A Lofoten Diary

The finest route in Lofoten? Certainly the most popular. Me on the mid-height ledge of Vestpillaren.

Day 1 - Long drive up through so much impressive rock scenery that we banned the comment “I wonder if there is anything up that?” We stopped at one of the many superb little campsites that Norway specialises in with a camping cabin. First evening was spent witnessing my first ever midnight sun – an amazing and disorienting experience.

Day 2 - A quick ferry onto the Island (although you can get there by road now but it is a long drive) and we met up with Chris, Sherri and Colin. Afternoon was spent at the accessible and sheltered Gandalfveggen. There was a wicked cooling wind blowing that must have chilled the teams we saw up on Vestpillaren. Two great routes done – Gandalf and Tromso Express.

Day 3 - Cloudy but no wind. More classic ticks on the accessible Pianokrakken. Light and Shade and Apple Cake Arete. The big news though was that the guidebooks stock has arrived in Henningsvaer so the launch party on Friday is on!

Day 4 - There are many things which make a route special – line, position, continuity, exposure, rock quality, history, location and climbing quality. It is rare that all of these come together in one route to such great effect as they do with Vestpillaren. The route has a perfect line up the most striking rock feature in the area, the rock is of immaculate quality, the pitches are all around the same difficulty, the position and outlook are majestic and the climbing absorbing throughout. The upper section has a few pitches that take the only lines of cracks and grooves up an otherwise blank sea of rock – all natural and little fixed gear.

We were also blessed with perfect weather for our ascent and I have now experienced a story I’ll be telling my grandchildren. I won’t go on about it since the ascent was pretty straightforward, just make sure that if you have any ambitions for big rock routes in Europe, you put this one on the list.

Summit party below -

Day 5 - After yesterday’s excesses, it was hard to get going again today. The weather gave us no let up though and the sun continued to shine brightly. A brief visit to the sport crag of Finnvika was the only climbing activity – good climbs in a beautiful location but not really what you come to Lofoten for.

Skiloperen on Store Fesvag

Day 6 - Lofoten is good at cracks – long ones with great gear in wonderful locations. Store Festvag has them by the bucketload and we managed three, all of them great. The photo shows Skiloperen, but the best and most surprising was Cuckoo Crack which looks E5 from below but gives a magnificent pitch at about HVS (it should be called Cuckoo Flake really since that is what it is).

Back at base the rest of the team had left leaving just Mark and myself. We settled into an evening routine of beer on our terrace overlooking Vagakallen, a plate of grub and (expensive can of beer*), then settle down in the camping reception to watch the football and get a decent internet connection.

*Price of beer – first day we arrived, walking around the supermarket we spotted the beer, 25 NOK a six pack (we thought). Got outside, did the maths and realised that it was 25 NOK per can (= £15 a six pack!) Finances weren’t helped by then leaving a six pack in the fridge of the first camping we stopped at.

Day 7 - Thorbjørn didn’t want a photo of the Goat on the cover on the guide, despite the fact we had rather a good new one (see Goat chapter). I can see why – the Goat is Svolvær and associated with old-skool Lofoten, the new wave are centered on Henningsvæ, Presten and Gandalf. We still wanted to climb the thing since it is an essential route when in Lofoten. It didn’t disappoint. Mucking around the horns in particularly exciting and unique. We didn’t do the jump but even so the situation is just superb.

Day 8 - One of the great classic routes of Lofoten is Bare Blåbær (only Bilberries – an expression which means the same as ‘piece of cake’ in English). The route is situated in the outstanding valley of Djupfjord, a place which would be World famous and probably developed with chairlifts, campsites and luxury hotels if it was anywhere in the Alps. Here there is nothing but what nature left us. Everything about this route from the walk-in to the first and last move is a pleasure. There is nothing really hard about it, but the length and sustained nature of the climbing mean it is a long and memorable day out. Once again we were joined (by coincidence) by our Czech friends Janek and Camilla, who we had climbed Vestpillaren with on Friday.

Day 9 - Although we had not declared this officially a rest day, it became an official late start day due to slightly dodgy weather, and lethargy. However we managed to pull one route out of the bag – the classic Solens Sonner, a long 4 pitch slab route with cracks and friction climbing. As expected it was another great route although Mark admitted that he has nightmares about holdless slabs, and there are plenty on this. It also throws in a 30m crack that only takes one decent runner at the bottom and then little else.

Day 10 - Today’s chosen route was Puff Crack around by Kalle camping. The crack itself was superb but the upper pitches hadn’t been climbed this year (we don’t think) and gave slightly terrifying slab padding on gritty, lichen-covered rock above a tape runner. Be warned that the Top 50 tag probably only applies when the route is clean which may not be very often, although you can abseil after the crack pitch.

Paradise area and the free camping spot

The rest of the day consisted of exploring the Paradise area which is a fascinating jumble of blocks, walls and sea inlets. There is a huge potential for new routes here. The photo shows the idyllic free camping spot at Paradise, complete with bathing Norwegian girls. This lovely location apparently gets a bit crowded and smelly during the busy part of the season which is a great shame.

Day 11 - I suppose it couldn’t last and finally the weather broke today although not in true Lofoten style I feel since it still only registered ‘a few showers’. This was enough to send us to the steep sport climbing cave of Eggum.

“Alan somehow keeps up a very good image of not trad climbing, I take it this is completely unfair and that actually he’s a complete knarl-meister?” – TobyA here

Eggum Sport Crag

Well today I set about proving Toby’ s pre-conceived image correct. Armed with the knowledge I gleaned from Sport Climbing +, Mark and I set about Eggum in true sport climber style – a proper 6a warm-up, then a 6b+ to get the blood flowing, and then a quick working of the 7a+ extension. When the redpoint time came, we dispensed with the Brit-style double 9’s and used one 9 on its own, the quickdraws were all in place and the route properly rehearsed (well sort of). With such efficient redpoint tactics, success was inevitable (helped by the fact that the route was probably only 7a).

Eggum does add another dimension to Lofoten albeit mainly for the climber operating at 7a and above. The routes are on perfect rock, are well bolted and give great steep climbing. Just another feather in the cap of this wonderful climbing destination.

Day 12 - It has certainly got a bit colder now although the rain is still holding off. Spent another day at Gandlaf – the first crag we have visited twice – and picked off another couple of classics: Gamel Rev and Gollum. Apart from the two Czech climbers we kept meeting, this was the first occasion where a crag had been a bit ‘busy’. There were some guides practicing their rescue skills plus at least four other teams active. The Norwegian season is supposed to have started yesterday, which might explain it, although most at the crag had been there for a while.

Day 13 - Our final two routes were sport routes at Urdstabben before the long and rather tortuous journey home. I won’t go into too many details except to say that SAS are good, reliable and efficient, but if you do book from the UK, try and avoid the 3-stage flight in favor of the 2-hop one if you get the choice. Three hours driving, three flights and then a train make for a very long day!

 



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