It is late summer in the city of Tromsø in Norway’s arctic. Big drops of rain slap the ground and the fog hugs contours of the Earth. In other words, it’s a perfectly normal summer at this latitude, 69 degrees north. Like all tourists, we start with the Fjellheisen cable car. We need the overview for planning purposes. In four minutes, the aerial tram whisks us up 400 vertical meters. Into the mountains. Into nature. We already feel the tingle. Through the dark clouds, we make out something big : Kvaløya. Or “Whale Island,” if we translate it.
The rain can’t wash away our sense of adventure. We are all smiles as we hop into the car, packed in a jumble of clothing, bikes and sour climbing shoes. After just under an hour’s drive, we reach our base, Tromvik Lodge, on the north side of Kvaløya. The sea and the mountains fill the panoramic windows like some kind of scenery cliché. Right outside, a terrace rounds the corner of the building and leads to a hot tub. It’s midsummer in the Arctic, so the sun never sets. It stays right here, lingering over the ocean.
“Welcome,” says our host, Tore Gjert.
Kvaløya has a reputation for delivering the goods for enthusiastic outdoorsmen. Norway’s fifth largest island offers fantastic hikes, intense mountain biking and world class climbs. Devoted climbers get all glassy-eyed at the mere mention of the island’s
biggest mountain, Store Blåmann (Elevation 1 044 meters). The 400 meters of Grade 9 big wall draw the most eager enthusiasts. Luckily, there is a nice hiking trail for those wanting an easier route to the summit, and there is a great variety of climbing elsewhere on the island. “Hollenderen” is fantastic for those who favor long, steep cracks in a solid granite mountainside. If you head there, staying at the Hollender Cabin is obligatory. “Småbakkan” is a much used boulder field at Blåmannsvika, and at the Ersfjord you’ll find a hundred or so short, bolted routes, plus sport climbing routes and bouldering. And we have to mention one more place : Gullknausen. That’s where we’re heading.
The sun elbows its way through the dark and heavy rainclouds, creating pillars of light over the open landscape. The air is salty and mountain fresh at the same time. There is a delightful mix of tranquility and wilderness where the mighty mountains meet the sea. The approach is a great experience in itself. To the south is a peak called Skamtinden, and the start of the Ersfjord traverse. It can take a few days to hike that whole, lofty traverse. You wander along the mountain range, over Store Hollenderen, and the peaks Brattberg and Styrmann, before you end up at Store Blåmann. It looks inviting. Ersfjord traverse gets added neatly to the to-do list.
A good trail leads us into the pass between the peaks Brosmetind and Sørtinden. It’s calm. But we get hammered by the wind the moment we round the corner and catch sight of it : Climbing wall with a capital ‘C.’ Some 70 meters of golden, granite wall leaning out over waters of the fjord 200 meters below. Awesome.
Rock, scissors, paper decides.
“Yes,” gushes the winner, Maren, smiling happily as she ties her climbing shoes.
She starts crawling up the wall. There are both bolted and naturally secured routes here. Everything is steep. Some routes are steeper than steep. We climb until the sun defeats the clouds, and our forearms can pump no more.
The beauty seems almost ruthless here in the north. The light has its own color scale and time has its own pace. No, it doesn’t. We can’t claim that. It’s us who forget time. It can easily be 4 am, and we are still in the hot tub, saying “How cool is this?” We all sit there gawking. Not just those of us from south Norway and the Swede, but Trude as well. And she is from here. From the North.
|Facts||Welcome to Kvaløya, Norway|
||Fly from Oslo to Tromsø on SAS or Norwegian. Rent a car and drive 45 minutes to Kvaløya.|
|Accomodation||Tromvik Lodge is in the small village of Tromvik, on the northwest part of Kvaløya. The village of Tromvik has a population of 100, most involved in the fishing industry. Tromvik Lodge was built in 2011 and offers a panoramic view of the sea, a hot tub on the terrace and a sauna with a view from its window. It has three bedrooms plus a loft, two baths, a fully equipped kitchen and a large, bright living room with a couch. www.tromviklodge.com|
|Guides||Several players offer tours in the area :
||Kvaløya is Norway’s fifth largest island and is in the Arctic township of Troms. The east side of the island in connected to the city of Tromsø by a bridge. Kvaløya is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. If offers great hikes, intense mountain biking and world class climbing walls. During the winter, this is the place to be for Alpine ski touring. Midnight Sun from May 20 until July 22. Polar night from November 25 to January 17.