Climbing Lofoten

July 20th - August 7th, 2022
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Gorm and Jakob offered to give me a ride to the E6, the highway in Norway that goes as far North as is possible to go by car! Once there they turned South for their home in Denmark and I prepared to catch a ride North. That first day of hitchhiking I caught rides with two more people. Highlights include helping an Israeli dancer find a pullover so we could take a dip in the river and a construction manager giving me $50 because he liked the cut of my jib.
Eventually I made it to Oppdal at around 8pm, shaved in a gas station bathroom, then set about making camp for the night. It took some poking around in Google Maps and some luck, but I found a quiet, out of the way clearing to string up my hammock!
The next morning I immediately broke camp and hit the highway. After finding a nice spot to try to catch a ride, I whipped up some ramen for breakfast, then started thumbing it. This one took a few hours. For a while I thought it was going to rain. Most of the Southbound cars were wet and I could see foreboding clouds to the North. I was prepared to grab my things and dive under a nearby bridge, but it just never seemed to come! After waiting for a while, someone finally stopped.
I lucked out super hard. His name was Sigurd, and he was driving a new car home to Harstad from Oslo, almost clear across the country! Harstad is a mere 200km from Henningsvaer, my ultimate destination. For context, Sigurd picked me up in Oppdal, about 1,000km from Henningsvaer.
We chatted the day away until we got to his brother and sister-in-law's house in Levanger, just north of Trondheim.

We hung out in their back yard while waiting for someone to get home

They had a gorgeous home

Apparently Sigurd and his brother are directly related to Gunnar Kaasen, the owner of Balto!!
They had this picture hanging up in the house

They were such kind, welcoming hosts. They fed me pizza for dinner, gave me a bed to sleep in, and even let me do some laundry! In the morning though, Sigurd and I had to get going, as he was hoping to make it back to his home in Harstad by bedtime.
The drive went smoothly, especially after we finally got the radio in his new car unlocked and running. Sigurd brought some CD albums of his favorite artists so I found some cool new music. One of his friends from Harstad is a sick guitarist, check out the song in the sidebar!

A gate guarding the Arctic Circle. I hadn't thought about it, but I got to visit the artic circle two summers in a row!

I finally saw some Norwegian moose on the way North too, they were massive and just rooting about in the brush off the road. After all the moose scat I saw hiking around Nesbyen at the workaway I was so stoked to finally see the culprits! Before long though, we were almost there. Having more knowledge of the area, Sigurd suggested that he kick me out a little earlier than I had thought so I could catch a ferry that goes further down the Lofoten island spur than he would be going. I hopped out in Ulvsvåg and started getting ready to catch another ride to the ferry terminal in Skutvik at end of the road, 35km away. Sigurd hopped out as well for a quick smoke before carrying on, and before he even got halfway done someone stopped to whisk me away! We said a hurried goodbye to wrap up our ~48 hour journey together, and I headed off down the road with my new friends, a young couple heading to their cabin for a relaxing weekend. They were nice enough to take me all the way to the ferry terminal, even though it was a bit out of their way.
When I arrived and consulted the ferry schedule, I learned I had about 5 hours to kill. I arrived at 8pm and the next ferry destined for Svolvaer in Lofoten departed at 1am. I poked about town a little bit, took a few pictures of my cardboard sign and traveling companion through the 1000 mile journey North before I unceremoniously stuffed it in a bin. I caught the owner of a nearby shop just as he was leaving for the night who kindly allowed me to camp out under the awning of his shop until the ferry showed up.

My sign to get to Jotunheimen

My sign to get to Lofoten

The shop where I camped out while waiting for the ferry

My setup under the awning. It was breezy and drizzly, but it was very sheltered in this little corner, and I even got some sleep before my early ferry trip!

Finally my alarm went off to pack up for the ferry. Surprisingly, they let me on for free! I thought it cost money even for passengers, but nobody asked so I didn't either. After just shy of 2 hours, we finally arrived in Lofoten! I made it!! I didn't get any pictures during the ride because it was cloudy and rainy, but those same qualities made for a pretty neat view of Svolvaer upon my arrival.

The view from near the ferry terminal of the mountains overlooking Svolvaer

I arrived in Svolvaer at about 2:30am. The ferry terminal was in a fairly dense area, so I picked up my things and started walking down the road towards Henningsvaer. Occasionally a car would pass and I would hold out my thumb, but I had little hope that someone would actually pick up a hitchhiker in the wee hours of the morning, so I was mostly walking to find a place to make camp and try hitching again in the morning.
Once again, though, my nat-20 at birth for my luck stat game in handy, and someone actually stopped! They were two guys in their early twenties heading tooooo *drumroll* HENNINGSVAER. They had partied there for a while and were just heading back after dropping their friends off at their home in Svolvaer. One of them was even named Andre! Wowee, what a night. They dropped me off before actually getting into Henningsvaer, as it's a town on a couple of islands, so there's nowhere to camp. I wandered about for a bit before finally finding somewhere I could hang up my hammock in a little thicket of scrubby trees. First, though, I ran off to get a gander at the nearby cliff face of Gandalf wall where I would be climbing a lot over the coming weeks!

Before I get into specifics, I'm going to do this next part a little differently. I camped outside of Henningsvaer for about two weeks, so I ended up with a lot of mini stories and short crises, but they don't go well in the chronological format I usually write in. So I'm just going to write here about general things, and tell the mini stories in the captions for the multitude of pictures I got. Buckle up!

The weather in Lofoten was wild. Most of the time it was overcast and threatening rain. The forecast was, more often than not, 10% chance of <1mm of rain for every hour in the day. However, even when it was drizzling, it was possible to climb almost every day I was there! The wind was rarely absent, so climbing is possible even in a light drizzle, or roughly 10 minutes after a light rain lets up. If that isn't good enough, it was possible to climb at literally any hour of the day due to the constant summer light at that latitude! What a place.
While it was cozy and protected from the wind, I ended up moving camp after spending just one night in my little thicket of scrubby trees. I learned that particular patch of trees was known as "shit forest." Yeah... no. I ended up finding a couple trees almost close enough and used some climbing slings to make it work. All in all it was a good camp, though!
On days too rainy to climb or when I finally admitted I sorely needed a rest day, I would head into Henningsvaer and hang out in a cafe doing some reading, updating my journal, and generally lazing about. It was about a 30 minute walk from camp, so an excellent way to eat up time!
I found a couple of my climbing partners from the Lofoten Tindeklubb FaceBook group, and a few from socializing with people in the area, as it's a huge climber hotspot. Everyone I met was SO nice; I didn't find a group to stick with, but everyone was so welcoming and kind it felt like a decentralized community!

Looking towards Gandalf Wall (far left) and the Silmarillion Wall (a little less far left) from one of the bridges to Henningsvaer

There were lots of the awesome jet-black slugs around. They were pretty big, too!

Looking at Gandalf Wall and the Silmarillion Wall from Henningsvaer on another, sunnier day

Climbing Vestpillaren

One of my big goals for the trip was to climb Vestpillaren, a 12-pitch, 1,300ft 5.10d trad climb not far from where I was camping out. I lucked out and found Magnus, a local climber who was gunning for his third attempt at the route. He had been turned back by a sudden downpour once, and by high heat another time. Third times the charm!

Loading some food into Magnus' boat home for dinner before getting a few winks for the climb in the early morning

We slept in a bit more than we had planned and got moving at about 4am. Conditions were amazing, I got this picture on the walk towards my camp to pick up my gear

Looking up at Presten, the face that holds Vestpillaren just before we turn off the road into the brush.

The view of the sea from the base of Vestpillaren. Shaping up to be a beautiful day!

A quick selfie from a ledge atop pitch 4. Smooth sailing!

I really can't get enough of this view, it's incredible.

Storytime! Preface: Magnus is a tough MF.

When Magnus reached me at the grassy ledge atop pitch 4, he expressed feeling a bit of a cramp in his stomach. I encouraged him to take this opportunity to run off and see about taking care of business, as this was his last chance until the summit, but he felt confident he would be able to make it so we moved on up. Well. As the pitches shook out, he got the crux pitch (the hardest one). As he was on lead, in the hardest part of the pitch (hard due to the insecure nature of the holds, thankfully it was well protected), his foot slipped. He was able to hang on, so he didn't weight the rope, and he made it to the top and belayed me up! When I climbed up to him, he said "It happened." I thought he meant he did it and congratulated him, but nope. He had pooped a little nugget in the moment that his foot slipped. He condition was now starting to deteriorate, and it was no longer optional for him to take care of business, so to speak. To put it mildly, this was a sub-optimal place for such things. We had our anchor in a flakey ledge, so there wasn't much room to move about. Luckily, we had a plastic bag or two handy, and we had drank enough water to empty one of our water bottles into another to make a full bottle. I turned away as he cut loose into this poor plastic bag, but unfortunately I couldn't turn my ears away from the sound of this endeavor. He tied up the bag, stuffed it into the empty bottle, and tightened it up real good. Crisis averted!
Pictured: Magnus putting away the water bottle post crisis. The smile is a tad forced.
On with the climb!

Belaying yet another pitch. Lots of corners in this area, so we got good at laybacking!

Magnus climbing up to the belay

We made it to the summit after just shy of 12 hours worth of climbing! We were greeted with this stunning view of the valley next door. Can anyone say new wallpaper?
The last pitch was 5.dirt, it was just a gully with mud, vegetation, and the occasional exposed rock. Magnus led to the top and as soon as the rope stopped moving I started climbing under the assumption I was soloing in order to give him time to take care of business, which was once again somewhat urgent.

I had to throw in this portrait version as well

Obligatory selfie at the summit!
Dang, my beard is getting unruly.

We got a picture of the party that started just after we did, but we lost them around pitch 3 or 4. They seemed to be moving quite a bit slower than we were, as in this picture they're on pitch 9 of 12. We later heard that there was a bit of a traffic jam of climbers behind them. Good thing we got an early start!

The view of Henningsvaer from the descent trail

And so I was able to complete one of my goals for the trip and the tallest climb I've ever done! What a day what a day. After finally getting back to camp I collapsed into my hammock and fell asleep way early.

Speaking of camp, here's a picture of it! I ended up staking out the rainfly with the shoelaces from my old boots and some string I found on the ground, which made it even nicer.

The central square in Henningsvaer

A dried fish just outside town. Drying fish is part of the local economy, I think they sell them for food! At Sigurd's brother's house I watched part of a feature about this on the TV but it was in Norwegian.

This is where they dry the fish. In the season for it, these racks will be covered with fish set out to dry!

The view of Henningsvaer in the evening from the 1 pitch high (about 100ft) on Gandalf Wall

I lead rope soloed quite a bit while there. For the non-climbers among you, this allowed me to solo climb safely. I would climb routes that were easy to me and I did not expect to fall, but I don't want to climb without a rope, so here I am with all this junk! Just kidding, it's not junk, but it is a lot to work with sometimes.
Pictured is my setup while I'm near the top of a pitch on Gandalf Wall.

The view of Henningsvaer from the top of Gandalf Wall at 1am. I started climbing at 10pm just after the rain stopped. This is about the darkest it ever got! In the foreground you can see a pair of climbers who inspired me to get after it that night and climbed a route next to me.

After climbing, the couple mentioned above invited me over for dinner and beer! They were fresh out of medical school in France and driving about in their van for a year.

Me and Hannes, a really strong Finnish climber on Gandalf Wall. We crushed 3 climbs in a row that day!

I found a very cute young dog at the base of Gandalf Wall

A camp fire I made one evening

I took a stab at rope soloing one of the easy classics in the area (Bilberries) that lay towards the back of this valley, but the weather was not my friend that day. The clouds were low and tiny rain drops drifted down throughout the valley, so I turned back and took a rest day.

Taking a break between climbs to watch people climb on Gandalf Wall. I could rest my head on my coiled rope and hvae a perfect view of every pitch on the wall!

The view from a couple pitches up Bilberries! I met a woman psyched to climb the day before, and we were dangerously close to getting in way over our heads. She was very stoked to climb some hard things, but neither of us had the experience to back it up, so we settled for a harder variation of Bilberries that shares much of the route, but splits off to tackle a harder pitch here and there. It worked out perfectly!
My favorite part of this climb was a ~90ft, perfect hand crack. I positively swam up it!

Looking back down the valley after getting back from Bilberries

My view down the road as I attempted to hitchhike back to Svolvaer

After so long camping in my hammock, I felt as though it was shrinking with each subsequent night I spent in it. I was going stir crazy, especially with how wet it was, and my lack of bathing and washing facilities. My one cleansing experience was a dip in a small lake on the way down from Vestpillaren! I had to figure something out.
I ended up finding a workaway/couchsurfing location in Svolvaer where I could sleep on a couch and have a shower every day. How could it be any better holy crap. After climbing Bilberries and throwing myself at a tough roof climb into the evening, I missed the bus to Svolvaer and had to hitchhike. There was little to no traffic on the spur to Henningsvaer, and what traffic there was wasn't stopping, so I walked a few kilometers to the main highway that extends to the very end of Lofoten. Once again, I got super lucky and someone picked me up at about midnight soon after I got to the main highway! They took me right to the doorstep of the house I would stay at, and, since the host was away on work, my fellow workawayer showed me around. I then had the most ambrosial shower of my life.
I spent the next couple days resting and exploring Svolvaer, which is a cute little town! I also binged a TV show from the couch on a rainy day, an experience I apparently sorely missed!

A cute, curious little baby seagull. He was very vocal, but wouldn't come too close to me. We coexisted briefly in this gazebo.

I got this for $4 from an app called Too Good to Go. It seems to mostly be a thing in Europe, but businesses with food (like restaurants, hotels, bakeries, coffee shops, etc) will participate and have x number of "bags" each day. You pay a flat rate of around $5, more or less, and show up and get what you get. Most of them are absolutely incredible and an insane value. I ate like a king!

Hannes leading a tough pitch on Svolvaergata (The Goat)

Hannes came over to Svolvaer to climb a fun 3 pitch climb on The Goat, a spire looming over Svolvaer. We elected for a bit of a challenge and boy did it pay off. Here's Hannes leading pitch 2, an exciting, thin corner up to a roof! He's pictured hanging from a great hold above the roof just after pulling the crux. The next day he and I went back to the Henningsvaer area to knock out his project, a really hard overhanging finger crack on trad! He lead it after some quiet preparation, and I was stunned. Through the crux, a big move to a jug from a fingerlock, his feet cut and he flew over me away from the wall but stuck the hold. All I remember is watching him above me, hearing him grunt from the strain and fly for the hold. He seriously inspired me to start climbing harder things that I'm not 100% sure of being able to climb it clean!
With my time in Lofoten drawing short, My host in Svolvaer invited me to an island, Skutvik, where she was working. She works on a ship that delivers salmon from the hatcheries to the processing plants. She said I could take the ferry for free to the island, explore until it was time for them to cast off, then get a ride with them back to Svolvaer! That sounded pretty neat, so of course I did it.

A rock painted as a cute, happy bee tucked away in a route-marking cairn on the island

There was a small summit that I hiked on the island. Just as I reached a building on the ridge, a short storm blew through. I settled in just under the awning until it passed by.

The view of the island town from the top of the island. The red thing nestled in there is the fish boat!

Some very enticing beaches seen from the summit

A family of groundbirds near the trail on the way to the beaches

Super clear, tropical looking water at the beach. I went for a dip and it was freezing cold, but it made my skin feel so good after I got out and dried off!

A lounge on board the ship. It was suuuper nice in there, and it turns out it was only about 6 months old!

The captains chairs of the ship. That's some fancy stuff goin' on

An equipment room in the belly of the ship. There was a ton going on in there! It was pretty much all stuff for the fish: holding tanks, pipes to pipe 'em around, and things to keep their environment stable

After a couple more days in Svolvaer, learning a thing or two about dumpster diving from my host, and relaxing a bit more (I had hoped to get another climb in, but the weather had different ideas), it was time for me to go! There was a bus that went to the airport, but I'd been having great luck hitchhiking and I had nothing better to do, so I packed up and headed out the day before my flight. Not long after I hit the road, I was picked up by another French vanlife couple! They were able to take me all the way to the airport and even treated me to a home-cooked lunch halfway there. AND they gave me a book called Ratburger. It was a kids book, but after seeing that it was called Ratburger, I had to read it because of this video. Anyway, because they were kind enough to take me all the way to the airport, I arrived about 14 hours early for my flight. This was a small-town airport with about 2 or 3 terminals, so I was all alone in the airport by about midnight. I set out my sleeping mat across a bench and settled in to sleep. I was a bit worried that I wouldn't be allowed to sleep there, but a security guard came by just to inform me that he was locking the doors, so if I left I wouldn't be able to get back in! He assured me I was allowed to be there, he just wanted to warn me of the doors so I didn't get a nasty surprise. I spent a fitful night on the bench, and soon it was time for my flight, and Germany!! More on that soon; stay tuned :)

All in all, it was an incredible few weeks in Lofoten. I climbed my butt off, finally got my moneys worth out of the crack gloves I bought years ago, and I learned I LOVE crack climbing. I got a lot more practice rope soloing and dialed my systems even better, I made a ton of new friends, and I went through a lot of hardship that toughened me up quite a bit. I'm so happy to have learned and grown so much from the experience, and so excited about all the doors it's opened up for me!
If there's anything you'd like to hear more about, make a comment and leave your email address so I can let you know I've made an update, or drop me a line!

More updates to come!


I hitchhike ~1000 miles through Norway, climb for a few weeks in Lofoten, then head off for Germany!

Special thanks to Sigurd for driving me literally halfway across Norway, you're a real one! Couldn't have done it without you.

A song I jammed out to during these adventures

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