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Climbing North of 66º

Maegan Whiteley

Lofoten, Norway
Three weeks of pristine granite slab and crack climbing in the height of arctic summer. Lofoten and Narvik were gifted to us like a box of chocolates with an abundance long alpine style routes to choose from and 24 hours of sunlight to climb in. Well at least that was the plan…
We arrived in Sweden and made our way along the E10 to the granite archipelago of Lofoten off the northern coast Norway. Car packed to the max with three weeks worth of food, climbing kit and a huge amount optimism. We continued on through driving rain and gale force winds. The thought of putting up brand new tents in these conditions was beginning to become slightly less than appealing. So we decided to get a local forecast, possibly a good thing that we did, as this weather certainly wasn’t going to improve in the next few days.

We also learned that it was the first time in decades that the local ferries had been cancelled, which reassured us that we weren’t soft and that it was OK to stay inside one of the many fisherman’s huts known locally as Rorbu.

Very basic inside, we battened down the hatches and waited out the storm… Well sort of. Seeing as we aren’t great at sitting about and having spent several months previously perusing the guide books, the next day we drove on to scope out crags, cafes and the general area. We discovered a great pub in Svolvaer that made excellent refill coffee and had free wifi.

We practically lived in The Praestenbrygga for the first two weeks, which meant that we were highly caffinated and ready for the weather windows when they did sporadically appear. Though there were several occasions when we over optimistically estimated the drying time of the rock… Granite, while quick drying and with the added benefit of it being exposed to coastal winds, still couldn’t provide us with decent climbing conditions. And that coming from climbers living in the Lake District says it all!

Granite, while quick drying and with the added benefit of it being exposed to coastal winds, still couldn’t provide us with decent climbing conditions. And that coming from climbers living in the Lake District says it all!
Lofoten, NorwayLofoten, Norway
We spent our first two weeks flitting between Svolvaer, Paradiset and Henningsvaer climbing on anything that would dry quickly. We found sport routes, single pitch venues, damp multi-pitch routes and we even tried some scrambling as a wet weather option. All in aid of getting comfy on granite. Our time on Lofoten was to be training for our real mission, the one climb we had come all this way for, the Sud Pillarin on Norway’s national mountain Stetind.

After cabin or tent fever set in it was my bright idea to escape into the rain and attempt what looked like a nice afternoon bimble up a innocent little scramble in Paradiset… Well paradise it was not. Several hours of bushwhacking through birch thicket, crawling through mossy under growth to reach a chossy ‘path’ to the start of the ridge proved the guide book wrong on the 45 minute approach time. When we finally reached the start of the ridge we discovered that lichen grows very well on granite but doesn’t stay secure on it… And trying to climb on this wet mess was a bit like watching Bambi on ice.

Very hungry and a bit annoyed at this point we decided to go back to our campsite and dry out. Needless to say I wasn’t allowed to choose our venues after that!

 Despite the wet we managed to climb three kilometres worth of routes in just under two weeks. We climbed the classics of the area, Blaeberry Buttress, Pianohandlers Lund Rute, Applecake Arête, Gandalf and Gollum, to name but a few.

We travelled all the way to the tip of Lofoten to a fishing village called Å, through the beautiful town of Reine and stopped along the way to work some sport routes in a sheltered area at Eggum. We slept on white sandy beaches and when the weather just wouldn’t cooperate we retreated into the occasional rorbu.

When we finally reached the start of the ridge we discovered that lichen grows very well on granite but doesn’t stay secure on it… And trying to climb on this wet mess was a bit like watching Bambi on ice.
Narvick, NorwayNarvick, NorwayNarvick, Norway
Our weather window finally appeared. We packed up and jumped in the car and made our way back along the E10 towards Narvik and Stetind. The window we had our hearts set on wasn’t really ideal as it would mean after a 8 hour drive we would have a few hours of sleep and then start our ascent at 01:45 in the morning. It looked as though this would be our only opportunity, so we went for it.

We arrived at the car park camping area beside the footpath where we met an array of camper vans and Norwegian guides with their clients having a bit of a session before they settled down for the next days journey up the normal route. There were a pair with wing suits getting ready for the same weather window we were betting on, as they wanted to be the first to jump from the top of Stetind.

As we exited our tents for the start of what turned out to be a 19 hour day the Norwegians hadn’t gone to bed yet and in true Norwegian style came up to chat and offer us wine and last minute advice. At this point we couldn’t see any of the mountain but as we progressed higher Stetind began to show us how impressive she was. The cloud swirled around us as we began to climb and as we began the third pitch we popped out above the clouds. The day was glorious. We climbed on beautiful rock and even new routed slightly as one of the pitches had disappeared due to rock fall.

The wing suited Norwegians flew past us into the mist and landed successfully in the car park, they sounded like jets as they skimmed over.

Arriving at the top after 13 pitches of pretty challenging climbing was a massive accomplishment and all of the wet weather training really paid off. The descent was almost as exciting as the ascent, with fixed abseils, knife edge arêtes to scramble along and chossy paths. A birch forest never looked so good when we finally arrived at it!

Arriving at the top after 13 pitches of pretty challenging climbing was a massive accomplishment and all of the wet weather training really paid off. The descent was almost as exciting as the ascent, with fixed abseils, knife edge arêtes to scramble along and chossy paths.
Narvick, Norway
Our weather window was short lived as predicted and as we left the top of Stetind the clouds rolled in. The next morning we were up early and headed to the airport to drop off our companions. I had come down with a pretty bad chest infection so we decided to take it easy and travelled north to Tromso for a bit of sight seeing.It wasn’t long before the sun shone again and we had a week of excellent weather. This far north there was much exploring to be done with the Lyngen Alps to the North East and Senja to the North West. We ended up borrowing a guide book from a lovely man in the Tromso Tourist Information for an excellent local venue… The island of Kvaløya.

We were spoiled for choice not only for climbing venues but also stunning beaches and clear blue water. It was also incredibly accessible, with accurate guide book walk in times to what felt like super remote locations. The rock was beautiful, again with a real variety of sport, single pitch, bouldering and remote multi-pitch venues.

Up until this point in our trip we had seen very little wildlife but were pleasantly surprised by reindeer, moose and even some porpoises splashing about at our seaside camp site. We did everything you should do on a proper trip, basked in the sunshine, ate good food, read books and climbed loads.

The weather turned once again and so this time we retreated to a bed and breakfast, one little luxury before our flights home.

We dried out our kit for the last time, packed up the car and headed home with over 1000 photos, our mission accomplished and well over three kilometres of climbing completed.

A big thank you to Mountain Hardwear for keeping us dry and warm, this trip would have been pretty uncomfortable without you!


During the last thirteen years Maegan has travelled extensively throughout Canada, Southern Africa, Norway, England and Scotland. These travels have been mostly in remote wilderness areas and often completely self-supported. Her journeys have allowed her the opportunity to live and work with superb people of many different backgrounds and various nationalities in several countries. After settling in the Lake District in 2006, Maegan began working as an outdoor instructor, expedition leader and development trainer. Great enthusiasm for new places and mountain environments continues to be a driving force in her life and has allowed her to pursue her passion for working with people and the outdoors.


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