Several guides to climbing in the Lofoten Islands, Norway, have generated plenty of interest in this venue, and Lofoten has become a hip destination in recent years.
The Lofoten islands are said to be one of the most beautiful climbing areas on earth. Although the mountains there are not very high, and the highest peak, Higraftindan, reaches only 1161meters, the fact that they rise straight from the sea makes them spectacular and extraordinary.
The Lofoten Islands are a rugged chain of five small, mountainous islands in the northern Norway, west of Narvik and around 200km north of the Arctic Circle. They are rising abruptly from the sparkling blue waters of the Norwegian Sea, and the extraordinary climate of the islands is caused by the warming effect of the Gulf Stream.
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It is a very special place, the locals are friendly, the cliffs are generally quiet and the scenery is world class. During the height of the summer climbing season (mid-June to mid-August) you can climb all day without a headlamp, sometimes in the direct rays of the midnight sun.
No signed trails
It can, however, be cold, so be prepared, but the heavily glaciated and granite rocks of the Lofoten offer lots of possibilities for rock climbing and mountaineering all over the year. You should be aware of the fact that the Islands do not have signed trails at all. The Norwegians prefer to experience the nature individually, therefore each hike has to be carefully prepared and the tourist has to be equipped with map and compass.
The islands do catch a lot of storms from different directions and some rain should be expected on any extended visit. That said, the weather can also be sunny and warm for extended periods of time, and most of the rock dries very quickly after rain. Still air seems to be rare – there is almost always anything ranging from a slight breeze to fairly solid wind – this also helps to dry the rock after rain.
Climbing history on the Lofoten
It is considered that climbing in the Lofoten started in 1889, when two local fishermen made the first ascent of Vagakallen (942m). The next important step was reaching the summit of the two-pronged tower above Svolvaer, called The Goat in 1910, by three climbers from Oslo.
In the first half of the twentieth century there were mostly Norwegians and British climbers visiting the islands. The ’60 were a decade of Arild Meyer and the Nesheim brothers from Tromso. Meyer did the first ascent of Presten via the West Pillar (one of the Lofoten’s most famous routes in the presence), and the islands’ hardest and longest route, The Great Pillar on Vagakallen.
Hans Christian Doseth contributed to raising the standards of free climbing and made the first free ascent of Presten’s (The Priest’s) West Pillar.
The first in over 40 years climbing guide to the Lofoten, “Climbing in the Magic Islands”, was written in 1994 by Ed Webster.
Experienced climbers advice newcomers to leave their electric drills and bolts at home. The Norwegians stand for natural climbing. That is why most of the routes are all-nut protected.
Bring a set of wired Rocks or Stoppers, several Hexentrics plus a good selection of Friends up to #3, although #4 Friends may also be helpful on some routes. Small wired nuts (brass, steel, or RP nuts) are also useful. As for the ropes, 50meter-long ones are a must, as most of the pitch lengths and a majority of the fixed rappel stations are 50meters long.
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Climbing in the Lofoten Islands, Norway
The Lofoten’s labels are the Svolvaergeita (“Svolvaer Goat”) with its Classic Route 4+ (Norwegian), S 4b (British), and the Presten (“the Priest”). However the big minus of the first rock is a long way to get there and not very interesting climbing. What attracts the climbers most is an extraordinary top, a two-pronged tower with 50meter long precipice in between.
Contrary to the “Svolvaer Goat”, getting to “The Priest” takes only about 10 minutes, starting from the road. Another highly recommended place is Gandalfveggen on Lofoten’s Austvagoy. The routes are quite short there (from 80 to 100meters), but with some very nice views and the rocks are located nearby the road. The classic here is the Gandalf, a varied four pitch route up the right side of the wall, Guns’n Roses and Rasmusekspressen.
The rock is granite, but don’t expect the sort of granite that you might find in Yosemite. If I had to pick a place in the U.S., we’d say the rock reminds most of the more solid rock in Rocky Mountain National Park (which we know, is not granite). It is generally very solid, but even though it is at sea level, it is an alpine environment and you will encounter some occasional looseness. However, most of the popular routes are very clean. There are also pretty big alpine climbs which will offer a completely different experience. The climbing in Lofoten ranges from single pitch routes, to short multi pitch climbs (2-4 short pitches – a lot of the climbs fall into this category), long free routes like those on Presten, to moderate alpine ridges, to serious alpine walls.
Lofoten is a long way from most places, which is part of its charm. In some locations on the islands, you really get the feeling that you’re at the end of the Earth. There are several ways of getting to the Lofoten Islands.
Flights to Oslo, the capital city of Norway, are available from almost every part of the world. Once in Oslo, you can take a train north, to Trondheim and Bodø. from where you can catch a ferry to Stamsunds, Moskenes, or Svolvaer.
If you have a car you just have to follow E6 from Oslo up to Fauske and then take off to Bodø and either catch the ferry (Bodø to Moskenes) or the high-speed catamaran (Bodø to Svolvær via Skutvik), both take between four and five hours.
There are also more possibilities to catch a ferry from the mainland of Norway to Lofoten. You can do it in Narvik, Skutvik and from Melbu to Sortland. This last connection is the shortest and the cheapest way, but it also requires a very long drive to Melbu.
Other option is getting to the islands by plane. There are three airports in Lofoten: to the northeast of Svolvaer on Austvågøy, in Leknes on Vestvågøy, and on Røst. All of them have daily connections. There are several other options, but the hardest part may be choosing a travel option that suits your budget and plan.
The Lofoten are not famous for a very nice weather. However, in the summer months of June, July and August the weather usually is stable and it is the best time for climbing. The extremely useful feature of having a sunlight 24 hours per day, makes it possible to start climbing whenever you want.
Where to stay
Norway is one of the few countries that have preserved the ancient law of free public access to all of their lands. Therefore, you are allowed to camp in any place as long as it is not in sight of a private home and providing that you don’t make any damages on the fields or crops by walking through them. The camping is the one part of your trip that will not put a strain on your wallet
Most climbers camp in the area off of the road beneath the Gandalf Wall near Henningsvaer, though it is a bit primitive. At Kalle beach you have the added luxury of a tap and a (smelly) toilet. A new and very plush toilet block has recently been set up in the main car park at Henningsvaer, though it is a bit of a trek in the morning if you are ‘in need’.
There are pleasant (and inexpensive) camp-grounds at Ørsvågvær, Sandvika and Lyngvær all within 10 minutes drive of the best of the climbing. All Norwegian camp-grounds have wooden camping cabins, that vary from basic (still with fridge and cooking rings) to plush (hot and cold running water plus a TV!).
Most campsites also have a covered area for cooking (with stoves and a few pans) and an indoor lounge for, well, indoor lounging!
Guidebooks and resources
The guidebook, “Lofoten Climbs” by Chris Craggs and Thorbjorn Enevold, is published by Rockfax (UK) and is very well organized and written entirely in English. Probably the best updated guidebook on Lofoten climbing.
“Climbing in the Magic Islands”, was written in 1994 by Ed Webster.
Other rock-climbing guidebooks
Visit website Lofoten Mountain Guides
Feature image (on top): On top of the Goat in Lofoten islands.
Climbing in the Lofoten Islands, Norway, compiled by Admin