A traveller's story of hiking reinebringen
I look dubiously at the red and white striped tape hanging limply between two spindly trees. The laminated A4 sign clearly states “The hiking trail is closed. The path has become unstable and is undergoing renovations. In some sections, there are falling rocks. Hikers climb at their own risk.”
My heart sinks.
“At their own risk.”
We have driven all the way up here, to a place which makes me feel like I’m standing at the ends of the earth. This is our one shot to do this hike. Our one chance to reach the summit, to take ourselves skywards and soar above the majestic fjords. Dawn is disappearing and the sun is set to shine brilliantly with hardly a wisp of cloud. Compared to yesterday, the weather is perfect for hiking. Crushingly, we wasted the previous day huddled in our Volkswagen Caddy van from sunrise to sundown as violent winds and torrential rain lashed down on the Lofoten Islands. We lost a whole day for exploring and we had to leave this afternoon. How devastating that we had not allocated a few more days in our itinerary to slowly experience the natural beauty of Norway.
How much of a risk was I willing to take?
A rustle in the bushes and a pocket of laughter erupts to our left. A group of Asian hikers are descending and emerging from the scrub. There are three women and one tall, gangly fellow sporting a navy 90s vintage Nike jacket. I guess the hikers are in their late 40s or early 50s – not much younger than my parents. Another small wave of fear washes over me as I take note of their kit. They’re holding walking poles and wearing proper hiking boots, stained with sticky mud which they’re trying to shake off on the gravel. I presume that their gloves had started off white but the colour now resembles a shade closer to that of their boots. I wiggle my toes nervously in my Nike Running Trail shoes. I’m wearing running shoes. Talk about looking and feeling extremely underprepared.
It’s 7.30am and they’ve already been up and back! We ask about the climb. 2 hours up and roughly 1 hour down they say.
“Beautiful!” an older woman beams at us, her brow glistening with the effort reserved for hard work and success. Somehow, I feel that I’m in for a whole lot of hard work and not much success.
We have time. The weather Gods seem to be in our favour this morning. But all the other deterrents are staring at me point blank; the barrier tape, the broken branches, the mud. Doubt is gnawing ferociously on my judgement when my boyfriend breaks my train of thought.
“Well, what do you want to do?”
FOMO is creeping in. We have driven all this way to see the Lofoten Islands. This was our one and only chance to complete the Reinebringen hike. How could we come this far north and not climb to the top of this mighty mountain? And who knew if we would ever come back to Lofoten. This was it.
My boyfriend lifts the red and white tape. My breath feels short. I look wistfully at the retreating backs of our new acquaintances before wrenching my gaze towards the dark thicket and ducking swiftly under the tape.
After about five minutes, I want to turn back.
The heavy rain has turned the trail to puddles of muddy sludge. One wrong step and I’m sure I’ll lose one of my Nikes. I feel like an amateur tightrope walker as we skip over pools of stagnant water, hop over embedded footprints in brown slush and grab onto half-broken tree trunks to maintain our balance.
Ten minutes later, we come face to face with some smooth boulders. The trail of footprints seems to have disappeared momentarily. Now it’s as if I’ve joined the Hunger Games arena and I’ll be the first tribute to fall. We scramble up the rockface, momentum propelling us forward.
Reaching a less dense thicket, sunlight filters through gaps in the tree branches. After twenty more minutes of zigzagging hopscotch, a clear dirt track emerges. Less rain water has gathered in this section making it feel like a simple bushwalk. Suddenly, the branches clear and we face a stone stairway.
At first, it seems like a mirage. Not until I plant my two feet onto the glossy, beige stone do I believe that it’s real. Where did all these perfectly assembled rocks come from? How many men did it take to build it? I would kiss every labourer who toiled to put these stones here if they were standing here; I’m so elated to be out of the mud! Hallelujah!
The clean pathway givesf me renewed vigour. Readjusting the straps of my backpack, we begin climbing the stairs. The morning sun beats down on us and there’s a burning on the back of my neck as well as in my hamstrings. Our ascent feels like I’m half rock-climbing over boulders trying to reach the giant’s doorway or perhaps God is making me work even harder to earn my place in heaven. If anything, I better have a Victoria’s Secret-shaped booty by the end of this morning. We crane our necks towards the sky but there’s no sign yet of the summit.
The excitement of dry feet vanishes once we reach the top of the stone stairs. The sight in front of us makes my stomach drop. There’s mud. A lot of it. And it’s clear that many hikers have already gone up before us. The laminated sign reading “unstable trail and undergoing renovations” now makes a whole lot of sense.
My undeterred boyfriend leads the way, hauling himself up whilst grabbing mangled tree branches for stability and support. For the umpteenth time in this first hour, I’m cursing our decision to hike Reinebringen and yell out that the view better be bloody worth it. Only the wind hears my mournful cries.
As I try to embrace my inner mountain goat, I’m reminded of the time I managed to summit Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. What a miracle that was! And that expedition went over 7 days! My memory feels foggy as I wipe sweat off my brow with my t-shirt. Did my muscles feel this sore? Did the straps on my backpack feel like ropes cutting into my shoulders? Had I huffed and puffed with the effort to push my unfit body to the top of the mountain?
We hear a small group ahead of us. Every now and then, we spot a limb or a head pop out around a grassy knoll and the tinkling laugh of a girl in the wind. We continue to chase their tails, the success of my African summit four years prior spurring me forward.
Upwards we go, the summit continues to elude us but we must be close. We’ve been climbing for roughly two hours now. The mud finally comes to an end. Our shoes are in a terrible state. I’m trying to squash thoughts of how we’re going to get down through the mud even before we’ve reached the top.
We reach the bottom of a waterfall of rocks, the same rocks which the laminated sign warned us of. They’re mostly dry and I am more comfortable finding my footing here than dealing with the slippery mud.
We spy a young couple navigating their way down. As they come closer, I’m dumbfounded. The young gent is wearing a pair of Vans with mid-calf socks and is leaping from rock to rock like he’s completing a parkour circuit. Surely he has some mountain goat genes in him. His female companion moves slightly slower, crouching down low to ensure her footing is secure. As she reaches us, she shares a warm smile.
“You’re almost there! Don’t give up!”
Oh, boy. I’ve thought about giving up alright. But yet again, FOMO overrides those negative thoughts. I take a deep breath and start scrambling.
As we move further up, we meet another man. He appears to be hiking solo. His broad shoulders and buzz cut make it look like he’s in the middle of military fitness training.
“How much further is it?”, I enquire.
“Probably about another 20 minutes”
20 minutes! I can do this!
At the last few metres, we can hear voices chatting and people laughing. It’s the final stroke of encouragement I need to will myself upwards.
We emerge victorious over the lip of the mountain top. A slight breeze brushes my rosy cheeks and sweaty forehead. She seems to whisper to me triumphantly, “You did it! You reached the top of Reinebringen!”
The sight that greets me makes my heart leap with joy. I know it’s been said before but truly, the only way to describe the view that rewards our hard toil is breathtaking.
This is why people climb mountains.
The houses in the town of Reine look like little pieces on a Monopoly board. The bridges that cross over water to connect the islands resemble a snake and ladder board game. In the distance, the jagged mountains seem to take on the character of a looming viking empire, where the people battle nature’s elements, surviving off the land and the sea.
We spend several minutes taking photos; landscapes, portraits, panoramas. Any picture I snap can’t do this view justice and I want to imprint this vision in my mind to tell our children one day. I’m elated, relieved and satisfied all at the same time for having made it to the top.
A couple of broad shouldered gentlemen are enjoying a steaming hot beverage. A few metres below, I spy a couple of one-man tents sheltered by boulders on one side. They slept up here! Erm, thanks but no thanks. That experience is definitely not for me!
Once we’ve photographed the view from all angles, we turn to head back down. The return journey is always quicker, right?
Turns out heading down a sheer, muddy cliff face with barely anything to hold onto, nor any footholes to maintain one’s balance is bloody difficult. My boyfriend goes down ahead of me but I don’t feel the same confidence to shimmy my body downwards as he has done.
I manoeuvre my right foot into a seemingly sturdy spot when suddenly, I’m free falling. There’s a rushing whoosh through my ears and my stomach belly flops, as if I’m riding a roller coaster. Except there is no harness or barrier keeping me safe and I am at the mercy of gravity. I let out a fearful cry. My right hand grabs at everything and anything around me to steady myself. I swing hard into the cliff, all breath rushing out of me.
There’s a moment where my whole body tingles. Coarse gravel sits underneath my right palm and there’s a little pain in my right thigh. I immediately burst into tears. I’m shaking from head to toe and I’ve broken into a cold sweat. I’m properly scared.
Through my tears, I can see my hands trembling. I estimate my boyfriend is approximately five metres below me standing on a ridge. At this point, it appears impossible to reach him. I’m exhausted and now desperate to get off this wretched mountain.
I check my palm and my leg before standing on wobbly legs. I’ve drawn a little bit of blood but nothing feels broken thank goodness. My boyfriend can’t reach me from where he is. He shouts words of encouragement as I wipe away angry tears. I’m so tempted to slide the rest of the way down on my butt. Screw the Victoria’s Secret booty!
The remaining descent is quite blurry. I recall passing several eager hikers on their way up, the sun now high in the sky. Most are well-equipped with solid hiking boots to navigate the mud. Yet I’m grateful we started the trek early as repeated traffic over the Reinebringen trail has made it awfully difficult to traverse through the mud. If anything, this hike has reiterated my strong disdain for mud. I vow never to sign up for a Tough Mudder challenge.
Our total return trip was 4.5 hours, much longer than our fleeting acquaintances had achieved. We burst through the thicket at the bottom of the mountain and my face breaks out into a huge smile. We did it.
As we rinse the mud off our sneakers in the stream nearby, my mind is racing. The morning has felt quite surreal. In time to come, I’ll reflect on this experience. I won’t forget my strong disdain for mud but most of all, I’ll remember that hiking Reinebringen taught me persistence, grit and that some trips are worth taking a risk.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT HIKING REINEBRINGEN
We completed the Reinebringen hike in June 2018. The construction of the new trail was finished in June 2019.
How to get to Reinebringen Norway?
Reinebringen is a mountain peak situated in Reine on the island of Moskenesøy in the Lofoten Islands.
The nearest airport with international connections is Bodø Airport. From Bodø, you can:
– drive to Reine, Lofoten (10 hours)
– catch the ferry to Moskenes and drive to Reine (3 hrs 30 minutes)
– fly to Leknes (30 mins), the closest domestic airport which is approximately 1 hour drive to Reine.
How to climb Reinebringen?
Ensure that you have sturdy footwear, a windbreaker and enough food and water.
How high is Reinebringen?
448m. It is roughly a 3 kilometre round trip.
How many stairs are on the Reinebringen new trail?
1,560 steps on the new Reinebringen trail, a stone stairway built by a Nepali sherpa team. All but the final 50 metres at the top of the mountain is paved.
How long is the Reinebringen hike?
Approximately 3 hours, depending on your fitness level. Consider completing the hike early in the morning to avoid crowds.