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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.