“Deep, placid fjords, jagged rocky peaks, a historic and geologic masterpiece” - National Geographic, September 2007
These ones are the best words to define Lofoten I’d ever heard! Lofoten archipelago, including five big and five smaller islands, lies off Norway's Northern coast, West to Narvik and about 200 km North to the Polar Arctic Circle. These breathtaking islands offer a wide choice of granite rock-climbing as well as both winter mountaineering and summer scrambling.
Surely Lofoten are one of most charming climbing area in the world: climbing on these cliffs gives exciting sensations and unspeakable views over a unique seascape. Notwithstanding their moderate altitude – the highest mountain, Higrattinden, is only 1116 mt. high - these peaks are truly extraordinary.
Presten (The Priest) is surely one of the best known cliffs on Lofoten: a majestic 400 m granite bulk straight up from the ocean, situated close to Henningsvær, a charming village nicknamed “Lofoten’s Venice” in the South-Western end of Austvågøy, Lofoten’s largest island (Vågan Municipality). Presten unmistakable outline overlooks with its famous granite “Nose” the coastal road running to Henningsvær, giving unforgettable views when seen from here. A great number of routes run on its West face, but the classic one is Vestpillaren (West Pillar). This is the original route of the face, climbing a system of corners and cracks on the right hand side of the "Nose".
Getting ThereGetting to Lofoten
There are various possibilities:
- By ferry boat from Bodø to Moskenes, Værøy or Røst (South of Lofoten)
- By ferry boat from Skutvik to Svolvær or Skrova (North of Lofoten)
- By plane from Bodø
- By car from Narvik via Evenes to Svolvær
Getting to Presten
It's possible to get to the cliff directly from Svolvær, Lofoten major center, in about 20 km along E10 road and also from Kabelvåg, in about 15 km. along E10, turning to left to Henningsvær (Road 816) at E10 and Road 816 forking. Otherwise the shortest way to approach the cliff is from Henningsvær (less then 5 km.), or from Lyngvær (less then 5 km), a good place along E10, about 20 km. West to Svolvær.
HistoryClimbing in Lofoten started in 1889, when two local fishermen realized Vagakallen’s first ascent.
At the beginning of last century some British alpinists, and mainly William Slingsby, started to climb in the islands. On 1910 a Norwegian party (C.W. Rubenson, A.B. Bryn, F.Schjeldrup ) climb Svolvær Geita (Svolvær Goat) – a peak overlooking Svolvær - in first ascent. Successively, mainly Norwegian and British parties visited Lofoten. On the Sixties, the Nesheim brothers from Tromso and the local Arild Meyer realized the first ascent of some hard routes, like Vestpillaren on Presten and Great Pillar on Vagakallen, while H.C. Doseth climbed Vestpillaren all free climbing for the first time. In last years mainly Norwegian and USA teams, Ed Webster between these latter, realized several big walls first ascents.
Presten climbing routes overviewPresten climbing routes from left hand to right hand - Norwegian Scale
- "Himmel og Helvete" (Heaven and Hell) 7, 560 m.
- "To krigere" (Two Warriors) 7, A3
- "Korstoget" (The Crusade) 7, 385 m.
- "Ypperstepresten" (The High Priest) 6, 160 m + 60 m. across Storhylla
- "Biskopen" (The Bishop) 6-, A0 220 m. + 60 m. across Storhylla
- "The Codfather" 7, 465 m.
- "Sondagskole turen" (Sunday School Outing) 7, 170 m.
- "Reisen" (The journey) 7+, 440 mt.
- "Vestpillaren Direct Start" (The West Pillar) 6, 470 m.
- "Vestpillaren Original Start" 6, 450 m.
- "Himmelen kan vente" (Heaven Can Wait) 6+, 310 m.
- "Klokkeren" (The Bell Ringer) 7-, 450 m.
Other climbing info here:
Descent (2 hours): not a problem. The descent is substantially easy.
From the summit heads towards East, then scramble along a ridge, gaining a rocky saddle between Festvagstinden (541 m.) on the right and Budalstinden (663 m.) on the left. From here there are two different desc ent ways:
- from the col cross the ridge and do a short dowmclimb to gain a steep vegetated gully, with enormous ferns, dropping to North-East. Follow it to its end, then traverse West (right) along blocks and grass, reaching the beautiful water-mirror of Heiavatnet, the ancient Henningsvær water reservoir. From the lake a well worn and steep track leads to Festvag, on the coast road between the parking below Presten and Henningsvær
- from the col follow the ridge towards right (easier but longer) to the Festvagtinden, reaching the path that descends to Heiavatnet. From the lake here same track to the road as the previous way
Hiking and scrambling
This itinerary, as well as being the descent route for who have climbed the Presten West wall, is a nice tour that allows you to reach the small lake named Heivatnet and the summit of Festvagtinden.
The trail starts from Festvag, on the coast road, close to Henningsvær; a well worn path rises to the beautiful small lake named Heiavatnet, the ancient Henningsvær water reservoir. From the lake a path heading left leads to the top of Festvagtinden mt. 541, a peak close to Presten (2 hours and a half from Festvag), or otherwise, by an easy scramble on the summit crest, to the top of Presten.
Red TapeNo particular restrictions in climbing and hiking
When to climb
Lofoten are famous for their weather conditions, which sometimes can be a bit "a lottery", though sometimes “High Scandinavian” and “Gulf Stream’s” warming effects can give you blu sky and sunshine. However best months for climbing are late May, June, July and August.
Where to stayCamping - In Norway camping is allowed in every place, if not expressly forbidden. Best free campsites in this area are located in Festing, in front of the Gandalf cliff, and Paradiset, just close to Henningsvaer.
The nearest equipped campsite is the Lyngvaer Bobilcamping (campers, tents and cabins), 20 km. West to Svolvær and strictly close to the E10 - R816 road forking, a few kilometers from Presten.
Another campsite is “Sandvika”, between Svolvær and Henningsvær, and the nearby Orsvagvær.
On Lofoten the weather can change suddenly from clear and blu sky with sunshine or the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) to violent storms with rain or snow. Maximum temperatures go from +30°C in June and July to -15°C in January and February; the average temperatures for these months are from +12°C to -3°C. The period with the minimum rainfall goes from April to June, while we may expect the maximum rainfall or snowfall between October and December.
Midnight sun: from 27 May to 17 July
Polar night: from 6 December to 6 January
The Northern Lights can be seen over Lofoten from September to April.
Useful info about climate: Meteorologisk Institutt
Guidebooks and maps
"Lofoten Rock" by Chris Craggs and Thorbjorn Enevoid
"Walks and scrambles in Norway" by Anthony Dyer, Ian H. Robertson and John Baddeley
External LinksClimbing info: Rockfax Lofoten Guidebook
Tourist info: Lofoten Islands