A rock fit for royalty in Sykkylven

Photo: Martin Ystenes

The “Princess Stone” is a beautiful piece of geology located in the Riksheimdal valley of Sykkylven, Norway

Kelsey Larson

Managing Editor

Martin Ystenes found the Princess Stone on a summer hike in 2009, in Riksheimdalen, Sykkylven, Møre og Romsdal county in Norway.

“The stone is without a doubt the most beautiful I have seen in the mountains, and one can wonder why nobody has called any attention to it before,” said Ystenes in an article he wrote for the local newspaper, Sykkylsblad, in October 2011. Ystenes moved a collection of stones and gravel that were covering up the Princess Stone’s unique marking so it would stand out a bit better.

Another theory as to why nobody had noticed the stone before: “Patterns in such stones are always clearer and more beautiful when the stones are wet. In dry conditions, the almost black surface is a boring gray, and the color in the red band is rather pale. It is therefore probable that most would overlook the stone if they weren’t – like me – very interested in geology, and especially interest in such irregular bands,” explained Ystenes.

Ystenes knew the stone with beautiful red markings was special, and must be granted a name as such. So he began to brainstorm.

The first name that occured to him was the “Queen’s Stone,” as H.M. Queen Sonja had once hiked the very same mountain pass, and had perhaps even noticed the beautiful stone along the way. However, there was already a “Queen’s Stones” in Norway, in Kristiansand’s Mineral Park, and there was also a “Queen’s Stone” in the Norse mythology story of Ask and Embla.

But the name “Princess Stone” wasn’t taken, and Ystenes realized that Queen Sonja would have been the Crown Princess at the time she hiked the trail. “Futhermore, the red band looks like long red hair that even a fairytale princess could be proud of,” said Ystenes.

Of course, nature can be unpredictable, and in 2011 when Ystenes returned to the valley, he was surprised to discover that the stone was nowhere to be found. At first, he wondered if somebody had stolen it, but a five-ton stone would have to be moved with no less than a helicopter, and he saw no trace of that.

Wondering if perhaps the snowmelt in the valley had caused a landslide that took the “Princess Stone” with it, Ystenes took out his camera and his biggest telezoom and began taking pictures of the area and some large rocks down the valley, finally he saw a black stone with a familiar red band.

“To say that I was happy would be an understatement,” said Ystenes. “Especially since the stone looked as though it was whole.”

When he finally made it down to the stone’s new location, he was shocked to find not a single scratch or blemish on the stone. The stone was still in perfect condition for photographing, even though the new background-view was not quite as impressive as it had been before.

At home, Ystenes did some research on Google Earth and found that the stone had moved about 220 – 240 meters horizontally and 100 – 120 meters vertically. But how could the stone come through such a long journey almost completely unharmed?

“The only possibility was that there had been a lot of snow, perhaps after several avalanches, and that the stone had slipped down on top of the snow. The shape of the stone suggests that this could be possible,” said Ystenes.

Unforunately, the stone’s new location is in an area that is almost always covered in snow, which will make it harder to find for the average tourist.

“This means that the Princess Stone probably will only be visible for a short time late in the fall, and maybe not every year. This gives it a little extra protection, and mysticism,” said Ystenes.

A positive aspect to the stone’s new location is that it is easier to get there. The last part of the trip, before, was without a doubt the most difficult part of the hike. “Should one go up to the Princess Stone now, it means at least an hour’s extra time for photographing,” said Ystenes.

Ystenes has of course written to Queen Sonja about the stone, including a picture and the reasons why he decided to name it after her.

“I had not expected more than a polite response from a member of the court, which I also received, but the wording of the response indicated that it had been noticed. So now, I have to write a new letter to our Queen, and tell her that her ‘Princess Stone’ had a guardian angel,” said Ystenes.

Martin Ystenes is a professor at NTNU in Trondheim. Photography is his great hobby. Visit his Flickr page for more brilliant photographs of Norway and Iceland: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ystenes/

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 1, 2013 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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