Skjeggedal history

The footpath to Skjeggedal clinging to the rock face. Before 1905.
The footpath to Skjeggedal clinging to the rock face. Before 1905.
The Tyssestregnene and Ringedalsfossen waterfalls
The Tyssestregnene and Ringedalsfossen waterfalls
The dam in the Ringedal lake reservoir
The dam in the Ringedal lake reservoir

From the medieval ages to the beginning of the 19th century, Skjeggedal was a quiet oasis for its's inhabitants. The two farms in the valley provided hard, but good lives for the families living there. They grew their traditional barley and vegetables, kept livestock, and hunted for reindeer in the mountains. But the nature was challenging, and they often lost livestock to predators. The last time a bear was shot in the area, was in the 1870s.


During the mid-1800s the unspoilt and spectacular nature in Hardanger attracted wealthy travelers from around Europe, and Skjeggedal was considered the most exotic destination. With its awe-inspiring waterfalls, the tallest being Tyssestrengene near Trolltunga, two twin-waterfalls with total drop of 646 meters (2,119 ft.), while the tallest single drop is 312 meters (1,024 ft.). The Ringedalsfossen waterfall at the far end of the lake only had a drop of nearly 300 meters, but would display an enormous water flow at the time of snow melt.


The Odda area developed into the main tourist destination in Norway during the late 19th century, with the largest hotels and the highest number of cruise ships arriving.


Because the Skjeggedal valley was only accessible through a hard climb on perilous foothpaths, the members of the growing tourism industry in the area pushed to have a road constructed to Skjeggedal. At the turn of the 20th century a narrow and winding road was in place.


With a road in place, a hotel was built in Skjeggedal, and the local farmers began working as tourist guides, rowing people across the lake to see the enormous waterfalls.


The industry boom lasted about 10 years. Industrial entrepreneurs had eyed the vast potential for hydro electrical power, and between 1906 and 1916 the construction of power stations to supply new ferrosilicon and carbide smelting factories was completed. By the end of WWI the epic tourism adventure in Odda was over.


During WWII the occupants from Nazi Germany worked to expand the hydro power plants in the area to supply more aluminium for its armies, but by 1945 the work ended. For a few decades the valley was quiet, and just a few tourists visited the lake to enjoy the view.


In 1964 the local power company Tyssefaldene decided to complete the construction of the new power stations. Permits were given to construct reservoirs in the lakes on the mountain plateau, connected by many miles of tunnels to a new power station in Skjeggedal. By its completion in 1967 the new reservoirs had drained the enormous waterfalls of Ringedalsfossen and Tyssestrengene, along with several smaller ones.


During the following decades the valley was mostly visited by locals for outdoor recreation, and many people built holiday cabins in the area.


But around 2010 something unexpected happened. Spectacular photos of Trolltunga started popping up on the internet. Suddenly a flow of travelers arrived in Skjeggedal to visit Trolltunga. First as a trickle, then it grew into a small flood. 40.000 visitors in 2014, 60.000 the following year, in 2016 the numbers grew past 80.000.


The huge crowds are welcomed by locals and the tourism business is booming. But it also has its challenges. The hike from Skjeggedal to Trolltunga is long and hard, even for well-trained locals. It goes through barren mountain terrains at 1200 meters altitude, which means low temperatures and no shelter in case of bad weather. Sudden snow storms may occur even during summer season.


Because many tourists underestimate the challenges of the mountain hike to Trolltunga, they suffer from exhaustion and hypothermia. A sad record number of 40 rescue missions to Trolltunga was performed in 2016, and luckily no lives were lost.


When hiking to Trolltunga, please follow the advice given by officials, locals and guides. Your life may depend on it. The hike will take between 8 and 10 hours, and includes a total climb of 800 meters over 25 km distance in rugged terrain.


In the summer of 2017 the new Trolltunga road to the plateau at Maagelitopp will open. It will shorten the walk about an hour, and cut the ascent by 400 meters. Please observe it's limitations and regulations