Destination Lofoten – a 'must-visit' venue?
The Rockfax guide to Lofoten has generated plenty of interest in this venue. Indeed Lofoten has become a bit of a hip destination in recent years, with visits from the likes of Ben Moon and Chris Bonnington! Despite this many climbers' desire to visit this remote destination have been tempered by the cost of getting there – the place really is rather remote. Factor in Norway being an expensive country anyway and it is easy to see why many folks opt for yet another trip to Chamonix! Mind you it is a very special place, the locals are friendly, the cliffs are generally quiet (or were until the guide came out!) and the scenery is world class
-you WILL be astounded as long as the weather is kind
When do I go?
High summer (mid-June to mid-August) is the prime time to visit, with 24 hour daylight you really can climb until you drop. It can be cold and unsettled even then, so be prepared, though having said that, we have seen hardly any rain (or mosquitoes, many folk's other concern) in five summers up there!
How do I get there?
The drive from Bergen (ferry from Newcastle) to Lofoten takes about 20 hours. Sadly the DFDS Newcastle to Bergen service ended in September 2008 so the old system of filling the car with as much food as possible and driving until you drop is now a thing of the past, though there is strong potential that the service might be renewed.
For a short break (and certainly less then two weeks) flying is the way to go - UK to Olso to Bodo to Svolvaer can easily be done in a day. Hiring a car is expensive but useful for visiting different venues, though not absolutely essential - prices start at around £250 a week. There is a 15kg weight limit on the final short hop (though this doesn't appear to be strictly enforced, it would be a long way to go to get dumped) so the alternative is to get off at Bodø then either catch the ferry (Bodø to Moskenes) or the high speed catamaran (Bodø to Svolvær via Skutvik), both take between four and five hours. Alternatively, collect the hire car at Bodø (good sport climbing in the area, described in the Artic Circle guidebook ) and drive the three hours northward (maybe with a detour via Stetind if you have the time/weather) and catch either the Skutvik to Svolvær ferry (less than two hours for the crossing) which sails daily at 18:30, or the more regular (every two hours) Bognes to Lodingen (60 minutes for the crossing – cost about £22) ferry and drive the newly open Lofast road round to Svolvær in about and a hour and a half. Both routes are superbly scenic and will have you wondering just why you are driving past so much rock!
Where do I stay?
Free camping is possible anywhere in Norway away from human habitation or cultivated land. The most popular spots with climbers (though a bit 'primitive') are below the Gandalf cliff, or at Kalle beach which has 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 by UK standards) 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!), and cheapest ones start at about £30 for a place that will sleep four – which is quite reasonable. Most campsites also have a covered area for cooking (with stoves and a few pans) and an indoor lounge for, well, indoor lounging!Where can I buy gear and food?
Norway is pretty expensive, for example; bread £2.50 a loaf, a lettuce £2.50, two chicken breast £7.00. Beer is about £2.50 a can, wine and whisky are both seriously off the scale, and have to be bought in the Vinmonopolet in Svolvaer. There are a couple of small shops in Henningsvaer which stock essentials, a Coop with more choice in Kabelvåg and a set of larger supermarkets (including a mall where it never rains) in Svolvaer. The Nord Norske Climbing School (in Norwegian) in Henningsvaer is the centre of the local climbing scene, they run courses, offer accommodation, have a well-stocked climbing shop, do beer and meals (you will want to celebrate at least once) and often have great music playing so it is a fine place to chill out.The Guidebook?
The guidebook is available from Rockfax, Cordee, UK climbing shops or the NNKS shop. A replacement page for Maurpillaren is available here Maurpillaren.
Dave Hunter, Rock+Run on 'The Fissure of Men', Scottish VI, Presten, Lofoten. March '05.
© Dave Hunter, Rock + Run
Looking down Slanting Corner Pitch on Westpillaren, Presten, Lofoten, Norway
© Andy Hyslop Rock + Run
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