Lofoten islands – climbing in the Caribbean beyond the Arctic Circle

August 6, 2021 / Posted by Marmot Mountain Europe GmbH

It all began with a picture

It started with a photo that raised my interest right away: a perfect crack in polished granite, two climbers in t-shirts high above turquiose water, with endless islands and rough mountaintops in the background. Where is this?! my climbing heart immediately demanded. A short digital search gave me the answer: Norway's Lofoten!

Impressive granite walls everywhere

Two years later Katha and I are standing on a ferry and cannot believe what we see. In front of us are the Lofoten islands and the photo that lead us here, lived to its promise. Countless granite walls as far as the eye can see, rising directly from the fjords, with small villages cropped in between, in classic Norwegian style. We quickly understood that the two weeks ahead of us are just a glimpse of the time a climber can spend here.

Choose your preferred crack width

What many climbers around the world come here for is crack climbing. The granite rock faces are nicely glacier-polished and offer cracks of all sizes. While crack climbing is rare in Europe, on Lofoten this style of climbing is predominant, often resulting in the choice of crack width: can I only jam my fingers, my hands, my fists or will I be climbing a chimney?

Since the beginning of climbing history on Lofoten the state of the art is the use of mobile gear placement and thus the avoidance - even the abolishment - ​​of drilled bolts. A simple set of friends and nuts is all you need for most routes and due to the nature of the cracks, with a little bit of know-how and experience in traditional climbing, the majority of routes can be climbed safely. The many climbing areas offer routes in all grades. From 4+ to 8b, and for those who do not feel comfortable with traditional climbing yet, installing a top rope is usually easily doable.

Climbing within the heritage of Norway’s rocks

Day after day we visit the best and most classic routes, like Dosethrisset (N7, 6c), Butter Arms (N8+, 7c) or Minnesrisset (N9, 8a), climbing our way through Norwegian rock climbing history. Each route is different from the other in terms of climbing style, approach and surroundings. Varying from roadside to a unique “end of the world” feeling, the views are stunning regardless where you venture.

The advantage of no sun set

Lofoten’s granite walls are up to 1,000 meter high and offer a multitude of routes from 3 to 30 pitches. Also when climbing multi pitches we try to attack as many of the classics – marked in the guidebook as top 50 must-do’s – as we possibly can. That is a long list for the limited time we have but Lofoten have a special advantage: situated within the Arctic circle, the sun does not set in summer, so for a few weeks there is 24-7 daylight, enabling you to climb non-stop. The decision to hop on a third alpine route close before midnight is an absolute no-go in the Alps but here on Lofoten it is quite normal. This, of course, results in the fact that after a week of great weather we are starting to feel like zombies due to a climbing-induced jet lag and we realize we need to slow down for things to remain safe. Time for some tourism!

One climbing adventure follows another

One cannot visit Lofoten without having seen some of its classic tourist catches: the pittoresque village Henningsvaer, the Uttakleiv and Bunes beaches, and the Kanelboller – a sweet Nordic speciality. Nevertheless, the many rock faces and climbing routes pull like a magnet, so we quickly switch back to climbing and exploration. The ultra-classic Presten pillar, where each route seems better than the previous, Trolldalen, a small but key part of Norwegian climbing history, but also Helvetestinden, a 600 m high wall rising up into the sky directly from the beach. For some of these walls we take the ferry – which sometimes is the only way of reaching them – in the morning, climb day and night, just to make it back to the next day’s ferry tired but oh-so satisfied. Adventure after adventure once again steers us towards a well-needed break, so we switch to some bouldering!

The charm of bouldering on Lofoten

At first, it seems a bit odd to travel to the far North of Norway to put a crashpad underneath a boulder and try to climb it. The same can be done in the Alps or in Fontainebleau right? We soon realize that bouldering on Lofoten has its special charm. The blocks are spread out but most of what we see and climb are absolute 5-stars boulders. An unforgettable ambiance combined with the nicely rounded granite really makes bouldering here worth the visit. This also explains the several hundred page bouldering topo and the fanatic boulderers from all over Europe claiming the new bouldering Mecca.

Hope to be back soon

After two unforgettable weeks Katha and I once again stand on the ferry and watch as the mountain tops become smalller and smaller, and yes, also the sun seems to set for the first time since we’ve been here! Two weeks of daylight have gotten us exhausted and most of the long travel home is spent sleeping in uncomfortable positions. We agree on one point: we hope to be back here one day!

Text & Photos:
Jorg Verhoeven & Tobias Lanzanasto

Jorg Verhoeven
August, 2021
The Send