Lofoten has been on my to-go list for at least five years. However, it wasn’t originally my first choice for a trip this summer. Back in February I applied for permits to go to Yosemite with my friend Ale right after finishing teaching at Simula’s annual summer school at UCSD. Unfortunately we didn’t get those permits. While considering other options an email about a flight sale popped up in my inbox and 10 minutes later I had booked return flights to Bodø. Ale was on board, too, so I got even more excited! We planned to take the ferry from Bodø to Moskenes, hike the southernmost island (Moskenesøya) of Lofoten, and finish in Reine, from where we’d take a bus back to Å (yes, that’s an actual town name), stay the night, and take the ferry back from Moskenes to Bodø.
Day 1: Moskenesøya
I arrived back in Oslo from San Diego two nights before our departure, and Ale arrived in Oslo one night before. After picking up our bags at the belt in Bodø at 23:30 we had a mission: Since one cannot bring gas for a Jetboil on the plane we needed to buy some! We had two gas stations as potential candidates: One closer by that would close at midnight, and one a little further away that is open 24⁄7. We made it to the first gas station with ten minutes to spare, only to discover that the smallest size gas canister weighs 450g! From my Påsketur this year I’d estimated we’d never use more than 100g. So we decided to give the next gas station a shot. We did manage to get a slightly smaller can, but it is still 425 g. Ugh. So much for going ultralight. After sucking up the situation we got to the ferry terminal where we made ourselves comfortable until our ferry would leave at 3:15, with a sunrise arrival time in Lofoten at 6:30.
The clouds hung pretty low when we got to Moskenes and everything was pretty wet. The hike started quite literally going straight up on a path that could only really called that if you were specifically looking for it.
At the top, the landscape turned into picture-perfect with only the thick clouds being a little eye sore. However, the sun was going strong and started to peak through a number of places, and our motivation to summit the first peak was high!
Unfortunately, as soon as we started the scramble up to the very top of Merraflestinden, a thick cloud lowered itself and instantly reduced our visibility to about 5m. Although, to be honest, during the scramble up to the peak, not being able to see all the way down was probably for the better. The ridge was narrow. Eventually the sun did win and the views went back to their picture-perfection.
We’d both been pretty worn down by the (almost) sleepless night in the ferry terminal and on the ferry, so we set up an early campsite. I wasn’t quite finished with hiking, so I set out to do one of the other peaks around - with a much lighter pack since I could leave almost everything behind in the tent. That “hike” turned out to be a complete trail blazing traverse before even getting a chance to go up. I was spot on on the GPS trail, but it was so sketchy that I decided to follow Fjellvettreglene and turn around. Phew.
Day 2: Rain, rain, and some more rain
During the night it rained a lot, which is actually super nice in a tent that stays properly dry, because I love the sound of the pitter-patter on the tent. Unfortunately though it kept stopping and starting until almost lunchtime. Because we only had a short distance to the famous peak Hermannsdalstinden that boasts with postcard views of almost the entire southern half of Lofoten we decided to wait it out in the tent. Once it did finally stop for good we were out and about in no time since we’d long packed everything apart from the tent. Hermannsdalstinden is a good challenge and includes lots of scrambling <3 I guess one of the reasons I love scrambling so much is that it’s the closest you get to climbing without having to have the gear and experience. The last parts of the ascent are really tricky, so I decided to leave my pack behind and make the final ascent by myself (Ale decided at that point that this was enough scrambling for her).
I got almost all the way up and would have easily summited, hadn’t it been for this stupid gang of rainclouds that just decided to roll in exactly at that moment. Immediately visibility went to zero. So, I ended up getting another live lesson in Fjellvettreglene and made my way back down as quickly and safely as I possibly could. The whole episode was pretty discouraging since I’d been looking forward to seeing the view from up there for so long. We got chased all the way down to the fjord by those clouds, so we couldn’t even have a proper lunch anywhere. At the fjord we only had to traverse just above the water. Easy right? No, this was actually the most technical non-vertical hike I’ve ever done and it ended up taking us three hours. But as a reward we got a beautiful campsite right by the fjord (high enough above the water).
Day 3: Helvete Helvetestinden!
This was going to be a “holiday” day - I had planned to just get to Bunes beach, set up camp, and hike up to the nearby Helvetestinden (hell’s peak). ‘Helvete’ is, by the way, also the best way to express ‘What the hell’, ‘Dammit’ and the likes in Norwegian. The sky suggested that this might finally be a day where we could summit and get the views! The path to Bunes beach led us through the tiny village of Vindstad, from which we’d be taking a ferry tomorrow. Getting to the beach just requires crossing a small mountain pass.
Once there, we set up camp so that the tent would finally get a proper chance to fully dry. Ale decided that she didn’t want to summit today, so I went up on my own. It was a really fun scramble, not too technical, but very steep. That is, up to the first summit. Helvetestinden is a second summit that has to be reached via a narrow ridge. I caught a really bad case of Call of the Void (that split second thought of ‘I could just jump’ when looking down a cliff edge without ever having any intention of doing so) and had to stop. Usually I carry a chocolate bar to enjoy on top of a peak, but in this case I just wolfed it down as quickly as I humanly possibly could and left. If I hadn’t been alone I would have been able to keep my focus in check. As frustrating as it is, Call of the Void is not something I want to take my chances with by myself. I still got some really nice views though.
In the meantime, Ale took to exploring the local flora, making me realise how little I know about plants, even though it would be immensely useful to know what’s edible on trips like this. The rest of the day we spent exploring around the beach, drying all our gear, and relaxing.
Day 4: Horseid beach
Moskenesøya offers another famous beach: Horseid. To get there we took a ferry from Vindstad to Kjerkfjorden and, like with Bunes beach, hiked across a small mountain pass. There were some side exploration trails available that I was originally keen on, but Horseid wasn’t anywhere near as beautiful a campsite as Bunes had been, and another big rain cloud announced its arrival, so we took to plan B: Have lunch at the beach, hike back to Kjerkfjorden to catch the last ferry to Reine, hike out of Reine towards the Reinebringen trail and camp there. The night was scheduled to bring more rain also there, but this way we could leave the tent up to dry all day while we climbed Reinebringen with much lighter packs. As you may have guessed, tent drying opportunities were rather rare and sometimes called for creative solutions.
Day 5: Reinebringen
This day started a little (read: very) early for my liking. Our campsite was quite exposed, and just after midnight we woke up from the sound of the howling winds pounding on my tent. We were getting increasingly worried that my ultralight backpacking tent would not be able to take this battering. We packed our things as fast as we humanly possibly could and tried to come up with a plan to take down and pack the tent in the darkness, without everything flying off into the sea. I stayed inside of the rain fly and took down the inner, while Ale started to break the tent poles from the outside. We then got to removing the poles (with the rain fly still staked down and kneeling on the inner). Once we had everything flat on the ground we rolled everything up so that it would just about still fit in its bag. We didn’t know where to go exactly, but headed for Reine since we would be most likely to find shelter there, if anywhere. I’m not gonna reveal where exactly we ended up roughing it, but it was actually really nice (and dry!). I will say though that we did stay in a similar kind of shelter earlier during this trip. To prevent anyone from noticing us, we made sure to get up before anyone else in town would get up. Luckily with this storm there was about a zero chance that anyone would come by during the night.
The morning became a bit of a waiting game like day 2. The weather just didn’t want to cooperate, but I really wanted to get a view from the top of Reinebringen. After we’d killed some time with coffee at the petrol station I decided to take my chances and go.
Passing by our original campsite I witnessed something I’d secretly hoped for the whole time during this trip: Whales! A juvenile male killer whale was hanging out in the bay. I watched him for maybe 10 minutes before it seemed like his mum, grandma and aunties called him back out to sea, and he left to join them. I’d seen killer whales in Alaska before, but it was just as awe inspiring as the first time.
The climb up to Reinebringen is a bit anti-climatic in terms of the hiking: It’s just knee-crushing big stone stairs until right at the top where the path becomes an actual dirt trail that was really slippery from the rain. But I got my view, albeit slightly hazy from the rain.
The trek was over, but we still had to get home. We stayed at a really nice hiker hostel kinda place. I call it a hostel because it had a communal living room and kitchen, and shared bathrooms, but I don’t want to call it a hostel, because it was a really nice place.
To get back home, we had to go back onto the ferry from Moskenes to Bodø. We went early in the morning since all later departures would make getting to the airport rather tight. This meant that we had time for a little sightseeing, so I took us to Saltstraumen. If you haven’t heart of it (I won’t blame you), Saltstraumen, which is just 30 km away from Bodø and easily reached by bus, has the world’s strongest tidal current, creating natural whirlpools when the tide is strongest.