Arctic mountaineering

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The Lofoten Islands, pitched against Norway’s northwest coast, in the Arctic Circle, are all volcanic crags and pristine lakes and bays, and I’ve found it quite difficult to describe, since coming home, exactly what makes them so special. They are beautiful, but so are many remote and untamed places. They are breathtaking, but mountains and lakes often are.

What stands out in my memory is how dramatically inhospitable the landscape is, in spite of all its beauty. If not for the cod that spawn nearby and support a major fishing industry, it would be difficult to see why people thought they could find room for themselves at all here, and for the red and yellow fishing cabins that are now, in several places, available for tourists to rent. We stayed in one such cabin in the village of Hamnøy, and our periodic excursions into the sea and mountains only confirmed our impressions that to live in Lofoten is to understand human limits.

The only downside, from my perspective, is that the country is absurdly expensive, even for two jaded New Yorkers who are quite used to paying dearly to live in small spaces, and to overpaying for common goods at convenience stores. Nonetheless, if you get the chance (and you don’t expect to eat out every night), I heartily recommend it.

3 thoughts on “Arctic mountaineering

  1. I used to fish off Lofoten, except we called it ‘Bear Island’, due to the outline from one aspect? I think that name conjures up a clearer image? Bleak is the word I’m left with, but a bit of magic too.

    • Thanks, Karen! We didn’t do any fishing, but we did take some spectacular boat trips around the islands. We saw plenty of seals and sea eagles; no polar bears, alas. (Perhaps it’s too steep for them?) We heard there had been whale sightings near our village but did not manage to see them ourselves.

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