Lofotens – First day out touring

Heading up the local hill
Heading up the local hill

We were stoked to be getting out for our first day of touring together as a group in the Lofotens – and the weather did us a favor as well. We’d come in quite nervous as the snowpack in the islands had been pretty miserable all winter.  Just like most of the rest of Europe (excepting South Tyrol) – but our optimism had paid off, with two storm cycles moving through right before we arrived. Since snow only grows from the ground up in 5 star Swiss ski resorts – we were ready for the weather to be grey with intermittent periods of shitty. The sun on our faces only improved our already good moods.

Tyler's in a good mood
Tyler’s in a good mood

Stitend – who knows how its really spelled – is a nice hill just behind Svolvaer. Its the local’s hill, so its not uncommon to meet others there, but the place is big enough to let everybody have some space. There is a small parking spot by the start of the local cross-country trail (which is lighted – Scandinavia has got its shit together.) and you follow that for the first bit until you come to an obvious ridge running down from the summit. Up that you go, but there are already no trees – you’re above the arctic circle here – just stunted growth and some bushes. There is almost always a well-worn skintrack in. You’ll land on a bench after a little while – which is a good stop for a drink and then from here on in you can see your route to the top.

this is the stuff you'll be seeing
this is the stuff you’ll be seeing

Water in pretty much all directions – with the scent of the ocean at even the highest elevations. Keep an eye out for sea-eagles. They are by no means rare – but the sight of them is impressive nonetheless. This is the last, best place in Europe to see lots of them.

Sabine and I could tell on the way up that there was a lot less snow on the ground compared to our last trip – but things were stable anyway and there was enough. Even a bit of fluff, which is what we do this for anyway, right?

Toby - breaking shit
Toby – breaking shit

So this is Tobi – and this is how I usually see him. He’s forever out there breaking trail and carrying 40 kilos of gear and crap like that. He’s big and built like a brick shithouse and he skis like he means it. For years I’ve been giving him crap because he uses the heaviest touring gear I’ve ever seen – so just before this trip he pulls the trigger and buys a gazillion Euros worth of gear.

A pair of boots, two pairs of skis, two bindings – you get the idea. Why? because Tobi is a skier – and like all skiers, he loves gear. He also has poor impulse control. In any case – I was wondering how all this new stuff was gonna work out with big, meaty Tobi and his iron-fisted ski technique. Tobi has a history of poorly fitting boots and busted gear – so the new stuff was….umm…concerning.

On the way up: some strange clicking and mushy boots. Tobi had already loosend up the locking mechanism on  his Scarpas – and he hadn’t even locked them down!

Later: clicking at the toe-piece of his new Fritschi Vipecs. These are the ones:

new bindings - seldom a good idea
new bindings – seldom a good idea

I gotta admit that they are really slick, but there is an adjustable pin on one side of the toe-piece. Its meant to allow for adjustment to different boots out there -but the word on the street is that very few boots actually need it, and the adjustable screw tends to go loose on the new bindings.

You can fix all of this by adjusting and locking it up with green loctite – which you can’t even get everywhere – and then, of course, checking it in five-minute intervals, etc – but what a pain. I expect this “feature” will disappear off next year’s versions.

I fixed things up by screwing the thing in tight until the boot would not release, and then backing off of it little by little -checking each time to see if I could get the boot to release laterally. I took the boot out and pushed it sideways and let it pop back into place. Problem solved. Until it wasn’t again – and I did it all over. Wasn’t that bad once I had it figured out – but who wants to be doing that? Does anybody test these things anymore?

On a side note: what book was that, that said you should always release beta products and let the public work the bugs out?

a place to get rad
a place to get rad

So we get to the top – and meet up with Norwegians, Americans, some Frenchmen and some Swiss (who oddly refused to speak German to us – Swiss are snobs, anyway….) and then got ready for a trip down.

It was filled with creamy goodness all the way out. Here are some pics from a previous trip….one is a shot you will see in every article about the Lofotens, ever. Always.

sabine stitend



You can, of course, make it better.

One thing to note: on the way out – your path takes you down to the edge of a little lake – back to that cross-country path, and right next to the town’s shooting range.

Norway is kind of like Europe’s Texas in that everyone here has guns and goes hunting. Since they live in the middle of a wilderness – I suppose this is OK, and unlike Texas, when they want to practice their shooting, they don’t target the neighbors – they go to the range.

The problem with this is that the slope we toured on is the backstop for the range. The place all the bullets fly into. If you come out on the wrong day – you could be in serious danger of getting a bullet in your bubblegoose. So check! There is a sign at the parking spot, and it makes sense to ask some locals before going. If you do hear shots or strange noises on the rocks, duck and cover, or put big Tobi in front of you.

When we got back, we had some beer at the bar until we realized it was ten Euros a bottle. An impressive shopping tour followed with lots of this:

most northerly brewed beer in the world. Made with polar bears.
most northerly brewed beer in the world. Made with polar bears.

A meal at the lodge that was big and good was followed by a little conversation and ski-binding maintenance. Then – sleep. On to day two,

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