LOFOTEN ISLANDS

Posted on: March 1, 2004


The village of Kalle at the base of the north face of Vagakallen (942m), Lofoten Islands, Norway. The 700-meter Storpillaren is the obvious pillar of solid stone that defines the flat-topped sub-summit of Vagakallen. [Photo] Ed Webster

The Lofoten Islands, an archipelago off the northwest coast of Norway, lie one hundred kilometers inside the Arctic Circle. "The Magic Islands," Ed Webster calls them in the area's only guidebook. Clear seas and pristine, white-sand beaches roll up to some of the best granite slabs and walls in Europe. The islands' beauty is second to none.

After climbing around Henningsvaer for a pleasant few days, Louise Thomas and I were both taken by the stunning 700-meter Storpillaren (the "Bonatti Pillar of Lofoten") on the north face of Vagakallen (942m). Were this superb granite pillar in Yosemite, it would have a dozen or more routes on it, but by our reckoning it has only four. The first route (V 5.10c/d A2, 20 pitches, Bjornstad-Meyer-Skog) was established in 1980, and the most recent climb, Freya (VI 5.12+ A3+, 800m), by Daniela and Robert Jasper, was put up in 1998 and includes thirty pitches of climbing, most of which go free at 5.11+ to 5.12-. We were amazed that nothing had gone up the right-hand side of the face through a big shield of overhanging rock.

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With a view toward creating a big-wall free route, we started to climb. The first two days we fixed 200 meters of rope and hauled five days' worth of food and water up to our high point. A further three full days of climbing brought us to the summit. The climbing was on fantastic rock, and all but one pitch went free. Most pitches were British E3 (5.10) or E4 (5.11) with occasional E5 (5.12-). The overhanging aid pitch went at A3 with lots of pegs. The weather was perfect until we reached the summit. At our top bivy we spent more than two days in a massive storm: rain and sleet poured over our ledge fly like a waterfall. It was quite exciting. After a couple of days the rain subsided, and we abseiled to the ground in ten hours. We called our route Stormpillar (VI E5 [5.12] A3, 750m). I reckon the one aid pitch would go free at French 7c+ or 8a (5.13a or b).

— Mike "Twid" Turner, Gwynedd, United Kingdom

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