If you are planning a trip to Norway and haven’t heard of via ferrata Loen yet, you need to change your research strategy now!
Set up in 2012 via ferrata Loen quickly became one of the top tourist attractions in Norway! Since 2017 the route can be connected with a ride on the Skylift cable car, which has taken the award for the steepest gondola ride in the World!
1. What is a Via Ferrata?
A via ferrata from Italian translates to iron path. Its origins date back to World War I when hundreds of via ferratas were set up in the Italian Dolomites to allow soldiers to reach their outposts quicker and in a safer way.
Today via ferratas are a tourist attraction and a great adventure activity for those who would like to climb a mountain without any climbing experience. It can be done thanks to ladders, iron pegs, rods, screws, and most importantly steel cables, which are secured to a wall to create a route.
2. Via Ferrata Loen: the stats
- Via Ferrata distance: 2.1 km
- Approach distance: 700 m
- Time required: 4-5 hours
- Total Ascent: 988 m
3. Where is Via Ferrata Loen located?
Via Ferrata Loen takes its name from the place, where it was set up. Loen is a village in the Vestland county of Norway. The village was built right on the shore of the Innvikfjord and between two valleys: Oldedalen and Lodalen.
The path runs along the south face of Mount Hoven and it was set up by an Austrian company that specializes in these kinds of projects.
4. How difficult is Via Ferrata Loen?
When I completed the route with my friend, I turned to her at the very end and said “This is the hardest via ferrata I have ever done”. Even though I have tackled plenty of advanced via ferratas in the Italian Dolomites before, I really meant what I said.
Via ferrata Loen is often described as having medium difficulty, but in my opinion, there were sections that were quite challenging.
After spending two summer seasons adventuring in Norway I realized that Norwegians have MUCH higher risk tolerance than other nations. The paths are often steep and rocky and the rainy weather often contributes to a higher difficulty.
5. During what months is Via Ferrata Loen accessible?
Speaking of rainy weather. Via Ferrata Loen should not be climbed during wet conditions. Your grip on wet rocks will be non-existent.
Thanks to the fact that the iron path was set up on the south-facing wall of Mount Hoven, it means that it is exposed to the sun. Winter conditions disappear here much quicker as opposed to the northern slopes.
Extrapolating, the official season for accessing Via Ferrata Loen starts in May and lasts all the way until the end of October!
6. Do you need a guide to climb Via Ferrata Loen?
No, you don’t. It can be accessed without a guide (some rules apply). This doesn’t mean it should. if you have never been on a via ferrata before, hiring a guide and joining an organized trip is an excellent idea. The Loen active tour company offers daily excursions.
Via Ferrata Loen certainly isn’t a route for beginners. As I wrote previously, even though I had over 50 via ferrata routes under my belt, I still found the Loen iron path challenging.
Prices for guided tours start from 1595 NOK/per person. Equipment rental and the return ticket with Loen skylift are included in the price.
7. Climbing Via Ferrata Loen without a guide
To access the route without a guide you have to register your intentions with the Loen Active tour company, which has its base right in the center of Loen. You will then pay a 200 NOK maintenance fee. The money goes towards keeping the route in top shape. Safety standards in Norway are high.
During the busy main season (mid-June – August) you will only be able to start climbing after 2 PM. Basically after the departure of all guided tours. This is to minimize the traffic and to avoid passing other climbers on the route, which can be quite dangerous.
8. What equipment will you need?
This is a staple in the via ferrata equipment. Sometimes rocks come flying down being set off by climbing groups above you. A helmet is supposed to protect your head from any injuries. Don’t even think about leaving without one. I own a couple of Black Diamond Half Dome helmets, which I always lend to a friend.
Aim for a lightweight harness, which will be comfy to wear between the cable-protected sections when you are hiking. Black Diamond is my go-to brand when it comes to via ferrata equipment. I recommend their Momentum Harness.
A piece of equipment overlooked by many via ferrata enthusiasts. When you haul yourself on a steel cable for half a day your hands will quickly become blistered. My advice is to always go for full-fingered gloves like the Black Diamond crag gloves.
Via Ferrata Lanyard
Developed specifically for via ferrata, the lanyard provides shock absorption in case of a fall. It is used to keep oneself attached to a protective cable at all times. I have the Camp Kinetic Rewind Pro Lanyard, developed by an Italian company. As you’ve learned by now Italians are the protagonists of via ferratas.
Renting the equipment
You can rent the set (helmet, harness, and lanyard) from the Loen Active shop, where you have to register for via ferrata. The whole set costs around 460 NOK to rent. Not cheap, I know, welcome to Norway!
Gloves can be purchased from the shop, as well as any other equipment that you might need, including clothes and shoes.
9. The highlights of Via Ferrata Loen
It’s difficult to compete with the views from via ferrata Loen. You can see far into Lodalen and lake Lovatnet as well as the Innvikfjord.
The absolute highlight however is the 120-meters-long Gjølmunnebrua suspension bridge hanging almost 800 vertical meters above the fjord. My friends and I were very lucky with the weather and subsequently photography conditions. We spent quite some time walking back and forth along the bridge and taking photos.
There is another shorter (36 meters) suspension bridge a bit higher up, which to me was terrifying to walk on as it consisted of just three steel cables that I had to balance on. It is similar to a bridge on another popular Norwegian via ferrata – Romsdalstigen.
If this sounds like something beyond your risk level, you might be happy to hear that the second bridge can be bypassed, something my friend chose to do.
10. Facilities along Via Ferrata Loen
There are toilets behind the Loen Active tourist office and shop as well as toilets at the bottom and top of the gondola station, which you will reach at the end.
There are also shower facilities at the top, something I was very positively surprised with.
You can also take advantage of the restaurant at the top of the gondola station, but since we were on a budget trip, we didn’t even dare to look at the prices.
11. Via Ferrata Loen trail description
Getting to the trailhead
Before you get to the climbing section you will actually first have to walk for quite some time. Don’t put your via ferrata equipment on just yet, instead carry it in your backpack.
You can get to the start of the cable section by walking from the parking lot near the Loen active shop, or the parking lot near the bottom of the gondola station (in the upper car park). I linked to both of them in the Stats section above.
Once at the parking lot near the gondola station, there is a sign pointing in the direction of Via Ferrata Loen.
Climbing along the Via Ferrata Loen
The first 30 minutes and circa 250 meters of elevation gain consist of hiking, then you will have a first short 15 minutes climbing section for which you should gear up and then another 15 minutes of hiking. You can consider it a great warm-up. Circa 1 hour in, the serious climbing begins.
Pay attention to the route and ideally study it before you leave, there are a few variations of Via Ferrata Loen. I opted for the easiest one possible and still found it to be enough of a challenge.
The suspension bridge is at around 3/4 of the way up to the skylift station.
Getting down from the summit of Mt Hoven
Once you make it to the top of the Loen Skylift gondola station you have two options to get back down:
- Hiking down to Loen
- Taking the gondola down
Since we made it to the top just in time for sunset, our only option was to take the gondola down or hike in the dark.
The gondola operates until 10:30 PM which gives you plenty of time to enjoy the scenery at the top. The one-way ticket isn’t cheap and set us back 360 NOK/person.
If you choose to hike down, follow the gravel road for 6 kilometers all the way down to the parking lot in Oppheim. From there it’s another 6 kilometers back to Loen.
12. How to dress for a via ferrata
The most important rule to follow is to wear clothes that don’t constrict your movements, but at the same time protect you from getting scratched on rocks.
I wore my La Sportiva climbing trousers, which I got a couple of years ago specifically for climbing along via ferratas. I always have two merino wool t-shirts with me, one I wear and the second one for changing at the top. Icebreaker is my favorite brand for buying merino wool socks and t-shirts.
In terms of shoes, I recommend the Salewa approach shoes. They have great grip and are really comfortable.
In my backpack, I always have at least one warm layer (usually a down vest or down jacket) and one Gortex jacket to protect me from wind and rain.
Where to stay nearby
I visited the area twice so far when traveling around Norway in a campervan. The first time I stayed at the Tjugen camping near lake Lovatnet.
The second time I was docked at the Oldevatn camping near lake Oldevatnet, which offers great access to the Klovane hike. I can wholeheartedly recommend both campsites. They have great facilities and access to nearby attractions.
If you are traveling in a regular car and looking for a hotel to stay then hotel Alexandra, right in the center of Loen is a great choice. I also recommend the Briksdalsbree Fjellstove which has great access to the area’s top tourist attraction – the Briksdalsbreen glacier viewpoint in Jostedalsbreen National Park.
Other hikes, places, and activities to experience nearby
Kattanakken day hike
One of the best trails in Norway if you want to get amazing aerial glacier views. Visit my post about Kattanakken to learn more.
A quick-to-reach old mountain farm with amazing views over Innvikfjord and into the Olde valley. The whole hike takes 1.5-2 hours to complete.
Another beautiful lake in the Stryn municipality of Vestland county in Norway with fascinating and equally terrifying history of megatsunamis. Lovatnet can be found in the parallel valley to Oldedalen.
Norway’s highest mountain peak which rises straight from the Fjord. With 1848 meters of elevation gain you have to be really committed to hiking up to Mount Skåla. It’s best to connect it with an overnight stay at the hut built right on its summit.
Klovane day hike
A demanding hike with the best views of the turquoise lake Oldevatnet. Check out my detailed guide to Klovane hike to learn more.
Another abandoned farm and a big piece of Norwegian history. Segestadt lies on a rocky knoll circa 400 vertical meters above the beautiful lake Oppstryn.
If you have any questions about Ferrata Loen, post them in the comments below. I am also happy to help you out if you are planning a trip to Norway.