Off the coast of Norway, the balmy currents of the Atlantic Ocean’s Gulf Stream warm the Lofoten Islands.
This is important to the region when it comes to weather. It’s a maritime environment that is more similar to the Pacific Northwest, where I come from, than its location north of the Arctic Circle would suggest.
Weeks before arriving, I had already expected jaw-dropping scenery in the Lofoten Islands. Internet sleuthing beforehand had left me with high expectations. What caught me up most, in the galleries of images that I found, were the idyllic towns. They are impossibly situated next to towering peaks and shores of relentless ocean waves.
The plan when I arrived in April, 2014, with three others, was to ski traverse the islands. Unstable weather and a poor snow year adjusted our ambitions of weeks of traversing into something entirely different. We linked up with a local guiding company, one of several guide services in the area that offer sailboat skiing, heli-skiing and touring options, as well as other related activities. From them, we procured sea kayaks, but no guides. On those kayaks we planned to attach our skis. Since human-powered adventures are what I have a passion for, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. It took me a while to wrap my mind around it. We were really going to combine skiing in the Lofoten Islands with kayaking on the Norwegian Sea!
A few days later we set off. In the following five days we had many challenges, including snowstorms, massive rolling waves, tides, beachheads, fog, wet gear, cold, unstable snow and wind. Between the snowy landscapes we could see from our boats and the endless ocean reaching to the horizon, we felt like chimeras. On a daily basis, paddles and boats were traded for boots and boards.
Our original plan was to spend as much as two weeks on one grand adventure, but in the end our itinerary was split into two kayak-ski adventures. When traveling anywhere, plans are always in flux. They are never constant. We have to adapt.
Highlights of our trip included paddling into Norway's Troll Fjord with no others around. Watching the Hurtigruten, a massive ship, squeeze between the fjords. Skiing the SW Couloir on Vågakallen with views straight to the ocean and the town of Henningvaer. And, comically, if you just tried to pronounce Vågakallen, there’s another aspect of Norway that is awesome: You can entertain each other, as well as the locals, by slaughtering the pronunciation of nearly every single Norwegian word except, perhaps, fjord.
Seeing the awesome lakes below the hut called Trollfjordhytta was equally mind blowing. But for me, topping it all off was watching my skis, tied to my boat, getting washed by ocean waves with each paddle stroke, and knowing that soon I’d park my boat on the shore, put my climbing skins on, and climb up to a vantage where I’d look down onto the waters beyond all the peaks. I’d see into the place the next day would take me, smile, and then ski back to camp and my kayak with a great group of friends. In the morning, we’d do it all over again. Paddle, go to shore, ski, descend and camp—all this—multisport-awesomeness.
And, finally, to help with your own internet sleuthing, here’s a gallery of images. Be prepared, you may soon be planning your own Lofoten Islands adventure.
Lorenzo paddling on our first day.
Lorenzo and Lea enjoying the comfort and stability of shore after a harrowing day of boating over big rolling waves.
Staring into the inlets and bays that separate the Lofoten Islands.
The entire group, smiling, on the first of many ski runs from peak top to ocean shore.
Lea crossing a stream.
Snow begins to fall as Lea sets out to our next objective.
Lorenzo backs out from shore and prepares to put his head into the wind, and paddle.
Kyle snowboards down toward Trollfjordhytta.
Kyle and Bret in Troll Fjord.
The entire group leaving Henningvaer.
Kyle Miller hiking from our boats to a nearby couloir.
Kyle near the top of the SW Couloir on Vågakallen.
To end the trip for most of the group, we boated back into Henningvaer.