Safety fears as 'ill-prepared tourists' flock to Norway's natural wonders
Trolltunga & Pulpit Rock
Norway's natural wonders are being put at risk by a growing number of ill-prepared, disrespectful tourists, a national hiking group has warned.
Friluftsliv, an organisation for outdoor enthusiasts, has called for visitor limits to be imposed at popular beauty spots, including Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) and Trolltunga (Troll's tongue, pictured above), where an Australian student fell to her death last year, in a bid to protect them for future generations.
The number of tourists trekking to Pulpit Rock is reported to have increased from 60,000 in 2009 to 300,000 this year, while visitors to Trolltunga have surged from 1,000 to 100,000 in just five years.
"It is urgent that we now take measures to ensure that outdoor life is safeguarded," Lasse Heimdal, the head of Friluftsliv, told NRK, a government-owned media outlet. "If the large loads might damage nature, the authorities are obliged to impose counter measures. Limiting access can be one of the measures."
The warning comes after a Norwegian mayor, earlier this summer, raised fears that the Lofoten Islands could also become overwhelmed by tourism thanks to their starring role in an upcoming Matt Damon film - and the ongoing "Frozen effect".
“In terms of tourism, we’ve become completely unbalanced this year,” Hans Fredrik Sørdal, the mayor of Flakstad, on the Lofoten island of Flakstadøya, said at the time. Arrivals to the archipelago increased by at least 20 per cent this year and Sørdal expressed concern that its road network could not handle further growth.
While Pulpit Rock, which soars 604 metres above the Lysefjord, and Trolltunga, which juts out 700 metres above Lake Ringedalsvatnet, are now firmly on the tourist trail, many come woefully unprepared for the hike to reach it.
"Many don't realise that the walk to the rock is a really tough route, taking up to 10 hours up and down, and are taken aback at just how difficult a climb it is," said Meabh Ritchie of The Telegraph, after a visit last year.
"I met two Americans who were incredulous about the lack of toilets en route and were calling for a road right to the top. Others were annoyed at the lack of 3G, delaying their Facebook posting."
There are also concerns over safety. The death of an Australian student at Trolltunga last September, while posing for a photograph, was described by a Norwegian tour guide as "a tragedy waiting to happen".
"Once you reach the top, climbers queue for their chance to take a photo on the spectacular plateau," added Ritchie. "Despite the wind, and the narrow ledge, groups of people were jumping in the air, sitting with their legs dangling over the edge and, of course - taking selfies."
The Norwegian People’s Aid, a rescue service based near Pulpit Rock, conducted a record 34 emergency rescues this year alone, half of which were said to have been people hiking to the headline attraction.