Destination : Arctic Norway
Blog By Max Bäckström
In the far northern parts of Norway, 350 kilometres north of the Arctic circle, you’ll find the city of Tromsø. A bustling university town, Tromsø isn’t really the type of city you’d expect to find at a latitude where the climate is so harsh that you can hardly even grow potatoes and where snow covers the ground for about two thirds of the year. But there it is, nestled amongst the mountains and fjords with the open sea as its backdrop. In addition to being a city well worth a visit if you’re into dog sledding, northern lights and reindeer it is also a great place to start if you want to explore the climbing around. And despite the arctic location there’s not only frozen waterfalls and sketchy-as-hell, marginally protected, mixed climbing to do, but world class rock climbing is to be enjoyed as well.
On the island of Kvaløya, a place name notoriously hard for English speakers to pronounce, there’s everything from low ball bouldering to not so low ball big wall climbing – and everything in between. However, there is one thing that all types of climbing on Kvaløya have in common and that is that you’ll be climbing in arguably one of the most beautiful places imaginable – the mountains, the fjords and the valleys all come together and make this one epic landscape. But enough about the ridiculous beauty of the place, what about the climbing? Well, there’s no denying that the long (they’re long, seriously) winters make the outdoor season in this part of the world somewhat shorter than in most places, but climbing in the midnight sun during the summer months make up for that. You’ll find great bouldering in Småbakkan and Ersfjorden, including high balls, low balls, sketchy landings, sandbags, projects and much more. I’m not going to say the rock is as sharp as knives at times, but just remember to bring your Monkey Fist crème.
Sport climbing, and the occasional single pitch trad climb, is also to be found scattered around the island with the Ersfjorden field being the most popular one. Named after the fjord where it is located, it offers great single sport climbing on solid, reddish, granite in the mountain side above the fjord. With well bolted routes in a bunch of different styles it is well worth the 30-minute approach up the boulder field as you’ll be rewarded with not only the climbing, but also a magnificent view of the mighty fjord. If you’re keen on jamming, it is well worth while bringing a small trad rack for the odd crack that’s up there too.
Last, but most certainly not least, you have the multipitch trad climbing, which is probably what a lot of people would consider the crown jewel of Kvaløya climbing – most of it found in the Hollenderan massif, a 45-minute drive and 2-hourapproach from Tromsø centre, being well worth the time spent. Hollenderan consists of several towering granite walls, the most impressive one being ‘Baugen’, holding some of the most striking lines. The steep, bullet hard granite wall is almost intimidating at times and the climbing is pure enjoyment – stemming, laybacking, jamming in cracks of all sizes and even the occasional jug haul – you’ll find it all on Baugen. What makes this place even more special is the climbing hut, an open hut at the base of the massif which is run by the climbing club. Spending a day on the wall and walking back with the northern lights dancing above you in the dark, arctic sky sure is special. And as if the Hollenderan massif wasn’t enough, there’s also the Store Blåmann north face – a steep, impressive mini big wall with exciting and hard climbing on it. Come in the summer and climb through the night as the rays of the midnight sun come from the north, to get the full experience of climbing in the arctic.
So even if the climbing season is somewhat short up here, even if the weather is unreliable and even if you can get caught in a snow storm mid June, it is still worth coming. It is worth coming for the magic of the place, the beauty of the surrounding landscape and the quality of the climbing. A lot of international climbers might think there’s nothing but polar bears and Whales north of Lofoten but those who do decide to venture here will be rewarded…
Sjamanen – Steep sport climbing on flakes. (Ersfjorden, Norwegian 8-)
In Deliri Flagrante – Long, pumpy and steep. A great sport route. (Ersfjorden, Norwegian 8)
Dingel Dangel – Exceptional climbing for the grade with steep climbing. (Ersfjorden, Norwegian 7-)
Silhuetten – 6 pitches of wonderful, varied climbing. Each pitch as good as the one before. (Baugen, Norwegian 6+)
Thanatos – An absolute classic, 5 pitches ending with the impressive 80 m overhanging Thanatos crack. (Baugen, Norwegian 7+)
Flygene Hollender – Another classic route with 6 pitches of sustained, beautiful climbing. (Baugen, Norwegian 6+)
Venuspassajen – A long boulder traverse that could be considered a route, depending on what you define as a route. Regardless of what you call it, it’s a fantastic line with great climbing. (Ersfjorden, Norwegian 9- or Font 7C)
Registered in England and Wales No. 9729642
Copyright 2016 © STT INDUSTRIES LTD. All Rights Reserved
Guide book: Kvaløya – Selected Climbs by Mårten Blixt is an extensive guide book with a lot of useful information, it can be purchased online or in Tromsø. There are also some minor updates to the book at www.tromsoklatring.no.
How to get there: Flying into Tromsø is by far the easiest, there are several flights a day from Oslo.
How to get around: Bus traffic is somewhat limited in these parts so if you’re planning on moving around a lot, a rental car is a nice thing to have. Hitchhiking works quite well too so if you don’t mind the risk of having to wait for a ride, this is also an option.
Where to stay: When visiting for climbing, the most efficient option is camping close to the climbing field, all of them have great wild camping close by, this will save you a lot of time spent driving or hitchhiking/busing. Another option is staying in Ersfjordbotn, which is where you start the approach to the climbing field in Ersfjorden.
When to come: The best time to come for rock climbing is in the summer months – June, July or August. This will give you the best chance of stable weather and up until the end of July you’ll also have the benefit of the midnight sun.
The Beautiful Arctic City of TromsØ
Some of the stunning Småbakkan boulders
Ersfjorden main crag (left). A steep sport line on the Tunga boulder (right)
The approach to Baugen, with the hut just visible in he bottom right
The pumoy Venuspassajen