A man from Spain who had hiked up to western Norway’s famed high mountain plateau known as “Preikestolen” (The Pulpit Rock) disappeared off its steep side while taking photos Tuesday afternoon. His body was found Wednesday, after he’d plunged to his death.
“We’ve always feared that this could happen,” Kjell Helle Olsen, a former leader of the local hiking association, Stavanger Turistforening, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “It’s tragic, but this is something we figured could happen.”
As many as 200,000 people visit the natural attraction in western Norway every year. As far as Olsen knows, though, the Spanish tourist was the first to fall to his death from the flat granite plateau that rises like a pulpit 600 meters above the Lyse Fjord.
Debate over safety has flown for years, but local officials have claimed that those visiting Preikestolen do so at their own risk. The local hiking association has claimed it can only offer information and advice about the hazards of getting to close to the edge. Tourism association Visit Norway encourages visitors to “take the hike and enjoy the spectacular views.” (external link)
Things went very wrong on Tuesday, reported local newspaper Strandbuen, when the Spanish tourist who joined a group he’d met in Stavanger was about to leave the mountaintop. Companions said he was only going to take a few more photos when they suddenly heard a scream. The man had disappeared over the edge.
Police were called and are investigating the death as an accident. The man’s body was recovered on Wednesday by mountain climbers and a Sea King helicopter, and taken to Stavanger University Hospital for an autopsy. Local sheriff Odd-Bjørn Næss also said it was the first time anyone had accidentally fallen over the edge of Preikestolen.
Olsen, of the hiking association, told NRK that people need to pay more attention to safety when they arrive at the unique mountaintop after the hike up, but can easily get distracted. “There’s a lot happening all at once,” he said. “Folks want to take photos, some start making food, they’re marveling at the scenery. It’s important to pay attention, though. If you don’t, accidents can happen.”
Næss told NRK that none of the members of the hiking group actually saw what happened, “but they heard a scream.” All were being questioned as part of the police investigation.
Olsen said there’s been recurring debate over whether a fence should be built around Preikestolen, but the tourist association believes it would give a false sense of security. He also worries that too many people take too many chances, and may be tempted to sit on any fence or even try to balance on it. “So we fear that a fence could only contribute to more accidents,” Olsen said.