Lofoten: The Magic Islands

“DUDE. Look!”. With these words I was snapped out of my twilight sleep and back into consciousness. The sight before me was one that I had seen many times before, but only in my mind’s eye. Presten; A wall of grey granite soaring to over 1200 feet in height, seemingly coming right out of the sea. I had finally made it to Lofoten.

Presten proudly standing guard over the North Atlantic. Photo by: Liisa Peltonen

Sometimes the opportunity to live out a dream comes easily, and almost seems to be handed out on a platter. Other times it requires hard work and perseverance, and even then might not come to be. Earlier this summer, one of those second types of dreams finally came true for me.

The postcard that started it all.

The postcard that started it all.

In 2010, while working at Mountain Trails, I came across a postcard featuring Tommy Caldwell cruising up a climb on a piece of  granite perched high over the sea. I didn’t know where this shot was taken, but I knew I wanted to climb there. After doing some digging, I discovered that it was the Lofoten Islands. This archipelago, which stretches along the northwest coast of Norway, are called The Magic Islands, and they live up to their title.

Within a year of my “discovery” of Lofoten, I was ready to embark on the long journey north to sample the fine stone. Partners were lined up, plane tickets purchased, and bags were packed.

On the day of the departure my partner and I arrived at the airport only to find out that there was a scheduling problem. To make a long story short, what should have been a month of climbing in Lofoten ended up being a plane ticket refund and a week of climbing in the rain throughout North Carolina and West Virginia. The trip never happened, and the dream was shelved for another time.


Last June, that time came. With two failed trips to the Lofotens (earlier this year a flu robbed me from accompanying some friends to the Islands, making my second failed attempt), I was convinced that some unforeseen force would bring this trip to a premature end, as well.

After 18+ hours of almost non-stop driving from Tampere, Finland, my companions and I arrived in Hennisvaer, one of the two major climbing centers in the Lofoten Islands. Nestled on the small strip of land between the sea and cliffs, and only a stone’s throw from each, sits a campground where climbers converge.

The view of the sea and campsite from Gandalf Wall.

The view from Gandalf Wall. The campsite can be seen on the right.

The days were mostly cool, breezy, and overcast, (quite typical summer weather for the region) with temperatures hovering around 50 degrees (+10 centigrade). It rained some every day, but the rock there dries quickly thanks to the sea breeze. Also, because of the area being at such a high latitude and the time of year, one can climb even in the middle of the night utilizing only the existing sunlight.

In Lofoten, the climbing takes on a binge style. When the weather is good and the rock is dry, one climbs as much as possible, and only rests when the weather takes a turn for the worse

I had a strong, competent, and experienced partner, who not only did a fantastic job showing me around (for which I am most grateful for), but was a pleasure to climb with.

Tero following up the last pitch of Manens Dorte (Daughters of the Moon)

Tero following up the last pitch of Manens Dorte (Daughters of the Moon)

The rainy times were spent in the good company of my companions exploring cliffs, hunting for future projects, fishing in the sea, and consuming the catch.

Hiking in the rain

Hiking in the wet

Three days of continuous rain brought our trip to a close with a few less routes in the bag than I would have liked, but such is the way it goes sometimes. It only gives me more to look forward to next season.

Looking out over the town of Henningsvær

Looking out over the town of Henningsvær

I would like to thank both Knoms and the American Alpine Club for their generous support in this adventure.

One thought on “Lofoten: The Magic Islands

  1. Pingback: Postcards From Lofoten | Adventures of Alan G.

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