Backpacking the Lofoten Islands
I can’t believe I did it. Many years ago I saw photos of this amazingly beautiful place called the Lofoten Islands in Norway. I then found a website that talked more to the backpacking opportunities. Then an opportunity arose to join a group that was to backpack the Long Crossing of Lofoten, but that fell apart. However, out of the process I did hook up with another senior backpacker from Switzerland who was interested in taking on this Long Crossing so the commitment was made. My earlier post Outside My Comfort Zone detailed some of the hopes and fears I had leading up to the actual adventure. In this post I will give an overview of the entire journey and then add specific trip reports for the various 1-2 day treks that comprised the overall adventure.
The adventure really began when travel commenced. In fact, I was probably most concerned about the travel. The three flights from Portland, OR to Oslo, Norway did not go as I would have hoped. My glitch occurred when my backpack did not make the connection in London to Oslo. In Oslo after diagnosing the problem I felt good about my backpack catching up to me that evening so that I would be fine for my flight the next morning to Bodø and then on to the Lofoten’s via ferry. That assumption was based on how lost baggage is handled in the US, but this was Saturday night in Oslo and nobody was actually concerned about my lost bag. So on Sunday morning when I realized that the process was not going to deliver me my backpack in time for my flight, I decided to find my backpack myself. I believed that my pack was on a late flight from London but no confirmation had been issued. The airport started waking up around 6:00 am but nobody could let me into the International baggage claim area until 8:00. My flight was at 9:30. Once I finally was able to speak with a baggage claim representative I was running out of time and they were not motivated to help, instead it was easier for them to assure me that my bag would be sent to me. Of course that was not going to work for my wilderness address on the Lofoten Islands.
So I resorted to serious begging and was finally able to motivate a handler to go search for my backpack. Thankfully, they did find my pack and I was just able to make my flight to Bodø and then catch the ferry to Svolvær. A lot of stress, but all part of the adventure.
I met up with my new backpacking partner, Jakob, Sunday night June 30th and we set forth our plans to hitch hike to the beginning trailhead at Delp. Hitchhiking didn’t really work, but we met a kayaking group who were headed in the right direction. We then got lucky where they let us off by catching a ride from a Swiss freelance writer who was working his way through the islands.
However, the weather was not cooperating so we decide to rent a cabin in the town of Laukvika and start the trek on Tuesday. We were basically trying to follow the stages laid out in what was referred to as the Great Crossing of Lofoten.
Stage 1 was a hike from the hamlet of Delp to the hamlet of Sandsletta over Matmora mountain. This would be about 15 km and 1000 m vertical with the high point at 766 m (2546′). The trail was rated medium/difficult. The day’s trek was great, some rain and some sun and amazing views. This trek helped to define what hiking would be like in the Lofotens. Difficult typically meant more difficult than a trail in the US. And if the listing was medium/difficult then it meant half of the trail was difficult.
It was difficult because the trails are laid out for the shortest path, as in, straight up a mountain, the concept of trail switchbacks does not exist. Unfortunately Jakob developed a problem with his foot on this first day and the injury would influence his participation throughout the rest of the Crossing. After spending a night in Sandsletta Jakob decided to seek medical advice in Svolvær and I set out to conquer stage 2 by myself.
Stage 2 Haugen to Svolvær takes you from one side of the island of Austvågøya to the other over a snowy mountain pass. I was not concerned about taking on this segment alone, however, I did borrow, Jakob’s Garmin which could utilize a GPX file. Unfortunately his Garmin was starting to whack out which did cause me trail confusion. The weather was good and the trail was decent but the scenery was stunning which totally motivated my tiring body.
Hiking in the Lofoten’s is a lot about avoiding muddy wet trail sections which probably contributed to what could have been a very serious tumble that I took on my descent into Svolvær. A misstep caused me to take a couple of somersaults ending up without anything broken except my trekking pole. The backs of my hands were scraped and bleeding, but a couple of Norwegian hikers, Nina & Erik, happened by to help me compose and bandage myself. Now I was a bit more concerned about my ability to backpack in the Lofotens, plus I was hitting that second day exhaustion. Thank God, Jakob decided to rent a car and was able to pick me up at the end of the trail. We regrouped in Svolvaer to plan out the next few segments. Jakob needed a few more days to rest his foot so I decided to head out on my own again.
Vikjorda/Lake Store Krenggårsvatnet Trip Report
We decided I should skip segment 3 which entailed way too much road hiking so Jakob drove me to the start of Segment 4 Vikjorda which would connect with Lake Store Krenggarsvatnet and on to Leknes. This segment was referred to as a mountain crossing connecting with a more tame segment 5. I was planning on taking 3 days to complete these 2 segments so I felt good about the progress I made on the first day. However, this was a strange trail because it stated that there was no trail to get you to a ridge and that was accurate. It was critical to have a GPX route to follow. I found a good campsite which would set me up to go over the mountains the next day since the clouds were not going to allow that on this day. All seemed good the next morning when the clouds lifted but that changed quickly as I neared the peak of Dalstuva. I was only a 50 m from the first highpoint but a cloud was totally blinding me.
Combining poor visibility with a very narrow ridge to navigate, not to mention a steep descent on the back side I succumbed to fear and wisdom and decided to turn around. I ended up back on the lightly used highway 815 hoping to hitch a ride to Leknes. I finally got a hitch after walking about 6 km and was eventually able to meet up with Jakob in Leknes on that Friday afternoon.
Jakob was feeling up for an easy hike out of Leknes so we headed to Justadtinden for an overnight. We did not intend to go all the way to the summit so this simple trek worked out well with a great view and time to come out before rain was due on the next day. As the weather deteriorated the next day we did our reconnaissance work to plan for our next 2 day segment. We did explore the trail options around Nusfjord but were not impressed with what we found or were told about. However, we did manage to give a number or rides to very grateful backpackers on that rainy day.
Selfjord Bay to Horseid Beach Trip Report
We decided to spend the night in Remsberg and then modify Segment 9 by going from Selfjord Bay to the Lofoten’s most remote Horseid Beach and then return. We were entering our second week and the weather forecast was finally cooperating. We had also totally abandoned the idea of completing the Great Crossing at least as it was laid out. Instead we used it as a guide to hit the most impressive hiking areas of the Lofoten’s typically by choosing 2-3 day routes and this next trek was definitely a highlight.
We got an early start with the goal to go from Selfjord Bay over to Horseid Beach for the night. The climb over the pass was tough but the beach reward was worth it. We ended up camping on an ocean overlook with an opportunity to view the midnight sun. The location was magical and my hours of private time on the rocks the next morning totally validated why I wanted to explore the Lofoten Islands. We spent the second night on the mountain saddle before descending back down to Selfjord Bay.
To the Summit of Munkebu Trip Report
Coming out on the third day allowed us time to drive to our next trek which was to be summiting Munkebu which offered one of the most spectacular 360 views of the islands. We ventured down to Sørvågen where we headed up to the Munkebu Summit trail. We decided to camp at about 250 m and then summit the peak the following day with day packs. This worked out well for the 766 m (2510′) summit on this popular trail which did not disappoint us.
The view was fantastic. We had some chats with other hikers on top and I believe this was the first place that I ran into others from the US. We hiked back down to our campsite for a relaxing evening.
Andstabben Above Lake Ågvatnet Trip Report
After hiking out the next day we ventured down to Å to take on the Andstabben hike. Unfortunately we did not have a GPX file for this hike and we never did find the trail up and over the mountain so we settled on camping above Lake Ågvatnet.
The following day we relaxed in the village of Å by renting a cabin and having a great meal at Maren Anna.
This brought a close to our Great Crossing of Lofoten. I took the Moskenes Ferry to Bodø where I wanted to do some backpacking but the weather did not cooperate. There were definitely some excellent backpacking options on the coast north of Bodø where I was able to do some hiking on my last day before catching my flight to Oslo. However, I did squeeze in a day of golf above the arctic circle at Bodø Golf Park. I then spent 3 days visiting Oslo where I totally enjoyed that energetic city.
Outside my Comfort Zone
What would be considered a “bucket list” item for me has been the desire to backpack the Lofoten Islands Norway. I saw a photo such as this which caused me to find out where this place was. Somewhere in Norway, OK, referred to as an archipelago, interesting. Then it must have been a video such as this that gave me the full perspective of the Lofoten Islands.
I became a member of the Rando-Lofoten website. Then in late 2018 I received an invitation to join a guided group of up to 20 people for “The Great Crossing of the Lofoten Islands” from north to south. It did not take me long to determine that I could do this. This opportunity dealt with my concern about logistics associated with such a backpacking trek in a land I did not know. There were some administrative details relating to backpacking acumen and liability waivers taken care of in early January. Everything looked good, however, in late January the leader had to back out due to health concerns and the trip fell apart.
The disappointing news was beyond changing my commitment to backpack the Lofoten Islands. The trip organizer allowed all interested participants to communicate with each other to explore possibilities for further collaboration. It turned out that my dream matched up well with a backpacker of similar age from Switzerland. So we plan to meet on July 1st in Svolvaer and will head up to the start of the first segment at the hamlet of Delp. Needless to say I am really looking forward to stepping out of my Western US comfort zone to backpack in one of the most beautiful places on earth. This is above the arctic circle which will mean 24 hours of sunlight. Travel will include 4 flights and a ferry ride each way. But I have given myself up to 16 days in the islands with a few days reserved for Oslo. The Adventure Continues
Checkout these 360 panoramic photos from throughout the Islands.