Promoted as the “Golden Route”, the 120-kilometre journey from the village of Langvatn to Geiranger and Åndalsnes along Highway 63 is famous for its mountain scenery – and no wonder. Even by Norwegian standards, the route is of outstanding beauty, the road bobbing past a whole army of austere peaks whose cold severity is daunting. The journey also incorporates a ferry ride across the Norddalsfjord, a shaggy arm of the Storfjord, and can include a couple of brief but enjoyable detours – one west along the Norddalsfjord from Linge to Stordal, home to an especially fine church, the other east from Valldal to the intriguing village of Tafjord. Yet, the most memorable section is undoubtedly the Trollstigen (Troll’s Ladder), a mountain road that cuts an improbable course between the Valldal valley and Åndalsnes, the northern terminus of the dramatic Rauma train line, though be aware that the Trollstigen closes when the snows come.
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The alarming heights of the Trollstigen (Troll’s Ladder), a trans-mountain route between Valldal and Åndalsnes, are equally compelling in either direction. The road negotiates the mountains by means of eleven hairpins with a maximum gradient of 1:12, but it’s still a pretty straightforward drive until, that is, you meet a tour bus coming the other way – followed by a bit of nervous backing up and repositioning. Drivers (and cyclists) should also be particularly careful in wet weather.
From Valldal, the southern end of the Trollstigen starts gently enough with the road rambling up the Valldal valley. Thereafter, the road swings north, building up a head of steam as it bowls up the Meiadal valley bound for the barren mountains beyond. Now the road starts to climb in earnest, clambering up towards the bleak and icy plateau-pass, the Trollstigplatået, which marks its high point. Beyond the Trollstigplatået, the sheer audacity of the road becomes apparent, zigzagging across the face of the mountain and somehow managing to wriggle round the tumultuous, 180-metre Stigfossen falls. Beyond the hairpins, on the northern part of the Trollstigen, the road resumes its easy ramblings, scuttling along the Isterdal to meet the E136 just 5km short of Åndalsnes.