After a couple of really nice days out with Erin Smart – we were kind of sad to see her go! She was a really good guide and one I hope to book again in the future – which is, in the end, the only real measure of satisfaction. Still – because my wife and I had been out with Seth Hobby a few years prior, and kind of considered him a friend, we were excited that he would be spending the next two days with us to finish out our trip. Erin’s season in the Lofotens was coming to an end, and it was back to Chamonix for her – I am sure she was glad to get home and see her hubby again!
Seth knew that we had been to a lot of the Lofoten “standards” – and he aslo knew that we had seen a lot of other tourers underway, so he wanted to take us somewhere off the beaten path.
Most of the touring in the islands is done in the immediate vicinity of Solvaer and Kabelvag. While there is certainly a lot to do there – we had seen quite a few people, and sometimes – that area is quite exposed to the sea. The islands are really pretty thin there, so you get the winds from the south, as well as those from the north. It is obviously very maritime.
Seth has been all over the islands and he has noticed that there is an area located a bit farther afield that has two advantages: one – being about a 30-40 minute drive from Svolvaer, they don’t get all the tourists, and two – at this location the islands are a bit “fatter”. While this doesn’t change the character of the snow that much – this little bit of the islands is less windy, can often be colder, and can offer snow when other spots fail. (of course – depending on the situation at hand, it can be a low-snow area as well.)
Seth keeps tabs on this spot for just these reasons. Sometimes – if other spots are not going – he can still find a bit of the goods here. In fact – several years ago, he chose the spot as the site of the Scandinavian Freeriding Championships. There was good snow – and the area’s promise was cemented in his mind.
If you follow the road out of the islands for about 40 minutes, you’ll see a small parking area off to the left of the road. We were lucky – it had been plowed, but this is apparently pretty common. We parked and skinned up before even leaving the parking area.
There are a couple of spots you can reach from this parking spot – but the one we chose was on the opposite side of the road, so we walked across and skinned alongside the road for about 400 meters or so before turning up an obvious drainage and into the woods.
We were treated to the sight of an arctic hare making a run for it as we approached. It looked a lot bigger than I had imagined, certainly at least twice the size of the rabbits back home in Munich – but perhaps most of that was fluffy fur for those cold arctic winds.
We continued up the drainage, and like always in the Lofotens, the trees soon gave way and we were in the alpine – although we were only about 80 meters or so off sea level. We followed a meandering route to a bench below a peak – itself just a bit higher than another prominence off to the climber’s left. All of the area looked skiable, but over to the left under the other peak, the lines looked a bit steeper and the runout was not as forgiving.
We spaced out for the last ascent up the steeper face of the final pitch to the top, going to the left around an outcropping of rock. The “peak” was a really a long, sloping relatively flat plateau , but we stopped at the edge we climbed up on because there was no good skiing to be had by continuing the few meters higher and 100 meters further.
We took the time to look all around. Quite a view from here. You’re closer to the mainland here, so you can see the mountains there in a little more detail than other places, and because the islands are a bit thicker here – the view is more alpine than the other spots we had been. (as opposed to maritime – remember – all things are relative)
What followed were some of the best turns of the trip to that point. We snaked down, this time around the other side of the rock we had avoided on the way up – making for nice, steep untracked. The powder was light and dry, and everybody was throwing plumes of it in the air. Regrouping on the bench from the way up – we group skied down, taking the opportunity to air off of a couple of drops and enjoying the rolling terrain.
the last pitch before the woods were straightlined, especially by our snowboarders, as the snow was heavier down here and we also had a little flat to cover through the woods back towards the car. No amount of coaxing helped though – all the snowboarders had to get a leg out to make the last meters to the road.
The way home was great – and along the way, Seth hatched a plan to get one of the rib-boats and take it out for a spin! The reason was two-fold: One, we had decided that, if the boat was in order, we’d like to take it the next day for a boat-only-access tour to the Trollfjorden (!) and two: the weather was great and a beer in Henningsvar sounded good!
We got the boat! We all put on the rescue suits which are mandatory here – which was fun. They are big and bulky but if you happen to fall out of the boat – they’ll keep you alive for about 10 minutes and floating on top. Even with ski jackets and hats – the ride to Henningsvar was cold and windy.
The view of the islands from the water is a MUST however. You really get a feeling for what this place is, only when you see it from the sea. Passing by each little town you notice more than ever they are not randomly placed – but rather that every one of them is intimately connected with the sea – and that the true face of every one of them is not the road leading in – but the harbor connected to the world.
Henningsvar is the best example of this. It is a town built entirely on small rocks jutting out of the sea. Most of them would not be big enough to put a gas station on – but they have been covered with buildings on stilts – and these in turn have connected to each other with bridges. There are no roads to speak of – and the town surrounds a small protected area between all the rocks that is something like an aquatic town square – where all the boats are. It is a town built only on the waves.
This place must be jammed in the summertime. There can surely be no place else like it on earth. Hotels abound – and at one of the nicer ones I bought a round. 8 people – about 90 Euros! At that price – we enjoyed the sunset and then piled back into the boat past hot-tubbing Norwegians – and sped back to the lodge for dinner.
An early night again – as we were excited about the next day – Trollfjorden! The biggest fjord in the islands – accessible only by boat with a hidden entrance and wild. Only having been skied by few – and only a couple in this season. More to come!