Most Magic Islands

Writing about this adventure now seems almost like a retrospective; Looking back at one of those amazing trips, back in the day; one of those trips that, whenever thinking of it, makes you smile, remember, daydream … but then, it took place just a few months ago. At the beginning of what turned out to be a very long, short summer. When many great things happen in a short period of time, one is advised to just sit back and re-think, at some point. I guess this point is now. What happened? Facts: I ended up in northern Norway, trad climbing, day and night (or rather, only days, because nights tend to not exist in that latitude), even catching a fish.

Both those occurrences seemed highly suspicious, had anyone asked me a year ago. Climbing, in Norway?! Must be terribly cold and wet. Catching a fish? Me? Never. Poor thing. But as always in this random array of things called life, happenings line up and lead to a beautifully unpredictable outcome. To kick things off, I, randomly, received the (highly entertaining) guidebook Lofoten Rock as a happy-birthday present, utterly unexpectedly so, but browsing through it uncovered some apparently neat rock buttresses. Then I first looked that place up on an electronic map and concluded it was damn far way, far away by any standards. And well, a bit less randomly but still, I moved to Sweden, and all of a sudden, Norway was just a ‘stone-throw’ away; or at least a neighboring country. And Lofoten a mere 1300km from here, bah, nothing! Set into relation, that is.

Since Norway is about the most expensive place on this planet and climbers notoriously poor, we loaded the car of partner-in-climb-crime, Dragos, ’till the rim with food, ropes, traditional climbing equipment, a fishing rod, and more some more food. A few energy drinks, even, foreseeng the events to come. Then we started driving. And drove. And drove. Pretty much straight, with some minor up’s and down’s, for about 800 kilometers, then turn left, and cruised for another 650 kilometers. Some mere 20 hours of driving, and we were there: The Magic Islands, as they are called in tourist catalogues.

Now, I am not a particular friend of things ‘magic’ or ‘surreal’ or ‘unglaublich’, but what offered itself over the next couple of days was indeed (I almost hate to admit) magical. An ever-present part of the given ‘magic’ was found in the latitudinal positioning of our geophysical location, being so far north that the sun actually never (ever!) touched that horizon but instead presenting a multiple-hour-long intermixed sunset/sunrise symphony. We seldom had dinner before 2 a.m., dangerously following our central-european climbing attitude of being back in safety *just* before dark; So, without dark, we simply didn’t get back at all. Really, one ends up with a somewhat jetlagged feeling in the first few days.Almost, it lead me to question reality-as-it-is-known altogether, because how can there be such a place featuring designed-like landscapes full of fjords, mountains, lakes, the most entertaining dwarf-plants, eagles, and always this one red house, this one boat, perfectly embedded within it. At any point did we expect a full-grown Hobbit to cross our path, saying hello, and moving on. Or a unicorn, for that matter. We would have not at all been surprised; it just seemed the most logical thing to happen in this setting. Almost a religious experience, the presented landscape; The Promised Land! But consequently, in fact, since taking climbing trips is my current religion … ohh I seem to get carried away here, I’d rather stop.

Now all those words for (insufficiently of course, since words can never come true to the feeling, or at least, my words can’t) describing the mere setting, the context, the surrounding for the action that we came to seek here: squeezing and interlocking our taped-up hands and feet into perfectly-sized rock cracks of delightful granite (some call it climbing). This also deserves some fair mentioning. Climbing in Lofoten! Yes, that’s what we came for … and rightly so. Definitely one of the best places to trad-climb in Europe, the granite here is sheer perfect and, combined with the setting, makes for an unbeatable experience. Some of the most mentionable lines we did include the famous Vestpillaren on Presten (6/E2 5b, a 500m 10-pitch trad-climbing orgasm, still considering to entitle it with ‘the best route I’ve ever climbed’), Månedans (6+/E3 5c, what felt to the point being the most complex and horribly breathtaking trad lead I’ve ever done), Svenske Diedret (6+), Lundeklubben (6), Gamle Rev (6), Gandalf (5), and the nothing-but-enjoyable Bare Blåbær (5-). Also, randomly and most cheerfully joined by our two-and-a-half (adventure) women, Birte, Kathi, and (adventure) dog Watson, we summited the historical Svolværgeita, The Goat, to jump its horns. And yes, bolts are very rare up here, but when Norwegians put all that effort in drilling some holes into the rock, it’d better be worth it. Being vivid sportclimbers by nature, we of course had to check it out, and yes, the routes we found in Eggum were nothing but ingenious. Good days.

After assuring that the weather forecast would assure us good weather for our grand finale on the way home, climbing the South Pillar of Norway’s national mountain, Stetind, we headed straight there and, well got stuck in rain for two straight days. But I guess you can’t be lucky all the time, at least we could see the summit for a full ten seconds in those two days of desperately camping at the base of the mountain, which was enough to bound us for coming back to this place. And doing the summit; never been so stunned to climb a peak than this one.

All in all, I can claim that this was definitely one of my most memorable climbing trips of all time and more than worth the distant travel. Never seen so much natural beauty (I am aware that, during the last years, I’ve made that claim more than only once, but always with profound honesty, referring to the most beautiful place so far; however, northern Norway beats them all, in my very subjective opinion), never enjoyed such a density of great trad-lines, never had so much sun per day (can’t beat 24h). This is paradise.
(Have I said that before? Possibly. But in my religion, there exist multiple paradises, just that you know. And out. Pictures:)

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