Student killed in fall off ‘Trolltunga’

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UPDATED: A foreign student at the University of Bergen fell to her death over the weekend while taking a photo of herself standing on the rock formation known as Trolltunga (The Troll’s Tongue), high in the mountains of Hordaland County.

The rock formation known as Trolltunga is a popular, if hazardous, destination in the mountains of Norway. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons/Terje N

The rock formation known as Trolltunga is a popular, if hazardous, destination in the mountains of Norway. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons/Terje N

The student, identified as 24-year-old Kristi Kafcaloudis from Australia, had completed the long hike from Odda to the unique rock formation at an elevation of 1,100 meters. The popular destination juts out from the mountainside 700 meters above the lake Ringedalsvatnet.

Newspaper Bergens Avisen (BA) reported Monday that according to witnesses, the woman had hiked up to the mountain with a group of around 50 people from the university. Witnesses said she had only ventured around two meters out on the rock itself and was taking a so-called “selfie” when she lost her balance and plunged to her death at around 7pm Saturday.

Because of poor mobile phone coverage in the area, two young men who were in the area could only manage to notify emergency crews via a GPS. One of them, Ole Selvåg, told state broadcaster NRK that people with the woman attempted to search for her but quickly discovered it was too difficult. “We tried to climb down to find her, but it was impossible,” Selvåg told NRK.

When specially trained crews with climbing gear arrived at the scene, in a Sea King rescue helicopter, it took them more than seven hours to retrieve the woman’s body. Odda Mayor John Opdal called the accident “tragic and sad for everyone involved.” He said a crisis team was set up for the others in the victim’s group of hikers at a local hotel when they returned from the area.

Dag Rune Olsen, rector of the University of Bergen, said the group had not been organized by the university but rather was made up of friends hiking together at their own initiative in the clear and sunny weather over the weekend. “We know that many foreign students went along on the trip in the fine weather,” Olsen told NRK on Monday. He said the university was organizing an information meeting after the accident, and that the university’s own crisis team had been mobilized to help family members and friends of the victim, who’d only arrived in Bergen last month.

The accident was another example of how visitors and Norwegians alike can underestimate the hazards of experiencing the mountains. The Red Cross has been called out on 15 accidents in the Trolltunga area so far this year, and warned that the hike involves “tough terrain and great distances.”

There nontheless is “enormous traffic up to Trolltunga,” Bjørn Arild Fjeldsbø of the nearby Tyssedal Red Cross, who took part in the search and rescue operation Saturday night, told NRK. “It’s clear that increases the chances that something serious can happen.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund