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We'd been wanting to go on a trip to Norway for a while, and when we saw Andy Cave's talk about his excursions on the Lofoten Isles a couple of years ago, we were determined! The islands lie in northern Norway, 170 km into the Arctic Circle, with steep mountains rising right out of the sea. Sam had done extensive research about the area and we eventually decided to go in the first couple of weeks of May, which is the driest month of the year there. We'd decided to backpack and wild camp mainly, and we couldn't believe our luck with the weather! After three days travelling, including a very picturesque (and extremely cheap!) train journey the length of Norway, we arrived in Moskenes and stayed the night at the local campsite. We had expected the campsites to be fairly expensive over there, but at 150 Kroner (roughly £15) a night for both of us, this one at least - with plenty of facilities including an indoor cooking area - was better value than a lot of UK ones. In the morning (having woken to snow and hail on the ground) we walked to Reine and caught a small boat to Kjerkfjorden. A relatively short walk over the col and we found ourselves in one of the most spectacular places I've ever been, Horseid Beach. Not a bad place to camp for the night, and not a sole to be seen apart from a few arctic hares!
The next morning, we packed up and loaded our heavy rucksacks to walk the long way to Kvalvika Beach. First, we had to carefully negotiate a snowy col out of Horseid Beach, which with the rising temperatures of May, we found to be pretty soft and unstable in places, which was consistent with hearing small avalanches throughout the night rolling down the slabs into the sea! From the col we made a slight detour up to the summit of Markan, which was well worth the views. Then, back down to the valley; the deep soft covering of snow over boulder fields proved time consuming to say the least. Once the sun had gone behind the mountains it was always very cold, so I was pleased to have my down jacket with me, which made all the difference to being comfortable throughout the trip. We decided to stay at our next beach, Kvalvia, for two nights and so the next day we were able to have a rest day and take lighter bags with us up to the summit of Ryten. We still couldn't believe how good the weather was being! The next morning was windy with low cloud and rain, so after a very cold walk out of Kvalvika, along the roads and over the sea, we stocked up on food at Ramberg then treated ourselves to a bus journey via Leknes to Stamsund, our final destination being a lovely cosy hostel
to stay in. Again, we were surprised to find it cheaper than its British hostel counterparts at £13 each a night. This decision worked out well as it meant we avoided getting our tent and gear wet that night, we could have showers (!) and we could print our boarding passes off in the Tourist Information in Leknes for our flight back in a week's time (Ryanair charge extra for checking in more than a week in advance). A note to people in a similar situation as us; there isn't a reception at the hostel and therefore no computer, so the best place to rely on is Leknes Tourist Info.
After our bit of luxury we caught the bus back to Reine and then the small boat again into the fjord, this time to Vinstad. We set up camp on Bunes beach (where there would be a couple of tourists visiting it the next day, but again we were on our own mostly). We planned to stay there for two nights so in the morning we set off up Helvetestinden (again with much-welcome lighter rucksacks). This peak had a brilliant airy ridge to its summit with a little bit of scrambling and once again, brilliant views. When we got down to our sunny camp once more we played on the steep slabby rocks and beach, and the next morning were quite sad to leave our last beach camp of the trip.
After catching the ferry back to Reine in the morning we walked to Sørvågen (where there is a reasonable sized shop to stock up on food) and wild camped below Stuvdalsvatnet Lake which was on the way to our last objective, Hermannsdalstinden, the highest peak in the area. We planned on camping around/above Stuvdalsvatnet Lake to be closer to the peak, but found out that camping is strictly prohibited around the lake due to it providing drinking water for the locals. The next day, approaching Helvetestinden, we could see the snow conditions to the summit were going to be dodgy (the photo below showing evidence of one of many avalanches), so we decided to leave it for another day and lucky for us (again!) the weather was deteriorating so we didn't end up missing any views anyway.
For the final night we headed back to Moskenes campsite for a windy and wet evening, before leaving for the long journey back the next morning, which started with a very rough ferry crossing, made up for by a beautiful train journey during which we got to see a few elk in the forests and meadows on the way!
In summary, it was an absolutely brilliant and stunning trip! I do seem to remember being quite hungry for most of it due to rationing to keep rucksack weight down, and it always took us ages to decide what to buy in the food shops as we could never bring ourselves straight away to pay the high prices of the food (though this was significantly lessened with us having brought a lot of stuff from home ourselves)! It was great to journey in remoteness for so long and I always love living a basic life with everything you need in your backpack. We will definitely be returning!
If you're interested in more details of our transport, itinerary etc. and how to keep the trip to a tight budget visit Sam's blog here