Somewhere in the far northern reaches of Norway lie a group of magical islands known as the Lofoten islands. Sun, sea and mighty granite mountains towering upwards from deep and still turquoise waters inspire climbers from all over the Scandinavian and Northern European countries to visit the islands and climb in the gentle light of the Midnight Sun.
Maggie and I had met by chance at the CC club hut in Grange over March and after a day climbing together hatched a plan to visit the magical islands we'd heard so many fairy tails and pub stories about. Getting there was complex and not cheap, we had to fly from Aberdeen to Bergen and then on to the largest city in the Norwegean Arctic - Bodo. From Bodo pier we took the express boat to the capital of the magical islands - Svolvaer - Home of Trolls, Vikings, Stokfisken and Svolvaergeiten 'the Goat'. We arrived in the stunning daylight at 12.20am and made a bivvy on some rocks above the churchyard. From our perch on a large grass topped boulder we watched a group of climbers summit the Infamous Svlolvaer Goat and jump from one horn to the other, at 1 am!!!!
Despite their location in the arctic, the Lofoten islands have excellent services, we found a shopping centre and bought supplies. After picking ourselves off the floor at the price of 3 days worth of food we took the bus to the free camping site beneath the cliffs of 'Gandalf'. We made our home there by the sea and beneath our cliffs for the first week of climbing.
That evening we climbed the classic VSs of the cliff, 'Gandalf', 'Gollum' (both graded 5 - about VS) and 'Guns and Roses' (graded 5+ - about HVS) Climbing finished at around 11.20, although there were some intreppid norsemen still climbing at 1am!!
The next day we took our 'longest' walk in - 1 hour - to the Cliffs of Bare Blaebar and did the 7 pitch route Bare Blaebar (graded 5, probably a classic MVS. Bare Blaebar means 'only billbaries' a Norwegean idiom similar to our 'piece of cake') The walk out took us past the mighty spire of Presten (the Priest) and the famous -must do- line of "Vestpilaren" (6, probably E1/E2 5b)
A day on Festvag where we did the classic three pitch E1 Lubbeklubben and the wonderful line of Skiloperen. The following day we did the harder classics of Gandalf - Tromso Ekspressen (E1 5b) and Gamal Rev (E1 5b) both offering three pitches of great climbing.
After two rest days, one by choice and one because of the rain we got up early expecting queues on Vestpilaren. Vestpilaren has 12 pitches, with 6 pitches of Norwegean 6 and 6- (5c-5a probably) the other pitches were of high quality 5+ to 5- apart from the last pitch which was a scramble up a grassy gully. The pitches of 6 conveniently all fell on the odd numbered pitches.. which after some discussion with Maggie fell to me to do .. What a shame!!
The hardest was probably the 3rd pitch, which offered extremely delicate bridging but was very well protected. Pitch 7 was equally delicate and a little less well protected and the ''Slanting Corner'' pitch (pitch 9) was very well protected and not as awkward as many seem to make out. We did the route in under 6 hours, which surprised us a lot as we had expected it to take us between 7 and 9 hours based on information from the Nord Norsk Kletter Skole (NNKS) in Henningsvaer.
After picking up a hire car (200pounds a week!!) we drove to Pianokrakken and did the two classic HVSs on there (Lys og Skyge and Applecake Arete) and then drove through the rain to 'The West'. We found the long long long unprotected scary slab of 'Reine Slabs' and the HVS 4c/5a 'Sea Brease'. We pitched beneath the slab and discussed the route neither of us really wanting to commit to it.
Needless to say, after the arduous walk in (1 min from the car) we did the route. It was as described in the Rockfax guidebook - Scary, unprotected great climbing for the first 3 pitches or so, followed by even more scary unprotected climbing with poor belays on loose rock for the remaining 4 pitches.
The remainder of the holiday was spent on the beach campsite of Kalle climbing on the cliffs of Paradiset, Trolfestingen and the wonderfully named Cornflakesveggen. Our last days climbing was on the Svolvaer Goat, and before you ask, neither of us jumped from the Stor Horn to the Lille Horn, we bridged the gap.
Overall we did 16 routes from the Top 50 in the Rockfax Lofoten guide, 32% of the top routes all well worth the effort of getting there.. And the return visit is already being planned... the Storpilaren (known as the Bonnati Pillar of the North) along with a whole bunch of other routes both in the Top 50 and beyond.
Route list with Norwegean Grades and approx UK grades:
Gollum N5 VS 4c
Gandalf N5 VS 4c
Guns and Roses N5+ HVS 5a
Bare Blaeber N5- HS/MVS
Lubbeklubben N6 E1 5b (Great first two pitches)
Skiloperen N6- HVS 5b
Gamal Rev N6 E1 5b (Absolutely awesome first pitch)
Tromso Expressen N6 E1 5b
Vestpilaren N6 E2 5b (never too hard, but long and committing)
Puffirisset N6- HVS 5a (very bold unprotected pitch 3)
By the Dashboard Light N5- VS 4b (bold)
Sea Breaze N5+ HVS 4c (Bold, poorly protected and poor belays)
Applecake Arete N5+ VS 5a (crux is a very well protected crack line in second pitch)
Lys og SkygeN5 HVS 5a
Colibrien N6- E1 5a/b (involves a totally unprotectable first pitch, third pitch includes a bold step rightwards into a crack and the fourth pitch is pull round a corner into a delightful and sustained finger crack)
Forsida N5+ VS 5a. (the 5 pitches up to the Svolvaer goat and across the gap to the lower horn)
Overall an excellent trip to an awesome climbing destination. The cost of living in Norway was higher than we expected although it was somewhat mitigated by the free camping ethic that seems to dominate the Norwegean climbing scene. The Kalle campsite even had an onsite toilet!!.
With many thanks to Maggie from the CC for the Photos and the great fortnights climbing.