good luck for those who had taken the opportunity to ride to the top by the cable car or…was it good luck for a safe cable car ride back down!  I have since found out that the horseshoe is there because ‘Hoven’ means hoof. The mountain is named Hoven because Sleipner, the horse belonging to Odin in Norse Mythology is said to have kicked one of its hooves into the mountain at Loen and left the characteristic hole that lies at the peak.

The two cars of the lift are named Hugin and Munin. In Norse Mythology they were a pair of ravens who flew daily over Midgard (human world) and Asgard (the gods' world) watching what was happening and listening to what was said. On the approach of dusk they returned to Odin's shoulder and whispered their findings. In this way Odin was credited with being the most knowledgeable and wisest god. We travelled on Hugin both ways.  

This site gives information on the official opening ceremony of the cable car in May 2017.

We lingered in the restaurant drinking excellent coffee and ‘Norwegian’ doughnuts for an hour or so in the hope that the mist would clear and we’d get a better view. It thinned a little but we gave up and went back down since the prognosis by the informed staff was that it might be 2 p.m. before it properly cleared. On a good day I’m sure it has to be absolutely stunning. The whole trip for us cost around £50 each but we still reckoned it was worth it to have experienced the brand new ride!

I loved the way the surroundings of the building at the top were exposed to reveal the rocks that the builders had had to excavate to prepare the flat foundations. 

The striations of the rocks were impressive perhaps showing up even more in the damp mist than they would on a fine day. Sadly the neat little outside cafe area was deserted though it's easy to see why.

I made a short video of the ride back down but it's apparently too large a file to be shown here. However, I did manage to post it to Facebook from the ship while it was still in port at Olden so you might be able to catch it HERE , scrolll down to find a post of the 1st September. 

We saw a little more of Olden on our coach tour back to the ship. It was too late for lunch on board so we opted to eat in a cafĂ© near the harbour. Olden beer, made just a few yards along the road at the craft brewery, was too tempting not to try. Being late for lunchtime the only hot food left was ‘pizza’ – not a traditional Norwegian dish like we’d thought to try but it was freshly made pepperoni style and was delicious with the Olden brew.

Regardless of the intermittent rain and mist, it was a lovely day but our cruise holiday @Fred.Olsen The Black Watch was almost over. Only a day and a half sail left to reach our destination at Rosyth.

Look out for my next and last cruise diary!


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