Chasing the sun in Tromsø

On my first full day in Norway, seeing the sun became an important mission because of the long night. So I hiked up the nearest mountain.

I awoke on the plane at 2.43 PM as I was flying to Tromsø in Norway. The sun had set and darkness was falling. My winter trip in November 2022 was to swim with orcas, but that part of the story is for another day. The darkness of winter was the hardest thing for me to get used to in Europe; I struggled with it shortly after I moved to Munich. In Tromsø, 69°N, this would get a lot worse. The day after my arrival, sunrise was at 9.44 AM and sunset at 1.13 PM. The length of the day would shorten significantly to just one and half hours during my vacation.

Sunrise and sunset information (

The locals clearly felt the darkness too. They decorated the streets with Christmas lights which significantly improved the mood in the cold nights.

Christmas lights on the main shopping street in Tromsø

I had wanted to go dog sledding on this day but that was not happening due to a lack of snow. I decided to climb to the Tromsø Viewpoint. There was a cable car, Fjellheisen, to the Viewpoint. I skipped this in favour of hiking up the Sherpatrappa (steps made by Nepali Sherpas). I started the hike at the hotel at 8.30 AM, choosing to walk the 1.5 Km over the Tromsø Bridge to the steps rather than take the bus. 

A view from the Tromsø Bridge

The steps of the Sherpatrappa were good at the start. Tibetan prayer flags hung over the route in spots. I saw the name “Dipak” carved on one of the steps. Before long I was warm enough to remove some of the layers of clothing that I wore. Even in the negative temperatures, I had been sweating seriously and needed to unzip the other remaining jackets. 

The start of the Sherpatrappa steps with Tibetan prayer flags above

The steps were now covered in crushed snow or frost turned into ice and became dangerously slippery. I attached crampons to my shoes. With them on, the difficulty decreased an order of magnitude; it was now not much more challenging than climbing stairs in normal weather.

Treacherously icy steps along the Sherpatrappa

I arrived at the Viewpoint at 10:00 and took in the views. The sun was still rising over the area but it had not risen for us on the mountain. Clearly the algorithms for the weather information providers had not considered the nearby mountains. 

A view from the Tromsø Viewpoint

I wanted to see the sunrise before I ended the hike, so decided to continue to the summit, Fløya. After the first few minutes, the snow became thicker and I found myself walking over just a few sets of footprints. There was a hill with a marker at the top. Upon arrival, I realised that it was not a peak; just an arrow pointing me in the direction to go. 

That a-way

My map told me that I was still not at Fløya; it was 400 metres and 9 minutes away. Nine minutes seemed quite a while for 400 m on what looked like flat terrain. I started on a jog.

It was around this point that the paranoia began. From the Viewpoint, I had hoped that more people were heading in my direction. All the people I had seen had come on the cable car and were either not equipped or interested in doing a hike. One or two people who were indeed hiking had gone on to take lower routes. I was alone. If I had an injury now, I would be in trouble. I should not have worried too much; I was stepping on older footprints and sticking to a used path rather than forging my own. I was unlikely to put a foot seriously wrong. 

Lots and lots of snow, the sun just out of reach beyond the horizon

What if I saw a polar bear? It would be a bigger problem if a polar bear could see me. However, as I was sweating badly now, a polar bear would smell me easily. There was no way I could outrun a polar bear long enough to reach civilization. I eventually put this fear to rest. In any case I was later informed that polar bears lived on islands hundreds of kilometres to the north and not on continental Norway.

I soon found that Fløya was not a peak either and I had still not seen the sun, so I kept jogging. The map called my new destination “Bønntuva”, at 776 m altitude. It said that the 1.7 Km to the destination would take me over half an hour.

The anti-climactic Fløya

I suddenly wondered if I had the mobile reception to call a helicopter evacuation if something were to happen to me. I resisted the urge to pull out my phone to check the reception. The ground was relatively easy, given the circumstances, and my motivation was high. The answer to my question would not impact my decision to keep going. I kept going.

At this point, the footsteps were noticeably different; their edges were smooth, indicating that at least one night’s frost or a light snow had acted upon them. I was the first person hiking this route on this day. I spent a few minutes considering whether I could survive a night in the snow, using the snow itself for insulation like huskies did. My gut said no. 

I finally crested the hill and saw the most joyous of sights: the sun, at 11.24 AM, had finally risen for me! 

This was the second happiest* I ever was in my life to see the sun. 

Headstand at the Bønntuva mound

The route back to the cable car was much faster as it was mostly downhill and I was still jogging. At the cable car restaurant, I found myself a great window table and ordered a fish soup. 

Tromsø Bridge and city from the Viewpoint

I was done with my meal by 13:30, but hung around so I could see the city from above after the sun had set. 

Night views of Tromsø from the Viewpoint

I also had the restaurant’s Northern Lights cake, which was really good inside and had a chocolate top with a blue Aurora design. I would see the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights in a few days, but that is also a story for another day.

The Northern Lights cake

*The happiest that I ever was to see the sun was the time I saw it rising atop Mt. Kinabalu in Malaysia in 2010. I had reached the top and had waited for half an hour in the freezing cold for the sunrise, after which I was finally free to descend and warm up my body.

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