Another great time in our base camp in the Lyngen Alps. Two weeks and twenty five people, great weather, great snow and humbling scenery. We bossed it! Taking over the lodges at Svensby, gave us the space and comfort to relax after trekking up all the snowy peaks. Arranging catering meant that everybody got together before and after their adventures and could really gel over good, hearty Norwegian cuisine. It was the best year to date.
Norway is a big country, with countless numbers of peaks and descents to enjoy so to enable us to become more knowledgeable about the options, Dan and I decided to extend our time there and take the 3 hour drive from Tromso to Narvik at the start of the Lofoten Islands.
I have been to Norway many times but it was only when we arrived at the turning to the start of the Lofoten Islands that I really realized how big it is and in fact, how modern maps deceive us with their out of scale proportions. On the map, the Islands look like a tiny blemish jutting out from the already jagged Norwegian coast. However, it is pretty mind blowing to see the distance to Å, a simply named town, at the end of the jut, is over 300 km away, the same distance from London to Manchester! Big country right?!
It was midday when we got to the turning and we realized that a 10 minute detour to Narvik town centre would allow us an afternoon ski on its lift system. I had to remind Dan what a lift was! We were excited to go and check it out. Climbing from the centre of the town out of the sea, is the slow lift that gets you into the system. We could not believe how quiet it was on a Sunday afternoon with a fresh sprinkling of snow. It was a perfect break from hiking up the mountains and just what we needed. I would say it is an area big enough for 2 days of skiing and then maybe time to move on.
We had to move on already though, to the middle of the Lofoten Islands, chasing the last of the snow. We arrived just outside of the town of Svolvær and settled into our lodge for the evening. The 2 hour drive was punctuated with “stop, photo”, “wow” and “amazing”. Every bend seemed to lead to a new cove, a new cluster of cool cottages and fishing boats. It is nature at its most spectacular.
The next two days were spent on this island of Austvågøya. Without a guide book and just a few web searches, we decided to follow our noses and find the main valley with lots of skiable peaks. It was like searching for waves on a surf trip and yes, we lucked out! Two summits leading to untouched powder descents. Some of the best of the season for us. Our only criticism of the area is that the ascents and therefore descents are short, 600m compared to 1200 plus in Lyngen. This means for a serious trip to Lofoten, you would need to look at bagging a couple of peaks a day and perhaps renting a kayak to access the starting point of a climb to some very cool looking couloirs. All in all though, very impressive!
Now after the first morning on the mountain, I broached the subject with Dan about trying to find somewhere to surf. He thought I was a bit bonkers (nothing new there) but was happy to come along with the camera. The North of Norway and Lofoten in particular pick up great swell as the small issue of the United Kingdom is out of the way. So there is a huge mass of water for the swell to build and the jagged coastline produces a variety of reefs and points for quality waves to form. We headed to the Lofoten Surfsenter, in Unstad, to rent the kit. The wetsuits took all the sting out of the temperature and, although the waves were not that big, it was pretty surreal to be comfortably surfing in the Arctic Circle. This place has it all!
A trip back into Svolvær for a beer and a wander allowed us to see everything else that the island has to offer. Fishing, kayaking, boat trips to see whales and sea eagles (which actually flew over our lodge) all had us asking whether it was possible to change our flights. But we had one more place to check out. Riksgransen, Sweden.
The town of Narvik has built up around the port which sends iron ore out to the world. This iron ore is mined in Sweden and crosses the border around 30 minutes from Narvik by train at Riksgransen. As it has a train service and mountains, they decided back in the day to create a ski resort. It pretty much is just the hotel and the lifts there, so it is easy to find your way around. We checked into the hotel in the evening and settled down for a burger and some very tasty beer, watching all the trendy Swedes and listening to the piano man.
We had both seen various videos of people skiing in Riksgransen and we were very excited to get out there the following day. We were now far from the sea and there was certainly a different feel to the mountain. The ski map revealed plenty of off piste designated areas and lots of little natural jumps; heaven basically. Unfortunately though it was a white out and we really could not see much at all. The poor visibility when mixed with the high winds meant that we only lasted the morning before finishing up and making our way back to Tromso. Definitely got a taste for it though and will be back.
Arriving in Tromso weirdly felt like home. Our trip away opened our eyes to more potential in Norway than we thought possible but it also reassured us that basing ourselves in Lyngen with the large mountains and bigger descents was definitely the way forward. Keep an eye out for a cheeky Lofoten trip on offer before we set up camp again in Lyngen next year.
Now its time to put our skis away and get on the bike. The roads are calling!