I’ve climbed a few mountains when there was snow on the ground, but nothing comes close to climbing Tromso’s most famous mountain during the winter. It is a top thing to do when visiting up north in Norway, and for good reason. The hike goes up the famous Fjellheisen mountain, providing stunning views of the snowy Tromsø city. You’ll walk along powder covered tracks in the forest and emerge into slight glacier-like ice fields. The view at the top is great and you can explore much of the mountain on your own. Plus, it’s only a twenty minute walk from the city center to the base of the hike.
I climbed up the Tromso Mountain during the dead of winter on December 21st with some friends I met at the hostel. And although we were all active people, it was still a difficult hike because of the deep snow and slippery conditions. The hike itself was icy, but well defined. Plus, because it was the 21st of December and the polar sun did not rise above the horizon, it left us with only a few hours of daylight to climb the mountain. We were running out of time to get to the top, which put us into fast mode when making our way up to the top.
But on the way up we had stunning views of the snow-covered city. We were gasping for breath, while at the same time trying to enjoy all that we could see. I remember a few steep parts but these didn’t last more than 50m at a time. You just had to stomp your boots into a good snow pocket to get a good grip. We took the Sherpatrappa Staircase as this was the most used path and more direct than the cable car tracks. If you use the ones under the cable car you’ll be stuck in knee-deep snow and it’s difficult to climb. After starting at the Sherpatrappa Staircase (which was completely covered in snow when we arrived), we took the first right up the mountain, which had Himalayan prayer flags like the one you see in Nepal or elsewhere. From there it was a direct climb to the top for about 25 minutes.
In some places though, we had to crawl on our hands, which was exhausting, but surprisingly fun and a good workout. In other places, it felt like we would slip off the mountain, although that likely wouldn’t have happened. There was a mix of tiredness and an adrenaline rush as we made our way up.
But soon after taking this photo we all made it to the top, where we were treated to some of the finest views possible. Tromsø was beautiful with its lights, famous landmarks like the cathedral and bridge, and snow covered mountains in all directions.
Location & Hours:
To get to the start of the trail, you can either walk across the bridge and use the Arctic Cathedral as your starting point – with posted signs nearby that point you in the correct direction. You can also use the number 26 bus that runs from the city center to the bottom of the Fjellheisen cable car about every 20 minutes during the day to get you to the base of the hike. Then, the start of the Sherpatrappa Stairs is just to the left of house number 40 on the Fløyvegen street. You might miss it because it is a small path that leads up the mountain that is covered in snow. It starts a few feet away from the sign in the photo below.
Try to download the offline Maps.me app or offline Google Maps, before you venture off, as it is very precise on the location.
The opening hours for the cable car are as follows. But the mountain is open all day and night long. If you are going up in the winter, then start around 1pm or earlier to get both the daytime and nighttime view of the city and mountains.
Time: It takes about 30 minutes to climb, but on a snowy, icy day it may take closer to 45 minutes. Again, you may want to rent crampons from the Tromso Outdoor Shop to help yourself from sliding back down.
Climbing Tips: Now, if you have the money, then I suggest renting a pair of spikes for your boots to climb the mountain, although not completely necessary if you take your time. You’ll want to bring gloves to keep your hands warm after falling. If you do hire spikes for your shoes, then you can also get a reasonably priced rental on a polar suit, which you would use at night for northern lights star-gazing. For time, you’ll want to give yourself more time than you think because of photo stops and short day-light hours. As I mentioned earlier, we were running out of time at the top, but we did make it at what was sunset.\
At the Top: Multiple paths along the mountain give different views. You can see the city from one side, the mountains to the back, and a valley on another side. It’s pretty safe to walk anywhere you want. Just be sure not to get close to an edge. Try to stay in the middle of the mountain.
Cable Car Cost going Down: You can always opt to take the cable car down for safety reasons and if you know in advance that you won’t be climbing back down, then you can purchase your tickets ahead of time online, and save 5%. Going down the mountain using the cable car costs 150 kroner, which is about 17 USD one-way. 142 kroner if you purchase it online. However, if you are prepared and have a headlamp, go ahead and walk back down to save money. The ride down takes perhaps two minutes and the view isn’t as good as when you are walking.
Cafe & Internet: At the top of the mountain is a cafe/restaurant, which serves as a good place to grab a bite or get some free hot water and to warm up. There’s free wifi inside, so you could bring a charger for your electronics and connect to the web to pass some time. We climbed at 2:00pm and stayed inside the restaurant around till 7:00pm – so we had 5 hours to kill. Movies and other entertainment pre-downloaded is recommended.
Temperature & Weather: At the top of the mountain, becasue of the wind, it gets cold really fast. It might be only a few degrees colder on the temperature gauge, like the difference between -2 in the city and -5 at the top of the mountain, but it will feel like -10 if there are strong winds. The mountain top can be closed at times due to weather. If so, then you can check out my guide to Tromsø City for other activities to do in the area.
Northern Lights: If you wait long enough ( from 6:00pm to around 10:30pm – as the last tram down is at 11:00pm), then you may be treated to a aurora show at the top of the mountain. This was one of the best views that I had on my Northern Lights Adventure trip. The show was quite good this time, but it was a bit cold. You’ll want to bring warm clothes, if you venture deeper into the mountain (there’s two small crater areas that descend a few feet and block you from the light pollution). When stepping outside the cafe, just head towards the tall mountain at the top and in about 10 or 15 minutes walking, you’ll find a good place to sit. Perhaps bring a sitting mat, if you don’t have waterproof pants.